Diplomacy

Expert: Iran Will Exploit Growing Commercial Ties With West To Increase Repression

Western corporations rushing to take advantage of the removal of economic sanctions on Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal may find themselves implicated in the regime’s repression, Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warned Wednesday in an article written for Forbes.

Leading the rush to rekindle business with Iran was Germany’s economic minister and vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who recently spent the weekend in Tehran with a delegation of business representatives from engineering giants Siemens and Linde, and automobile manufactures Volkswagen and Mercedes. Iran’s state-owned news site IRNA said Germany and the Islamic Republic are slated to hold their first economic conference in over a decade.

What went unnoticed in Gabriel’s visit is the misuse of Western technology for repression. Take one salient example: The communications giant Nokia-Siemens (since renamed Nokia Networks) sold Iran advanced surveillance technology in 2008. A year later, the equipment enabled Tehran to disrupt internet usage during the pro-democracy Green Movement protests. Iranians were outraged and urged a boycott of the company. …

Hence blue-chip companies like Siemens could suffer a reputational black eye – and corresponding drop in sales – if Iran manipulates the technology for nefarious purposes. In 2009, members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating that Nokia-Siemens surveillance equipment played a crucial role in the persecution and arrests of Iranian dissidents, and called for a ban on the sale of such technology. American legislators have advocated similar penalties.

Given Iran’s record, Weinthal warned, Western companies must consider “whether the prospect of short-term profits is worth joining hands with a radical theocracy that leads the world in terror sponsorship while oppressing its own long-suffering citizens.”

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