United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, non-profit advocacy organization in the United States that seeks "to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons." Along with other advocacy campaigns, the organization leads efforts to pressure companies to stop doing business with Iran as a means to halt the Iranian government's nuclear program and its alleged development of nuclear weapons.
In 2014, the United States Department of Justice intervened in a private lawsuit filed against UANI and requested its dismissal on the ground that the continued litigation of the case would jeopardize US national security. The government's motion was granted by a federal judge in 2015, marking a rare expansion of the state secrets privilege into private civil litigation in which the government was not a party.
The CEO of the UANI is Mark Wallace, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, representative for UN Management and Reform. Former United States Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman serves as the organization's chairman.
Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross were the original co-founders and co-chairman of the organization before being appointed to positions in the Obama administration. David Ibsen is the Executive Director.
In May 2012, UANI formed a transatlantic partnership to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank. August Hanning, former president of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) of Germany, is senior advisor to the initiative.
UANI is also led by an advisory board that among others, includes:
Previous board members
The top donors to UANI are a pair of trusts associated with the billionaire Thomas Kaplan and a family foundation operated by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. Together, the funding associated with Kaplan and Adelson accounted for more than three-quarters of the group’s total revenue of $1.7 million for the 2013 tax year.
UANI runs the Iran Business Registry (IBR), "a running database of reputable media and academic reports of international corporations doing business in Iran." UANI encourages citizens to use the IBR to increase product awareness, divest, contact businesses as well as elected officials. It also calls on companies to sign a declaration to certify their company does not do business with Iran. More than 500 companies are listed on UANI's IBR page.
In September 2009, General Electric (GE) signed UANI's "Iran Business Declaration" to not conduct business with Iran. As part of its pledge, GE will donate profits to charitable organizations from the sale of any humanitarian health care products to Iran.
In January 2010, the American chemical company Huntsman said it would discontinue sales in Iran after coming under pressure from United Against Nuclear Iran. UANI reported that one of Huntsman's subsidiaries was selling polyurethanes in Iran, a dual-use material which UANI said could be used in the development of solid rocket fuel. In a statement, Huntsman said, "The small amount of business done there does not justify the reputational risk currently associated with doing business with entities located in Iran due to growing international concern over the policies of the current regime."
In response to a UANI pressure campaign, the heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar ceased its business in Iran through its non-U.S. subsidiaries. As part of the campaign, UANI erected a roadside billboard near the company's headquarters in Peoria, Illinois which pictured a Caterpillar digger alongside a picture of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the slogan "Today's work, Tomorrow's Nuclear Iran."
UANI sought to link the activities of Caterpillar's wholly owned Canadian subsidiary Lovat, a manufacturer of tunnel boring machines, to Iran's alleged construction of tunnels to obscure and shield its nuclear facilities. Additionally, the Iranian company Arya Machinery, which marketed itself on its website as Iran's exclusive dealer of Caterpillar machinery, had been purchasing Caterpillar equipment from a Caterpillar subsidiary in Europe.
In March 2010, UANI also succeeded in pressuring the U.S. manufacturing corporation Ingersoll Rand to stop doing business in Iran. In a letter to United Against Nuclear Iran, Ingersoll Rand CEO Michael Lamach said that effective immediately, the company would order its foreign subsidiaries to cease any dealings with Iran "in light of very real and escalating concerns about the intentions of the current regime in Iran." At issue was the use of Ingersoll Rand air compressors used in industrial plants run by the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company.
In March 2010, UANI called on KPMG, one of the global "Big Four" auditors, to cut its ties with Bayat Rayan, one of Iran's leading accountants. In early April 2010, KPMG announced that it had severed its links with its Iranian member firm, citing "serious and escalating concerns" about the conduct of the Iranian government.
In correspondence with UANI later in April, two of other Big Four auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young, stated that in recent years they had both cut ties to their Iranian member firms. UANI President Mark Wallace declared it a breakthrough that none of the Big Four continued to operate in Iran: "What it says is if it’s too risky for the Big Four accounting firms, it should be too risky for other companies."
