Illinois lawmakers urge Boeing not to sell aircraft to Iran


Three Republican congressmen from Illinois are urging the chief executive officer of Chicago-based Boeing to avoid doing business with Iran and not sell aircraft to upgrade its fleet.

The lawmakers told Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg in a letter sent May 2 that commercial aviation sales to Iran would subsidize a country that continues to be a leading sponsor of terrorism.

“We urge Boeing — in the strongest possible terms — not to do business with Iran until it ends its support for terror,” wrote Reps. Peter Roskam, Robert Dold and Randy Hultgren.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the May 2 letter.

The company has offered Iranian airlines three models of new aircraft to replace the country’s aging aircraft fleet, the Islamic Republic’s state-run news agency reported in April.

Last year’s landmark nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other world powers ended international economic sanctions against Tehran, allowing airline manufacturers to re-enter the market. Iran Air has already signed agreements to buy 118 planes from the European consortium Airbus and 20 more from French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR.

Boeing’s proposal demonstrates the aerospace giant’s interest in a piece of the action in post-sanctions Iran. But American firms have been more cautious than their foreign competitors as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has threatened to tear up the nuclear deal if elected this November.

The congressmen told Muilenburg they are confident Boeing’s discussions with Iran comply with the law and called the company an “American icon” that creates thousands of jobs of Illinois. But, they wrote, “this is not doing what is legal — it is about doing what is right.”

The lawmakers listed a number of examples of what they called Iran’s “pernicious behavior,” including launching ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions, firing rockets near a U.S. aircraft carrier and other warships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and Iran’s brief capture of American sailors who strayed into its territorial waters.

They said Iran’s “despotic leaders” would be the greatest beneficiaries of any aircraft sale because they own a majority stake in Iran Air, the country’s flag carrier.

Boeing officials offered 737, 787 and 777 model aircraft, according to Iran’s news agency. Iranian airlines have roughly 60 Boeing airplanes in service, but most were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Out of Iran’s 250 commercial planes, about 150 are flying while the rest are grounded due to lack of spare parts.

After Boeing officials visited Tehran last month, a company spokesman declined to provide specifics about the negotiation but said the delegation discussed the “capabilities of Boeing airplanes, along with the support the company provides.” He added that the meetings were closely coordinated with the U.S. government.