Dem to Obama: Don't fix Iran's airplanes

A senior Democrat is lashing out at a provision of the nuclear deal with Iran that could make it easier for the country to repair its aging fleet of civilian aircraft.

A little-noticed provision of the deal paves the way for U.S. companies such as Boeing and General Electric to inspect and repair Iran's American-made planes inside Iran. But Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs panel and a hawk on Iran, says the planes could be used to promote terrorism and support Syria's Bashar Assad.

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“America should exploit some of the vagaries in the agreement’s language and prevent Boeing from repairing Iranian aircraft until we have a final deal,” Sherman said in a statement Tuesday. “Otherwise we will have made a permanent irreversible concession in a 'temporary' agreement.”

He said he opposes “licensing parts and services needed to repair Iran's American-made planes because they have been used to support some of Iran's worst activities.”

The deal reached over the weekend in Geneva calls on the United States and its negotiating partners to “license safety related inspections and repairs” as well as the “supply and installation … of spare parts for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services” inside Iran. The deal stipulates that sanctions relief “could” apply to the national carrier, Iran Air, which has been singled out for carrying military equipment, and to other airlines that haven't been designated.

The Treasury Department says the details of the aircraft provision need to be finalized by the negotiators — the U.S., China, Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany — and possibly by federal regulators. Current U.S. sanctions allow Iran to apply for special licenses to fix failing aircraft but this would be the first time the repairs could take place inside Iran.

Iran blames the sanctions for a surge in crashes that have killed many passengers and aircrew in recent years. Sherman however is worried that the deal would allow Iran to try to refurbish its entire fleet — it can't afford to buy a new one — instead of seeking piecemeal repairs, as it has in the past.

He pointed out that the Obama administration itself has singled out Iran Air for providing support to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and identified it as a crucial part of the military procurement network for Assad's forces in Syria, as well as a conduit of aid to Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese terrorist ally. A 2011 U.N. report has also accused Iran of using the airline to transport missile parts and other illegal trade between Iran and North Korea, and Iranian agents allegedly used an Iran Air flight to escape Geneva after murdering a dissident there in the early 1990s.

“Iran should ground its unsafe planes until they are properly repaired, which requires American parts and service,” Sherman said. “American corporations should not repair these until a final deal is reached.”

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