Iran Expands Search for Aircraft as Boeing, Airbus Deals Hindered by Terrorism Concerns

Iran is broadening its search for aircraft as its proposed deals with Airbus and Boeing continue to face significant obstacles, Reuters reported on Sunday.

“Iran is planning to buy some 50 more airplanes of various types soon,” an Iranian official told the news agency. Iranian executives said they attended the U.K.’s Farnborough International Airshow last week and participated in preliminary talks with several potential sellers, including Japan’s Mitsubishi.

Airbus and Boeing reached provisional deals with Iran earlier this year after bans on selling aircraft to the Islamic Republic were lifted as part of last year’s nuclear deal. However, Iran has found it difficult to arrange financing for its planned purchase of some 200 planes.

“Yes, there are problems, financial and political,” an Iranian official close to the talks with the aviation giants told Reuters. “But there have been several meetings with Boeing and Airbus top authorities particularly in the past few weeks in order to resolve the issue and to find a way to overcome the remaining obstacles.”

The House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this month which, if confirmed by the Senate, would block prospective Boeing and Airbus sales to Iran. The deals, reached with state-owned Iran Air, sparked concerns among lawmakers and experts that planes with a large number of American-made parts would be used to provide material support to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.

Iran Air was designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2011 partially due to its transport of “potentially dangerous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-related cargo” and “missile or rocket components” to Syria. Just last month, the airline flew known weapons resupply routes to Syria three times. A Western intelligence report seen by Reuters in 2012 noted that Iran continued using civilian aircraft to transport large amounts of arms and personnel to aid Assad.

Some in Congress see Boeing officials possibly cooling to the deal. Rep. Peter Roskam (R – Ill.) noted that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg did not try to defend the deal by assuring that planes sold to Iran would not be used to aid terrorism, but by arguing that if Boeing is prevented from selling planes to Iran, other manufacturers should be as well.

The provisional agreement reached by Boeing to sell $17.6 billion worth of planes to Iran has come under sharp bipartisan criticism since it was announced in June.

[Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr ]