Leading Republican congressmen have warned Boeing Corporation not to proceed with a rumored deal to sell approximately 100 planes to Iran, pointing out that aircraft could be used to boost the Islamic Republic’s destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East, Fox News reported on Friday.
“American companies should not be complicit in weaponizing the Iranian Regime,” Representatives Peter Roskam (R – Ill.) and Jeb Hensarling ( R – Texas) wrote in a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg earlier this week. They noted that Iran remains “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” according to the State Department’s recently released annual report on global terrorist activity.
— Peter Roskam (@PeterRoskam) June 17, 2016
“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) systematically uses commercial aircraft to transport troops, weapons, military-related parts, rockets, and missiles to hostile actors around the world, including, but not limited to, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthi Rebels in Yemen, and the Bashar Al-Assad Regime in Syria,” the congressmen added. “These terrorist groups and rogue regimes have American blood on their hands. Your potential customers do as well.”
Iran Air is the apparent party to the deal, which by some estimates is worth more than $17 billion. The company had been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for working with the IRGC, although it was recently removed from the list. “There is no reason to believe the company has ceased its malicious activity,” Roskam and Hensarling cautioned.
Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in February that Iran “continued to rely on civilian aircraft to supply the Assad regime throughout the talks leading to last year’s nuclear deal.” His analysis primarily dealt with the Iranian airline Mahan Air.
Ottolenghi regularly tracks the flights of Iranian aircraft on Twitter, and noted last week that Iran Air was flying routes to Syria. If it turns out that those planes were carrying troops or weapons, Iran Air could find itself sanctioned again, Ottolenghi warned Friday. If Iran does not change its behavior, the Boeing deal could have a negative impact on the company, he added.
These deals could make aircraft manufacturers unwittingly complicit in Iran’s support for atrocities and war crimes in Syria and for Hezbollah’s terror activities. This could certainly expose them to future sanctions. More likely is the threat of lawsuits from attorneys trying to collect $50 billion of outstanding judgments for victims of Iranian terrorism. These could create public relations nightmares if not costly legal battles. Thus, for Boeing and the others, it will not be easy to weigh risk and reward.
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