UANI and the Europe-Iran Forum
The Europe-Iran Forum, until recently the world’s leading Iran business conference, is on its last legs.
Over four consecutive years from 2014 to 2017, the EIF was accurately promoted as an “unparalleled project in ‘business diplomacy’.” Hosted in London, Geneva and twice in Zurich, it brought together top businessmen, diplomats and senior officials from Iran, Europe and later the United States. The EIF was considered so vital to regime efforts to “communicate the realities of Iran’s economy” that it even received the official blessing of the President of Iran’s office.
From Iran, the EIF featured the chairmen and CEOs of a host of sanctioned entities like IMIDRO, Bank Pasargad, Mobarakeh Steel Company, the Bank of Industry and Mine, and Middle East Bank. Numerous top Iranian regime officials were given prime-time speaking slots.
From Europe, Ambassadors from Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland all participated in EIF panels. Various heavyweights from the corporate world, including the Chairman of Philips Electronics and officials from Finland’s Ericsson and Alstom of France, also spoke of the rich trade opportunities on offer in the Islamic Republic. The Secretary General of the EU External Action Service, Helga Schmidt, gave the keynote speech in 2017. Sponsors included British Airways, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Clifford Chance, Dentons, Atlas Global, and Stephenson Harwood.
The 2016 edition was “the first conference to join Iranian ministers, EU Ambassadors, and US Officials.” Among the U.S. officials were the former Deputy Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation at the Department of State Jarrett Blanc.
In 2016 UANI sent Senior Advisor Ambassador Giulio Terzi and Research Director Daniel Roth to the EIF in Zurich, held at the 5-star Dolder Grand Hotel. As the lone voice of dissent in a sea of pro-Iran business discourse, Ambassador Terzi forcefully and volubly intervened on multiple occasions to provide all participants with the true facts about doing business in Iran. He warned the hundreds of foreign businessmen about the real nature of the regime and the likelihood of ‘snapback’ sanctions -- given that these risks were but lightly touched upon by the invited speakers.
It seemed that the only person accurately communicating “the realities of Iran’s economy” was the Ambassador.
After being interviewed by Iranian and western outlets at the conference, the Ambassador described his experience in an op-ed for New Europe. “Businesses are being readily encouraged to pursue opportunities in Tehran in nearly every sector,” he wrote, “with no acknowledgement of the huge risks deriving from sanctions and restrictions that are still very much in place.”
Prior to the event, UANI had also written to speakers, sponsors and other conference ‘partners’ to urge them to refrain from involvement in this one-sided regime-sanctioned convention. None paid any attention.
After 2017, though, the EIF has appears to have disbanded. Aside from a solitary tweet by the Norwegian Ambassador in Tehran mentioning the 2019 edition in Brussels, there has been zero marketing, zero publicity and zero media coverage on what used to be the premier Iran business forum.
Other similar pro-Iran conferences have also seen a marked falling-off in foreign interest. The decline of the Iran business conference circuit is a good thing for anyone concerned about Iran’s ongoing illicit nuclear aspirations and regional destabilizing efforts.
Not only do such conferences lay the path for investment funds that will wind up subsidizing Iran’s nuclear, missiles and terrorist causes. They can also be forums for corporate theft and intelligence surveillance. Just this year, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned an Iranian conference organizer for supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and for “host[ing] international conferences that have provided Iranian intelligence officers a platform to recruit and collect intelligence information from attendees…” According to a German intelligence report in September 2019, international academic and research exchange forums are being exploited by Iran to procure information for the development of weapons of mass destruction.
These conferences, invariably populated by senior regime officials, attempt to portray the ‘friendly face’ of the Iranian theocracy. UANI, on the other hand, has sought to convey the true nature of the regime and its IRGC-dominated economy through interventions and educating the thousands of conference delegates. With the dramatic decline of the EIF, it seems that message is finally getting through.