By Barbara Slavin, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Boeing deal would reverse 1993 decision to sell to Saudis, not Iran
A multibillion-dollar deal by Boeing to sell civilian airliners to Iran would be a major financial, diplomatic and psychological breakthrough between the United States and the Islamic Republic and reverse a decision by the Bill Clinton administration 23 years ago to block such sales and provide planes to Saudi Arabia instead.
Bruce Riedel, a veteran national security official in four US administrations, told Al-Monitor that Boeing and other US aircraft companies were eager to sell to Iran when Clinton came to office in 1993. Riedel said the companies argued that such deals would enhance airline safety and undergird a US diplomatic opening to Iran, the same arguments being used today.
But Clinton, said Riedel, was already committed to a policy of “dual containment” of Iraq and Iran that sought to rein in both governments. He was “eager not to undermine dual containment but also eager not to have Boeing suffer a business loss to Airbus,” Riedel said. “So we came up with the idea that we could get the Saudis to buy Boeings.”
Commerce Secretary Ron Brown traveled to Riyadh “to convince the Saudis to buy $6 billion worth of Boeing airplanes so Boeing would not lobby for an Iran sale.” The pitch, Riedel said, was “these are the best airplanes in the world. If you’ll do this, we’ll prevent Boeing from selling to Iran. So you get a two-fer.”
The choice not to sell to Iran at that time preceded the Clinton administration’s decision to block a major oil exploration deal between Iran and Conoco in 1995 and to slap a comprehensive embargo on US trade with and investment in Iran, which was supporting Palestinian groups carrying out acts of terrorism against Israelis.