Has Your State Done Enough About Iran?
State legislatures across the country are debating social issues from women’s right to gay rights. Yet, seldom does the debate venture to the denial of basic human rights in foreign countries. In Iran, for example, a woman can’t leave the country without her husband’s consent, “honor killings” are encouraged, and the rape and torture of women in Iranian prisons is not uncommon. Why should state and local politicians and Americans care?
First, a nation like Iran that treats its own daughters and mothers so brutally will only feel emboldened to act with impunity and make the world a much more dangerous place if it acquires nuclear weapons. Second, social and economic issues at home will be rendered to the backburner if the U.S. has to deal with protecting itself from a nuclear-armed brutal Islamic regime, or from the proliferation of nukes triggered by Iran going nuclear.
Other countries have promised to protect themselves with their own nukes if Iran crosses the nuclear threshold. In short, a nuclear Iran will make the Cold War seem like a warm bath.
Recognizing that a nuclear Iran is the greatest threat in our time, the U.S. Congress has empowered local and state governments to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The 2010 legislation known as CISADA allows local and state governments to enact sanctions to pressure the Iranian regime between choosing its own economic survival or a nuclear bomb.
At least 29 states have enacted divestment legislation against investing in Iran. But much more can be done.
Unfortunately, some candidates care more about politics than taking a principled position on Iran. For example, the national non-profit, non-partisan organization, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), wrote a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California congressional candidate Wendy Greuel in April 2013 urging them to support sanctioning ships using the L.A. Port that also do business with Iran.
This was not a partisan letter.
UANI’s founding members include former Clinton and Obama advisers, including Ambassador Dennis Ross and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey. UANI President Gary Samore is President Obama’s former coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction. Several other Democrats, Republicans and respected scholars sit on UANI’s board.
The letter was also co-signed by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Los Angeles-based Iranian-American organization 30 Years After, among others.
More than one year later, Garcetti and Greuel have not responded to the letter.
It seems these local politicians are taking a queue from Washington.
Remember President Obama’s proclamations of “limited” sanctions relief of a few billion dollars to give negotiations with Iran a chance? Well, several months into the implementation of the Geneva Agreement, Iran has already received more than $7 billion in sanctions relief and is on pace for more than $20 billion in relief.
There are some courageous voices in the president’s own party that have taken a position of principle over politics.
During the last president election season, Rabbi David Wolpe, who gave the benediction at the Democratic National Convention, said that he was a “one issue” voter. The only issue that mattered to Wolpe was Iran.
For the progressive Rabbi Wolpe, who conducts gay marriages, the top issue was not gay marriage, global warming, gun control or checking off the “Democrat” box on the ballot. Lest there be any doubt, he stated “Although I recently delivered the benediction at the Democratic National Convention, I considered the act religious, not political — a blessing, not an endorsement.”
Wolpe is joined by the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Bob Menendez. Senator Menendez is responsible for writing our sanctions laws and is one of the foremost experts on Iran. He is also a New Jersey Democrat.
Menendez said the Obama Administration “rebuffed [sanctions] every step of the way” and that the president was “leading from behind” on Iran sanctions.
In a December 2011 hearing (readily available on YouTube), Menendez declared that the Obama Administration’s less than honest approach on strong sanctions “undermine[d] your relationship with me.”
According to Obama’s own senior party members, the sanctions that pushed Iran to negotiate came about despite, not because of, President Obama.
Many state legislatures have taken the initiative to make sure that taxpayer dollars do not go to companies lining the pockets of a brutal regime that stones women for suspected adultery, persecutes homosexuals and terrorizes its minorities.
Nine states – including our home states of California, Florida and Indiana – have all enacted two pieces of legislation on Iran, including divestment laws that focus on state pension funds and contracting laws that prohibit vendors that work in Iran’s energy sector from contracting with the state government. In addition, California and Florida have also enacted laws targeting the banking and insurance sectors.
But there are many more states that can still take additional action.
Has your state done enough about Iran? Where do your candidates stand on Iran? Our votes have the power to not let the greatest threat of our time become the greatest tragedy of our time.
Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), Tara Laxer is UANI Florida Director and David Peyman is UANI Sanctions Legislation and Media Advisor.