A former Bush administration official suggested stiff economic sanctions could help fuel unrest among Iranians already unhappy with their brutal dictatorship and stagnant economy, and force its government to divert money from its nuclear program to domestic causes.
Speaking March 13 at the East Brunswick Jewish Center, Kristen Silverberg suggested that Americans could help tighten the economic stranglehold by demanding multinational companies end their business in Iran.
“We need these companies to not pay taxes into the Iranian treasury, which can help to support Iran’s nuclear program,” said Silverberg, who served President George W. Bush as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs and as U.S. ambassador to the European Union. She gave her remarks following a screening of Iranium, a documentary focusing on the Iranian threat.
She also urged passage of the Iran Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in Congress last month with bipartisan support. It would tighten reporting requirements on companies doing business in Iran.
More than 100 people attended the March 13 program of the Central New Jersey chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Silverberg asserted: “There is no greater threat to this country than a nuclear Iran.” Tehran, she said, is behind Hizbullah and other terrorist proxies, something she said she saw “every day when I was in the White House.”
Now on the advisory board of United Against Nuclear Iran, Silverberg said that when she left the government, Iran had 3,000 spinning centrifuges separating isotopes into products for nuclear fuel.
“They now have 8,000 in service,” with more scheduled to start up in the near future, she said, and Iran now possesses enough enriched uranium theoretically to build three nuclear devices.
Silverberg was critical of the Obama administration’s response.
The Iranians, she said, “are continuing to build facilities. We know they exist. In our view, our government has not acted with the same urgency.”
Nevertheless, she acknowledged, unilateral sanctions against Iran signed into law by President Obama went beyond those also imposed by the United Nations. Those international sanctions, said Silverberg, have adversely affected Iran.
“Now when you go through Europe you see Iranian banks shuttered because they are complying with the sanctions,” said Silverberg. “One of the things sanctions do is help drive a wedge between the people and the government and speed up the revolution.”
She also warned the United States not to repeat the mistakes of the first Iranian revolution, when Americans stood by the shah even as Iranians turned against him.
“We have to make sure our side is represented when this revolution arrives,” she said. “We have to make sure that whatever takes place, they know America is there to support them.”
Iranium, an hour-long documentary, was produced by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization that “produces and distributes documentaries on the threats of radical Islam.”
In introducing Silverberg, Gerald Ostov of Long Branch said he saw the film several weeks ago in Israel, where the reaction was: “You have to make sure the world understands how focused the threat is, and not just to Israel, but the whole free world.”