Recent News and Updates from United Against Nuclear Iran
UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, writing in the National Interest on January 29, note the contrast between America’s response to Russian aggression and that of Iran: “The strong U.S. posture against the rising threat of Russia to Ukrainian sovereignty contrasts with the uncertain U.S. policy on Iran. While the Biden administration is threatening Russia with devastating sanctions and even apparently entertaining arming a guerilla campaign should Moscow invade its neighbor, its response to Tehran's equally malign behavior is muted… Some may argue that the United States has maxed-out what it can realistically do against Iran in contrast to Russia, which has not been subject to the same degree of isolation. But that is simply false. The lack of U.S. enforcement of sanctions against Iran, particularly in regard to illicit oil trade with China, the lack of a credible military deterrence, and the seeming anxiety by the United States to remain at the table in Vienna regardless of Iran’s conduct, has not worked. U.S. policy toward Iran must be clarified and strengthened. The longer we wait, the larger the Iranian threat will be to the region and to the United States.”
2022’s Biggest Challenges Come From Russia And Iran
Writing in the Wall Street Journal on January 2, UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman predicts that Russia and Iran will be the greatest U.S. challenges in 2022: “The biggest challenges the U.S. will face in 2022 won’t be Covid-19 or inflation but Russia and Iran. The way the Biden administration handles these two hostile, despotic governments may determine how secure our country will be for years. Moscow and Tehran are testing the administration’s foreign policy, which, in its first year, has been more principled than muscular… Iran has continued to increase its enrichment of uranium and move closer to building nuclear weapons. It has improved its long-range ballistic missile capacity so it can attack its enemies in the Arab world and Israel as well as American military personnel and bases in the region. The governments of Vladimir Putin and Ali Khamenei have increased the oppression of their citizens, violating the values at the heart of America’s foreign policy… A great Roman general said a long time ago, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” That is wise counsel worth following with Russia and Iran in 2022.”
Writing in Fox News on March 4, UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace argue that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should end U.S. participation in nuclear negotiations with Iran: “No deal designed in part by some of the most dangerous nations of the international community including Putin’s Russia with the blood of innocent Ukrainians on his hands can be in the U.S. national interest. Ukraine has reminded us that autocrats and dictators can’t be trusted because they do not respect international law, human rights, or human life. A better course would be for the Biden administration to walk away from the negotiations in Vienna and tighten the economic pressures on Iran’s struggling economy until the Iranian regime is willing to return to direct negotiations with us and our allies, including those most impacted by Iran’s behavior in the region, to resolve the full scope of its malign behavior. Iran’s nuclear enrichment, long-range missile development, and support of terrorism must end. In return, Iran can expect an end to economic sanctions against it and to return to the lawful global economy. That kind of principled, tough, realistic American policy would encourage our allies and shake our enemies, not just in the Middle East but far away in places like Moscow and Beijing.”
UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, writing in The Hill on February 22, argue that more needs to be done by the U.S. government to help smaller, resource-challenged countries comply with U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil smuggling, consistent with what the U.S. already does with respect to financial crimes, including money laundering, terror financing, intellectual property theft, and counterfeit merchandise: “American extra-territorial ‘secondary’ sanctions that compel behavioral changes in non-U.S. entities by threatening access to U.S. markets are an effective American policy tool. Few companies opt to forego access to the world’s largest consumer market in favor of rogue countries like Iran that are subject to U.S. sanctions. Unfortunately, targeted countries like Iran are adept at developing complex sanctions evasion techniques that rely on the involvement of unwitting governments and businesses. The U.S. could increase the impact of its sanctions efforts by sharply boosting the capabilities of smaller and under-resourced nations that fall victim to these sanctions evasion schemes.”
Iran Is Being Offered A Short Path To The Bomb
UANI CEO Mark D. Wallace and Research Director Daniel Roth, writing in the Jewish Chronicle on March 11, argue that the best way to salvage nuclear negotiations with Iran is for the UK to reimpose sanctions on Iranian banks: “The bloodshed of Russia’s invasion warns us to stay tough with Iran in the current negotiations to bring it to heel. Anyone doubting the folly of trying to appease Tehran as it pursues its own international terror campaign and nuclear ambitions need only observe Vladimir Putin’s pitiless onslaught… As Boris Johnson recently told Israeli President Isaac Herzog, the world is running out of time to deal with Iran before it is able to produce on very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. The damage being inflicted on Russia shows the power of cutting off access to financial markets as a weapon. It is now up to the UK to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s banks immediately. Taking this path could yet save the negotiations from disaster and bring another pariah state with nuclear intentions back from the brink.”
On February 1, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez, in a major address in the U.S. Senate, voiced his frustrations over the billions earned by Iran through the smuggling of sanctioned oil and gas condensates, and urged stronger enforcement by the Biden Administration of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil. In his speech, Chairman Menendez referenced UANI data related to Iran’s ongoing clandestine oil smuggling network: “Using a sophisticated web of shipping, delivery, and tanker flagging techniques, private energy analysts – here’s where we see their abilities in this space here to make these transfers that ultimate go to China – through tanker flagging techniques, private energy analysts estimate China bought an average between 350,000 and 650,000 barrels per day last year and according to United Against Nuclear Iran this amounted to roughly ten billion dollars going to the regime, in violation of existing sanctions. We cannot turn a blind eye to these violations. The Biden administration must rigorously enforce our sanctions, including targeting Chinese entities in a way that will impose a serious cost. We must use our sanctions to crush the illicit, underground economy of Iranian oil shipments throughout the world.”
Barry Rosen’s Effort To #FreeTheHostages
In January, Barry Rosen, a survivor of the Iran hostage crisis and UANI Senior Advisor, conducted a five-day hunger strike in Vienna to draw attention to the Iranian regime’s practice of hostage taking. During his hunger strike, Rosen had frank and productive conversations with U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and negotiators representing European allies, including France and Germany. Rosen urged them to insist upon the release of all U.S. and Western hostages held by Tehran as a precondition to any agreements alleviating economic pressure on Iran, and to insist that any agreements become null and void if Iran takes new hostages in the future. Barry’s courageous #FreeTheHostages campaign drew much needed attention to the suffering of hostages and their families held by Iran and was a reflection of his exceptional character and commitment to human rights. The campaign drew coverage from Reuters, Fox News, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, The National, Agence France-Presse, Arab News, i24 News, Iran International, Algemeiner, The Guardian, the Times of Israel, and many others. In addition, Rosen penned opinion pieces in the Washington Post, Newsweek, the Jerusalem Post, and Euronews to draw attention to the plight of at least a dozen hostages held by Iran. “I was one of the American hostages held by Iran for 444 days after the U.S. Embassy was overtaken by Iranian militants in 1979. I was beaten, tortured, forced to endure mock executions, starved and used as a political pawn… Observers estimate that Iran holds more than a dozen, perhaps two dozen, foreign and dual-nationals — including at least four Americans — as bargaining chips for economic and diplomatic concessions. It’s a disgusting, inhumane and illegal practice that began with the Iranian revolution more than four decades ago and has continued to this day,” Rosen wrote in the Washington Post.
UANI Calls On Princeton University To Fire Hossein Mousavian
On January 13, in a letter to the President and Board of Trustees of Princeton University, UANI called for the dismissal of Seyed Hossein Mousavian, an agent of the Iranian regime employed as a Middle East and Nuclear Policy Specialist at the Program on Science and Global Security. UANI also called for the suspension of financial support for Princeton, including U.S. government grants and contracts. Mousavian both attended the funeral of, and appeared in a documentary lionizing the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 drone strike. At the time of his death, Soleimani was responsible for more murders, injuries and kidnappings of Americans and American allies than any other person alive. In the documentary, Mousavian gleefully recounts hearing that former U.S. diplomat Brian Hook’s wife couldn’t sleep for days and that she was shaking and crying out of fear of death threats against her husband, who served as the U.S. Special Representative for Iran during the Trump administration. “Princeton University’s continued employment of Seyed Hossein Mousavian, who has faithfully served the Islamic Republic of Iran for decades in a variety of senior roles, makes it impossible for the university to be a safe, welcome, and credible institution of learning for both its students and other employees,” said UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace. Media coverage: Daily Mail, Haaretz, Algemeiner, The Washington Free Beacon, Iran International, Al Arabiya, and The Daily Princetonian.
