Iran claims US aeroplane sales underway despite Republican grumblings

Iran claims US aeroplane sales underway despite Republican grumblings
The House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for the sale of aircraft to Iran to be blocked with concerns that Trump could dismantle the US-Iranian nuclear deal
3 min read
18 November, 2016
A Southwest Boeing 737 takes off from Washington National Airport, Arlington in August [Getty]
Iranian State media reported on Thursday that Airbus is set to deliver a commercial jet to Iran in the “coming two months” despite the US House of Representatives passing a bill calling for the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran to be blocked, in a bid to stop sales by Boeing and Airbus already approved by the Obama administration.

"The first of 17 airplanes that the US Treasury Department has allowed to be sold to Iran will be handed over to us in the coming two months," Javad Hashemi Tehrani, Managing Director of Aviation Parts Holding Company of Iran, told local press in Tehran. 

On Thursday the Republican-led House passed a bill against such sales by a total of 243 votes to 174.

If brought into place the measure will prevent the US Treasury from issuing licenses necessary for US banks to process sales of commercial aircraft. It is seen as part of ongoing efforts by Republicans to counteract the landmark nuclear deal between the US, Iran, and other world powers that came into place earlier this year. 

In September, the US Treasury granted Airbus and Boeing licences to deliver planes to Tehran with Iranian claims that 9 planes are set to be delivered before the end of the current Persian calendar year on 21 March next year.

Plans to sell and lease over 200 jets are said to be in the pipeline and would help to modernise and expand Iran’s outdated fleet, which has relied heavily on smuggled and improvised parts due to years of sanctions. 
The imminent arrival of Donald Trump in the Oval Office in January could see the agreement abandoned
However, the imminent arrival of Donald Trump in the Oval Office in January could see the agreement abandoned.

While some members of Congress have expressed concern that abandoning the sale could cost US jobs, Republican opponents hold that the passenger aircraft could be used for military purposes such as transporting troops to battlegrounds in Syria in support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This accusation has notably been made in connection with Iranian carrier Mahan Air.

The proposed bill is unlikely to become law under Obama, who has said that he will veto such legislation even if it passes in the Senate. The Obama administration views following through on the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran as an important aspect of the nuclear pact which was based on the proviso that Tehran curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for sanction relief.

However, the White House’s approach to the nuclear pact could change once President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20. During his election campaign, Trump proved a vociferous critic of the deal describing its terms in March this year Trump as “catastrophic”.

“I have been in business a long time…this deal is catastrophic for Israel – for America, for the whole of the Middle East. We have rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion and we received absolutely nothing in return,” said Trump, speaking at the time.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned Trump not to backtrack on the nuclear deal, and its related clauses stating that the flagship agreeement “cannot be overturned by one government’s decision."

However, both analysts and Trump supporters have stated that once he becomes head of state Trump will have the requisite authority to revoke the executive agreement. Others have pointed out that by doing so Trump could simply encourage Iran to revert to its previous policy of enriching uranium that one day could be potentially used to construct a nuclear weapon.