Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Eye on Iran: Boeing Agrees To First Plane Sale To Iran Under Trump

View our videos on YouTube


Boeing Co. agreed to sell up to 60 of its most popular jets to an Iranian airline, doubling down on the country amid uncertainty over the Trump administration's tolerance for U.S. business dealings in Iran. Boeing said Tuesday it signed a memorandum of agreement with privately owned Iran Aseman Airlines for the sale of 30 Boeing 737 Max single-aisle planes, with options for another 30. The list price for all 60 jets is $6 billion. Plane makers typically offer steep discounts, and the real value of the deal could be significantly lower. Still, the sale is the first major deal between a U.S. company and an Iranian one since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of closer ties with Tehran. Boeing said it had received permission from the U.S. government to negotiate the sale, though it still needs signoff from the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. If approved, the first planes will arrive in Iran by 2022.

Since the signing and implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), European businesses have shown great interest in re-entering Iran. Trade between Iran and the EU has already notably picked up. Last year, European exports to Iran amounted to 8.3 billion euros ($8.9 billion), approximately 28% higher than the year before. Meanwhile, European imports grew by some 345%, amounting to 5.5 billion euros ($5.8 billion) - mostly driven by largely resumed oil shipments from Iran. Despite the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, European firms remain cautious about seriously re-entering the Iranian market during the current wait-and-see period. But despite the uptick in trade, economic relations between Iran and the EU are still below pre-sanctions levels. In 2011, before the imposition of stringent nuclear-related sanctions including the previous EU oil embargo, EU exports to Iran amounted to more than 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion), while imports were as high as almost 18 billion euros ($19.2 billion). Europeans eager to return to Iran are facing two main obstacles. For one, huge challenges remain within Iran, including a poor regulatory environment and standards able to support international trade, insufficient managerial skills in many local companies, widespread corruption, and questions concerning the rule of law.

In 2011, U.S. financial watchdogs began a campaign to lift the curtain on well-known companies' business dealings in Iran, Sudan and Syria, all then considered state sponsors of terrorism and subject to economic sanctions. Among the companies faced with demands from the SEC were Sony, Xerox, AIG, Siemens - and Caterpillar. By then, Caterpillar and its non-U.S. subsidiaries had ceased nearly all business in Iran, the comments continued. The company had been pressured to undertake those actions in 2010 by an activist group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). The group publicly shamed Caterpillar with a billboard outside its Peoria headquarters for working in a hostile state with nuclear ambitions. UANI complimented Caterpillar for the decision to terminate sales arrangements that provided equipment to end users in Iran. "We applaud Caterpillar's decision to prohibit its non-U.S. subsidiaries from doing business in Iran," said Mark Wallace, UANI president and former American diplomat to the United Nations. "All responsible companies that transact business in Iran through the veil of a foreign subsidiary should take this as a wake-up call."


Speaking on Monday, Zarif reiterated concerns by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei about the US's non-performance of the deal, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and said such non-commitment had been predictable for Iran. Thus, the Iranian foreign minister said, "the two sides proceeded based on mutual mistrust and devised numerous [contingency] mechanisms." Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, namely the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany, reached the deal in July 2015. The agreement went into effect in January 2016, resolving a long-running dispute over the Iranian nuclear program. Zarif said the mechanisms worked out in the deal made it "much easier" for Iran, if necessary, to roll back the steps it had taken under the deal than for the other side to put the sanctions back on the Islamic Republic.


An American of Iranian descent arrested in Iran in July and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment on dubious charges has been released on bail after he went on a hunger strike, rights activists reported Monday. The American, Robin Shahini, who is 46 or 47, was released about two weeks ago, just before the start of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group that gets information from contacts inside the country. Hadi Ghaemi, the group's executive director, said it was unclear whether Mr. Shahini's release was temporary or if he could leave the country. Mr. Ghaemi said that Mr. Shahini had been required to post bail of two billion rials - about $60,000 - and that he could be sent back to prison if his conviction were affirmed on appeal.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said his country will not give the Trump administration any pretext that can be used against it. "The establishment in its entirety has reached the conclusion that we shouldn't give them (the Americans) any excuse," Zarif said in an interview with the Shargh daily published on the official website of the ministry on Monday.  "This should not be taken to mean that we back away from our plans... but we don't seek tension." The future of the 2015 historic nuclear agreement with Iran, among other things, is in limbo with the prospect that the Trump administration could take steps that would cause Iran to abandon its commitments, people familiar with the issue say.  Trump had said during campaigns for the White House that he would scrap Iran's pact with world powers - under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions - describing it as "the worst deal ever negotiated".

