Trump moves to bar Boeing-Iran agreement

AN IRAN AIR Boeing 747 (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN IRAN AIR Boeing 747
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration appears to be executing a plan to thwart a $16.6 billion deal between Boeing and the Iranian government – a move that would critically impact a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and international powers.
As US President Donald Trump began rolling out his new Iran strategy late last year, administration officials indicated that he would oppose the deal. Now they have begun offering evidence that would provide a rational basis for denying the ultimate aircraft sale.
On February 5, US officials highlighted efforts by Mahan Air, a subsidiary of Iran Air, to skirt US sanctions that targeted its shipment of Iranian weapons and personnel to Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad. According to the Commerce Department, Mahan Air repeatedly used Turkish front companies to purchase US-made airplane parts, including engines, over several years.
“Today’s action sends a strong message that trade with Iran in violation of US export control laws and regulations will not be tolerated,” Under Secretary of Commerce Mira Ricardel wrote, announcing that the department would deny US export privileges to Turkish individuals involved in the scheme.
“The Bureau of Industry and Security will vigorously pursue parties that seek to take advantage of US companies by providing false end-use information and that seek to profit from illegally supplying materials to Iran,” she wrote.
Tehran says that blocking the Boeing sale would violate the 2015 nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – and points to a provision of the JCPOA that commits the US to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services” for “exclusively civil aviation end-use.”
But the Trump administration and many members of Congress are convinced that Mahan Air’s activities in Syria disqualify the company from claiming their planes are “exclusively civil aviation end-use” equipment.
Based on this, they believe the Boeing deal can be halted consistent with US law and in compliance with the JCPOA.
The Treasury Department, State Department and intelligence agencies have assessed that Iran Air and Mahan Air also conducted illicit arms transfers to the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah.
Faced with an aging national fleet desperate for upgrades, Iran insisted on gaining access to US and European aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus during the 2013 through 2015 nuclear talks. New US declarations on the nature of Iran Air’s operations – and the consequences of those declarations on its sanctions posture – may also impact a separate sale of Airbus planes, and in turn, the delicate talks on Iran between Washington and Brussels.