US House bill not sufficient to stop aircraft sales to Iran

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec.19

By Leman Zeynalova – Trend:

The bill adopted by the US House of Representatives (HR) would not stop Western sales of aircraft to Iran, Francis Perrin, Senior Fellow at the OCP Policy Center (Rabat, Morocco) and Senior Research Fellow at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS, Paris) told Trend.

“The bill just adopted by the US House of Representatives (HR), Strengthening Oversight of Iran's Access to Finance Act, must be discussed and approved by the Senate before becoming US law. It could be amended by the Senators and we do not know yet its final content,” said the expert.

He pointed out that if this bill were to be adopted as such by the US Congress it would of course make the life of Boeing and Airbus more difficult but it would not stop Western sales of aircraft to Tehran.

“The financing of deals will be more scrutinized, which will not help their conclusion obviously. But, with some cooperation from Iran, which absolutely needs to modernize its commercial fleet - and there is no serious alternative to Boeing and Airbus - these obstacles could be overcome, at least until a possible new round of US sanctions in the future,” Perrin believes.

Another issue is that there is and there will be a strong lobbying from US industrial interests, especially Boeing, which signed a deal with Iran one year ago about the sale of 50,737 aircraft and 30,777 aircraft for a total consideration of $16.6 billion, according to the expert.

“It means a lot of jobs, and of good jobs, over the year ahead, which puts the Trump Administration in a difficult position because one of the key mantras of President Trump is to support good deals for the US industry and good jobs for American workers,” he said.

It is interesting to notice that so far President Trump did not condemn the deal between Boeing and Iran Air and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Treasury Department, issued licenses for this contract, noted Perrin.

He said that airbus is also very much interested in selling planes to Iran (it has signed a huge contract with Iran Air) and it is likely that the European Union will ask the US Administration not to block legitimate commercial deals with Iran.

“As adopted by the HR the bill is not sufficient to block US or European sales of aircraft to Iran. Companies and governments involved in these deals will have to negotiate with Iran in order to get guarantees about the strictly civilian passenger use of these planes and will have to convince the US that they will not be used to transport fighters and/or military equipment to Syria, for instance, and that there will not be any link with the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). It will not be easy in the present climate between Tehran and Washington but it is not Mission Impossible. Moreover US commercial interests are also at stake,” added the expert.

The US House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would require the Treasury ‎Department to notify Congress about the activities of the Iranian company that purchases the ‎planes, as well as the financing used for the deal and certify that they would not aid Iran's effort ‎to distribute weapons.‎

Meanwhile the US lawmakers emphasize that the legislation does not bar any aircraft sales to ‎Iran, the Iranian side, sees that as a step against the nuclear deal between Tehran and the six ‎world power, namely the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which came into force ‎last year.‎

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Follow the author on Twitter: @Lyaman_Zeyn

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