The Iranian regime might soon become a lobbying force to reckon with on Capitol Hill. That is one upshot of Boeing’s plan to expedite delivery of its airplanes sold to Iran. It is also why President Trump should move quickly to scuttle the deal by which Boeing agreed to sell 80 civilian aircraft for $16.6 billion.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), among others, have already made a persuasive case against the sale. They argue that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards fly airplanes, like the Boeing ones, to ferry weapons to their clients, such as Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and the terrorist group Hezbollah. Both have shown little mercy in the mullahs’ drive to destabilize and dominate the Middle East.
The possibility of a permanent Iran lobby should also give the deal’s proponents pause. For years a loose, but committed network of regime apologists in Washington pushed an unpopular pro-Tehran agenda. Then, under former President Obama, they gained a foothold in the executive branch. Regime surrogates managed to shape the Iranian narrative to the extent that they achieved the nuclear deal they desperately wanted.
Now the regime hopes to consolidate and even extend its gains. Flush with cash from the removal of sanctions, the ruling clerics would like to modernize their aging fleet of aircraft, but it comes with an added bonus. If the sale goes through, it will trigger a gold rush of business to Iran.
Even if American firms don’t immediately strike deals, they will nonetheless be able to cement their relationships with regime elites for future transactions. For an example of this, look no further than the 2014 Europe-Iran Forum held in London. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, the gathering encouraged “global law firms, business consultancies, marketing firms, auctioneers and telecom providers to ‘prepare and evaluate the post-sanctions trade framework and investment opportunities’ in Iran.” Once the taint of doing business with the regime has been erased, it will be much easier for U.S. companies to justify their entrance into the Iranian market.
Corporate America’s burgeoning business ties with Iran would inevitably create in DC an entrenched constituency that would block legislation targeting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, its support for international terrorism, and its myriad of human rights abuses. Boeing has already said the deal “will support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs directly associated with production and delivery of the 777-300ERs and nearly 100,000 U.S. jobs in the U.S. aerospace value stream for the full course of deliveries.” With the public’s demand for job creation, individual congressional members won’t act against Iran if it means losing jobs in their home districts and states.
To truly put America’s national security interests first, the Trump administration should resist the temptation to appease American corporate interests and nip the gold rush to Iran in the bud by blocking the Boeing deal. It might not be the most popular thing to do right now, but it is the wisest move for America in the long run.