Editorial: Congress shouldn’t kill Boeing’s sale to Iran Air

Nov 23, 2016 Issues: Transportation

Editorial: Congress should't kill Boeing's sale to Iran Air
By The Herald Editorial Board

A bill approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives could scuttle the sale of 80 Boeing 737s and Everett-made 777s to Iran Air and the lease of another 29 Boeing jetliners to the airline, with a potential value of $25 billion.

Joined by only a handful of Democrats, Republicans in the House — including all four of Washington state’s GOP delegation — voted to prohibit the Treasury Department from issuing licenses that U.S. banks need to finance the Boeing deal as well as a similar contract for more than 100 planes from Airbus, allowing Iran to rebuild an aging civilian jetliner fleet that is now unsafe and held together by improvised and smuggled parts.

Republicans have opposed the sale to Iran as part of the multi-national agreement brokered by the Obama administration to lift sanctions against Iran following Tehran’s agreement to curtail development of nuclear weapons by limiting uranium enrichment for 10 to 15 years and submitting to monitoring and inspections.

The bill, H.R. 5711, will likely face opposition from Democrats in the Senate, and President Barack Obama on Monday said he would veto the legislation as a violation of the agreement with Iran. Along with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany agreed to lift sanctions each had imposed to get Iran to the negotiation table.

Unimpressed with last week’s vote in the House, the Treasury Department went ahead Wednesday and granted Airbus the license it needs to sell 106 planes to Iran. Airbus, based in France, needed U.S. approval for its sale to Iran Air because at least 10 percent of each jetliner’s parts are made in the United States.

But with existing Republican opposition and President-elect Donald Trump’s previously stated opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran, the issue is likely to return early next year.

Republicans and Trump should resist the urge to kill the Boeing and Airbus deals.

Any deal for 100 planes, especially for those built in Everett, is significant and shouldn’t be cancelled on a whim. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents Washington’s 2nd District, said that the bill “writes a check to our competitors in Europe.”

The U.S. could reimpose its own sanctions but might find it difficult to convince the other nations to do the same, limiting their effect and making Boeing workers in Washington state pay the price.

And reimposing sanctions risks killing the nuclear deal and ending agreements that are supposed to keep Iran’s nuclear capability at bay.

House Republicans have said their concern was that Iran could re-purpose the jetliners for military purposes, but Rep. Denny Heck, D-10th District, said the deal with Boeing actually offers an avenue to keep an eye on Iran. With Boeing responsible for maintenance and repairs of the jets it leases and sells to Iran, it — and the U.S. — can watch for anything other than the commercial purposes for which the jets are intended.

Killing the sales by Boeing and Airbus to Iran doesn’t make us any safer, could give Iran reason to start up its nuclear program again and would cost jobs for Washington state workers.