In a March 14 interview with the Jewish News Syndicate, UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman predicted that allowing Russia to get away with its invasion of Ukraine will encourage countries like Iran to be more aggressive with its neighbors: “In my opinion, if you don’t take action because of fear of what your enemies will do, this creates incentives for other countries, like Iran, China and North Korea to take aggressive actions, like Russia did. Less than 100 years ago, Hitler was saying things people thought were so outrageous that he would never do them, but he did them. When people say the kinds of things that Iran is saying, such as that they want to destroy Israel and America is next—or that they want to control the Arab world—we have to take them seriously and realize how dangerous that would be for all of us.”
UANI Shipping News
U.S. Seized Iran Oil Cargo As Biden Considers Easing Sanctions
A March 10 Associated Press story describing the U.S. seizure of $38 million in smuggled Iranian oil from two tankers incorporated UANI quotes and relied heavily on UANI research data. “Opponents of Iran warn that even as Ukraine scrambles geopolitical calculations and the U.S. turns its attention to Russia, the Biden administration shouldn’t take pressure off the Islamic Republic. The country is considered by the U.S. a state sponsor of terrorism and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military unit that plays a key role in the oil industry, a supporter of Hezbollah and other militant groups active throughout the Middle East. ‘This seizure serves as a perfect example of why the U.S. should not lift sanctions,’ said Claire Jungman, the chief of staff at the New York-based group United Against Nuclear Iran, which closely tracks Iran’s crude shipments. ‘We should continue to work to ensure that the IRGC cannot use profits from its sale of Iranian oil to fund terrorism and other activities that threaten the safety and security of all Americans.’ Despite U.S. sanctions, Iran has seen a windfall of revenue as oil prices have risen over the past year. Key to the smuggling operation are dozens of privately owned, foreign-flagged tankers — dubbed a “ghost armada” by Jungman’s group — that deploy a variety of sophisticated techniques to hide their movements. Even U.S.-owned tankers, such as one belonging to a subsidiary of private equity giant Oaktree Capital Management, have been implicated in the brisk, black market trade. In a cat and mouse world, ship tracking technology has given a boost to efforts to detect sanctions-evading behavior by Iran as well as Venezuela, whose oil industry is also under U.S. export restrictions. But seizing oil shipments is rare: prior to this latest action it had been done only twice before. Proceeds from the sale of forfeited cargoes partly go to compensate American victims of terrorism.”
UANI Impact: 100 Smuggling Vessels Stripped Of Flags
UANI announced on April 12 that its work to expose rogue vessel operators engaged in Iranian regime oil and gas smuggling has resulted in 100 vessels being stripped of their flags by authorities worldwide. Every vessel must be registered to a flag state in order to travel globally, and docking rights are predicated on being registered to a flag state. Flag states are responsible for enforcing regulations over vessels registered under their flag. UANI works to identify rogue operators misusing flags as part of Iranian regime smuggling activities and alerts relevant authorities to take action. When its vessels are "de-flagged,” Iran is unable to complete smuggling activities that generate the export revenue that it uses to fund terrorism and its nuclear program. There is increasing urgency for the Biden Administration to strictly enforce U.S. sanctions. In March 2020, UANI reported that Iran exported 825,000 barrels per day in violation of U.S. sanctions. By March 2022, that figure had soared to 1.34 million barrels per day — including just under 900,000 barrels per day to China. UANI will continue to identify and detect rogue vessels suspected of transporting Iranian oil and gas and will notify the relevant maritime activities of the vessels’ behaviors. More information on UANI’s campaign can be found at Iran Tanker Tracking, and Stop the Hop II: The Ghost Armada Grows.
Uncovering The Chinese Purchasers Of Iranian Oil
In an April 19 blog, UANI Chief of Staff Claire Jungman and Research Director Daniel Roth reveal the specific Chinese buyers of smuggled Iranian oil. “Today it is widely acknowledged that China is principally responsible for keeping the Iranian regime in business through oil purchases that have totaled $22 billion since President Joe Biden assumed office. This is despite U.S. sanctions that were reimposed in 2019 with the stated aim of reducing Iranian oil exports to zero… Data received and reviewed by UANI shows that Iranian oil is being imported by China’s officially non-state, semi-independent ‘teapot’ petrochemical refiners… Estimates of the number of teapots hover around 150.”
