A Case for DivestmentDavid SmithA United States soldier is stationed in Iraq. This soldier is away from his home, his family, and his children. Today, this soldier will go on patrol to defend a people from a faceless enemy; this enemy funds some of the groups threatening to rob this soldier’s children of a father. Back home in Utah, this soldier’s childhood friend realized a small dollar gain in his pension fund. Part of it came from a petroleum company that generates profit for Iran, who in turn uses it to fund terror and illicit nuclear programs.
Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Iran has been gaining international attention. The country’s president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has denied the occurrence of the holocaust, called Israel a “stinking corpse” while concurrently denying its sovereign right to exist, and is engaging in various proxy wars around the world. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in financially and politically backing Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and various militant groups in Iraq.
In 1968 Iran signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. This treaty was designed to minimize and ultimately eliminate further nuclear proliferation and provide for the responsible disarmament of the existing nine nuclear states. In spite of this, Iran has been engaged in a nuclear development program for years. A National Intelligence Estimate published in 2007 confirms that Iran was actively pursuing the development of weapons grade uranium and plutonium until 2003. However, strong evidence indicates that Iran still has a weapons program under the guise of a “peaceful nuclear energy” initiative.
The United States congress formed a commission who, in a 2008 report titled “World at Risk,” asserts that Iran “continues to develop a range of technical capabilities, including a civilian uranium enrichment program, that could be used to produce nuclear weapons.” Further, according to President Ahmadenijad, in November of 2007, Iran had 3000 functional centrifuges. These centrifuges are sufficient to produce the highly enriched Uranium necessary for a nuclear warhead. According to the same commission, Iran has purchased nuclear weapons-capable ballistic missiles from North Korea capable of reaching Eastern China, most of India, Southern Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Egypt and 29 other countries within that radius. If Iran stays on target with its Uranium enrichment progress, the NIE estimates Iran could have enough enriched Uranium for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2009.
What would a nuclear Iran mean for the region and the world? The first implication is that of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. A frenzy of research and development would take place igniting a new era of “mutually assured destruction” defense tactics. Additionally, it would negate 48 years of the NPT’s work to eliminate proliferation. The second implication would be the leverage Iran would hold over other Middle Eastern countries unable to develop this technology. We could literally watch Iran seize power of territories and states in the Middle East broadening its power and control. Thirdly, we could very possibly see the first nuclear detonation on the planet since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, possibly on Israel. This analysis takes no consideration of the ramifications faced by our troops in the region.
Most of the international community agrees that intervention is required. The first option is that of diplomacy. The United States has had a policy for the tenure of the Bush administration to not directly engage Iran in any diplomatic efforts. Though this may change with President Obama, it is unlikely that the United States will be very effective in “talking” Iran out of its nuclear ambitions. The second approach would be a military option. However, the United States will likely not have the financial or military resources to engage Iran militarily without incurring a substantial debt and engaging in a massive reallocation of our thinly spread troops.
The third and most viable option would be crippling Iran’s economic system through economic sanctions and divestments. Iran’s economy is in dire straits. Their official unemployment rate is at 17% — though this number is likely higher — and their inflation is at 30%. A little more than 80% of their budget is made up of commodities, chiefly petroleum. Their 2009 budgetary projections were based on the price of a barrel of oil staying in the $140 range. However, due to the plunging of oil prices in recent weeks, Iran has undoubtedly entered into a critical economic situation. They will not receive the money necessary to sustain their now critical but exhausted subsidy programs for civilian welfare and further development of their nuclear aspirations. The mounting anger of the Iranian populace could balloon if the economic situation worsens. This presents the perfect opportunity to put an end to the Iranian problem without jeopardizing our troops, fiscal status, or principles.
The money invested in Iran through United States companies and state governments has been linked to Iranian activities of terror, proliferation, and murder. Utah is in a unique position this legislative cycle to pass a state bill (HR 211) sponsored by Representative Fisher that will eliminate Utah state pension fund investments in the Iranian petroleum sector. Utah’s pension fund is currently investing a total of $55.2 million in nineteen foreign energy companies with holdings in Iran’s petroleum sector.
Switching these investments to alternate energy companies in the same sector will have no effect on the pension holder, and would serve another blow to the Iranian infrastructure. The NIE was clear that efforts such as this would undoubtedly get Iran’s attention and put them in a position to cater to the demands of the international community.
This would greatly reduce their military funding to terror groups combating forces all over the region, and more importantly, reduce the funding for their nuclear development programs.
As a result, tonight, our soldier may sleep a little easier knowing that the threat is a little smaller. ?