Iran could rebuild its aging fleet of planes in a deal with Boeing as part of a package of incentives.

Share story

LAST year’s agreement to reduce dramatically Iran’s nuclear program also authorized Boeing to negotiate the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran.

This is just one of the hundreds of provisions in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is the agreement reached with Iran after complex and hard-fought negotiations by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States. In exchange for drastically reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, this groundbreaking agreement has lifted some of the heavy sanctions imposed on Iran.

Since the implementation of the JCPOA began on Jan. 16, the Iranians have fully complied with their obligations. They have reduced their stock of enriched uranium to 300 kilograms (less than one-third the amount needed to build a nuclear weapon), reduced the number of spinning centrifuges to 6,000 from nearly 20,000, put their plutonium production reactor out of service and accepted international inspections of unprecedented scope and intrusiveness.

Iran Deal

Jessica T. Mathews, William H. Luers and Kristian Ulrichsen, affiliate professor at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, will join a discussion, “The Iran Deal and U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” hosted by the World Affairs Council Seattle from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 9 at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Columbia Center, 701 Fifth Ave., 61st floor.

In return, virtually all European sanctions on Iran have been lifted, but most of the U.S. sanctions have remained in place over Iran’s support of such terrorist groups as Hezbollah, its threats against Israel and its human-rights violations against its own people.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

It is only through a special provision of the agreement, which is meant to provide incentives to Iran, that Boeing has been authorized by the U.S. Treasury to begin discussions with Tehran. For reasons of safety and prestige, the Iranian government has been eager to purchase Boeing aircraft, parts and services to upgrade and expand its aging fleet of planes purchased under the late Shah of Iran’s regime.

Understandably, Boeing is proceeding cautiously given the concerns over Iran’s behavior and uncertainty over whether the nuclear agreement will be sustained following the upcoming U.S. and Iranian presidential elections.

The Europeans got to Tehran early. In January, Airbus Group reached a tentative deal to sell over 100 commercial aircraft for a reported $27 billion.

While Boeing is being wisely cautious, there is still a commercial deal to be made with Iran.

Iran will continue to be a threat to the security of the United States and its partners in the region, but it will be a far less dangerous threat now that it does not have the nuclear weapons option. The singular objective of the JCPOA was to prevent a nuclear weapon and not to change Iran’s rulers, its system of government or its destabilizing activities in the Middle East. Had that broader agenda been on the table, it would have been impossible to shut Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

Iran’s leaders made this agreement knowing that opening up Iran would have a profound impact on Iranian society going forward. Beyond the critical security component of the nuclear agreement, the JCPOA is meant to encourage Iran to develop its own economy and eventually build a different relationship with the world. Should Iran continue to pursue its destabilizing activities in the region, the benefits of the nuclear deal to Iran will be limited

Wariness should mark U.S. dealings with Iran for years to come. We should respond to positive changes in Tehran’s behavior, but never presume them. Yet, the ability of the major nations to reach this milestone agreement with Iran has opened up new possibilities for cooperation in achieving common or parallel goals in defeating ISIS, solidifying the future of Afghanistan and ending the civil war in Syria. It could also open up the possibility for Boeing to reach a historic and large commercial agreement with Iran.

To realize these possibilities, the U.S. must keep pressure on Iran to comply fully with its commitments to maintain only a peaceful nuclear program, while providing incentives for Iran to do so.