TEHRAN — Since Boeing's announcement Sunday that Iran Air would buy 80 new planes, the deal has been dissected for both its economic and geopolitical significance.
The $16.6 billion purchase comes in the wake of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and marks the U.S. aircraft company's first deal with the country since the 1970s. Boeing went out of its way to say that the new production would support some 100,000 job positions. This all, of course, comes as the U.S. awaits the inauguration of a new president who has touted his ability to create jobs — and who has also vowed to reverse the nuclear deal.
But the Boeing-Iran Air accord is significant for other reasons back in Tehran. For the government of President Hassan Rouhani, it promises a high-flying glimmer of the economic benefits he promised when he ran for the presidency in 2013. For the Iranian middle class and traveling public, updating Iran Air's fleet with shiny new Boeing planes is an echo of the better times or "normal lives" many Iranians believe their parents enjoyed in the days of the Shah.
Iranians see Boeing planes as the antithesis of the Russian Tupolevs that the Islamic Republic had bought in recent years for domestic flights, several of which subsequently crashed, and which symbolized the country's international isolation, a shoddy economy and the shady friends it has had to keep under this regime.
An airplane of Iran Air flying over Tehran on Dec. 12 — Photo: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua/ZUMA
The reformist daily Shargh stated in an upbeat report that the nuclear accord with the West was "finally bearing fruit in spite of so many obstructions."
Another reformist daily, Aftab-e Yazd featured the headline: "Boeing's Historic Landing After 37 Years of Sanctions." The newspaper quoted Transport Minister Abbas Akhundi as saying the airline would soon also buy 100 planes from Airbus, and the latest deal was a "clear message to the world that in spite of warmongering by the Zionist regime and Daesh, we back peace, security and Iran's progress based on a win-win policy."
But the real foreign context for observers in Iran is naturally the change of power in Washington. The conservative Jaam-e Jam newspaper cited a deputy-transport minister, Asghar Fakhrieh-Kashan, as expressing confidence the deal would not later be scrapped by the incoming administration of Donald Trump. Like others inside and outside of Washington, Tehran is waiting to see if Trump's promises to create jobs takes precedence over other apparently less benevolent promises.