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has branded Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as "a war criminal,' who has been protected by Russia and Iran in the Security Council for far too long. She told Fox News the Trump administration hopes Assad will be brought to justice for the overwhelming humanitarian crisis and continued carnage that has torn his nation apart. She also blamed the Obama administration for not acting sooner to try and prevent the war. "The previous administration needs to take responsibility for that, as well," she said. "First of all, Assad...he's a war criminal. He's used chemical weapons on his own people. He's not allowing aid to come in. He is very much a deterrence to peace. But then you look at the fact that the Security Council has to acknowledge when the chemical weapons -- we had proof that he used it three times on his own people. Why aren't we dealing with that? "Then, you know, you have to look at the Iranian influence and the fact that we've got to get that out. Syria is in such sad shape, but it doesn't have to be that way. If you look back, so many things could have been done to prevent where we are today. And that's what we need to focus on now."


Iran's Aseman Airlines has signed a tentative deal to buy at least 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets, in the first new business with the U.S. planemaker since U.S. President Donald Trump took office vowing to take a tougher stance toward Iran. Owned by Iran's civil service pension foundation but managed as a private company, Aseman is Iran's third-largest airline by active fleet size, according to the CAPA consultancy. Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said on Tuesday that representatives of Aseman and Boeing had signed an agreement in Tehran covering as many as 60 jets, including options, after a year of negotiations. Boeing described the deal as a "memorandum of agreement," a type of transaction that falls short of a binding contract and is subject to government approvals

The overseas arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corp has submitted a revised plan to develop the giant Farzad B gas block in Iran, including a commitment to spend more than $3 billion, a senior executive said on Tuesday. ONGC Videsh expects to produce between 1 billion and 1.6 billion cubic feet per day of gas in five years from the start of development of the block, N. K. Verma, the company's managing director told Reuters in Mumbai on Tuesday. India is the second-largest buyer of Iranian crude, and was among the few countries to continue trade with Iran while the country faced Western sanctions over its nuclear programme. But since the lifting of some of the sanctions last year, Iran has sought other investors and there is some uncertainty whether the Farzad block contract will be awarded to an Indian company. The impasse has led Indian refiners to plan on cutting imports from Iran by a fifth in 2017-18.  Verma also commented that ONGC Videsh expects to raise production during the fiscal year ending in March 2018 to 14 million tonnes oil equivalent, up from 12 million tonnes in the fiscal year of 2017. The company also plans to invest $45 million to produce from gas wells owned by Imperial Energy, which ONGC Videsh acquired in 2008. "We are setting up gas processing facilities... we have dug four pilot wells and have got encouraging response," Verma said.

The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) in a statement emphasized that it was still trying to reduce the role of the US dollar in its foreign exchange basket - a policy that officials in Tehran had previously said would make the country immune to Washington's pressures. The CBI said this was part of an ambitious plan that had been devised after the intensification of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic. "This policy is currently still being pursued with maximum care," the bank added in its statement that was posted on its website. The CBI further emphasized that removing the US dollar in both official statements as well as in the foreign exchange basket would reduce Iran's risks to sanctions as well as the related international restrictions. This, it added, would also result in significant economic and financial gains for the Islamic Republic, the bank added in its statement.


Israel fears an "Iranian crescent" may be forming in the Middle East because of Tehran's influence in Syria and its connections with regional Shiite groups, an intelligence official said Monday. The comments from Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel's intelligence ministry, illustrate his country's growing concerns over its arch-foe Iran's involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Iran's support for Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, also concerns Israel, as does Tehran's influence in Iraq and its support for groups such as the Huthi rebels in Yemen. "I think that... Israel believes that if Iran bases itself for the long run in Syria it will be a constant source of friction and tension with the Sunni majority in Syria, with the Sunni countries outside Syria, with Sunni minorities outside the region, with Israel," Tzuriel told foreign reporters. "And I think that may be only the tip of the iceberg," he added. "We're talking here about the creation of an Iranian crescent." Part of it, he said, involved worries that Iran could complete a "land bridge" through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.


