With negotiations under way between Iran and the P5+1 over the future of Iran’s nuclear program, many multinational companies are eager to renew business in Iran while hundreds continue with business as usual. Indeed, since an interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 was signed last November, and with the disarming smile of the new President Hassan Rouhani, it appears that the threat is over and Iran should be open for business. Right?
Well, appearances are deceptive. The true nature of this dangerous regime has not changed at all and Iran’s close relationships with North Korea and Syria are just two examples of the much larger threat that Iran continues to pose to peace and human rights.
Today, over 150,000 Syrians are dead, and more than two million are refugees, for two reasons: Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, which have kept the brutal Assad regime in power through brute force.
In the meantime, an indifferent world remains silent over Iran’s ongoing role in this humanitarian tragedy.
According to a report by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), Iranian support for the Syrian regime includes regular shipments of ammunition and weapons, thousands of fighters including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah guerrillas, as well as billions of dollars in economic support all coordinated by senior IRGC commanders.
In a recent speech, America’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power described the situation in Syria saying, “President Assad is deliberately targeting his own people – using indiscriminate air attacks, introducing the world to barrel bombs, denying civilians food in starvation campaigns and practicing systematic, industrial torture – all of this to force the Syrian people to submit to his will”.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is the close connection between Iran and North Korea.
In the report, Partners in Proliferation, UANI details how over two decades, Iran has been paying North Korea for support in the development of ballistic missiles, which serve as the only viable delivery method for a nuclear arsenal. Since 2006, this has been done in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions thereby posing a major threat to world peace.
The collaboration between Iran and North Korea is also a threat to American national security. In January, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “North Korea is committed to developing long-range missile technology that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States.” There is no doubt that Iran will also benefit from this long-range missile technology.
Iran’s close relationships with Syria and North Korea, when combined with its continued support for terrorist organizations and continued abuse of the human rights of its own citizens, are all proof that Iran remains a clear threat to peace and human rights.
The international business community must recognize that if it prematurely provides Iran with undue sanctions relief, Iran will be emboldened to continue its drive for nuclear weapons and do even worse in the region, and abroad.
It is only strong economic pressure that will force the regime to end its nuclear ambitions and rein in its rogue behavior. Unfortunately, too many major multinational companies prefer to ignore the brutal nature of the Iranian regime and the potential threat we would all face from a nuclear-armed Iran.
Whereas most American and Canadian companies are prohibited by the laws of their respective countries from doing business in Iran, the same is not true for much of the world. Beyond the European oil embargo, there are hundreds of multinational companies doing business in Iran that provide the regime with income, technology and legitimacy.
When major automakers collaborate with Iranian companies to build cars in Iran, they help provide much-needed income for the regime. When major telecommunication companies do business in Iran, they provide the regime with technology that is also used to monitor human rights activists and journalists who often end up in prison. And when European companies sell sophisticated industrial machinery to Iran, they are not only helping the Iranian economy, they are legitimizing everything that Iran does.
If it’s wrong for Iran to prop up Bashar al-Assad while he murders tens of thousands of civilians, pay North Korea for joint missile projects, and imprison human rights activists and journalists, then it’s wrong to do business in Iran.
Finally, if it’s wrong for Iran to defy six U.N. Security Council resolutions in the development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons while its leaders continue to threaten the destruction of Israel, then it’s wrong to do business in Iran.
No, Iran should not be open for business. The companies doing business in Iran- especially those from western countries that espouse support for peace and human rights – are sending the Iranian regime the wrong message. If we truly care about these issues, it will be up to us to send these companies the right message.
Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Activists can send messages to companies doing business in Iran through the group’s website: www.uani.com