Trump Admin Blasted for Continuing Obama Admin Effort to Sell Iran Planes

Leading Republican calls for moratorium, questions admin priorities

Iran Air
Iran Air / Getty Images
March 7, 2017

The Trump administration is under increasing criticism from Republican lawmakers for continuing Obama-era policies to provide material support to the Iranian regime, including airplanes, which many have warned could be used to illegally ferry weapons across the Middle East on behalf of the Islamic Republic's war effort, according to lawmakers and veteran congressional insiders who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Trump administration's Treasury Department informed the Free Beacon on Monday that it would continue to grant licenses to companies such as Boeing so that they can pursue multi-billion dollar deals with Iran.

This policy, started by the Obama administration as part of the nuclear deal with Iran, is opposed by many on Capitol Hill and runs counter to campaign trail promises by President Donald Trump to end such agreements.

Iran announced in February that it had found a "foreign company" to finance the country's purchase of at least 77 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.

The Treasury Department would not provide the Free Beacon with the name of this foreign entity, despite multiple requests, stating only that licenses making these sales legal "will be issued the same as any other specific license," according to a Treasury Department official. The sales are set to be approved per guidelines set forth in the Iran nuclear agreement.

The disclosure of this information, which sets the stage for the sale of planes to Iran to move forward, drew outrage on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been working for some time to enact a moratorium on the sale of all commercial airliners to Iran.

The Free Beacon first reported last year that Iran has a long history of repurposing commercial U.S. aircraft for military use. Iran also uses commercial airlines as cover to ferry weapons and other munitions across the Middle East to terror groups.

Multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon described mounting frustration with the Trump administration, which has so far failed to take a tougher policy stance on Iran, despite promises to do so.

"Under no circumstances should Treasury issue licenses to finance this dangerous, misguided deal," Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), a vocal critic of the airplane sales, told the Free Beacon. "The Department should impose an immediate moratorium on all new licenses to companies doing business with Iran Air until and unless it can determine the state-run airline is no longer engaged in illicit activity."

Some of the Trump White House's failure to follow through on its promises has been attributed to its slow staffing of offices in the Treasury and State Departments. As the White House struggles to get its footing following the very public resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, key policy issues such as the deal with Iran are falling by the wayside, sources told the Free Beacon.

"There seems to be a disconnect between the White House's strong commitment to holding Iran accountable and the Treasury Department's apparent inclination to continue the Obama administration's policies," said one veteran GOP aide in Congress who requested anonymity to speak freely about the current White House.

The Trump administration should at least be making an effort to provide Congress with the name of the secret financier currently backing Iran's airplane purchase, the source added.

"It's totally unacceptable for the Treasury Department to continue withholding information about Iran's civil aviation industry from Congress and the American people," the source said. "Republicans in the House have been reluctant to criticize the new administration, as they are still getting their sea legs. That will change very quickly if we don't start getting some answers on this."

Other sources said chaos in the White House is hampering its ability to focus on major foreign policy issues.

"Trump's Treasury Department is facing increasing pressure from inside and outside the administration to get their shit together," said one veteran foreign policy adviser and congressional liaison who would only discuss the matter on background.

"A lot of people were looking at them to take the lead on tightening up the sanctions that the Obama administration had loosened, which went beyond what Iran was entitled to under the nuclear deal," the source said. "Congress will pick up the slack in the coming weeks, of course, but you can be sure that Treasury officials are also going to hear about it from the White House."

The White House did not respond to the Free Beacon's requests for comment by press time.