Not So Fast, Boeing and Iran
By Jonathan S. Tobin
June 15, 2016
It’s likely that there’s some
celebrating going on at the Boeing Company’s Chicago headquarters due to the
news that Iran has reached a deal with the company for the purchase of
new passenger airplanes. This is the first major transaction between the
Islamist regime and an American business since the conclusion of the
nuclear pact between the West and Tehran. But it won’t be the last if
advocates of détente with Iran within the Obama administration have their way.
That is the significance of the deal. And that is why Congress should
take a break from its normal role as cheerleaders for American businesses
and investigate this new relationship to ensure that Boeing isn’t violating
sanctions that are still in place against Iranian entities.
Administration officials had
promised Congress that the Iran deal was solely aimed at restraining
Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and not part of a general push for détente. But
that claim was just one of several falsehoods promulgated to
make the deal seem reasonable. President Obama’s goal was to allow Iran “to
get right with the world,” and that meant breaking down all the barriers set
up to isolate a pariah terrorist state.
One of the least reported aspects
of the deal was that, though international sanctions were lifted, U.S.
restrictions on doing business with Iran remained in place. As a result, Iranian
entities were forbidden to use dollars and it is still against the law for
American companies to do business with the many Iranian companies and
individuals associated with Tehran’s terror network or owned by the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps.
But hidden in the details of
Obama’s deal was a major exception to U.S. sanctions, one that allows
U.S. companies to sell “commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and
services to Iran.” This exception has allowed Boeing to join in the
gold rush European companies—including its competitor, Airbus—are making for
Iranian cash now in the post-sanctions era. The administration was not only
doing a big favor for both Iran and Boeing; it was also creating a precedent
that would serve as a wedge to undermine any remaining resistance to the
normalization of relations with Iran.
If concluded, the Boeing
transaction will create a new broader constituency for appeasing Iran no matter
what it does. Any attempt to re-impose isolation on the regime for nuclear
violations, regional aggression, or terrorism (it remains, as the State
Department recently reasserted, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror)
would run into a buzzsaw of opposition from all those who benefit from
Boeing’s prosperity and their representatives in Congress. That’s a factor
that would deter any future president—even one that promises to reassess what
was a very bad deal with Iran—from scaling back ties.
The answer to this clever
stratagem from Congress should be to say “not so fast.”
As Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation
for the Defense of Democracies told theNew York Times, despite the
exception for aircraft sales in the text of the nuclear deal, much of Iran’s
civilian aviation industry is run by companies linked to or run by the IRGC,
which also operates the regime’s terror network. Business with the IRGC and
everything related to it is still very much against U.S. law and nothing in the
Iran deal supersedes that fact. As Dubowitz notes, that makes any Boeing-Iran
transaction a “due-diligence nightmare” for any U.S. companies as well as
the banks that will also be involved.
Given the high stakes involved,
there is little doubt that the administration will be doing all it can to smooth
the path for Boeing and to halt or sidetrack any annoying Treasury
Department scrutiny that would highlight illegal activity.
That’s where Congress must step
in. Despite the understandable desire of members of the House and Senate that
will have constituents eager to have the Iran transaction bring jobs to their
districts and states, the issue here isn’t employment but terror and U.S.
The regime’s behavior hasn’t
changed a bit despite the president’s desire to welcome it into the family of
nations. Their illegal missile tests and ongoing support for international
terror give the lie to the White House spin machine’s myths about moderates
taking over in Tehran, as
did the recent election of more hardliners to ensure that the regime
stays in the hands of the most extreme Islamist theocrats.
With the help of a largely tame
Washington press corps, party-line loyalty from Democrats, and the help of a few
foolish Republicans, Congress failed to stop the Iran nuclear deal. But by
speaking up now, the legislative branch can still throw a monkey wrench into a
deal that would put one of America’s most important aviation companies in
bed with Iran’s terror network.