Russia wants to sells its passenger planes to Iran. Not so fast, says US

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Last year, Russia’s JSC Sukhoi Company has signed an agreement to deliver 40 new twin-engine regional passenger jets, Sukhoi Superjet 100R, to two Iranian carriers – Iran Air Tours and Aseman Airlines. Even more ambitious deal for one hundred aircraft to boost Iran’s ageing air fleet was also being considered.

But, as it appears now, Iran will not be receiving Russian planes after all. The deal, believed to be worth over $2 billion, is dead due to US trade restrictions. Russian jets reportedly have more US-made parts than are allowed for export without Washington’s approval.

“It appears that due to the lack of license issued by OFAC (the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control), the arrival of the planes is out of the question for now,” Maqsoud Asadi Samani, who serves as the secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines, told Iranian Labor New Agency (ILNA).

He was reportedly speaking about the purchase of 20 planes for Iran Air Tours, a subsidiary of national flag carrier IranAir, as well as a leasing deal drafted by “another Iranian airline,” according to the agency. The official did not mention Aseman Airlines, which ordered another 20 jets from Russia.

The problem is that more than 10 percent of the aircrafts’ components – avionics and high-tech equipment, are US-produced, which means that approval from Washington is required, ILNA reported.

Sukhoi says that it was too early to have regrets about Iran not getting the jets. “We have not received an answer – either a positive or a negative one” from the US regarding the approval for the deal, the company’s press-service said.

The Russian producer earlier pledged to reduce the number of US parts. In March 2018, the head of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, Alexander Rubtsov, said that the company was trying to find both foreign and domestic suppliers of components for the newly designed Sukhoi SuperJet 100 (SSJ-100).

Iran has long been stuck with a shortage of modern planes after decades-long Western sanctions. The situation eased after world powers signed a nuclear deal with Iran back in 2015, allowing it to order new planes from industry giants such as Airbus and Boeing.

However, the deals have been have been effectively axed after the US pulled out of the agreement with Iran and re-imposed economic restrictions on Iran. Before US licenses for sales were revoked, the Iranian companies received only 16 planes out of some 200 aircraft that were ordered – three from Airbus and 13 from Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR.

Facing delays to the modernization of its air fleet, Tehran turned to Moscow. Last month, the head of the Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh, said the large Iranian market needed some 500 aircraft and considered the Sukhoi SuperJet as one of the options to at least partly fill the gap.

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