(CNSNews.com) – Under fire in Congress over plans to sell commercial aircraft to Iran, Boeing vice-chairman Ray Conner said Sunday that if the company was prevented from going ahead with the multi-billion dollar deal, then so too should other aircraft manufacturers.
“If we’re not allowed to go forward, then sure as heck no other U.S. company should be allowed to go forward either – and that would be any U.S. supplier to any other manufacturer,” Conner, who also heads Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, was quoted as telling reporters at the company’s British headquarters near London.
Under Treasury Department regulations relating to the Iran nuclear deal, any company building aircraft with at least 10 percent of U.S.-made components must obtain licenses from the U.S. Treasury for aircraft sales to Iran. U.S. companies provide components for major foreign aircraft makers.
Iran’s national carrier Iran Air wants to acquire more than 100 aircraft, and both Boeing and Europe’s Airbus are keen to get the business.
Conner, speaking ahead of the Farnborough Air Show which begins Monday, listed not just Airbus but also three other Boeing competitors who build aircraft with U.S.-made components – Canada’s Bombardier Aerospace, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, and Embraer of Brazil.
The prospective Boeing sale, which is permitted under the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has stoked controversy, as Iran Air was sanctioned by the Treasury Department five years ago for allowing its aircraft to be used to transfer supplies and weapons to Syria’s Assad regime and other beneficiaries of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Critics say Iran has also used commercial airliners to supply its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization and a sworn enemy of U.S. ally Israel.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved two amendments to a financial services spending bill that are aimed at blocking the Boeing-Iran Air deal.
Conner said the congressional initiative was a matter between lawmakers and the Obama administration, adding that Boeing would follow the lead of the government on the path ahead.
The amendments approved on Thursday were introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who in response to Conner’s comments on Sunday tweeted, “No company, American, French, Canadian, Brazilian, or otherwise, should make itself complicit in terrorism.”
Under the terms of the JCPOA, the U.S. pledged to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.”
The prospective sale of planes to upgrade Iran’s ageing fleet was considered a major incentive for Iran during the nuclear negotiations.
Backers frame it as a humanitarian issue. “For too long, ordinary Iranian lives have been placed at risk because sanctions have prevented Iran from repairing and replenishing its civilian airline fleet,” National Iranian American Council president Trita Parsi said after the Boeing deal was first reported.
Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged the issue is a “complex” one, but also argues that the sale could help to push forward political “transformation” in Iran.
During an appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado late last month, Kerry also pointed to the commercial benefits for the U.S., saying that it made little sense for the U.S. to negotiate a deal with Iran allowing a lifting of sanctions, only to watch competitors benefit while America loses out.
“Other countries like France are rushing in to sell Airbus to the cost of Washington state and Boeing and our workers in the United States?” he said. “Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
According to the Treasury Department’s JCPOA regulations, licenses are required in cases where non-U.S. companies “export, reexport, sell, lease, or transfer to Iran U.S.-origin commercial passenger aircraft or commercial passenger aircraft that contains 10 percent or more U.S.-controlled content.”