Republican Lawmakers Urge Trump to Suspend Deals Between Boeing, Iranian Airlines

Congressman Peter Roskam and Senator Marco Rubio warn that the multi-billion dollar deals involve airlines used by the Iranian regime for 'illicit military purposes'

In this March 7, 2017 file photo, the first of the large Boeing 737 MAX 9 models, Boeing's newest commercial airplane, sits outside its production plant, in Renton, Wash.
Elaine Thompson, AP

WASHINGTON - Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday urging him to suspend a number of multi-billion dollar deals between Boeing and airlines in Iran. The two legislators warned in their letter that the Iranian airlines involved in the deals have been used by the Iranian regime "for illicit military purposes, including to transport troops, weapons and cash to rogue regimes and terrorist groups around the world." 

The deals in question are reportedly worth $25 billion dollars. They were announced by the Iranian government in June, and include the sale and lease of more than 100 Boeing aircraft to Iranian companies. USA Today reported at the time that the deals would be "the first time new American aircraft have been sold to Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution," and the largest commercial agreement between a U.S. company and Tehran since the lifting of sanctions from Iran as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal. 

Last November, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit selling jetliners to Iran. The Obama administration threatened to veto the legislation if it passed the Senate, and so far, the bill hasn't progressed further on Capitol Hill. Now, the letter by Rubio and Roskam urges Trump to stop the Boeing deals himself. 

The downside for the administration in taking such a step is that the jetliners in the Boeing deals are made in the United States, and the company could blame the administration for hurting American production and workers. Supporting American manufacturing and bilateral trade relations were major themes of Trump's election campaign.

On the other hand, the Trump administration has taken a tough line on Iran, at one point even warning the Islamic Republic that it was "on notice" for conducting ballistic missile experiments. In their letter to the president, Roskam and Rubio specifically mention the involvement of Iranian commercial airlines in supplying and supporting the Assad regime in Syria, perhaps hoping to build on the momentum from the Trump administration's strike against the Syrian air force last week. 
 
"Iran has consistently used commercial aircraft to transport the weapons and troops that have fueled the conflict in Syria which has claimed the lives of 500,000 people," the two legislators wrote to Trump. They added that "Iran's airlines also continue to play a major role in supplying Hezbollah - the Iranian terror proxy that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans over the years - with the rockets and missiles that now put Israelis at risk, too."