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Are European Firms Aiding Iran?

Reuters is reporting that the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson is not only redoubling its commitment to work in the Islamic Republic, but may also be providing technology which the Iranian regime uses to crackdown on dissidents:

While Ericsson argues in the internal document that telecommunications are a “basic humanitarian service,” Iranian human rights groups say Iran’s regime has used the country’s mobile-phone networks to track and monitor dissidents.

An effort to win Iranian cash while limiting reputation risk may be one reason why Ericsson sought to keep its work secret:

The sensitivity of Ericsson’s work in Iran is made clear in a letter written by an executive of the company. On January 19, an Ericsson vice president wrote to MTN Group, a South African company that holds a 49 percent stake in MTN Irancell. In a letter marked confidential, the executive stated that Ericsson undertakes “to not take actions that could unnecessarily bring any extra press scrutiny and that could potentially destabilize the working arrangements in Iran,” according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.

As to MTN, Danielle Pletka explains why that name should ring a bell.

European efforts to do business in Iran risk sacrificing long-term gain for short-term profit. That companies like Ericsson and, according to Iranian protestors, Nokia have provided technology that Iranians say enable the regime to snoop on dissidents and their communications shows a troubling direction in practical European policy. Attempts to help—sometimes illegally—the regime bypass sanctions provides enough encouragement to the regime to doubt Western resolve. The Iranian belief that the West is all bark and no bite risks spurring the Iranians on to conflict.

Sanctions will not do the trick to discourage such action. Never mind: Both Congress and the White House have a bully pulpit to name and shame these firms, no matter what Russia and China might say at the United Nations, and regardless of how European governments may complain. It’s time to put Europe on notice: Hot air about human rights is meaningless when leading European firms enable the worst elements in the Iranian regime. And when European firms choose the regime over the people, they should never be allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy.


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