Slamming on the Breaks

Nissan, Volkswagon, Audi, Mercedes, Mazda and Peugeot continue to do business with Iran, the world’s most prominent state sponsor of terror and a country that is pursuing an illegal nuclear weapons program. The Baltimore Zionist District and United Against a Nuclear Iran have joined forces with more than a dozen other organizations — Jewish and non-Jewish — to try to put a stop to it.

This Sunday, Feb. 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Baltimoreans will join together in front of the Baltimore Convention Center during the Motor Trend International Auto Show to call upon auto manufacturers to stop doing business with Iran.

“Grass-roots, private-sanctions campaigns … focus concentrated attention on specific individual companies that provide support to the Iranian economy and regime,” said David Ibsen, executive director of UANI. “This focus is extremely effective in increasing the reputational risks and stigma for companies working in Iran — particularly those companies working in Iran and the United States.”

That is the goal, said Brian Sacks, BZD president. He said his organization wants to educate the public about the threat of a nuclear Iran — a threat that he said does not solely impact Israel, but the entire Western world.

“Everyone needs to understand the global threat a nuclear Iran poses. This is a regime that doesn’t just say evil and destructive things, they actually carry them out through their surrogates throughout the world,” said Sacks.

The event was initiated by Jay Bernstein.

Bernstein said he has no illusions that this one rally will shut down the auto manufacturers or ensure they halt business with the rogue regime. Still, he wants to make sure these companies know that doing business with Iran is “repugnant” and also helping to bolster terrorists.

“I don’t know if what they are doing is legal or not legal,” said Bernstein.

“I want them to know it is morally reprehensible.”

Among the partner organizations for the event are Shalom USA, Harbor League, Endowment for Middle East Truth, Foundation for Democracy in Iran, Ruth International and several local synagogues.

The rally is coming on the heels of a new anti-Iran bill that was introduced by Maryland State Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim. Last year, the Baltimore Jewish Council lobbied for and helped pass the Iran Certification Act, which bars Maryland companies engaged in a range of commercial activities from doing business with Iran. The legislation, which Gov. Martin O’Malley made a legislative priority in 2012, was adapted from UANI model legislation that previously had been enacted by the U.S. Congress as the Accountability for Business Choices in Iran Act.

According to Cailey Locklair, dir-ector of government relations for BJC, the frustrating issue last year stemmed from the $20 million threshold, which for a state contract is quite large. Since that time, federal legislation has gotten more stringent, and recently, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act lowered the threshold of allowable investment in Iran’s energy sector from $20 million to $5 million. Accordingly, New Jersey inserted language in its state contracting legislation that lowers the threshold of allowable investment in New Jersey from $20 million to $5 million. The new bill presented by Morhaim follows suit.

“All this does is move our legislation to the point that it would automatically be as tough as any federal legislation is,” explained Dr. Arthur Abramson, executive director of the BJC. “It is just an amendment, basically, but it has to be presented as a full bill.”

Abramson said, “I am not worried about it. It should be an easy one to get passed.”

BJC will join with several hundred representatives of the Jewish community at this year’s Advocacy Day on Feb. 22 to lobby for this bill, as well as several others.

When asked about the rally taking place on Feb. 10, Abramson said he did not want to discount it, but he thinks appropriate legislation will have the strongest impact.

He said, “I am dealing with it on a much more global level.”

Crash Course

Which auto manufacturers are working in Iran?

Mazda: Mazda sells passenger vehicles in Iran through a distribution agreement with Bahman Group.

Mercedes: The company website lists Steare Iran Co. as the exclusive agent of sales and after-sales services for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in Iran.

Mitsubishi: The Mitsubishi Corporation operates an office in Tehran and uses Balli Middle East FZE/Arian Motors as a distributor there.

Nissan: Nissan has had a longtime relationship with the Iranian car manufacturer Pars Khodro, which has been producing Nissan cars and trucks in Iran since 1987.

Renault: Renault Pars, a joint venture between Renault, Iran Khodro and Saipa, manufactures and sells cars in Iran; more than 100,000 Renaults have been produced and sold in Iran in recent years.

Volkswagen: Volkswagen subsidiary MAN SE sells commercial vehicles through six Iranian dealers and is directly involved in the construction of shipping vessels for the Iranian regime.

Source: Jay Bernstein

Maayan Jaffe is JT managing editor — mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

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