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Analysis: Hitting Iran where it hurts

So there's going to be a power vacuum in the middle east Mr Ahmadinejad?
by Claude Salhani
Washington (UPI) Aug 28, 2007
Amid continuing speculation of a pending U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities or possible raids targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, a group of activists is asking Washington to consider "terror-free investment" -- a non-violent tool -- as a means of pressuring Iran.

For years now the United States has barred U.S. companies from conducting business with Iran and imposed sanctions -- with limited success -- on the Islamic republic.

As was demonstrated in Iraq, 12 years of applied sanctions only ended up hurting the ordinary Iraqi and in the process augmented anti-American sentiments throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein, the primary target of these sanctions, continued to live lavishly in his many palaces.

The problem with banning U.S. companies from doing business in Iran, or with Iran, is that many of these companies found an easy way of circumventing U.S. laws simply by contracting with European companies, which are not under similar restrictions.

One important source of revenue for Iran is U.S. pension funds investing in Iranian banks, a little-known fact to most Americans. One such American was Gunnery Sgt. Mark DePhillips, who served with the 3rd Battalion/25th Marines. Addressing the Ohio State Assembly April 25, DePhillips told his audience, after reading to them the day's headlines from five of the nation's top print, television and electronic media outlets, that all indications were that Iran was arming, training and financing Iraqi militias fighting U.S. forces and other coalition troops.

"I believe it is important for you to understand that the Islamic Republic of Iran is contributing to the death of young Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan," said the former Marine.

He went on to describe how while serving in Iraq's Anbar province, 49 of his fellow Marines were killed in action. DePhillips blames Iran for the deaths of his fellow Leathernecks.

Back in the United States, DePhillips is a volunteer firefighter; as such, he pays thousands of dollars into the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund. DePhillips was aghast when he learned that money from his retirement pension fund was being invested in Iran.

"There is a grave and sick problem with taking my fire retirement funds and investing them in Iran, which calls for the destruction of our nation," he said.

That's where a group known as Divest Terror comes in. It launched an initiative to get individual states to prevent U.S. companies from investing pension funds in countries known to support terrorist groups. One of those supporting the initiative is Debra Burlingame, the sister of Charles F. "Chick" Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Debra Burlingame is co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, who with others, such as Christopher Holton, a vice president of the Center for Security Policy and national director of the Divest Terror Initiative, and Orde Kittrie, a former State Department official who worked for 11 years on sanctions and nuclear issues, are now working to convince the states to put a stop to U.S. pension funds being invested in Iran.

Missouri was the first state to recognize the issue of the pension funds' investments in Iran and introduced a "turn divestment plan."

According to the Divest Terror Initiative, a project of the Center for Security Policy, the project focuses on four countries designated by the U.S. State Department as sponsors of terrorism -- Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea.

The State Department considers Iran to be "the world's foremost sponsor of jihadist terrorism." And according to Divest Terror, there are some 400 public companies that do business with terrorist-sponsoring states. The group lobbying to see economic sanctions in the form of preventing investments in Iranian banks and businesses say "many of these companies provide critical revenues and advanced equipment and technology to these countries (Iran, Syria, North Korea and Sudan)."

Christopher Holton, from Divest Terror, said they can begin to see some headway being made: Just last week the California Senate Appropriations Committee held hearings on a proposed Divest Iran bill. The committee should vote on the bill at the end of August and it should be on the governor's desk by Oct. 1.

And Louisiana just passed a law that requires its 12 pension systems to establish a terror-free international investment index. This index will exclude companies that do business in Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea.

This index is the biggest thing to happen in the divestment movement in 2007, said Holton.

"It could open doors for public pensions, institutional investors and even your individual investments to go terror-free. (Terror-free investing: coming to your portfolio!)

"The Louisiana law is significant in that it was the only case nationwide in which the pension systems themselves backed the legislation and participated in its crafting. In every other state, the pension systems have fought us tooth and nail," said Holton.

But whether this solution will be enough to satisfy the more hawkish tendencies in Washington is another matter.

(Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times.)


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Former CIA Officer Says US Ready To Strike Iran Within 6 Months
Washington DC (RIA Novosti) Aug 28, 2007
The United States could deliver a military strike against Iran within the next six months, a former CIA officer told Fox News. In an interview Tuesday the U.S. TV channel asked Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, whether the U.S. was preparing for military action against Iran, citing Baer's column for Time Magazine on August 18, where he suggested that Washington officials expect an attack within the next six months.

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