Friday, September 23, 2016

Boeing, Airbus Accidentally Making Progress on Peace with Iran

It’s not often that well-heeled lobbyists are working in the service of the common good. But this is one of those times.
The Story
The US Treasury Department just granted first licenses to Boeing and AirBus to permit them to sell civilian airplanes to Iran. The latest development is part of the slow lifting of sanctions against Iran after the nuclear agreement was implemented earlier this year. Each company has announced separate contracts with Iran worth up to $25 billion, as a Iran seeks to upgrade its aviation technology–which was largely frozen in time by the Iranian Revolution and Iran’s subsequent loss of access to international markets.
Read Yahoo’s take for the relevant details on the airplane deals, if you’re interested:
Airbus, Boeing Granted US License to Sell Planes to Iran
You may also be interested in our longer take on this story when it first came out. (I’m pleased to say that, so far, our prediction is working out well):
Why This Matters
If you happen to travel to Iran, this story is a good sign that Iran’s airlines will soon become safer. Additionally, if you’re an employee at Boeing or Airbus, this is good news for you too–as both companies are one step closer to locking in a substantial amount of business.
But while both these outcomes are positive for the people they affect, the political benefits from the airplane deals are likely to benefit all of us. As Bloomberg notes, the Boeing deal represents the largest contract by an American company in Iran since Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Of course, CNN’s horrible priorities notwithstanding, there’s no particular reason for regular Americans to care that a random US company is making profits and employing people. However, Americans should care about the possibility of war with Iran, and want the chance of that happening to be as low as possible.
That’s the real reason the Boeing deal matters. Obviously, this deal can only proceed if the US remains on relatively peaceful terms with Iran. As such, Boeing has 25 billion reasons to lobby for trade instead of sanctions, peace instead of war. Given Boeing’s extensive influence in Congress as a defense contractor, this is especially important.
Indeed, the US Treasury Department’s decision to grant the licenses may already be reflecting the fruit of Boeing influence. The US government has generally dragged its heels on most aspects of Iranian sanctions relief, and Congress is considering possible options to try and kill the Boeing deal legislatively. Of course, this is a bit ironic. The same Congress that overwhelmingly approves of arms sales to a country fighting an aggressive war (Saudi Arabia) is trying to block a commercial sale of civilian airplanes to a country that is not currently waging an aggressive war (Iran).
In any case, the Obama Administration has allowed the airplane deal to proceed one step closer to becoming a reality. For this at least, we can be thankful. 
The whole thing reminds me of an old quote about foreign policy and trade:
When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.
Today, let’s hope a modern variation of the quote proves true:
When Boeing profits off trade, sanctions will go away.

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