(CNSNews.com) – The House of Representatives on Thursday approved two measures taking aim at a proposed multi-billion dollar deal to sell Boeing planes to Iran’s national carrier – an airline that has been used to ship arms and supplies to terrorists and Syria’s Assad regime.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who sponsored the two amendments to a financial services spending bill, told the House that as recently as Wednesday, the Iranian air force had flown a Boeing 747 from Tehran to Damascus.
“Iran systemically uses commercial aircraft to spread death, destruction and mayhem,” he said.
“This is our ability to stop an iconic American company, that has basically said, ‘well, look, somebody else is doing it,’” Roskam said. “When does history ever treat well the entity that said, ‘I did this terrible thing because somebody else did it too?’”
The first amendment prohibits the use of any funds to allow the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to license the proposed deal, while the second prohibits the use of any funds to allow the Treasury to authorize Iran aircraft-related transactions by U.S. financial institutions.
Both were passed by voice vote.
The administration supports the Boeing deal, saying it is line with the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which includes a U.S. commitment to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has also argued that deals like the Boeing one could help spread “transformation” in Iran.
Although the House passed the overall financial services spending bill Thursday in a largely party-line vote (239-185), at least one of Roskam’s amendments drew support from some Democrats.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) spoke in support of the amendment relating to U.S. financial institutions.
Nothing in the JCPOA, he said, “promises, hints, even discusses the possibility that we could go so far as to lend money to one of the state-sponsors of terrorism.”
Sherman said even if the U.S. remains in strict compliance with the JCPOA, it does not have to finance terrorism.
“Keep in mind what we would be financing if we finance these planes,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed. Most of the country is either in internal exile or is fleeing the country. Bodies washed up on the beaches of Greek islands, of people who risk their lives to escape an Assad regime that is kept in power by the thugs, the money and the weapons ferried to Damascus by Iran.”
The administration points out that the wording of an annex to the JCPOA makes it clear that if Iran Air uses U.S.-licensed civilian aircraft for non civilian end-user purposes, or resells or transfers them to U.S.-designated entities, then the U.S. government reserves the right to revoke the licenses.
But Sherman said Congress should not allow U.S. banks to endanger their depositors’ money with aviation-related loans to Iran.
“We don’t want major banks lobbying this Congress, and saying ‘oh my god, you’ve got to be nice to the Iranians, or we won’t get paid back, and we might fail, and then you’ll have to bail us out.’”
Most Republicans in the House and Senate opposed the JCPOA, and some Democratic critics accuse the GOP of using the Boeing sale issue in a bid to attack both the nuclear deal and the administration’s Iran policy.
Outside of Congress, Iran engagement advocates are also fretting about the move.
“It is no secret that opponents of the Iran nuclear accord continue in their attempts to upend U.S. obligations under the agreement,” thee National Iranian American Council said in a statement.
“By attempting to block Boeing’s pending sale of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran, opponents of the Iran nuclear accord are also seeking to undermine significant U.S. commercial interests and to impose humanitarian suffering on the Iranian people by denying them access to safe air travel,” it said.