Why the Boeing & Airbus Sales to Iran are a Big Effing Deal

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the real power center for the American government, has issued licenses to Airbus and Boeing allowing them to sell commercial airliners to Iran.

President Obama ordered the licenses, defying the Republican-controlled Congress, which doesn’t want any easing of the US economic boycott on Iran.

Vice President Joe Biden called the signing of Obamacare a “big effing deal” but did not use the euphemism. These purchases are also a huge deal

First, it is highly unethical to make it difficult for Iran to buy civilian aircraft. Iran’s fleet is positively ancient and only 162 of its 250 planes are able to fly, with the rest grounded for lack of spare parts. The US embargo on this sector is endangering civilian noncombatants every day and it is therefore a war crime. Americans opposing these transactions should be ashamed of themselves. Women and children fly on those planes, and only a pervert and a coward wants to kill innocent children.

Second, it is crazy to give away the Iranian market (nearly 80 million people and an oil state which is very rich) to e.g. European manufacturers. American workers need good-paying jobs, and selling airplanes to Iran will generate them.

Third, Boeing just became a major lobbyist for the JCPOA, the deal with Iran signed by President Obama. That deal had not had a great many supporters inside the US, after decades during which Iran and the US have demonized one another. The JCPOA is much more likely to survive and be deepened if at least some big corporations come to support it (it makes them money).

BBC Monitoring translated Mehr news agency, Tehran, in Persian 1601 gmt 20 Sep 16; as saying that Iran’s Naft Airlines actually already has received its first Boeing 737 plane.

“Following the nuclear agreement, we signed a contract with Boeing to buy four 737 jets. One of those purchased aircraft was delivered to Naft Airlines two days ago,” Nourollah Rezai Niaraki, the CEO of Naft Airlines, told the semi-official Mehr news agency . . .

Following last year’s landmark nuclear agreement and the subsequent lifting of sanctions on its economy, Iran bought 118 Airbus and 80 Boeing jets to modernise its ageing fleet.

Iran actually will only buy 112 Airbus planes because originally it was also purchasing six big heavy airliners that weren’t suited to the Iranian market. Some observers wondered if the 6 cancellations were the result of American pressure, but Iranian officials denied that that is the reason. BBC Monitoring translates,

“Asghar Fakhrieh Kashani, a deputy roads and urban development minister, told the semi-official Young Journalists’ Club (YJC) the decision had been made due to the large size of the six airliners. “We did not pull out because of the Americans sabotaging [the deal]. The real reason was that airliners did not technically comply with our demands. These six jets are very heavy and used for long-distance journeys.” – (Iranian Young Journalists’ Club website, Tehran, in Persian 0750 gmt 20 Sep 16.)

The Iran deal has been a disappointment to the Iranian public because it hasn’t actually produced many new economic benefits for Tehran. These aircraft purchases are likely the beginning of a whole new set of relationships.

The thicker the trade networks between countries the less they can afford to go to war with one another. So that’s why this is a big effing deal.

Related video:

Press TV: “Airbus receives first US license to sell planes to Iran”

26 Responses

  1. I live in Lindsey Graham country, South Carolina, where Boeing happens to have a large manufacturing plant. Lindsey is caught between supporting what is right for his constituents and pleasing AIPAC. What’s a guy to do?

    • I think we can guess with some confidence. It’ll be another clue to a greater threat to US national security and interests than Iran.

    • Iran doesn’t need as many Boeings and Airbuses. Air France has less airplanes (around 170) and has reportedly 7 (seven) times more the number of passengers. (i like boeings personally)

      • There is a domestic role for certain sizes of airliner in a country as large and (under) developed as Iran, in addition to a external role connecting it commercially with the rest of the world.

        It was interesting to note Iran’s recent decision to pass on acquiring the “heavies” designed for the latter role, presumably leaving that job to existing world carriers.

  2. Great article on the Boeing and Airbus sales. Thanks. Republicans in Congress might keep in mind that Americans and people of lots of nationalities sometimes fly on those ancient Iranian airplanes; even if strangely Congress doesn’t care about Iranians themselves, which Congress actually should, the people of the whole world are affected by the health of the Iranian fleet of airplanes.

