Congressman Brad Sherman and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called on the Secretary of State to withhold pending licenses for the inspection and repair of U.S.-made engines on Iranian aircraft in order to maintain pressure on the Iranian government until it abandons its nuclear weapons program and support for terrorism in a letter signed by several key Members of the House and Senate.
The 15 aircraft currently in service on Iranian airlines use an American engine that was the subject of a Federal Aviation Administration safety bulletin last year. These aircraft were sold to the Iranians while the Shah was in power, in the 1970s. While transfers of aircraft parts and services to Iran are generally prohibited, as is most trade with Iran, there is a special, infrequently used waiver process for repairs necessary due to a safety issue with American-made aircraft. Sherman has called for this loophole to be closed.
"There is no reason we should be helping the Iranians keep these planes in the air," Sherman said. "Our message should be -- these planes are unsafe, they should be grounded, and they should remain grounded until Tehran grounds its nuclear weapons program."
"Fixing these aircraft is in 180 degree opposition to our sanctions policy, which if properly implemented, would provide for Iran's increased economic and political isolation," Sherman added.
Their letter notes that Iran's "civilian" aircraft have been used to further Iran's proliferation activities, including the supply of weapons to terrorist and groups supported by Iran, citing the recent grounding of a "civilian" Ilyushin plane in Turkey bound for Syria, on which weapons were reportedly found.
"Iran does not simply fly its civilian aircraft to carry passengers and legitimate cargo -- some of these planes are in use by Mahan Air, a company designated by the Commerce Department and believed to be affiliated with the IRGC," Sherman said.
Legislation introduced last year by Congressman Sherman, the Stop Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program Act, which he will soon reintroduce, would prohibit the transfer of any goods, services or technology needed to keep Iran's American-made aircraft flying.