Top Democrat wants Obama to block Boeing's deal with Iran

Top Democrat wants Obama to block Boeing's deal with Iran
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Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) wants the Obama administration to quash Boeing's planned sale of aircraft to Iran and block future sales, saying it is "virtually certain" they would be used for nefarious purposes, such as ferrying arms to the Syrian regime.

"Iran Air’s aircraft will undoubtedly be used in the future to continue to funnel lethal assistance to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, to Hezbollah, and to other terrorist entities," he wrote in a letter on Wednesday. 

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Last week, Boeing announced an agreement for Iran Air to purchase 80 aircraft for $17.6 billion, and lease another 29 aircraft. The move came under harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers, but Sherman's letter signifies there is Democratic opposition as well. 

Sherman, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees, said that although Iran Air was removed from a sanctions list as part of the Iran nuclear deal, the airline is aligned with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which remains under sanction. 

Furthermore, the IRGC's expeditionary arm, the Quds Force, is still under sanction for support of terrorism, he said. 

Sherman said Iran Air was sanctioned in 2011 for providing material support to the IRGC, and that "there is absolutely no reason to believe that the conduct for which Iran Air was designated has actually stopped."

"It is almost certain that Iran Air continues to support the IRGC and the Quds Force," he wrote in the letter to Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryQueen Elizabeth resting 'for a few days' after hospital stay Twenty-four countries say global net-zero goal will fuel inequality Queen Elizabeth recognizes Kerry from video message: 'I saw you on the telly' MORE, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Secretary of Commerce Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE

Sherman said that Iran Air aircraft have recently traveled between Abadan and Damascus, a route whose "principal purpose is to transit arms and materiel to forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad." 

Despite opposition from the administration to the Assad regime, support from Iran and Russia has bolstered his grip on the country. 

The U.S. is providing airstrikes, training and equipment to rebels fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. ISIS's presence was in part fueled by the civil war against Assad. 

The U.S. is also providing support to anti-regime rebels. 

"The Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and has displaced or killed literally half the population of that country. The blame falls squarely on Assad’s regime, which itself is under sanction by the United States," Sherman said. 

"Until Iran gets out of the business of supporting terrorism and supporting Assad's regime in Syria, the United States should not license the sale of aircraft to Iran Air. It is virtually certain that Iran Air will use these aircraft for nefarious purposes," he said.