By Bill de Blasio
There’s no question Iran’s corrupt and abusive regime is feeling the bite of tough new sanctions. These sanctions are our only hope short of armed conflict of stopping Iran – the world’s number one sponsor of terror and single greatest threat to the state of Israel – from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The clock is ticking. If we’re going to apply the fullest economic pressure to stop Iran, we’ll need more than governments to do it. Consumers – that means you and me – have to assert their power as well.
We launched www.IranWatchList.com earlier this year to do just that. Together with Iran180 and United Against Nuclear Iran, my office has been mobilizing consumer pressure to force Western car companies to cut their Iranian ties.
Unscrupulous automakers have maintained, and in some cases expanded, their Iranian business by exploiting sanction loopholes. But they can’t evade their consumer base here in the U.S. so easily.
That is why this past week I stood with strong allies in my anti-nuclear Iran fight to shine light on two luxury car companies that have recently increased their business presence in Iran: Maserati and Lamborghini.
These expensive cars are purchased by the elite and powerful members of the Iranian regime, who are the main targets of sanctions. The average Maserati sells for $300,000-roughly 1,000 times more than the average Iranian household makes in a month. These companies are also propping up the Iranian regime by allowing them to project signs of strength and prosperity to potential investors and Iranians living abroad.
We need to ensure that companies like this know doing business in Iran will cost them valuable business here in the United States.
On October 5, following months of reports that Maserati was planning on opening a dealership in Tehran,Maserati Center for Iran announced on its Facebook page that its new glitzy dealership had opened for business at 472 Mirdamad Boulevard – Tehran’s Fifth Avenue.
I joined with our former UN ambassador Mark Wallace earlier this month to give the two luxury automakers a chance to renounce their Iranian dealings. Neither said a word. Last week, we added both companies to our Watch List, ensuring that consumers looking to take a test drive would know their purchase could help fuel a nuclear Iran.
This is how we’re going to cut the Iranian regime’s economic lifeline. Maserati’s and Lamborghini’s actions are all legal. The car companies make use of non-sanctioned banks to handle all the sales transactions, and they are trying to cash in on their competitors’ exit from the Iranian market because of sanctions. But threatening their U.S. market makes them think twice. Almost half of the 6,200 Maseratis sold every year are sold in the United States.
Since the launch of our campaign we have successfully pressured four car companies – Volvo, Porsche, Hyundai and Fiat – to pull out of Iran. This is making a huge difference. The car industry is the second-biggest sector of Iran’s economy after oil and gas. Consumer pressure and tightened sanctions have led to a 42 percent drop in Iran’s car production so far this year.
The stakes could not be higher. We cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is a government that abuses and murders its own citizens. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a rabid Holocaust denier. He has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. With a nuclear bomb, he could hold the whole Middle East hostage.
And the threat to New Yorkers is just as clear. Iran’s agents have surveyed New York City for potential targets in the past year. As the number one target of terrorists in America, our city would be in profound danger if the world’s number one sponsor of terror acquired a nuclear bomb.
You can help. Visit www.IranWatchList.com and share it with your neighbors. They deserve to know if the car they are purchasing is sold by a company that is irresponsibly backing Iran’s dangerous regime.
Let’s send a message to companies around the world. You can do business with the regime in Tehran – or with the American people. The days of doing both are over.
Bill de Blasio is the New York City public advocate.