In a March 15 blog, UANI Chief of Staff Claire Jungman and Research Director Daniel Roth build a compelling case against a web of China Oil Shipping Company (COSCO) entities for their continued purchase of Iranian oil. In 2019, the U.S. State Department sanctioned five Chinese companies for purchasing Iranian oil, including two entities owned by COSCO. Following extensive negotiations, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control eventually removed one of the entities, COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Co., Ltd, from its list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) on January 31, 2020. “Regardless of whatever legal wranglings were waged to secure the COSCO firm’s removal from the SDN List, it appears that COSCO has not stopped its Iran activities. It has just found more creative ways to hide its involvement.”
UANI Calls Upon Greece To Seize, Transfer To U.S. Impounded Vessel Laden With Iranian Oil
On April 22, UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace released a statement urging Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his Government to seize the Russian-flagged PEGAS (IMO: 9256860), sanctioned by the United States and laden with approximately 700,000 barrels of oil from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and turn the vessel and its cargo over to American authorities. UANI had been following PEGAS since 2021 and reported that PEGAS loaded crude oil from Iran’s Sirri Island on August 19, 2021 and attempted to transfer the oil at the Turkish port of Marmara in January 2022 but was rejected by the terminal’s operator after being warned by UANI. Prior to this load, the Pegas transported more than three million barrels of Iranian oil in 2021, with more than 2.6 million of those barrels ending up in China, according to UANI analysis. The statement read in part: “We call upon Greece and Prime Minister Mitsotakis to immediately seize the PEGAS laden with Iranian oil. Greece is an EU member and NATO ally. Both the vessel and its oil are sanctioned because of the international rogue regimes of Russia and Iran. We urge Prime Minister Mitsotakis to take these actions immediately.” Media coverage: Reuters, Maritime Executive, Iran International, Lloyd’s List, The Washington Free Beacon, and The Daily Wire.
Group Alleges U.S. Firm’s Tanker Illicitly Traded Iran Oil
A February 17 Associated Press story detailed evidence compiled by UANI proving that the oil tanker Suez Rajan, owned by Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management’s subsidiary Fleetscape, took part in an illegal ship-to-ship oil transfer of up to one million gallons of Iranian crude oil off the coast of Singapore with Panamanian-flagged tanker Virgo. While the owners and operators of the Suez Rajan promised to undertake a thorough investigation of the incident, to date, they have not revealed the results of their inquiry. In March, September 11 victims filed suit, asking the government to seize the crude oil. UANI has repeatedly called on Oaktree and Fleetscape to transparently release all information related to the Suez Rajan’s smuggling of Iranian oil, and to divert the Suez Rajan to a U.S. port for the proper administration of the sanctioned oil. Additional media coverage: Reuters, Lloyd’s List, and Tradewinds.
10 U.S. Senators Call On President Biden To Enforce Iranian Oil Sanctions
On January 28, 10 U.S. senators co-signed a letter to President Biden strongly urging him to enforce sanctions on tankers smuggling Iranian oil as well as the purchasers. Citing data from UANI, the senators highlighted how the Biden Administration’s inadequate enforcement of U.S. sanctions since coming into office has resulted in a more than 40 percent year-over-year increase in Iranian oil exports and a 135 percent increase in the number of foreign-flagged vessels that comprise the Islamic Republic’s “Ghost Armada” from November 2020 to January 2022. Each month, UANI’s Iran Tanker Tracker charts Iran’s exports of crude oil and gas to countries around the world. By UANI’s estimates, three-quarters of Iranian oil exports– approximately 310 million barrels – were offloaded in Chinese ports in 2021. This has earned the Islamic Republic billions of dollars in revenues. As the letter noted: “As a result of this surge in oil sales, Iranian currency reserves soared from just $4 billion at the end of 2020 to $31 billion at the end of 2021. These Chinese purchases give the Iranian regime a vital lifeline and flout U.S. sanctions with impunity. While your administration has reportedly warned China and other countries about the sanctions risks to their companies, these entities remain unpunished.” UANI President David Ibsen echoed these concerns: “The Administration claims that it has not eased sanctions against Iran, but its lack of enforcement is de facto sanctions relief. It is no coincidence that Iran’s malign behavior has increased as it successfully exports more oil.”
