State Department spokesman John Kirby could not say whether or not the United States has ever sold airplanes before to a state sponsor of terrorism on Tuesday.
Boeing is selling aircraft to Iran with the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), although Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the State Department. Kirby was confronted by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee during the daily press briefing before others joined in questioning Kirby on the matter.
"John, on this, while it is true that the nuclear deal allows for this, I'm wondering if you were aware of any other case where Boeing or another U.S. aircraft, civilian aircraft manufacturer, has been given a license to sell planes to a country that is designated a state sponsor of terrorism. You'll recall, that there are, Sudan, I don't know if there are many Boeing planes flying around Sudan or Syria, for that matter," Lee said. "And I don't think that the North Koreans, when they were on the list, had any American planes. Do you know, is this an unprecedented thing to sell?"
"I'm certainly not aware of another example in the way you characterize it," Kirby said. "But I would like to, if we could, just let me talk about this with a little bit more depth. So, I don't know the answer to your question that it's ever happened before, quite the way you describe it."
"What do you mean, ‘the way I describe it?’" Lee asked.
"As, you know, licensing to a state sponsor of terrorism," Kirby said.
"But that's what happened, isn't it?" Lee said.
"But, it's all, but again, again," Kirby said.
"I know it's legal under the JCPOA, but they're still a state sponsor of terrorism and I'm just asking you if you know of any other case where the U.S. government has permitted the sale of American planes, civilian aircraft to," Lee said.
"I'm not aware of any," Kirby said.
Kirby then squabbled with Lee and other reporters that the deal states that the aircraft must only be used for civilian purposes.