The first new Boeing commercial jetliner to be purchased by Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution could be delivered in a month — a year earlier than expected — an Iranian news agency reported on Monday.

The jetliner, a Boeing 777, originally ordered by Turkish Airlines but now apparently no longer wanted because of a slowdown in air travel to Turkey, will be used to start fulfilling an 80-plane order between Boeing and Iran finalized in December, according to the Mehr News Agency, which quoted a deputy minister of roads and urban planning, Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan.

If confirmed, the delivery would have at least the symbolic effect of expediting the most significant business transaction between Iran and the United States since relations were severed 37 years ago.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale declined to comment on the news agency report, which comes as the aerospace company is dealing with a strong backlash in Washington, D.C., over its plans to sell planes to Iran. Turkish Airlines officials did not return emailed messages seeking comment.

The aircraft sales, which could create thousands of jobs in the United States, are permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and big powers that eased economic constraints on Iran in exchange for its promises of peaceful nuclear work.

Iran is desperate for new planes to replace its aging commercial fleet. Last week Boeing announced a tentative deal to sell up to 60 737s to Iran, adding to the $16.6 billion deal reached four months ago. Airbus, Boeing’s principal rival, has reached a deal to sell 100 planes to Iran.

Opponents of the nuclear agreement in the United States say Iran could illegally divert the new planes for military purposes, an accusation that supporters of the agreement have rejected because the accord forbids such misuse.

The new plane orders require U.S. regulatory approval — including the foreign models that contain a significant portion of American-made parts, like the Airbus planes.

President Donald Trump has not specified whether he supports the aircraft sales. He has repeatedly denounced the nuclear agreement, describing it as a “terrible deal” and a giveaway to Iran, but he has vowed to protect and increase U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The Mehr news report quoted Kashan, the deputy minister, as saying that since Turkish Airlines no longer wants the 777 it had ordered, “Iran will be its destination.”

Although Boeing was not obliged to start delivering Iran’s newly ordered planes until 2018, Kashan was quoted as saying, “our order matched this Boeing model and it is a propitious time to receive one.”

Kashan also was quoted by Mehr as saying that Iran will purchase 20 ATR 72-600 regional turboprop aircraft. ATR is a European aeronautics partnership of Airbus and Leonardo, an Italian manufacturer.

In Washington, opponents of the aircraft sales intensified their criticism. In a letter written by Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, both outspoken opponents of the nuclear accord, they urged Trump to “suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity.”

Source: / seattletimes /