    Minor comment: Vice President Biden made the “big effing deal” remark about the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as Justice of the Supreme Court, not about the signing of Obamacare.

  3. I think you overstate the immorality of the embargo. You know well the military history and putting an embargo on airplane parts does not make the US responsible for civil aviation disasters. If a country cannot build a technology, and cannot get along well enough with the world to buy it, then they just won’t have aircraft. They do not somehow have a human right to commercial air travel. Putting people on airplanes that aren’t safe rather than grounding the aircraft and either developing the technology themselves or mending fences abroad is an arrogant and ghastly choice.

    • You know well the military history and putting an embargo on airplane parts does not make the US responsible for civil aviation disasters.

      Do you agree with those who said the UN sanctions enforced by the Clinton administration were not responsible for the half million Iraqi children who died as a consequence but it was Saddam Hussein’s fault? Or, do you agree with Madeleine Albright, the Clintons’ secretary of state, it was worth it?

      • link to en.wikipedia.org This gives a good rundown on the different perspectives. I don’t think it is so clear cut as you state. Considering how Hussain used the cover of the Gulf War to massacre thousands of “Marsh Arabs”, and who massacred about 10,000 Kurds with poison gas, I don’t think it would be out of character for him to allow thousands of his own citizens to die through neglect for political purposes. He was a big fan of Stalin who basically starved to death 3 million Ukrainians in the early 1930’s (see The Great Famine by Robert Conquest).

      • Along with the UN sanctions, the UN authorized an “oil for food” program that allowed iraq to sell oil for food that it could distribute to its people. From the moment the oil-for-food programme was introduced in 1996, Saddam concentrated all his energies on attempting to subvert it. The complex oil-for-food programme was introduced so that the profits from UN-supervised Iraqi oil sales would pay for essential healthcare supplies.

        But Saddam skilfully worked the system so that the profits were diverted to fund his regime rather than feed his people. An important element of this fraud was that a significant percentage of the funds was diverted to set up a voucher system that could be used to bribe a wide network of international politicians who could be counted upon to do Saddam’s bidding.

        Far more than the sanctions was Saddam’s subversion of the oil-for-food program that was responsible for the half million Iraqi children’s deaths.

        • I appreciate your point, but the sanctions triggered the various events that followed. No sanctions then no need for the oil-for-food program and any other actions Saddam deemed essential for his survival.

          To a lesser extent the recent sanctions on Iran created problems for Iranians who needed certain vital medicines.

          Similar US strokes for different folks.

    • false characterization. iran gets along just fine. it’s the US with the psychopathic impulse to punish those who don’t cowtow, combined by the reach of its dictat, that’s putting civilians in danger. as an american, i say my nation’s culpable. chomsky explained it best: like a mafia. the punishment given to the corner shop owner who doesn’t pay protection money is way out of proportion to said money, because it’s the successful defiance the don’s upset about, not the tiny amount of lost money

      • It’s an illuminating insight that politics at this level is distinguished from mafioso coercion by nothing more than a more polished and self-righteous style coupled with an abiding concern for the optics of public relations.

        Still, recognizing that, it is a reality that if, especially through insistence over time, you can create a reality. Those who dispute you lack the same sense of destiny, have other things to do, and their increasing silence ultimately communicates consent.

        Note, as a prime example, the relentless consistency with which Israel has managed its colonization of the WB. The transparency of their strategy and tactics doesn’t obviate their strength or efficacy. Where would you place your bets?

    • Thank you. Additionally, the US is not the only source of aircraft. In addition to the European Airbus, Russia also builds civilian jet liners and Brazil builds smaller commercial planes.

      • China is pretty keen to break into that market too. Smart move would be to talk about buying the C919, so far only ordered by Chinese airlines. The Boeing-Airbus duopoly is not unbreakable.

    • Neither the Iranian people nor the state have done anything that deserves their being denied a national air line. And let’s be really honest. It’s not “the world” that has imposed this American embargo. It’s Israel’s supporters in the US.

