Ibsen Lectures on Iranian Nuclear Threat


Although the latest economic sanctions against Iran appear to be working, David Ibsen, leader of a national advocacy group dedicated to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, told a RIC audience that much more must be done, including the enactment of state laws to discourage local investment in Iran.

Ibsen is executive director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). In his lecture, he said the “rogue state” is the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” which has taken a significant number of “innocent lives.” An international monitoring group is expected to issue a report within days showing increased nuclear activity in Iran “on several fronts,” Ibsen said.

Since “hard-hitting” economic sanctions were imposed on Iran at the end of 2011, Ibsen said, impacts have included a nearly 50 percent drop in Iranian oil production and a plummeting in the value of Iran’s currency.

Measures that barred Iran from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Brussels-based global provider of financial messaging, were particularly effective, Ibsen said. Iran was essentially cut out of Western financial transactions, he explained, a move that was more effective than the previous 30-years’-worth of limited economic sanctions, forcing Iran to the negotiating table in the spring.

One specialty of UANI is “name and shame,” Ibsen said, where the organization publicizes companies that invest in Iran in attempts to shame them into divesting. The tactic has worked with a major New York bank, a South African telecommunications provider, Caterpillar Inc. based in Peoria, Ill., and about two dozen other corporations, many in the gas and oil industries, according to Ibsen. American companies that manufacture the construction cranes Iran uses to publicly hang offenders divested after a UANI campaign, Ibsen said.

In Rhode Island, legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly next session to prevent state pension funds from being invested in Iran, according to Marty Cooper, director of community relations for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. The measure nearly passed last year. A second legislative proposal would prohibit companies with state contracts from doing business with Iran. Cooper urged those in attendance to support this legislation by contacting lawmakers.

This event was sponsored by the Jewish Community Group at Rhode Island College, led by Professor Ezra Stieglitz, and the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.