Last year’s deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran, in return for a lengthy suspension of the Iranian nuclear program, had many pros and cons.
But in at least one respect — trade — the deal only has an upside. Iran has a huge, pent-up demand for manufactured goods, consumer staples and oil field services as the result of sanctions and decades of isolation from the West. It also has oil, lots of it.
Iran provides a vast export market for everything from machine parts to smartphones. Its oil reserves, estimated at 157 million barrels, will help hold down gasoline prices at the pump for American consumers.
What’s not to like?
A lot, apparently, at least to a group of Republican lawmakers. They’ve set out to scuttle a plan, announced Tuesday by Boeing, to sell 100 jetliners to Iran for the tidy sum of $25 billion. They’ve sent a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg imploring him to walk away from the deal. They’re also hoping that the Treasury Department will nix the transaction.
This is the ultimate counterproductive behavior. Whatever one might think of the Iran nuclear deal, it won’t be reversed by attacking one of its undeniable benefits.
Airbus, Boeing’s European competitor, Airbus, has already reached an even bigger deal with Iran than Boeing has. And, with minimal opposition to the nuclear deal in Europe, other companies there are racing ahead to be among the first in the door to the Iranian market.
If Boeing were to be denied, Iran would simply buy more planes from Airbus. And ifGeneral Electric, said to be in talks to sell oil field equipment, were to be told it couldn’t go forward, Iran would simply turn to European or Asian competitors.
It is not clear how the West should engage Iran, even after the conclusion of the nuclear deal. While the Islamist nation has shut down its enrichment program and met its obligations under the nuclear accord, it has pressed forward with a worrisome ballistic missile program. It also has a long history of supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and other militant groups.
That said, trying to keep Tehran in a state of economic isolation hardly seems the best solution. In fact, intertwining Iran’s economy with the economies of Europe and America might be one of the best approaches for attempting to coax it out of its belligerent ways.
Those opposing Boeing’s sale argue against any deal they say would subsidize a terrorism-supporting regime. They also point out that Iran’s national carrier, Iran Air, is largely owned by the government and has been used to transport arms.
This view is shortsighted. Iran does not need expensive, fuel-efficient, state-of-the art civilian aircraft to ferry arms. It has a fleet of planes it could use to those ends. And it could always acquire others.
Boeing should be allowed to go forward, for the sake of engaging Iran and for the sake of creating jobs in America.