The Trump administration is undertaking a critical review of Obama administration-era policies permitting the sale of American airplanes to Iran, which have been used in the past to ferry weapons to terrorists and conduct other illicit activities, according to U.S. officials familiar with the situation.
U.S. airline manufacturer Boeing announced on Tuesday that it had reached a memorandum of understanding with Iran guaranteeing the sale of up to 60 planes pending review by the Trump administration.
Recent Stories in National Security
Sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon speculated the latest announcement, which was announced earlier in the day by Iran, could be meant to pressure U.S. officials to sign off on the deal.
While the newly installed administration had come under fire earlier this year for seeming to continue Obama-era policies meant to approve these sales, U.S. officials now tell the Free Beacon that all past and future deals are coming under review by the new administration as part of a larger assessment of the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
The review of sales between Boeing and Iran represent a first step to possibly canceling the deals, which have come under criticism by U.S. lawmakers and foreign policy experts who maintain the Islamic Republic will use the American aircraft to boost its air force and illicit weapons trade, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon.
"Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] will be reviewing aviation licensing as part of the National Security Council's ongoing interagency review of the Iran deal," a Treasury Department official told the Free Beacon.
The move represents a departure from the Obama administration's policy, which promoted the sale of airplanes to Iran across the United States and Europe.
The review of these deals appears to be part of a larger ongoing review of the entire Iran nuclear deal, which is being undertaken by the White House. The Trump administration could move to reverse many of the promises made by the United States to Iran under the previous administration, including airplane sales and other concessions aimed at promoting business in Iran.
While the Treasury Department was unable to comment on specific licenses and ongoing determinations pursuant to the Boeing deal, officials pointed out that the latest announcement is not a final deal.
Any sale of planes by Boeing to Iran will be subject to review and require a license from the Treasury Department, officials said.
One senior White House official told the the Free Beacon that the most recent Boeing deal with Iran will be held for review along with the entire Iran nuclear deal.
"The review of existing Iran policy is ongoing–and this MOU will be part of that process," said the official, who was not authorized to speak on record. "Obviously the administration wants American companies to get large contracts, but we have to put the of the American people first."
Companies such as Boeing are still legally permitted to negotiate and enter into agreements with Iran as it relates to the sale of airplanes so long as the Iranian entities are not currently subject to U.S. sanctions.
However, the final sale of these planes requires specific consent from the Treasury Department.
The Obama administration had rushed to push through these types of sales before leaving office. President Donald Trump has advocated a tougher line and these sales could be nixed as a result of Iran's ongoing support for terrorism across the Middle East.
One senior congressional source familiar with the situation told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration's latest move should serve as a warning to Boeing.
"Treasury is finally committing to a full review of current licensing policies for aircraft sales to Iran," the source said. "Boeing executives should be on notice: it's not just this new request that they will need approval on, but the previous one for Iran Air as well."
Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), a vocal opponent of the Boeing-Iran deal, told the Free Beacon that Boeing’s continued push to deal with Iran is "outrageous."
"On the same day Bashar al-Assad's Air Force dropped chemical weapons onto children, an American company announced its intent to sell airplanes to Assad's patrons in Tehran," Roskam said late Tuesday. "Iran continues to use commercial aircraft to support Assad's atrocities in Syria and other terror proxies around the globe."
Congress will continue its work to prevent the sale of planes to Iran, particularly in light of its ongoing use of civilian aircraft to ferry weapons and other illicit arms across the region.
"We will do everything within our power, and we hope the administration will do everything within its power, to prevent the sale of even more airplanes to state-owned companies in the Islamic Republic," Roskam said.
Boeing has not backed off its commitment to these sales, despite fierce opposition in Capitol Hill and now in the White House.
One senior congressional adviser who has been working on the matter told the Free Beacon that Boeing's aggressive lobbying campaign is beginning to backfire.
"Boeing has apparently calculated that their lobbying power can overcome the opposition of majorities in Congress and the American public, to say nothing of the Trump administration's NSC and Treasury," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record.
"Maybe [Boeing is] right—though that's not the mood on the Hill," the source explained. "But banks will have to make a different calculation, since they don't have the protection of the country's most powerful lobbyists, and the Trump Treasury Department doesn't fuck around with banks that facilitate Iranian terrorism, which is exactly what it means to give Iran airplanes. The fines would probably be in the billions."