An appeals court has confirmed a five-year prison term for an Iranian Christian convert, who was arrested due to his faith though he was convicted falsely for "forming a group in order to disrupt national security," according to human rights groups. Ebrahim Firouzi's five-year sentence, first handed down by Tehran's Revolutionary Court in 2015, was upheld by an appeals court, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which noted that Firouzi had pleaded not guilty before all courts. Firouzi was arrested in August 2013 on the charge of "acting against national security," which Christians in Iran are often charged with, according to NCRI. He has been kept in Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj since his sentence was issued last year. Firouzi's mother, who is disabled, had earlier called on officials to handle her son's case fairly and to release him. "Crying as she delivered the message to the authorities, Firouzi's elderly mother said that she is visually impaired and there is nothing she can do and has no one to help her. She said she doesn't have the ability to go from court to court and follow up on her son's case," Mohabat News reported earlier. "She added that she misses her son and because of her disability she has not been able to visit her son in prison. She pleaded with the authorities to release her son so he can come home."


"They are trying to twist facts believing that they could undermine the government, but their actions would only lead to frustrating Iranians and damaging the regime, the country and the people," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday. His harsh criticism was delivered a few hours ahead of opening registration for candidates running in the 2017 municipal and presidential elections in Iran. Sadeq Larijani, Iran's incumbent chief of justice, made provocative claims on a United States plotting to interfere in the Iranian elections. Larijani said that those responsible would not allow for the return of the 2009 'rabble-rousing.' Referring to recent remarks by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley about the unrest, Iran's Larijani said such interfering remarks show that the Americans may be hatching plots for the upcoming elections in Iran. Speaking at the US Council on Foreign Relations last week, Haley pointed to the 2009 unrest in Iran as an example of the "UN ignoring human rights" and said, "the international elite had other priorities for Iran," echoing those who criticized the Obama administration and others for declining to fully support the riots.

Iranian officials announced that registration for the May 19 presidential election will start April 11. As the deadline for Iran's presidential candidates to register their nomination approaches, conservatives are unable to reach a consensus over a single nominee.  Ali Asghar Ahmadi, the head of the election center at Iran's Interior Ministry, stated April 3 that the presidential candidates will have the opportunity to register for the election from April 11-15. Soon after the end of registration, the Guardian Council, which is tasked with vetting the candidates, will study the candidates' political backgrounds and announce whether they are eligible to run in the election. In the 2013 presidential election, the Guardian Council unexpectedly disapproved of the candidacy of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had twice before served as president of Iran. The disqualification prompted criticism from moderates and Reformists. Currently, none of the likely presidential candidates have announced their decision to run. Moderates and Reformists have formed a coalition and announced that their sole candidate is incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.


Napoleon once said, "In politics, stupidity is not a handicap." Apparently true. Last week, the Iranian regime imposed sanctions on 15 American companies it accused of "support for terrorism," among other things. None of the targeted U.S. companies do business in Iran. It is safe to say none are reconsidering their futures there. The farcical move is apparently a response to U.S. sanctions placed on dozens of Iranian entities earlier this year following Iran's unlawful ballistic missile tests. It is hard to see how a real estate company made Tehran's list, but who are we to judge? As the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, the mullahs presumably know a thing or two about the subject. Tehran's comical tit-for-tat is the latest salvo in reaction to the Trump administration's tougher rhetoric. For years, America pursued a fervent policy of appeasement, rewarding Tehran's malicious acts with more concessions. Each round of bad behavior/unearned rewards gave Tehran a false sense of control. That bubble has burst. The outlandish behavior will likely continue. One senior Iranian lawmaker said Iran is also considering a bill branding the U.S. military and the CIA as "terrorist groups." That bill would be its reaction to the U.S. Congress passing a bill designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email press@uani.com.

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

No comments:

Post a Comment