Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) are urging President Trump to suspend aircraft sales to Iran. Research from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the American Enterprise Institute has detailed the Islamic Republic’s use of commercial passenger aircraft to supply its worldwide network of terror proxies, including the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
“We urge you to suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity,” states the lawmakers’ letter. “The United States should revoke authorizations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes.”
Earlier this year, Rubio and Roskam introduced the Iran Terror-Free Skies Act in the Senate and the House, respectively. The legislation would counter Iran’s use of commercial aircraft in support of international terrorism and state sponsors of terrorism, or for other illicit military purposes.
Yesterday on ABC News’ This Week, Rubio said, “this Boeing deal should be canceled.”
The full text of the lawmakers’ letter to President Trump is below.
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to you to express our grave concern regarding the sale of U.S.-manufactured aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has systematically used commercial aircraft for illicit military purposes, including to transport troops, weapons, and cash to rogue regimes and terrorist groups around the world. The possibility that U.S.-manufactured aircraft could be used as tools of terror is absolutely unacceptable and should not be condoned by the U.S. Government. We urge you to suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity. The United States should revoke authorizations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes.
The Boeing Company recently confirmed that it has signed an agreement with Iran Aseman Airlines, an airline owned by the Iranian regime’s Civil Service Pension Foundation. However, the CEO of Iran Aseman Air, Hossein Alaei, is a prominent and longtime member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Alaei was the first commander of the IRGC navy, and served until 1990. Under his leadership, the IRGC navy was responsible for harassing U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and laying mines in international waters. Additionally, Alaei served as the head of the IRGC’s General Staff, as Deputy Minister of Defense, and as the CEO of Iran’s Aviation Industries Organization, which is currently a sanctioned entity. The Iran Aseman Air CEO is also currently a lecturer at the U.S.-sanctioned Emam Hossein University, the IRGC’s national defense college. With his deep ties and service to the IRGC, Hossein Alaei’s position as CEO of Aseman therefore casts a dark shadow on the corporate ownership of and control over the airline, and raises significant concerns that Iran Aseman Airlines is part of the IRGC’s economic empire and a tool used to support its malign activity abroad.
Moreover, Boeing and Airbus struck deals last December to sell hundreds of airplanes to Iran Air, the country’s flagship airline. However, Iran Air, Mahan Air, and other privately and publicly-owned Iranian commercial airlines use commercial aircraft to transport weapons, troops, and other tools of war to rogue regimes like the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and militant groups like the Houthi rebels in Yemen. In fact, the U.S. Department of Treasury recently designated Iran Air, Aban Air, and Iran Air Tours for providing support to the IRGC. Although Iran Air and numerous other Iranian airlines were quietly deleted from the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) as a diplomatic concession to Iran, there is no reason to believe Iran has ceased its malicious activity. Compelling evidence indicates that commercial Iranian airliners remain pivotal in delivering military support to terrorist groups and dictatorships around the Middle East.
By supporting these terrorist groups and rogue regimes, Iran’s commercial airlines have American blood on their hands. As a consequence, Congress has consistently opposed selling U.S.-manufactured aircraft to Iran. Last year, the House of Representatives-passed FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill included provisions prohibiting the use of U.S. funds to authorize the financing or sale of aircraft to Iran. The House of Representatives also passed H.R. 5711, which prohibits the Treasury Department from authorizing U.S. financial institution transactions and the use of the Export-Import Bank in connection with the export or re-export of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran.
As the main benefactor of Bashar al-Assad—whose regime has once again used chemical weapons to kill scores of men, women and children—Iran has consistently used commercial aircraft to transport the weapons and troops that have fueled the conflict in Syria which has claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 people. Iran’s airlines also continue to play a key role in supplying Hezbollah—the Iranian terrorist proxy that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans over the years—with the rockets and missiles that now put Israelis at risk, too. We must do everything we can to combat the aggression of Iran and its allies. We therefore strongly urge you to prohibit U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until Iran stops using commercial aircraft to advance its terror campaign around the world.
United States Senator
Peter J. Roskam
Member of Congress