House Panel Takes Aim at Boeing Deal: ‘Weaponizing the Iranian Regime’

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2016 | 4:18am EDT
A Boeing 747 of Iran’s national airline is parked at Mehrabad international airport in Tehran in 2003. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian, File)

( – Lawmakers critical of the Boeing Corporation’s plan to sell and lease aircraft to Iran’s national carrier – and critical of the administration’s support for the multi-billion dollar transaction – will debate legislation Thursday designed to stymie the deal.

The House Financial Services subcommittee on monetary policy and trade has three bills to consider.

One would bar the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) from licensing the deal, another takes aim at Treasury’s authorization of aircraft-related transactions by U.S. financial institutions, while a third targets Export-Import Bank financing of business deals with Iran.

Selling U.S.-manufactured aircraft to Iran Air, critics say, is insupportable given the airline’s history of being used to airlift supplies to Tehran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and to the Assad regime in Syria.

The State Department just last month reiterated that Iran remains the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

Five years ago, the Treasury Department announced it was imposing sanctions on Iran Air, whose planes, it said, had been used to transport “missile or rocket components” to Syria, “special” cargo on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and military equipment for Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).

Both the IRGC and MODAFL had years earlier been designated under an executive order for actions related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

But the administration supports the Boeing-Iran Air deal, which is not just permitted under the Iran nuclear deal, but stipulated as a U.S. commitment.

The U.S. in that agreement pledged to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.”

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), chairman of the monetary policy and trade subcommittee, said Wednesday the hearing would “examine the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran and how it opened the door for the sale of American-made aircraft to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”

“The subcommittee will also discuss legislation to prevent the facilitation of certain transactions by American financial institutions with Iran as well as the prohibition of the Export-Import Bank from financing projects in Iran,” he said in a statement.

“I am extremely concerned that by relaxing the rules, the Obama administration has allowed U.S. companies to be complicit in weaponizing the Iranian regime.”

In written testimony submitted for the hearing, two expert witnesses raise concerns about the terror-related history of Iran Air.

“Boeing is signing a deal with an Iranian aviation company and an industry complicit in the regime’s weapons proliferation and destabilizing adventurism,” says Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) executive director Mark Dubowitz.

“Boeing and those banking this deal face a due diligence nightmare. They cannot prevent their planes from being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for example, for deadly airlifts to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese Hezbollah.”

Another witness, Eric Lorber of the Financial Integrity Network, says in his testimony that fears the U.S.-made aircraft could be used to ship arms and fighters to Syria, to Hezbollah, or to militants in Yemen are “warranted.”

“[A]s recent research has shown, Iran Air – as well as still-designated entities like Mahan Air – regularly flies commercial aircraft to Syria and Lebanon that are known to – or suspected of – transporting arms, cash from illicit activities, or foreign militants,” Lorber writes.

As far as targeting the Treasury licensing goes, Republicans on the subcommittee pointed out in a memo that OFAC on March 24 this year issued a general license permitting

Boeing to begin negotiations with Iran, but that actual deliveries would require an additional OFAC license.

Secretary of State John Kerry last week suggested that prospective business deals like the Boeing one could advance “transformation” in Iran.

Asked later in the week about those comments by Kerry, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the secretary was referring to “the fact that we know many Iranians want to have better relations with the rest of the world. They want to be more outward-looking.”

That included some “in the leadership,” he added.

“We have seen in many places around the world when formerly closed societies become more open, that it can have a positive effect on – not only on their local economy, their security, their stability, upward mobility of the population, but also increased and more constructive relations with neighbors,” Kirby continued.

Asked whether he could name “a few” formerly closed countries that had moderated their behavior in that way, Kirby cited Burma.

He said the administration had made it clear from the outset that if the money or deals Iran secures as a result of the nuclear deal “is used for terrorist activities, we still have plenty of tools at our disposal to deal with that.”

See also:
State Dep’t: We Didn’t Strike Nuclear Deal to Help Boeing Sell Planes to Iran
Has U.S. Ever Allowed Sale of Aircraft to State-Sponsors of Terror? State Dep’t Doesn’t Think So

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