    • The sanctions on Saddam-era Iraq were monstrous, inhuman, and disgusting. That at least half a million children died due to the sanctions is alone enough reason to negate any imagined salubrious consequence–there were no real positive consequences–of the sanctions. The ones imposed on Iran have some similar problems. Prior to the nuclear deal, import of medicines to Iran were also affected.

      While you make the erroneous argument that air travel is not a fundamental human right, in the case of medicines you cannot make this fallacious argument. Iranians should enjoy the ability to travel like any other people (that is they should be able to buy planes and travel on them). To say that air travel is a human right: sure it is, why not? It’s the converse that needs to be justified: why should we have the right to restrict other countries from trading with Iran, and selling them airplanes. If Europe’s airbus wants to sell them planes and so does our Boeing, what license does our government have to restrict the sale of civilian planes to Iran.

      Before, one could argue that Iran was not following the NPT, and as a result should be sanctioned. Even that weak argument just does not hold true anymore after the signing of the nuclear accord. So, what is your argument now for the continued sanctions of civilian technology imposed on Iran?

  4. We might not forget other advanced airplane manufacturers who would certainly benefit from selling to Iran. The “effing” seems to be directed at Russia who might come later to the party.

    Russia’s MC-21: Boeing to Face Potential Challenger in the Skies

    Read more: link to sputniknews.com

  5. ┬┐What the eff is the ustresury doing with aerospaciale?
    Drop the sanctions and stop the subsidies to boeing – welfare whore.
    Get off of Iran’s back!

  6. This issue is the type of thing that kind of frustrates me no end. Not the deal itself, but the failure of so many in this country, especially those who should know better, to take a big picture view of events. The Iran nuclear deal was so important not just because of its immediate goal, but because of its vast overall potential. Iran is becoming normalized. This should have been obvious to anyone who has knowledge of foreign affairs and the history of same. I liken it to the breakthrough with China. I think what we see here is the beginning of a total re-direction of American Mideast policy. Under the Shah, Iran was considered our most important ally in the region. The revolution changed all that, of course. But from a geopolitical standpoint, Iran is the logical regional power and it makes sense for both Iran and the US to become more closely aligned. This means a pivot away from close alignment with Saudi Arabia. However, this can’t be done quickly or openly and it requires a redirection of US energy policy. This requires a long term solution of alternative non-fossil fuel energy and a shorter term policy of greater internal production of fossil fuels. I think that Obama is very much a strategic thinker and he has chosen policies like this accordingly. Obama was a poli sci major as an undergraduate and from what I have observed of his foreign policy, he must have had course work in international relations. I think he gets it.

  7. Why does Airbus, a European consortium based in France, need the permission of the US government to trade with whoever it wants to? The European Commission, that would make sense, but the US Department of the Treasury- none of their damn business.

    • OFAC claims jurisdiction if at least 10% of the product is American-made. You have not appreciated the supremacy of OFAC.

  8. I’d like to see OUR present beefs with Iran enumerated, rigorously excluding those in which Israel has some connection either in the Near East or through its sad role in American politics.

    I question whether they exist in significant, concrete form, and if they do I don’t believe that they are of the type which we and Europe cannot resolve amiably with the descendants of Ancient Persia who haven’t attacked another country for over 200 years.

    We are being focused by political hacks on the wrong enemy and it’s being done at our tremendous expense.

    There are reasons why we don’t end it; they don’t reflect well on the American people and our political class.

    The primary troublemaker in the region overall is not Iran, but Israel. This has been the case since late in 1947 when the cleansing of Palestinians and other non-Jews began. She has made life miserable for American policy makers since at least 1967. If we can not say these things we will never emerge from this travail.

  9. Reminds me of the Israeli list of banned imports into Gaza of substances that could be used for terrorism. The list included pasta. I think it was John Kerry that shamed the Israeli’s into deleting that item.

  10. “The thicker the trade networks between countries the less they can afford to go to war with one another.”

    Right on! Make money, not war!

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