In response to the Iranian government's "execution binge" in 2011, UANI launched its "Cranes Campaign" in March 2011 with the goal of pressuring crane manufacturers worldwide to end their business in Iran in order to prevent the use of their equipment in public executions. Through its campaign, UANI has succeeded in pressuring Terex (U.S.), Tadano (Japan), Liebherr, UNIC (Japan), and Konecranes (Finland) to end their business in Iran. Tadano and UNIC, both of Japan, ended their Iran sales after UANI presented graphic photographic evidence of their cranes being used in public executions in the country.
In July 2013, Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis brought a defamation lawsuit against UANI for claiming that his companies were "front men for the illicit activities of the Iranian regime." In September of the following year, the United States Government (which was not party to the case) filed a motion asserting its right to intervene in the proceedings and requesting that Restis's complaint be dismissed because "continued litigation would risk disclosure" of sensitive matters pertaining to national security. On March 23, 2015 the court granted the government's motion for dismissal. Judge Edgardo Ramos cited four previous cases in which a US court had dismissed a lawsuit on the basis of state secrets when the case did not directly involve the government, but this was the first time in history when the case involved neither the Government itself nor a defense contractor in its employ.
In June 2013, UANI launched its Maritime Intelligence Network and Rogue Vessel Analysis (MINERVA) system. MINERVA "tracks Iranian vessels and identifies and exposes the Iranian regime's efforts to smuggle oil and cargo in circumvention of international sanctions." The system, which was profiled in The New York Times, uses "publicly available satellite transmissions from ship transponders, including data on speed, identity, direction and destination, and correlated the information with other navigational data and computer algorithms." The system then creates "vessel behavior profiles that could identify questionable activities even if the transponders were temporarily turned off." According to UANI, "the system had exposed possible sanctions violations that the group had then publicized, forcing the Iranians or their partners to change plans."
In October 2009, UANI worked closely with Representatives Ron Klein (D) and John Mica (R) of Florida to introduce into the United States House of Representatives The Accountability for Business Choices in Iran Act (ABC Iran Act) which would preclude companies that conduct business in Iran from receiving U.S. government contracts. The legislation was created to prevent Iranian business partners like Nokia and Siemens from receiving large government contracts as well as foreign banks like Credit Suisse from receiving federal bailout money. Representative Klein stated, "We need to send a strong message to corporations that we’re not going to continue to allow them to economically enable the Iranian government to continue to do what they have been doing."
In the run-up to the September 2009 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), UANI called on New York hotels and venues to refuse to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In its boycott campaign, UANI succeeded in having the Helmsley Hotel, Gotham Hall, and the Dubai-owned Essex House cancel events in which Ahmadinejad was to attend and speak.
For the September 2010 UNGA, UANI relaunched its annual "Hotels Campaign" and called on the Hilton Hotels chain to cancel its plans to host President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian delegation at the Hilton Manhattan East hotel.
In June 2009, UANI began a television ad campaign. The first ad, entitled "Unclenched Fist," called for the U.S. to place economic pressure on Iran in order to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. Regarding the commercial, Ambassador Wallace stated, "He [Obama] offered an unclenched fist. Now it is up to the Iranian people and regime to extend a reciprocal open hand."
On June 16, 2009, UANI released its second television ad, "Iran's Closed Hand," which was scheduled to be aired for several weeks. The commercial criticizes Iran and advocates the economic isolation of the country.
An international forum on opportunities in Iran’s natural gas industry scheduled for June 2016 in Barcelona was postponed by its organizer to December. UANI claimed responsibility for the cancellation.
In August 2016, French media reported that numerous French corporations had recently received intimidating letters from UANI with threats of boycott if they continued to seek business in Iran. An anonymous French CEO denounced it as a veiled strategy of the American government to advantage its own country's companies.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's permanent mission to the UN, said the Iranian government considers the activities of UANI "counterproductive and contrary to the policy announced by the new administration in early 2009, which purportedly sought to diplomatically interact with Iran." In an August 2013 Persian-language interview with Aseman Weekly, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, "The biggest active lobby against Iran is 'United Against Nuclear Iran.'"
Sasan Fayazmanesh, California State University professor emeritus of Economics, called UANI a neoconservative organization. Fayazmanesh stated that a video advertisement created by UANI used mostly false and fabricated news to encourage an urgent reaction to its frightening predictions of a nuclear Iran. The video featured suspenseful music, scary pictures of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis, mobs demonstrating and burning the US flag, massive car bombs from Iraq, and PMOI's demonstrations against the Iranian government, all mixed with pictures of Iran's nuclear facilities.