WSJ : LONDON— Airbus Group SE has received U.S. government backing for the export of more than 100 jetliners to Iran, despite a move by U.S. lawmakers to curb such transactions.
The export license was granted on Tuesday by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, an arm of the Treasury Department, and clears Airbus to deliver more than $20 billion in jets to Iran Air, the Islamic Republic’s flag carrier.
Iran Air and Airbus in January agreed on the potential sale of up to 118 jetliners. It was a landmark transaction and one of the most high-profile deals for Iran following the lifting of sanctions as part of a wider accord to significantly constrain the country’s nuclear activities. Airbus, Europe’s biggest plane maker, in September won U.S. government backing to deliver 17 planes to Iran Air. Boeing at the time also received approval to sell planes to the carrier.
Airbus initially sought license for a smaller number of planes to expedite the process to get planes to Iran Air, which has been struggling with an aging fleet after years of sanctions, some imposed in the wake of its revolution in 1979. Iran Air operates some of the world’s oldest airliners.
The Airbus and Boeing plane deals have been staunchly opposed by critics of the nuclear accord with Iran. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has attacked the Iran deal and named retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn as national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) as Central Intelligence Agency director. Both have voiced opposition to the nuclear deal.
The Obama administrated has been working to strengthen the accord, including by granting more export licenses for business to sell in Iran. The effort is unrelated to Mr. Trump’s election victory, U.S. officials have said.
Airbus said it was still working with Iran Air to complete contract terms before any planes will be handed over.
Iran Air has said it was looking to buy a wide range of Airbus aircraft, from its popular A320 single-aisle plane to the A380 superjumbo. The initial license for 17 planes covered A320 jets and A330 long-range planes. Iranian officials have said they were close to completing the contract.
Airbus’s plane sales to Iran Air are expected to be denominated in euros. Boeing also is likely to use nondollar transactions to deliver its planes. Boeing aims to sell 80 jets to Iran Air in a deal valued at up to $17.6 billion. It would include its new 777X long-range jet, which is still in development, and the 747-8 jumbo jets.