BY DAVID IBSEN, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
The Hill, Jan. 19, 2018 - Earlier this month, President Trump decided extend the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran Deal, but warned that he will terminate the agreement unless members of Congress and our European allies work to strengthen the agreement. Since the Iran Deal was signed in 2015, some businesses have considered and sensibly rejected, while others regrettably have engaged in doing business with Iran, despite the obvious financial, legal and socio-political risks of doing so.
As part of the campaign to discourage companies from doing business with Iran, my organization, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has recently unveiled its Iran Risk Snapshot, a set of 27 financial, legal and sociopolitical indices from the world’s leading organizations that analyze the risks of doing business with the regime in Tehran. Unsurprisingly, among these indices, Iran consistently ranks at or near the bottom.
Financially and legally speaking, reports from Forbes, The World Bank and the World Economic Forum have found that Iran is characterized by poor infrastructure and financing, in addition to unfavorable investment laws and a lack of transparency. This translates to real-world consequences, including an unacceptable propensity for money laundering and sanctions-violating risks. Tehran’s own actions validate the risk associated with conducting business with the country.
Currently, a New York jury is deliberating the fate of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who recently appeared in U.S. federal court and testified that he and Turkish banker Hakan Atilla ran a sprawling money laundering network from 2010 to 2015 that provided Iran access to international markets, despite U.S. sanctions. In his testimony, Zarrab also discussed his connection to former Iranian President Ahmadinejad and noted a meeting between himself and the former chairman of the Central Bank of Iran. The case underscores Iran’s blatant willingness to disregard international financial norms to further its own interests.
Other reports, such as those from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have designated Iran as a “high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdiction,” further increasing the risks that companies engaging with the regime are in fact helping finance terrorism. Widespread government corruption and funding of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah help further the argument that companies should not do business with Iran. Under the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran has managed to extend the tentacles of its influence across the Middle East.
President Trump has clearly recognized the IRGC’s corruption, previously describing it as the “Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.” In August, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar claimed that Iran was the group’s “largest backer financially and militarily.” The following month, it was reported that the regime in Tehran boosted its financial support to Hezbollah to the tune of $800 million a year in 2017.
Moreover, a November report suggests that the IRGC controls Mahan Air, Iran’s largest airline, and employs its fleet to transport troops and weaponry to Syria and Lebanon, as part of Iran’s effort to become a regional hegemonic power. Additionally, in December, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen killed the country’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. These actions, from the past six months alone, demonstrate Iran is not an actor on the world stage businesses should be engaging with.
Numerous reports, including from The Heritage Foundation, have found that Iran’s high degree of censorship, poor regulation and lack of political stability, combined with an absence of accountability, have created a perfect storm for flagrant human rights violations and senseless persecution of minorities.
The United Nations recently found that that at least 90 people under the age of 18 are on the country’s death row. Other reports have found that executions are often cruel and unusual, including public hangings, and are frequently carried out without formal charges or family notifications.
Clearly, the financial, legal and socio-political uncertainties of doing business with Iran are great. UANI will continue to work to ensure such risks are universally understood, including in Congress and among companies as they contemplate their respective next steps in relation to the murderous and terror-sponsoring regime in Tehran. Claiming ignorance of the risks associated with Iran is longer an excuse for either.
David Ibsen is the president of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).