The United States has issued a license to the French aircraft manufacturer Airbus for the sale of 106 commercial airliners to Iran’s national carrier Iran Air, a source related to the matter has stated.
The move in the last months of President Barack Obama’s administration to further unlock jetliner sales to Iran is likely to raise the attention of President-elect Donald Trump. The President -elect has previously said he would scrap the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran which would allow U.S. and European companies to sell aircraft to Iran.
However, licenses allowing sale of aircraft could easily be withdrawn by Trump if he chose to do so, experts on sanctions have said. This would likely face opposition from U.S. allies and other world powers who were partners in negotiating the deal to lift some sanctions in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program. U.S. Congress has previously tried to stop aircraft deals with Iran Air
Opponents of the nuclear deal argue that passenger aircraft could be used for military purposes, such as transporting fighters to battle U.S. troops or allies in Syria. Members of Trump’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the license.
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued the license on Monday the 21st of November, the source said on condition of remaining anonymous. An Airbus spokesman confirmed that the company had received the OFAC license, but declined to confirm the exact number of planes approved.
Although Airbus is based in France, it must have U.S. approval to sell planes to Iran because at least 10 percent of Airbus aircraft components are made in America. Iran Air has provisionally ordered more than 100 jets each from Airbus and Boeing this year with several orders for ATR aircraft as well. Before the issuing of the license, Airbus had permission for the sale of 17 aircraft to Iran Air.
The deals by Airbus and Boeing to sell or lease over 200 jets to Iran Air would help modernize and expand the country’s elderly fleet, held together by smuggled or improvised parts after years of sanctions. Iranian officials have voiced growing concerns about what they see as unfair delays in obtaining U.S. licenses, or clarity over banking and financing rules.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would block the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran, which would also affect sales by U.S. firm Boeing. The company previsouly signed a MoU with the airline.
A congressional aide said the letter was not specifically tied to the Airbus license.
“President-elect Trump deserves the opportunity to assess United States policy toward Iran without your administration imposing or implementing additional measures that could complicate the incoming administration’s ability to develop its policy,” the letter said.
Sanctions experts said Treasury licenses allowing such aircraft sales, and easing the way for other commerce with Iran, could easily be reversed by Trump if he chose to do so.
“The licenses can be withdrawn at any moment…so long as they’re not required by legislation, which is a very small number,” said David Mortlock, a former White House sanctions official.