More Than Airplanes Are Riding On Boeing's Deal With Iran : Parallels Boeing has agreed to sell or lease about 100 commercial jets to Iran Air. The deal is seen as a test case for international companies that are skittish about doing business with Iran.
NPR logo

More Than Airplanes Are Riding On Boeing's Deal With Iran

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/484284777/484284778" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
More Than Airplanes Are Riding On Boeing's Deal With Iran

More Than Airplanes Are Riding On Boeing's Deal With Iran

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/484284777/484284778" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And many are saying this is no ordinary deal to buy some airplanes. Iran could receive new Boeing aircraft as early as next year. This is part of a provisional deal made possible under the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers. More than 100 Boeing planes could be sold or leased to Iran. And there's a lot riding on this for companies around the world and for the nuclear deal itself. Here's NPR's Jackie Northam.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Boeing is the first major U.S. company to do business with Iran since sanctions were lifted earlier this year. The provisional agreement with the national carrier, Iran Air, is worth $20 billion and could help attract other companies to do business with Iran.

ELIZABETH ROSENBERG: I do think that it will give optimism, confidence and renewed enthusiasm for potential investors in Iran.

NORTHAM: Elizabeth Rosenberg worked on Iran sanctions for several years at the Treasury Department and is now with the Center for a New American Security. International sanctions have been lifted in exchange for limits on Iran's nuclear program. But Rosenberg knows the U.S. keeps other sanctions in place over human rights issues and terrorism. And many U.S. and foreign banks are skittish about violating those remaining U.S. sanctions. Rosenberg says international companies will be watching Boeing closely.

ROSENBERG: The real test will be to see if Boeing is able to carry this deal through. Will they be able to work out the financing? That's a huge if. That's probably the hardest part of this.

NORTHAM: Commercial aircraft are one of the very few products U.S. companies are allowed to sell to Iran. Even so, a deal has to be done without using American dollars or the U.S. financial system. This creates a problem even for international companies wanting to sell to Iran because most foreign banks have partnerships with U.S. banks. That's why all eyes are on Boeing to see if it can find innovative ways to pick through this financial minefield, such as using euros.

ADAM PILARSKI: Without somebody pushing for it, nothing will happen.

NORTHAM: Adam Pilarski, a senior vice president with AVITAS, an aviation consultancy group, says the U.S. government will likely guide Boeing through myriad restrictions.

PILARSKI: Boeing is a huge company. It has meaning to the U.S. economy. It has meaning to labor. And Boeing also has many lawyers and the funds to push stuff through.

NORTHAM: Boeing says it will be scrupulous about following regulations. But this deal is more than just about selling planes. This is where the Boeing sale to Iran meets the controversy surrounding the nuclear deal itself, which many in the U.S. and Iran oppose. Former Treasury official Rosenberg says if Iran gets its much needed planes, it could be more likely to stick with the nuclear deal - one of the Obama administration's top foreign policy priorities.

ROSENBERG: Having this kind of very large deal go through with a lot of support from the U.S. Treasury, it becomes a measure of insurance for longevity of the nuclear deal.

NORTHAM: Naturally, that concerns U.S. opponents of the deal who say Iran can't be trusted. Frederick Kagan with the American Enterprise Institute says the Boeing deal is already roiling many members of Congress.

FREDERICK KAGAN: It's a very big deal. It is an American company doing business in Iran.

NORTHAM: Kagan says any business with Iran could help empower its hardline leaders and groups with ties to terror groups.

KAGAN: And that is, in my opinion, strategically very problematic.

NORTHAM: Boeing says the first aircraft is expected to be delivered to Iran Air in 2017. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.