Could Aircraft Parts Bring Iran and the US Back Together?

In “The Tempest,” Shakespeare wrote “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” This was the inspiration for the nineteenth century comment from Charles Dudley Warner that “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”

And what stranger bedfellows could you find in the twenty-first century than the United States and Iran. Yet these two nations have set aside (some of) their differences in order to permit the sale of aircraft parts from the United States to Iran.
With skirmishes between our maritime vessels, disagreement over the Gaza Strip, and differences of opinion concerning nuclear material, it might seem unlikely for the two nations to set aside their differences and permit trade – especially in an area as strategically sensitive as aerospace – yet that is exactly what is happening right now.

In an agreement signed late last year, Iran and the United States agreed that sanctions would be relaxed with respect to certain trade in civil aircraft parts. The Agreement between the United States and Iran provides that the U.S. would license (i) the supply and installation in Iran of spare parts for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services and (ii) safety related inspections and repairs in Iran as well as associated services. Licenses applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, though, and there is no guarantee that a license will be issued in any case. Nonetheless, following this agreement, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization head Alireza Jahangirian asked the Iranian National Development Fund to release $400 million to purchase aircraft parts from the West.

Aircraft parts exports from the United States still require licenses from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). Treasury issued guidance on its Iran Licensing Policy that clarified that “license applications will also be evaluated in light of the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act and any other relevant statutes, as appropriate.

The first iteration of this agreement was short-lived (it was scheduled to expire June 20) but it has already been extended once, through November 24.

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