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US grants Airbus license to sell planes to Iran

November 22, 2016

The Obama administration has approved the sale of 106 Airbus planes to Iran. But the move rests on precarious ground as US President-elect Donald Trump is likely to overturn it when he takes charge in January.

Flugzeug 747 Iran Air
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Widmann

The United States has reportedly issued a license to France's Airbus for the sale of 106 commercial aircraft to Iran Air, the Islamic country's flagship carrier.

"We confirm that we have received our second license from the US Office of Foreign Control Assets following the agreement [with iran Air] signed in January 2016 in Paris," Airbus told AFP news agency in a statement.

In September, Airbus received a US approval to sell 17 planes, with a second license covering the rest of the order, AFP quoted an unnamed source as saying. The planes included A320 and the long-range A-330 jetliners and was worth between 10 and 11 billion dollars.

Although based in France, Airbus requires US approval to sell its aircraft as 10 percent of its components are American-made.

Hoping to replace its aging fleet, Iran agreed to purchase planes from Airbus and its US competitor Boeing worth billions of dollars. The planes are not intended for Iran's Mahan Air, a company backed by the country's Revolutionary Guard.

But President Barack Obama's latest move to engage with Iran is likely to irk Republicans in the US Congress and President-elect Donald Trump, who said he would nullify the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran. The agreement allows US and European companies to engage in commercial activities with the Islamic republic.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives barred the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran. The bill must now pass through the Senate and will likely face opposition from Democrats. According to the White House, President Obama would veto the bill if it reaches him, but Iran-critic Trump could choose to withdraw the license.

USA | Washington Treffen Obama und Amtsnachfolger Trump
President-elect Trump can effectively withdraw the license when he takes charge on January 20Image: Getty Images/W. McNamee

In a letter to Obama, House Speaker Paul Ryan and two other Republican lawmakers urged the president "not to take any action that would weaken United States or multilateral sanctions or other restrictions against Iran in this post-election period."

"We respectfully request that your administration take no further actions designed to bolster international investment in Iran," said the letter. A smooth transition, it said, means providing the president-elect the "opportunity to assess United States policy toward Iran" without new complications.

Major European banks could also refuse to finance the airplane deals with Iran.

shs/mg  (Reuters, AP)