One Obvious Move To Help Classification Firms Cut Loose Rogue Ship
In a February 2 blog, UANI Chief of Staff Claire Jungman and Research Director Daniel Roth propose that to enable the world’s leading maritime classification societies to strip rogue ships of their certifications and make oil smuggling more difficult, more sanctions should be levied by the U.S. and other jurisdictions to trigger declassifications, and they suggest UANI’s directory of vessels operating as Iran’s ‘ghost armada’ should be the place to start: “As well as adding individual sanctions to vessels and their direct owners and managers, we have extensively advocated for the U.S. to broaden the range of sanctionable maritime services. This would permit the U.S. Treasury Department to punish other entities—importing agents, management firms, charterers, operators, marine insurers, vessels and all other “maritime services providers”—directly and willfully found to be helping Iran. Doing so now is more essential than ever. Iran is exporting its oil and natural gas to countries like China and Venezuela at an alarming rate.”
Issue Updates, Research And Expert Analysis
Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), continues to operate as one of the world’s most formidable non-state actors, in large part due to the decades-long financial support, training, and arming by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite the admission of Hezbollah leaders that the political and the military units of their organization are simply different means to accomplish the same end, governments around the world have long held to the fiction of separate and distinct ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings of Hezbollah. Increasingly, however, countries once hesitant to fully ban Hezbollah, like the United Kingdom or Germany, have come to terms with this reality and banned the group in its entirety. Others, however, like France, Australia, and the European Union, have yet to follow suit. UANI’s resource, Global Designations of Hezbollah as a Terror Organization, details how various governments around the world have classified Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
In March, Iran demanded that the U.S. drop its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) as a precondition to restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The IRGC and its Quds Force have supported militants and carried out terrorism around the world, including in Afghanistan, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. It orchestrated the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina and the attempted assassination of Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the U.S. at a Washington, DC restaurant. The current commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force has threatened to kill Americans in America, and there is enough evidence of IRGC plots to assassinate former senior U.S. officials on American soil that federal security details have been provided for these public servants long after they left office. In a joint statement on March 23, UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace stated in part: “The Iranian regime has lied to the international community for decades. It has never demonstrated a capacity or willingness to fulfill its obligations. It is foolhardy to make any concessions to these terrorists in exchange for empty public pledges to deescalate which they will not keep. Sanctions relief must be based on verifiable and permanent changes in behavior… The delisting of the IRGC as an FTO would also set a troubling precedent because it risks cheapening the designation, which is based on behavior. It also makes no sense as a matter of counterterrorism policy when IRGC proxies, like Hezbollah, will remain on the FTO list, while the IRGC from which Hezbollah’s manpower, money, and materiel flow will be delisted.” UANI’s IRGC resources include: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a profile on IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami, a profile of the Commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force Esmail Ghaani, and a profile of the Quds Force Deputy Commander Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh.
Writing in the National Interest on April 27, UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky argues that the Quds Force is the ‘beating heart’ of the IRGC and the two cannot be discussed separately: “The debate over whether to delist Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) has evolved. President Joe Biden appears to have ruled out an unconditional delisting of the IRGC in whole. The deliberations now are over whether Washington and Tehran will be prepared for a middle ground solution, that involves retaining the IRGC’s extraterritorial arm, the Quds Force, while removing the rest of the IRGC’s units from the FTO list in exchange for undefined concessions. But this kind of arrangement would invent an artificial distinction in the IRGC that does not exist.”
