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House votes to block aircraft sales to Iran

Sep 14
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The Hill, By Cristina Marcos

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The House adopted measures on Wednesday to prevent sales of commercial aircraft to Iran, despite warnings from some Democrats that it would undermine the international accord to curtail the country’s nuclear weapons program.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) offered two amendments to a 2018 government spending package that would specifically prohibit the use of funds to authorize financial transactions for the sales and prevent the Office of Foreign Assets Control from clearing licenses to allow aircraft sales.

Roskam said that the U.S. should refrain from selling the aircraft to Iran given the country’s history of using commercial aircraft to transport resources, like weapons and troops, to support President Bashar Assad in Syria.

“Until Iran ceases using commercial aircraft to support terrorists and war criminals, western companies ought not be allowed to sell Iranian airliners more aircraft that they can use to fuel Assad’s brutal war,” Roskam said during House floor debate.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) warned that blocking the sales would result in “penalizing American companies for no good purpose” and threaten the nuclear deal with Iran.

“I think being able to maintain our commitments under the agreement with the [Iran nuclear deal] is important. That Iranian nuclear agreement has held and is one of the few bright spots in that region,” Blumenauer said.

Both of Roskam’s amendments were adopted by voice votes. Similar amendments offered by Roskam were also adopted as part of a spending bill last year but did not become law.

The House additionally passed separate legislation last November to block the licenses to finance aircraft sales with Iran, but it never got a vote in the Senate.

Iran Air has ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which remains sanctioned by the U.S. But Iran Air was granted sanctions relief as part of the 2015 nuclear accord, which relaxed sanctions in exchange for limits to Iran’s nuclear program.

Airbus, a European aircraft manufacturer, and Boeing, an American company, have struck multibillion-dollar deals with Iran in the last year to sell planes.

President Trump has railed against the Iran deal, but his administration has not taken steps to block the aircraft sales. Forcing a stop to the transactions could be at odds with Trump’s promotion of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., despite his vow to be tougher on Iran.

Roskam and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) urged President Trump in April to suspend aircraft sales to Iran.

“The possibility that U.S.-manufactured aircraft could be used as tools of terror is absolutely unacceptable and should not be condoned by the U.S. government,” they wrote in a letter to Trump.

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