Multibillion-Dollar Jet Deals With Iran Will Test Trump Policy

LONDON—European plane maker Airbus Group SE followed Boeing Co. in completing a multibillion-dollar plane deal with Iran’s state air carrier, creating another big test case for how the incoming Trump administration responds to the West’s accelerating economic opening with the Islamic Republic.

Airbus, the world’s No. 2 plane maker after Boeing, said Thursday it had completed an agreement—first announced in broad strokes in January—to sell 100 planes to Iran Air. The contract is valued at more than $18 billion based on list price, which doesn’t include sometimes-big discounts. Airbus said it would start delivering planes early next year.

The agreement comes close on the heels of Boeing’s deal to sell Iran 80 jets for $16.6 billion, based on list price. The two contracts are far and away the most valuable commercial agreements between Western firms and Iran since the completion of a nuclear pact between the U.S. and other world powers and Tehran. In exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program, the international community agreed to lift many of the sanctions that have isolated Iran economically for years.

Since then, many Western firms have scrambled to assess opportunities, and a few have made concrete obligations with Iranian counterparts in industries including energy and auto manufacturing. Commercial aviation has been a particular priority for Iran, which has struggled to modernize its aging fleet of mostly Boeing jets, bought before the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Uncertainty has heightened over the fate of many of these commercial inroads in Iran since the election of Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump said he opposed the Iran nuclear deal. Critics in the U.S. Congress have said they would try to unwind the Boeing deal, in particular.

Boeing announced its own Iran deal earlier this month at an awkward time for the American plane maker. Mr. Trump had just recently publicly raised questions over the cost of Boeing’s government contract to build the next version of Air Force One, the presidential jet. Mr. Trump hasn’t weighed in publicly on Boeing’s contract with Iran, and he and his team haven’t detailed their position on the nuclear deal with Iran since the election.

Even though it is a European company, Airbus is vulnerable to any big shift in U.S. policy toward Iran. Airbus requires specific U.S. approval for the sales because its jets include many American parts and technology that are subject to American export controls. It received that approval, from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, earlier this year.