An Iranian airline that signed a $3 billion contract at list prices with Boeing Co. is confident the deal won’t face a political backlash in Washington, days after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a bill that could bring new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Aseman Airlines, a private company whose largest owner is Iran’s National Pension Fund, signed a final purchase agreement with Boeing in Tehran on Saturday for 30 737 Max jets and an option for 30 more, spokesman Amir Reza Mostafavi said in an interview. Boeing will deliver the first jets in 2022.
“We’re a commercial company, like Boeing is a commercial company, and we’re operating in an economic sphere, not a political one,” Mostafavi said. “In this area, work is moving forward and things are getting under way.”
Boeing has applied to the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, for a license to see the deal through, it said in an emailed statement.
Boeing and Aseman first announced the order in April. It’s Boeing’s second plane sale to an Iranian airline since the 1970s, following a $16.6 billion agreement with Iran Air that the Chicago-based manufacturer is still finalizing. The Aseman contract presents a test of the planemaker’s ties with President Donald Trump, pitting his policy of promoting U.S. manufacturing jobs against the administration’s vow to take a tougher stance on Iran.
An order of this size creates or sustains 18,000 jobs in the U.S., Boeing said, citing the Commerce Department. Perhaps indicating the political complexity of deals with Iran, the company emphasized that “it continues to follow the lead of the U.S. government with regards to working with Iran’s airlines, and any and all contracts with Iran’s airlines are contingent upon U.S. government approval.”
On June 7, the same day Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on Iran’s parliament that killed 12 people, U.S. senators overwhelmingly voted to advance a bill that would impose new sanctions on the oil-rich country. The bill would authorize Trump to impose restrictions on businesses or individuals that the U.S. accuses of knowingly providing Iran with material support for ballistic missile testing.
Trump’s own position on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was brokered by the previous Democratic administration and led to the easing of sanctions last year, has been unclear. He has in the past criticized it for being “horrible” but hasn’t yet moved to unwind Washington’s commitment to its terms.
“There shouldn’t be any problems,” Mostafavi said. “Iran Air was granted its OFAC license and so we don’t anticipate any issues either.”
Aseman will finance 5 percent of the cost via a cash payment to Boeing and the planemaker will arrange financing for the remaining 95 percent, he said.