Advocacy group pushes tighter sanctions against Iran

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Bob Feferman, Midwest coordinator for the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, believes that his organization’s “unprecedented success in pressuring multinational corporations to cease business in Iran, has alerted the business community of the serious financial and reputational risks of doing business with the Iranian regime.”

Feferman, 59, was in St. Louis last week to meet with local Jewish leaders in preparation for a return visit next month. His organization, which includes such key foreign policy luminaries as Dennis Ross, Admiral James Woolsey and former United Nations Ambassador Mark Wallace on its board, seeks to put maximum economic pressure on Iran through expanded sanctions in order to persuade its regime to stop its efforts to enrich uranium and develop nuclear weapons.

In addition to serving as Midwest coordinator for UANI, Feferman serves as the lay chairman of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of South Bend, Ind. In 2009, he helped to initiate and support the divestment legislation in the Indiana General Assembly that required Indiana’s state pension funds to divest from holdings in companies working in Iran’s energy sector. In 2011, he helped to initiate and support a UANI legislative initiative in the Indiana General Assembly that was passed by the legislature and signed into law in 2012. For the past 19 years, Feferman has worked as a middle school history teacher in South Bend. In the 1970s, he lived in Israel for 11 years and served in the Israel Defense Forces.

The Jewish Light caught up with Feferman during his visit to the community.

What exactly is United Against Nuclear Iran, and what are its goals and objectives?

We were created about four years ago. UANI is a non-partisan, not-for-profit advocacy group, based in New York City. We are dedicated solely to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

How did UANI get started?

It was created by the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; former CIA director and Ambassador James Woolsey, and Ambassador Mark Wallace, the latter of whom serves as our CEO. David Ibsen serves as our executive director.

Is UANI a specifically Jewish group, or does it have a broader base?

Our founders group, our board and our advisory committee are all broadly based. Among the board members are Graham Allison, director of Harvard’s Belfer Center; Frances Townsend, former U.S. Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser; Irwin Cotler, former member of the Canadian Parliament; Sir Richard Dearlove, former chief of the British M16 and Meir Dagen, former director of the Israeli Mossad.

What is your organization’s take on the likelihood that Israel will take direct military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?

Our organization is totally dedicated to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran through use of economic sanctions. What we are saying is that before any exploring of the military options, would it not make sense to totally exhaust the economic sanctions on Iran? Although the sanctions that have been put in place by the U.S. government and the European Union are extensive, there’s a lot more that needs to be done.

UANI is calling for is a total economic embargo on Iran, with the exception of food and medicine.

With Russia and China consistently using their vetoes to stop any meaningful U.N. Security Council action against Iran, how realistic is your objective? Won’t Russia and China continue to do business with Iran?

That’s a good question. What UANI does is work in different areas. We do public sanctions, promoting legislation at the national level, and at the state level.

Does that include the state of Missouri?

In Missouri, the local Regional Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, with its able director Nancy Lisker, promoted a piece of our model legislation, called Iran Contracting Legislation. Credit to the AJC for that initiative. It was vetoed by the governor because it was “bundled” with other items, and we hope that a stand-alone substitute will pass and believe the governor will promptly sign it. We support AJC and JCRC in renewing this effort.

What about legislative action at the federal, U.S. Congressional level?

We have had great success at that level. The 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), included elements of UANI model legislation such as using the procurement powers of the Federal government to force companies to choose between doing business in Iran’s energy sector or with the U.S government.

How successful have UANI’s efforts been in directly dealing with private companies?

UANI campaign successes include major Fortune 500 companies, including, along with others, General Electric, Siemens, Royal Dutch Shell, Huntsman, Ingersoll Rand, KMPG, Caterpillar, Kamatsu and Fiat, who have all agreed to end or curtail their business in Iran.

Does UANI get involved in advocating for the human rights of citizens in Iran who rebelled against the regime in the ‘Green Revolution’ in 2009?

UANI’s private sanctions campaigns also target the most brutal behaviors of the Iranian regime that seek to intimidate and terrorize the Iranian people. The UANI Cranes campaign is one example. Last year, the organization Iran Human Rights reported that the Iranian regime carried out 676 executions. At least 65 of these were public hangings, using building cranes. There is no doubt that many of the victims were political dissidents. Thanks to pressure raised by UANI, several international manufacturers of building cranes have now ended their business relationships in Iran.

How can American citizens concerned about Iran getting nuclear weapons help in this effort?

By supporting the grass-roots efforts of UANI, Americans can help to prevent the world’s leading sponsor of terror from acquiring the ultimate weapon of terror. People wanting more information can visit our website at