Joint Iran – U.S. Chambers of Commerce Efforts Planned? (Part 1)

What’s the truth behind this scarcely publicized announcement?

The U.S. Chamber’s Tom Donohue to Deliver ‘Annual State of American Business Address’US Chamber head
January 8, 2014 at Washington DC HQ saw this item reported only once in early December. In the ‘euphoria’ of the historic nuclear agreement, this announcement was made: “New U.S. and Iranian business cooperation coming within 30 days.” We waited for more details coming from the U.S., but they never came. An internet search revealed several interesting pieces of information, including the prospect of direct flights from NY City to Iran’s Kish Island!  Kish is about 11 miles off the southern coast of Iran, near Bandar. It requires no entry visa. ir-map-cia factbookBesides its billing as a ‘resort’ location, it is a hotbed of international crime syndicates and smuggling (cigarettes, cars, humans, you name it). But Kish island is also notorious as the last known place that Robert Levinson was seen in March, 2007 before he ‘went missing’ within one day.

Getting back to the Joint U.S.-Iran Chamber of Commerce rumors. I heard Attorney Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ’s Founder, speaking in December in an interview that he had just arrived in Europe and everyone was buzzing about the new trade opportunities with Iran that had just opened up. They were not talking about Iran’s nuclear weapons programs or three American hostages. They were talking business: new contracts and money-making opportunities with Iran from medical devices, military equipment, oil futures, construction contracts, spare parts for aircraft- you name it!

It turns out that the United States Chamber of Commerce, and presumably some of its membership, as well as several Iranian companies have the same idea. In fact as a testament that the private sector can move faster than government, if we needed one, they vowed to have offices open in each other’s nation within 30 days. If true, that would be by mid-January!

If you are skeptical reading this so far and think that surely no respectable U.S. company, and certainly not the esteemed Chamber of Commerce would have anything to do with ‘arch-enemy’ Iran. Right?

You could be wrong. Read on….world-map-green-with-dollar-sign_edited-1

According to a February 7, 2011 (that’s not a typo, 2011 is correct) report by Brian Beutler in TPM (TalkingPointsMemo):

“In honor of President Obama’s ice-breaking speech at the [US] Chamber of Commerce Monday, a source passed along this story from Iran’s semi-official Fars News Service.

The Head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mines Mohammad Nahavandian underlined on Wednesday that the US and European companies and economic institutions are completely opposed to imposing sanctions against Iran.

‘The economic atmosphere of the US and Europe is opposed to sanctions against Iran,’ Nahavandian told FNA.

Stressing that the American people are not interested in imposing sanctions against Tehran, he said that the US Chamber of Commerce along with seven other institutions recently sent a statement to Iran and underlined the US private sector’s opposition to such embargoes.” [Emphases added]

Larry SummersBeutler also wrote in his report: “A Chamber spokesperson was not immediately available to confirm the report, but it’s compatible with the group’s other, recent efforts. Early last year [2010], the Chamber, along with eight other business-friendly groups, wrote to then-National Economic Council director Larry Summers and then-National Security Advisor Jim Jones opposing Iran sanctions legislation.

‘The undersigned business organizations are profoundly concerned that current legislative proposals to expand U.S. sanctions on Iran…would significantly undermine the U.S. national interest,” the groups wrote. “While we agree that preventing Iran from developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons is an urgent U.S. national security objective, the unilateral, extraterritorial, and overly broad approach of these bills would undercut rather than advance this critical objective.’ [Emphases above added]

Months later, the Chamber claimed some credit for having changed the legislation.”

Link to the TPM 2011 article:

Now we know that anyone from Iran could say something and it may not be the ‘gospel truth.’ But late on the same day of Beutler’s first report, and likely because of it, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a denial – of sorts. They claimed they did not write a letter to the Iranians, but rather they provided a letter regarding how the sanctions have been harmful to U.S. business interests and the letter was written to the White House.

From Beutler’s later February 7, 2011 report:

“The Chamber of Commerce is denying a report by the Fars News Agency in Iran suggesting that they, along with several other business groups, sent a statement to the head the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mines underlining their oppositions to U.S. sanctions.

‘We did not send a letter to Iran, we sent a letter to the White House,’ said J.P. Fielder, spokesman for the U.S. Chamber. The Chamber is saying they never relayed it or anything similar to Iran directly, in contradiction to the Fars story.” [Emphases above added]

Link to Beutler’s second TPM article:

U.S. ‘Big Business’ lobbied against Iran sanctions for past 4 years!’s take:  So not only was the rest of the world business community angling to get into Iran for trade purposes, but so in fact is the United States at the highest governmental level and the highest business levels. Therefore, any allusion that the U.S. has been battling hard in the most recent years to cripple Iran via economic sanctions, is well – an illusion.  We know from other reporting that also came out after the November 24 Nuclear Agreement signing that sanctions were indeed loosened by Presidential waivers as a ‘sign of good faith’ toward future negotiations. Translation: sanctions were already being weakened, not toughened, leading up to November 24. Then they were weakened more, formally.

Our hope is that some reporters manage to hear Mr. Donohue’s ‘Annual State of American Business Address’  and ask about their plans for cooperation with the Iran Chamber, Iranian corporations or the Iran government itself (state airlines).


This is the end of Part I.


Part II will be published January 7.