U.S. Treasury Imposes New Sanctions Targeting Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program In Wake Of Attacks
In early April, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on five Iranians and entities for their material support in helping the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Research and Self Sufficiency Jihad Organization (IRGC-RSSJO) and Parchin Chemical Industries (PCI) develop Iran’s illegal missile program. The IRGC is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. The sanctions announcement came following a month of provocative aggression directed by the Iranian regime. On March 8, in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 prohibitions, the IRGC announced it had launched a satellite using technologies similar to what is required to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. Long-range ballistic missiles have historically always been developed in unison with a nuclear weapons program. On March 13, the IRGC launched dozens of missiles on the Iraqi city of Erbil, targeting Americans in the region. Then, on March 25, the Iran-backed Houthis struck an Aramco oil facility in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. More information on Iran’s missile program can be found in UANI’s resource, Ballistic Missile Program.
On March 24, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was allowed to exhibit models of its missile arsenal at the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition & Conference, which was attended by the Commander of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Iran’s Defense Ministry showcased other arms as well. Qatar’s decision to allow the IRGC, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, to participate in its premier defense show in Doha was outrageous. UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace urged the Biden Administration, which rewarded Qatar three weeks earlier by designating it as a major non-NATO ally, to convert its embarrassment at being blindsided into anger and action. “Qatar’s decision to legitimize an Iranian organization responsible for countless acts of terrorism and the deaths of hundreds of American military and civilian personnel by allowing them into the country and permitting them to hawk their weaponry and military prowess deserves a much more forceful response than what the State Department offered yesterday… Qatar’s actions over a period of years have threatened the security of the United States. It is time for the leaders of Qatar to decide whose side they are on. We hope it is ours. But if it is not, Washington should stop treating them as an ally.” More information about Qatar’s troubling behavior can be found in the UANI resource, Qatar: An Impediment to Unity on Iran.
On February 21, the Iran-backed Houthis launched a drone filled with explosives, targeting the Jizan Regional Airport in Saudi Arabia and wounding 16 civilians. The attack was the latest in a string of Houthi drone strikes on the Kingdom’s Abha International Airport and in the United Arab Emirates. The sharp increase in attacks and rising threat to civilians throughout the region prompted the Biden Administration to consider reversing its February 2021 decision to decrease pressure on the Houthis by removing the Iranian partner from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Following the Biden Administration’s rescission of the terror designations, terror attacks increased, and the Houthis became more empowered on the ground in Yemen. They renewed an offensive to retake Marib, as well as engaged in repeated ballistic missile and drone-related attacks on civilian areas in the region. More information on Iran’s proxy can be found in UANI’s resources, Houthis, and The Iranian Drone Threat.
State Department Reconfirms Iranian Human Rights Abuses
UANI Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace released a joint statement on April 14 following the release of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which outlined a wide variety of ongoing abuses by Iran. The statement read in part: “Iran has engaged in killings, violence, censorship, corruption, human trafficking, hostage taking of foreign nationals, as well as the targeting of women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI persons, protestors, journalists, workers, and others. Secretary Blinken and the State Department are clearly under no illusions about the Iranian regime’s grotesque human rights abuses, and UANI welcomes the comprehensive report… “This report is an indictment against the Iranian regime. It is a moral obligation and in our security interests to promote and defend human rights, especially where they are under the greatest threat.” More information on Iran’s abysmal human rights record can be found in UANI’s resource Cruel and Inhuman: Executions And Other Punishments In Iran.
International Women’s Day Reminds World Of Discrimination Women Face In Iran
On March 8, International Women’s Day, the international community celebrated the cultural, political, and socioeconomic strides women have made around the world. The occasion was also an unfortunate reminder that for women born into or living in oppressive societies there are still enormous barriers to overcome. The UANI resource, Iran’s War on Women highlights the discrimination and second-class status that Iranian women continue to bravely fight against. The Iranian regime enables violence against women and sexual exploitation of girls; harasses, jails, fines, and flogs women for crimes like appearing in public without covering their hair and bodies; forcibly segregates women from men; disproportionately punishes women in the judicial system; cracks down on activists for women’s rights; denies women political and economic opportunities; and favors men over women in family and inheritance law. This makes Iran’s election to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which promotes gender equality and female empowerment, all the more worrisome.
