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Update: Boeing’s Big Bet in Iran

Last month, I proposed that the success of Boeing’s pending $25 billion sale of aircraft to Iran could well depend on how the deal was messaged to stakeholders—most importantly those on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately for the aerospace giant, it looks like whatever communications it undertook fell short of the mark for many lawmakers.

This week, the House Financial Services Committee approved three bills that would hinder the sale of Boeing jets to Iran. Citing fear that Iran would use American-made jets for military purposes, the Republican-controlled committee put in motion the first legal hurdle to Boeing’s big deal. Though the three measures are unlikely to become law—President Obama wouldn’t sign bills weakening the Iran deal he spearheaded—they have ignited a public debate on the subject. And Boeing is strikingly absent from the conversation.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke with broadcast media during a trip to England for the Farnborough Airshow and statements from a company spokesperson were featured in certain articles, but they both lacked substance. Rather than arguing its case (which is a convincing one), Boeing deferred to the judgement of the government.

Instead, Boeing should lead the conversation. A deal of this magnitude supports hundreds, if not thousands, of American jobs—jobs that will otherwise be swallowed up by foreign corporations eager to enter the Iranian market. Boeing’s message of economic patriotism is sound, but its unwillingness to drive the conversation is endangering American jobs and revenue.

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