The sanctions adopted by the United Nations are too weak, too puny and too late to have any deterrent effect on Iran's drive to build a nuclear bomb. But there is something the U.S. government, state governments, labor unions, pension funds and each of us as individuals can do: We can stop investing in companies that help Iran exploit the oil and gas resources on which its economy depends.
Investment funds - including pension funds - all over America are helping Iran develop the nuclear weapons that will eventually threaten us by investing in companies that directly subsidize Iran. We must all band together to stop these self-defeating investments.
Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era Pentagon official, is pioneering the way via his group, disinvestterror.org. Sarah Steelman, Missouri's state treasurer, has followed his lead - the billion-dollar state pension funds have pulled investments in any company that abets terrorism.
Among Steelman's first targets were the Swiss giant UBS Finance and the French firm BNP Paribas Finance Inc. Both got kicked off the Missouri funds' list of approved brokers. UBS got the message and pulled out of Iran; it's now seeking readmission to Missouri's list. But BNP Paribus still works there.
Indeed, it's an old friend of the Iranian regime. It headed a consortium that lent $1 billion to Iran Petrochemical Commercial Co. in September 2005. In 2002, it was central to Iran's sale of $1.1 billion in bonds - the first foreign Iranian bonds for sale since 1979.
Gaffney's targets include Royal Dutch Shell, the multinational oil conglomerate. It has extensive holdings in the key Iranian offshore oil fields Soroush and Nowruz, where its investments have been pivotal in raising oil output by 190,000 barrels per day - about an 8 percent increase in total Iranian output. (In October, Shell diversified its terror portfolio - winning contracts to search for and pump oil in Syria.)
In an ideal world, of course, there'd be real U.N. sanctions against Tehran, as well as strong action by the federal government. But vested interests make either near-impossible to achieve.
Back in the '90s, for example, then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato pushed through sanctions against foreign firms that do business in two terror-sponsoring nations, Libya and Iran. But the Europeans protested vigorously that the law was an extraterritorial infringement of their sovereignty. So, while President Clinton signed the bill, he took the advice of National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and waived any application of the law.
But there's an alternative to shutting down Iran's economy in one fell swoop - the death of a thousand cuts, via smaller-scale actions. The Gaffney approach aims at the same goals as D'Amato's, but by private means.
And Steelman has added an important state component to the drive. Other public fund managers should pay heed. Here in New York, that means city Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and the successor to Alan Hevesi as state comptroller.
Companies in the New York area should join in - and focus on persuading their banks to join the disinvestment project. Unions should direct their pension funds to do the same.
Even more than the rest of America, the town that is Terror Target No. 1 has good reason to end Iran's nuclear ambitions.