Boeing airplane
Boeing airplaneThinkstock

The U.S. Treasury Department is considering whether to approve the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran by Boeing and Airbus – and 42 former top national security officials have written a letter raising serious concerns about it.

The nuclear deal signed last year with Iran by the U.S. and other Western countries enables such sales by easing the sanctions previously put in place against Iran. Though the House of Representatives passed two amendments last months against the sales, these have not yet become law; the Senate and the President must both approve them first.

The sales in question involve some 200 jetliners, worth an average of $250 million each, for a total of about $50 billion. Though they are said to be for Iran Air's civilian fleet, it is feared that the hostile Islamic republic could use them for military purposes.

The letter against the sale is signed by 42 prominent security and diplomatic personalities, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden, and former U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman. It was organized by the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and addressed to top executives of both Boeing and Airbus.

The letter states that the deal "represents a legitimization of a State Sponsor of Terror and a direct benefit for a ruling regime responsible for gross human rights abuses, support for terrorism including threats against the U.S. and its allies."

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement on Thursday calling attention to the letter and supporting it: "We welcome the analysis from an esteemed group of former top national security officials with decades of experience in defense, intelligence and national security policy-making." The statement was issued by Conference Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein.

The statement continues, "These seasoned national security experts directly and forcefully detailed for both companies, and for the American people, the inherent business risks posed by Iran’s financial and banking sectors and the potential devastating harm that could be done with hundreds of new state-of-the-art aircraft available to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to speed arms and supplies to the Syrian regime and terror groups operating in the region."

The Conference leaders state that the planned sales – which can still be nullified by Congress – are "especially troubling given the recent threats from Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranian leaders against the U.S. and our allies in the Middle East. Their provocative actions throughout the region and around the world would be significantly bolstered by the enhanced capabilities a new fleet of aircraft would provide."

"We hope Airbus and Boeing will seriously consider the points made in the letter and reassess their decisions to move forward with the sales at this time,” the Conference statement concluded.