Russia Considering Iranian Support To Evade Western Sanctions
With the Russian economy contracting in the wake of Western sanctions, Moscow in March, was reportedly considering an offer from the Islamic Republic of Iran to participate in a sanctions evasion scheme. In exchange for Russia’s support for a new nuclear deal, Iran would reportedly decline to enforce sanctions on Russia and support the sale of Russian oil. Iran also stood to benefit from a significant arms agreement that included war planes and naval vessels. Tehran and Moscow have cooperated previously. In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury uncovered a scheme in which Russia allegedly helped Iran smuggle millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government. In exchange, Damascus facilitated the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force for transfer to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The IRGC, Hamas and Hezbollah are each U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. More information on Iranian relations with China and Russia can be found in the UANI resource Tehran’s Ties With Beijing And Moscow.
Israel Won’t Stick Out Its Neck For Ukraine. It’s Because Of Russia.
Writing in the Atlantic Council on April 13, UANI Director of Lebanon, Israel, and Syria Research David Daoud explains why Israel’s support for Ukraine has thus far been limited: “Despite the global consequences of this ostensibly localized conflict—particularly for US allies—the international response to Russia’s aggression has been inadequate, particularly from Western states. Even Israel, which counts itself as a western democracy and depends on American ascendancy and the endurance of the liberal world order for its security and survival, has fallen short of expectations… Israel is a small country in the Middle East. It can’t be expected to stick its proverbial neck out on Ukraine farther than other, more obviously interested, powerful, or close actors. But, as those countries most keen on preserving the American-led liberal world order mobilize in its defense, Israel must be prepared to do the same.”
Writing in the March edition of the Jerusalem Strategic Tribune, UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky and Tuvia Gering, research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, argue that Iran’s malign behavior runs counter to China’s interests: “Energy purchases from Iran have come to be perceived by China as a win-win situation that gives Beijing significant leverage over Tehran (urging it to return to the nuclear deal) while also opposing US sanctions and American leadership in world affairs. However, China’s critical role in the negotiations—and in the enforcement of curbs on Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions—need to reflect the realization that Iran’s destabilizing and subversive activities across the region actually run counter to China’s own interests in deescalating regional tensions.”
Writing in the Times of Israel on April 27, UANI Director Of Lebanon, Israel And Syria Research David Daoud describes a conference dedicated to an alternate vision for the future of Lebanon: “Lebanon was born as a house divided. Today, that division manifests in conflict between an Iran-backed ‘Resistance Camp’ that unilaterally wages war on behalf of the country, and a large swath of the population aspiring to normalcy. This weekend, elements of the latter convened a conference in Harissa to call for Lebanon to adopt neutrality in regional conflicts and, in so doing, offer Lebanon a path out of its present crisis. The conference – conceived as the launch of an ongoing series of initiatives – convened under the patronage of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, but also included religious and secular representatives from all of Lebanon’s ethnicities and sects. Together they built the case that steering Lebanon back to a course of neutrality in foreign affairs would also open the possibility of an investment-based recovery for the faltering Lebanese economy.”
UANI Research Analyst Jordan Steckler, writing in Algemeiner on February 2, argues that the Biden administration is repeating past mistakes in attempting to placate Iran during ongoing negotiations: “The Trump administration’s decision to kill Qassem Soleimani, the commander and facilitator of Iran’s terrorist foreign legion, marked the most consequential US effort to push back against Tehran’s malign activities since the Stuxnet virus. Soleimani’s charisma and relationships allowed him to enforce discipline among the leaders of the web of Iranian-backed militias and terrorist groups; the loss of his leadership materially set back Iran’s project to export its influence and dominate the region. But rather than confronting Iran about its malign activities, the Biden administration is taking a page from President Obama’s playbook, and largely turning a blind eye to Tehran’s escalating regional mischief in order to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.”
Writing in Haaretz on March 10, UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky and Director of Lebanon, Israel, and Syria Research David Daoud explain why the enemies of Israel are quietly gleeful over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “As Russia’s war against Ukraine continues, Iran and Hezbollah remain officially neutral. Patron and proxy have neither backed Kyiv’s struggle against Russian aggression – despite their own pretenses to anti-imperial resistance – nor their partner Moscow, which guaranteed their victory over the Assad regime’s opponents in Syria. At different moments, Tehran and Hezbollah’s leadership have even expressed sympathy with both belligerents. But their neutrality is superficial. A careful analysis of their leadership’s pronouncements, alongside their media outlets, reveals that both are stealthily pro-Russian, hoping its war in Ukraine will erode American global influence, while being officially agnostic.”
UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky, writing in the Jerusalem Post on December 13, argues that in order to reach a meaningful agreement with Iran, negotiators in Vienna must consider more than just nuclear issues: “The nuclear negotiations with Iran continue in Vienna. Regardless of the outcome, world powers need to view the Iranian challenge as not just a nuclear file. In the October statement from the E3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) and the United States, they pledged their ‘shared determination to address broader security concerns raised by Iran’s actions in the region.’ But the European Union still maintains a fictional distinction between the political and military wings of Iran’s proxy Hezbollah. The two units are two sides of the same terrorist coin, and the international community needs to treat them as such if it hopes to sustain deals with the Islamic Republic.”
Iran’s Growing Conventional Threat To Israel
Writing in the Times of Israel on October 31, UANI Outreach Coordinator Bob Feferman chronicles the growing conventional arms threat posed to Israel by Iran: “As the international community focuses its attention on efforts to renew negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, we should not ignore the full extent of Iran’s threats to the security of Israel posed by Iran’s terror proxies. These include rockets, precision-guided missiles, and we can now add drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (U.A.V’s) to the growing conventional threat to Israel. The wake-up call for the development of Iran’s drone and U.A.V capabilities came on September 14th, 2019, with the attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facility. Although the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, it was clear to all that this was a sophisticated Iranian attack using drones and cruise missiles.”
London Blacklists Russia’s Banks, Iran’s Get Green Light
In a March 16 blog, UANI Research Director Daniel Roth contrasts Britain’s actions taken against Russian banks versus its non-action against the London branches of Iran’s banks. “In the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Britain moved decisively against all Russian banks, freezing $336 billion (£258 billion) - a bigger assets freeze than any other country including the U.S. This is laudable and yet throws Britain’s contrastingly limp policy against Iranian banks into sharp relief. There are more Iranian bank branches operating in London’s ‘square mile’ financial district than any other city outside Iran: three are within spitting distance of the Bank of England. And all are sanctioned by the United States for their terror ties.”
UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky and former Israeli defense intelligence official Danny Citrinowicz expose Iranian cybersecurity ambitions in The Dispatch on April 12: “When we talk about the security challenges presented by Iran, it’s often in the realm of Iranian nuclear ambitions, sponsorship of terror groups like Hezbollah, or involvement in conflicts like Syria and Yemen." When we talk about the security challenges presented by Iran, it’s often in the realm of Iranian nuclear ambitions, sponsorship of terror groups like Hezbollah, or involvement in conflicts like Syria and Yemen. But the Islamic Republic is also a burgeoning cybersecurity threat.”
UANI Outreach Coordinator Bob Feferman, writing in Algemeiner on March 15, explains why Russia and Iranian brutality in Syria predicted Russia’s war on Ukraine: “What was the response of the international community to the war crimes of Iran and Russia in Syria? In 2015, the international community, led by the Obama administration and the P5+1, negotiated the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). One of the major flaws of the JCPOA is that it did not address Iran’s support for terrorist activities worldwide and terror proxies like Hezbollah, nor did it address Iran’s complicity in supporting the Assad regime in its murder of possibly hundreds of thousands of civilians… The message that Iran and Russia received from the international community for their role in Syria was clear — they could literally get away with murder, and even receive economic rewards for it.”
Writing in The Hill on January 1, UANI Policy Advisor Alan Goldsmith argues that the world’s democracies should be doing more to press for human rights in Iran: “The United States hosted a virtual, international ‘Summit for Democracy’ on Dec. 9–10, bringing together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector. The State Department pitched the summit as providing ‘a platform for leaders to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.’ Laudably, the Biden administration used the occasion of the summit to impose sanctions on officials of one of the world’s biggest human rights abusers — the Iranian regime. Unfortunately, the summit was a missed opportunity for America and its democratic allies — particularly the European Union — to do more to stand up for the human rights of the Iranian people.”