In Case You Missed It: "A Non-Profit Organization with a Single Aim: to Intensify Economic Sanctions on Iran Until It Stops Its Nuclear Program"

In Case You Missed It: "A Non-Profit Organization with a Single Aim: to Intensify Economic Sanctions on Iran Until It Stops Its Nuclear Program"
UANI Profiled By Israeli Newspaper, The Marker

Mr. Sanctions: Mark Wallace puts pressure on companies still doing business in Iran

By Ronit Domka

The Marker [original text in Hebrew]

February 9, 2013

... Once the election campaign ended, with the victory of the Democratic contender, Barack Obama, [UANI CEO, Mark Wallace] took his experience to a harsher arena - the economic battlefield between the United States and Iran. Behind the diplomatic contacts and the military discussions, and below the radar, there quietly operates UANI, a non-profit organization with a single aim: to intensify economic sanctions on Iran until it stops its nuclear program. Its principal method: putting pressure on international companies doing business in Iran.

"When we first started, it was very hard to persuade companies," admits Wallace, who established UANI in 2008 together with Dennis Ross, former United States special envoy to the Middle East, and with the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. "Today it's still hard, but less so. In 2008, companies were certainly not proud of their cooperation with Iran, but they weren't embarrassed by it either. Today, most companies doing business with Iran are the targets of criticism, and have suffered a blow to their image."

In recent years, UANI has succeeded in convincing numerous international companies, such as General Electric and Caterpillar in America, Hitachi in Japan, Siemens in Germany, and Huawei in China, to terminate, freeze or reduce their activities in Iran. The organization is also conducting a campaign against international hotel chains that host delegations from Iran, in order to force those delegations to stay at the local Iranian embassies, and is putting pressure on Lufthansa, the German airline, which is the only one in Western Europe that still operates scheduled flights to Teheran. ...

[Says Wallace:] "First we criticize them relatively mildly, but afterwards we publish the fact that they are doing business with Iran, and so the company is forced to choose - to do business with the United States, Asia, Canada and Europe, or with Iran. The choice is clear: most companies prefer to maintain their image, and look for opportunities elsewhere."

Jennifer Lopez in Service of the Ayatollah

One of the weak points of Western trade with Iran is the vehicle industry, and particularly the European car industry. Iran is a regional power in car assembly, and one of the largest markets for the French manufacturers. For years, car makers such as Peugeot, for example, have maintained a partnership with Iranian car manufacturers, which purchased components ("kits") from them to build cars. Iran provided significant income to Peugeot, particularly at a time when the company was suffering from a drop in sales in Europe, due to the recession, and Iran became the second largest market for French car makers. In 2010, Iran was ranked 13th among the world's car makers, with a production of about 1.6 million vehicles within its borders - greater than that of Italy or Britain. ...

UANI - whose advisory board includes former intelligence chiefs, ministers and diplomats from the United States, Europe, Australia, and Israel as well, among them Meir Dagan, was recently able to also convince other car makers - such as Hyundai in South Korea and Porsche in Germany - to freeze or terminate their activities in Iran. Fiat, too, has significantly reduced its activities in Iran, as result of the organization's pressure. "They were trying to acquire a market share in the United States with their Fiat 500 model, and so they recruited Jenifer Lopez to serve as their spokes-model in the United States," says Wallace. "At the same time, Fiat was still doing business with Iran ... For Fiat, the United States was a much more important market than the Iranian market, and so they chose the United States." Wallace is pleased: "Since the sanctions, the Iranian vehicle industry has suffered a drop in income of 50%-60%, and it is suffering badly."

However, Iran's most important industry is the oil industry, and UANI considers it very important. "We opened with a series of campaigns that make it difficult for Iran to trade in oil. For example, we are conducting a campaign against maritime shipping companies, and we have focused on the Shipping Classification Societies - the organizations that determine the technical specifications in the world of maritime shipping," he explains. "Indeed, exports of oil from Iran have already fallen by 50%, but we still have 50% to go."

"A Revolution is Indeed Possible"

... The Iranian currency, the rial, has for some months been in free fall, after dropping by 50% in the past year, and this week it reached a low of 39-40 thousand rials to the dollar on the country's free market. Prices in Iran are rising steadily, and the inflation rate in January reached 28.7%.

Wallace believes that the Iranian people, bowing under the burden of the sanctions, knows that it is the regime, headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that is to blame for the situation.

"The people in Iran are wonderful," he says. "There is a large percentage of minorities who are oppressed by the administration, and a middle class with Western leanings. The Iranians blame Ahmadinejad for failed management of the economy, and failed handling of foreign policy. ..."

At the same time, Wallace knows that sanctions are not the only way. "There are four things that can be done to prevent Iran from going on to develop nuclear weapons," he says. "The first is the use of diplomacy, the second is economic sanctions, the third is special operations, and the fourth is the military option," he explains. "What I can do is exert economic pressure."

The United States continues to try to resolve the tensions with Iran on the diplomatic level, and early this week the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, expressed optimism in this regard, following Biden's proposal to conduct direct negotiations on the nuclear issue. Nonetheless, Wallace does not place great hopes on the discussions, which are to take place in Kazakhstan at the end of the month. "The reality is that, till now, the talks have not really been successful. It is worth holding these talks, but talks need to generate a result, and I am skeptical about that."

In spite of his enthusiasm for the boycott on Iran and his belief in its effectiveness, Wallace becomes angry when asked about calls by organizations around the world for a boycott of products from Israel. "Sometimes people try to equate Israel and Iran, but Israel is a wonderful, democratic country with a flourishing economy that does not fund terror, and I think it's ridiculous." He also rejects the claims of a deterioration in Israel-U.S. relations. "I see reports in the news that relations between Obama and Netanyahu are problematic, but there are those who say that the relationship between them is good. As a former diplomat, I can say with certainty that there is a close relationship on the personal and professional level."

Click here to read the full piece, in Hebrew.