Metro

Bill signing recognizes R.I. divestment from Iran

A 2010 U.S. Congressional act authorized state governments to divest from Iran

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, October 21, 2013

Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 marked Rhode Island’s divestment from Iran with a ceremonial bill signing at the State House last month. The state’s decision to pull all public investments in companies operating in Iran is intended to increase political pressure on the nation to cease nuclear weapons development.

The legislation, passed by the General Assembly at the end of June and officially signed into law by the governor July 12, adds Rhode Island to a list of more than two dozen states that have already divested from Iran, according to a General Assembly press release from July.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin initially pushed for the legislation, acting on an initiative sponsored by the National Association of Attorneys General intended to motivate states to divest from Iran. “Rhode Island has taken a strong stand against a regime that engages in state-sponsored terrorism and human rights violations by divesting all state funds from companies that directly or indirectly do business with Iran,” Kilmartin said in a General Assembly press release from last month.

State governments were first granted the legal authorization to divest from businesses with ties to Iran via the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010, passed by the U.S. Congress in July of that year.

Rhode Island’s divestment means the Retirement Board, which operates the state’s pension fund, must identify within 90 days any businesses the state invests in that operate in Iran. Those companies would then be alerted by the State Investment Commission that they must end active operations in Iran within 90 days or face divestment from the public fund, according to the September press release.

The Office of the General Treasurer will terminate the state contracts of all companies that do not cease operations in Iran and rule them ineligible to bid on future contracts for a period of three years. Companies caught fraudulently certifying the cessation of Iranian operations will face civil penalties of $1 million or double the value of their contract, according to the September release.

“It has become evident that we cannot take our eyes off of Iran, which has been developing nuclear weapons. Perhaps more alarming is the country’s links to worldwide terrorism,” said Rep. Mia Ackerman, D-Cumberland, Lincoln, the sponsor of the legislation in the House, in a September release. “It is our job as a country — and the world’s job, really — to ensure balance and peace.”

“As leaders, it is imperative that we take a stand against a regime that seems to ignore the rules of being a good global citizen. We must do what is necessary to send a firm message to the Iranian government,” Miller said in the same release.

The move to divest received early backing from the state’s Jewish community. As the legislation moved through the General Assembly, the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island came out in support of its passage.

The bipartisan nonprofit group United Against Nuclear Iran also offered support for the legislation. “This bill shows that local communities across the country have a strong role to play in changing the Iranian regime’s abhorrent behavior. We’re sure that Rhode Island will continue to be a leader as the nation moves forward with this effort,” said David Ibsen, the group’s executive director, in an April General Assembly press release.

Shai Bazak, Israeli consul general to New England, also testified before the House Finance Committee in support of the legislation.

“Opposition to a nuclear Iran is one of the most bipartisan areas of agreement for the United States government,” said Zachary Ingber ’15, former president and current spokesperson of Brown Students for Israel and a Herald opinions columnist. “It’s a problem for not only Israel and its neighbors, but for the international community.”

  • Iran has consciously used sanctions to bludgeon its own people to make points with the global press. While its people can’t access capital, Iran offers a $3.6 billion credit line to Syria. While its people can’t find employment, Iran builds and operates 5,000 new centrifuges to enrich uranium and while hyperinflation wracks the economy, Iran dabbles in credit swaps to bolster its support for Hezbollah and now Hamas. Rouhani, a career hardliner, speaks of moderation, but ultimately Iran must demonstrate its commitment to advancing peace not by making demands on the world like it did under Ahmadinejad, but take steps to release political prisoners, halt public executions, restore open Internet access to social media, restore shuttered opposition media, prohibit the moral police from abusing women and step back from its support of foreign ventures in Syria. Economic sanctions can be quickly lifted if Iran’s leaders, especially Khamenei, took some of these
    steps, but I am not hopeful of such a change in direction, which is why these new sanctions are important to keep the pressure on. If you want to see what I mean, check out Rouhani’s career highlights at http://www.hassan-rouhani.info. The only real long term solution to Iran is regime change either at the ballot box or through street demonstrations just like the rest of the Arab world.