Iranian Military Provocations Threaten Commercial Aircraft Sales

Abbas Akhoundi, Iran’s Minister for Roads and Urban Development, has insisted that the Trump administration cannot cancel the 80 aircraft and $16.6 billion deal that Iran reached with the US company Boeing in December 2016. Calling it a “commercial” agreement that falls outside of American and Iranian political disputes that are happening in other arenas, Akhoundi maintained that unilateral American cancellation of the deal “cannot happen.” Elsewhere the Iranian government has warned of seeking financial compensation from Boeing should it abandon the deal due to pressures from Trump and the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

Akhoundi’s remarks have been widely published in Iranian media. While the Iranian minister is clearly not able to make the final decision for Boeing, the issue is viewed as a harbinger to Iranian interactions with U.S. commercial players under President Rouhani. This Iranian government has invested heavily in courting US businesses with the aim of turning commercial dealings into political goodwill. Only this week Iran’s powerful Oil Minister, Bijan Zangeneh, again reiterated that “American companies face no ban for entering our oil industry.”

Another official, Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs and Trading, Amir-Hossein Zamani-Nia, urged Trump to look to create “more jobs in the US oil and gas industry” by paving the way for American companies to operate in Iran. Such prospects, however, are unlikely anytime soon. On February 2, President Trump stated that “all options are on the table” in dealing with Iranian policies in the Middle East. In the United States, the administration of President Trump have expressed deep concerns about provocative Iranian missiles tests that in the view of Washington are a breach of the July 2015 nuclear agreement. In prioritizing their provocative ballistic missile program, the Iranians have jeopardized the Boeing sale and other commercial transactions with U.S. companies.