- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Boeing executives on Wednesday were not offering any new details a day after Iranian officials said a milestone arrangement to buy commercial planes from the Chicago-based company was essentially a done deal.

Iranian officials insist the deal, the first major U.S. contract with the Islamic Republic since the signing of the nuclear deal last summer, will be completed in the next few days, but Boeing officials reached by the Washington Times said they were keeping mum about any “details of ongoing conversations we are having with customers.”

Estimates say the deal will involve about 100 new jets, both from Boeing directly and leasing companies. The transaction could be worth many billions of dollars to Boeing — the most prominent transaction between an American company and Iran since ​international sanctions were lifted in July. For now, the deal remains a broad outline of what a formal deal would look like once Boeing has the necessary government approvals.

Boeing officials stated that “any agreements reached will be contingent on U.S. government approval” — the same sort of approval they needed to even begin negotiations with Iran. ​Although many U.S. sanctions remain on direct business with Tehran, aviation, a major source of U.S. exports, was one area where an exemption was granted.​

Boeing received approval from a Treasury Department​’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to begin discussions with IranAir​, but still needs specific authorization to actually sell the jets.

The transaction could face opposition from the same lawmakers who opposed the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran in the first place​,​ as remaining sanctions still ban the use of dollars in trade with Iran. ​​

The deal must find financing from non-U.S. sources. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the U.S. has no issues with foreign banks doing business with Iran, but the U.S. maintains restrictions on getting involved with Iranian banking.

It’s also unclear whether Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who has often described the U.S. as his country’s most dangerous threat — will endorse the agreement.​ The ayatollah just this week complained that Iran has not seen the flood of deals and investments it had hoped for in exchange for signing the nuclear deal with the Obama administration and five international powers.​

Iranian officials have said they will need to acquire at least 400 planes to replace their outdated fleet — one of the world’s oldest. The multi-billion dollar deal would likely involve IranAir acquiring more than 100 Boeing Jets, both directly from Boeing and from leasing companies. Boeing’s stock ​was up less than 1 percent to 131.49 on Wednesday morning​ as traders awaited a final decision​.

Iran has been banned from buying U.S. jets for almost 40 years. If approved, this deal will allow U.S.-manufactured jets to fly over Iran for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The deal comes after Boeing’s European competitor Airbus announced a $27-billion-dollar deal that would sell 118 aircraft to IranAir. Because more than 10 percent of the parts used on Airbus’s planes are sourced from the U.S., the OFAC must also approve this deal​. Six months later, the agency has yet to do so.

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