The improvised explosive device (IED) cut my skull in half, from the left corner of my temple down through my jaw, and killed my partner Staff Sgt. William Brooks.
The Iranian-made roadside bomb that destroyed my Humvee while on patrol in Iraq in 2005 was part of Iran’s mission to exploit American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan by targeting U.S. servicemen. Deploying IEDs through its agents and proxies, Iran sought to kill and maim as many of us as possible. And their mission succeeded, as the regime was responsible for a quarter of American casualties during the operation in Iraq. If this is news to those of you reading this, that is because Iran escaped nearly all accountability for their deadly actions.
Now, twelve years later, Iran remains an international outlaw and force for instability as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Over the course of the last several years, Iran has also managed to effectively position itself as a worthy global partner, a dangerous misconception that was bolstered by the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015. The nuclear deal signaled to the world that Iran is open for business.
Now, American-affiliated companies like General Electric, Shell, and Fiat-Chrysler, as well as dozens of other companies around the world with significant business interests in the United States, see Iran as the next great economic frontier, a bastion of opportunity.
CEOs and executives who are haphazardly exploring the economic possibilities in Iran are turning a blind eye to the regime’s history of deadly human rights violations, ongoing support for Hezbollah—a sanctioned terrorist organization—and continued violations of international law, including arbitrary arrests and detentions of dual-nationals and money laundering.
Where companies see potential opportunity, we see danger; and there is no greater danger than the plethora of financial, legal, and reputational risks attached to Iranian business ventures.
Telecom companies think they are improving communication among Iranian citizens. And although such technology and equipment can be used for legitimate purposes, Iran routinely hijacks it in order to suppress its opposition, which has led to the imprisonment, torture and even death of Iranian citizens.
Automotive companies believe they are improving transportation options in Iran. In truth, they are working with an industry dominated by front companies set up by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s leading military organization and one of the key instruments used to suppress Iran’s domestic pro-democracy movement.
Manufacturing firms are providing cranes for Iran, believing it is part of a construction boom in the country. In truth, construction cranes are used to carry out the regime’s preferred method of execution, public hangings.
When companies point to the humanitarian nature of their dealings in Iran, they need to be reminded that there is nothing humanitarian about the torture of innocent civilians. There is nothing humanitarian about providing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with advanced technology that will in turn be used to target U.S. servicemen in the battlefield. And there is certainly nothing humanitarian about their equipment being used to murder dissidents.
These companies have a choice to make. They must choose whether they are on the side of a majority of the American public, which views Iran as the greatest state threat to the United States, ahead of North Korea, Afghanistan, and China— and therefore would stop buying products from a company if it did business with Iran—or on the side of the brutal Iranian regime.
They must choose if they will show solidarity with U.S. veterans who have been the target of Iran’s deadly attacks or if they are on the side of the IRGC, which continues to support the killing American soldiers.
American companies that do business in Iran are choosing profit over responsibility. And on this Veterans Day, when American lives are still the bottom line, there should be no executive, board of directors, or shareholder who aligns themselves against the safety and wellbeing of our citizens. The severity of the risks make this choice crystal clear: Iran is no ally, nor partner for American business.
Retired Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett is a founding member of United Against Nuclear Iran’s Veterans Advisory Council.
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.