Pressuring those who do business in Iran
Questions for Mark D. Wallace
Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News
Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, cofounder and president of United Against a Nuclear Iran, will address the foreign policy challenge presented by Iran’s nuclear program at Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell on Saturday, April 3.
UANI was founded in 2008 by Wallace; Dennis Ross, former U.S. Middle East negotiator; and Richard C. Holbrook, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
NJJN asked Wallace to discuss the urgency of this issue and steps that should be taken.
NJJN: Why is keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear nation at the top of your agenda?
Wallace: I was a United States diplomat when I cofounded UANI. The Iran nuclear issue is at the forefront of national security. Right now Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism. It enables the current insurgency in Iraq. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad has called 9/11 a big lie. He has called the Holocaust a myth. He has called for the extermination of Israel. He is a dictator bent on violating nuclear nonproliferation. He’s an international outlier. Combine the horrible aspects of this regime with the fact that he is trying to weaponize his nuclear capability — it could destabilize the region and pose a direct threat to global security and our national security.
NJJN: Many NJJN readers are particularly concerned about the threat a nuclear Iran poses to Israeli security.
Wallace: As it tries to accelerate the nuclear fuel cycle and weaponize its nuclear technology, Iran in short order could be a direct threat to its neighbors. Israel is not too distant a neighbor and the reality is, Israel is the focus of hatred of Iran’s regime.
NJJN: Ehud Barak has said that it is unlikely Iran would launch a nuclear attack on Israel, and many analysts agree that Ahmadinejad’s goal has more to do with attaining regional clout.
Wallace: A lot of experts speculate on what is going on in the mind of Ahmadinejad. The bottom line is no one knows what Ahmadinejad is thinking. He is unpredictable and volatile and threatening. I hope Mr. Barak is right. I pray he is. But truly, we don’t know and that’s the danger.
NJJN: UANI has created an Iran Business Registry to identify companies doing business in Iran. It now includes companies receiving taxpayer dollars and working in Iran. What is the effort, what was its goal, and has it had any impact since it was launched in 2008?
Wallace: We tried to come up with a reasonable, thoughtful methodology to create a comprehensive list of companies doing business in Iran. Then, with the onset of the financial crisis, with so many businesses receiving taxpayer money in the bailout, we thought it was inappropriate for businesses receiving taxpayer dollars to also be doing business with Iran.
I like to think we have made an impact. If you look at the companies working in Iran over the last two years, you’ll find that GE has been pressured not to do business in Iran, Siemens recently announced it would not undertake further business in Iran, the Huntsman Corporation agreed to no longer make sales to Iran, Ingersoll Rand is no longer accepting orders for Iran, Caterpillar — because of our action — has chosen to forgo further activity in Iran. We believe every multinational decision to leave Iran will make it harder for that country to suppress the people and pursue illegal, from our perspective, nuclear weapons.
NJJN: What action would you like to see the U.S. taking with regard to Iran?
Wallace: It’s important that the United States, the European Union, our friends in Asia, Russia, and China all come together to put pressure on Iran and be united in opposition. We need to be united and concentrate our efforts on making the costs too great and the incentives to join the international community too great for it to [continue to] pursue nuclear weapons.
NJJN: What do you think of the idea of the U.S. focusing on containing a nuclear Iran rather than preventing it, which some analysts think is inevitable?
Wallace: During the presidential election, Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama, and Sen. Clinton all had the same position: that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Today Clinton and Obama still cite the same policy: A nuclear Iran is unacceptable. I am unaware of any change in official policy.
NJJN: But do you think the time for prevention is slipping inevitably into containment?
Wallace: Academics and the press can speculate on containment, but our policy has not changed.
NJJN: Do you think the UN will ultimately pass sanctions against Iran, and what, if any impact, will they have?
Wallace: There has been movement in the last two weeks on this issue at the United Nations. Russia has indicated it would be amenable to further sanctions. Even the Chinese have said they at least have an open mind on Iran. I do think the UN Security Council at some point will take some form of action. But I don’t expect it to be a silver bullet. The U.S., EU, Latin America, and Asia all have to hear the clarion call to isolate the regime.