Executives from major airplane manufacturers Boeing and AirBus will reportedly head to Iran next week to hammer down multi-billion dollar deals to sell the Islamic Republic a new fleet of commercial planes amid a congressional crackdown on Tehran's continued use of commercial aircraft to transport weapons and terrorist fighters across the region.
As controversy continues to swirl around Boeing's and AirBus's efforts to sell Iran a fleet of new jets, Congress has taken steps to mandate the U.S. government release public reports outlining Tehran's continued use of commercial aircraft for illicit terrorism purposes.
The multi-billion dollar deals with Iran have been opposed by many in Congress who have disclosed evidence that the Islamic Republic routinely uses commercial aircraft as cover when illicitly transporting weapons and fighters across the Middle East.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported in October that the Trump administration has been reviewing the sales with an increasingly critical eye, and could decline to grant Boeing the necessary licenses to complete the deal. The State Department emphasized and explained this stance on Wednesday when approached by the Free Beacon for comment.
Boeing executives were in Tehran as recently as May, when they met with a top former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) member who threatened to blow up U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region. That official, Hossein Alaei, is now the CEO of Aseman Airlines, one of the state-controlled airlines Boeing is seeking to ink a deal with.
Executives from both Boeing and AirBus will reportedly travel to Iran again next week to discuss how Tehran will finance the purchase of a new commercial fleet, which could number at least 180 planes combined.
Massoumeh Asgharzadeh, the head of Iran Air Public Relations Office, reportedly stated that Iran intends finance the new deal domestically.
"Our preference is to use domestic financial resources, but we also have the option to finance the purchases through Airbus and Boeing themselves," the official was quoted as saying in Iran's press.
As the Western airplane manufacturers continue to pursue deals with Iran, Congress took steps this week to more fully expose Iran's use of these types of planes for terrorism purposes.
Included in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a mammoth yearly funding bill for America's defense priorities, is a requirement that the U.S. government begin providing Congress with an annual report on Iran's use of commercial aircraft for illicit purposes.
The effort, lawmakers told the Free Beacon, is meant to highlight the danger of deals being pursued by Boeing and AirBus.
"Iran Air has been using their sanctions relief money from Obama's nuclear deal to fly weapons, material, and fighters directly into Syria," Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), the architect of the new effort, told the Free Beacon.
"We need a closer look into how Iran is propping up the murderous Assad regime," Perdue said. "As President Trump determines how it will proceed with regard to these commercial aircraft sales, a new reporting requirement included in the defense bill he signed into law today will help give us a better look at Iran's nefarious behavior."
Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), who spearheaded the reporting requirement in the House, told the Free Beacon that Boeing and AirBus executives should not be holding meetings with Iran's hardline regime.
"The reports of Boeing and Airbus executives traveling to Tehran to sell aircraft to the Iranian regime’s airliner are outrageous," Roskam said. "In the past month, IRGC-backed forces have threatened to attack U.S. forces in Iraq and Iran’s military leadership has threatened Europe with ballistic missiles. No American company should be doing business with this regime, let alone be selling militarily-fungible jets to the terror-supporting transport-arm of the IRGC."
The State Department would not directly comment on potential licenses that may or may not be granted to Boeing, but told the Free Beacon that Iran's use of commercial aircraft for terror purposes is extremely concerning.
The Trump administration will not grant any license to sell Iran commercial aircraft unless it can be concretely proven they will not be used for illicit operations.
"We do not comment on individual OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] specific licenses, but the administration's position is clear: We will not issue export licenses unless we are convinced the aircraft will be used exclusively for civilian passenger aviation," a State Department official told the Free Beacon.
"We condemn Iran's role in facilitating the abuses of the Syrian regime against its own people and we are very concerned with any reports that Iran may be using its commercial passenger airlines for anything other than exclusively civilian passenger aviation," the administration official said.
Under the landmark nuclear deal, the United States reserves the right to revoke any and all licenses permitting such sales if it is determined Iran is using the aircraft for nefarious purposes.
U.S. officials have emphasized this point to Iranian officials, according to the State Department official.
"Should the United States determine that licensed aircraft, goods, or services have been used for purposes other than exclusively commercial passenger aviation end-use, or have transferred to sanctioned persons, we reserved the right under the JCPOA to cease issuing – or to revoke – aircraft licenses," the official said. "We have made this point clear to Iran and other JCPOA participants."