On October 15, the Europe-Iran Forum was held at the Grosvenor Square Hotel in London. Citing an "expected rollback of the current international sanctions against Iran," the event was organized to "properly prepare and evaluate the post-sanctions trade framework and investment opportunities."
Speakers and sponsors of the event included:
Rouzbeh Pirouz, the Deputy President of Iralco, an Iranian company subjected to sanctions by the European Union, which has accused it of "directly supporting Iran's proliferation sensitive nuclear activities." Pirouz sits on the board of the Iranian Heritage Foundation, a British charity established by Vahid Alaghband, an Iranian businessman linked with the regime.
Sifiso Dabengwa, who runs the MTN Group, which anti-regime lobby groups have accused of working to "help the Iranian regime terrorize and oppress its citizens," and acting as "a complicit partner of the Iranian regime.
Majid Zamani, Chief Executive of Kardan Investment Bank, a leading Iranian financial firm, the three leading shareholders of which are listed on the U.S. Treasury's sanctions list of Specially Designated Nationals. In 2012, the European Union reported that one of the shareholders, Bank Tejarat, helped finance the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran's attempts to acquire yellowcake uranium.
Mohammad Reza Ansari, the Chairman of Kayson, an Iranian company allegedly "affiliated with the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]," and included on a list published by the British government of companies possibly involved with Iran's weapons of mass destruction programmes. A report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS] has claimed that Kayson's Venezuelan operations are "supervised by Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel." In 2013, Tahmasb Mazaheri, a former governor of the Iran Central Bank, was detained at a German Airport after he was found to be carrying a check for $70 million belonging to Kayson.
Amir Ali Amiri, the founding partner of Avarya Capital Ltd, a finance company sponsoring the Forum. Avarya has invested in Iran's Karafarin Bank and Middle East Bank, both of which are also included on the U.S. Treasury's list of designated companies.
By encouraging the removal of sanctions, the Europe-Iran Forum evidently acted in Tehran's interests. The Europe-Iran Forum's website, in fact, openly features a letter of commendation from the Iranian President's office praising the event as example of the organizers' "honourable endeavours for Iran."
The organizers of the Europe-Iran Forum apparently understood the agenda of their speakers -- they refused to allow a number of journalists to attend. Iranian state media, meanwhile, was there in force.
While Iran attempts to lobby itself out of sanctions in London, it continues to sponsor terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah; finances and assists the cruelties of Assad's Syria, where Iran's Qods Force and paramilitary groups are responsible for the mass-murder of thousands; and it is presently supporting Yemen's Houthi terrorist group, which now controls 14 of Yemen's 20 provinces and much of its capital city, Sana'a.
Leading politicians, British government officials and businessmen nevertheless seemed happy to attend and speak at the Europe-Iran Forum.
Other attendees included Edward Oakden, Director of the Middle East and North Africa section at Britain's Foreign Office; Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of the marketing communications giant, WPP; Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran; Hubert Verdine, France's former Foreign Minister; and Jack Straw, Britain's former Foreign Secretary.
In February 2014, Sir Richard Dalton joined the board of the American-Iranian Council, a group that actively campaigns to end Western sanctions against Iran. The group was founded in 1997 by Houshang Amirahmadi, whom the National Council of Resistance of Iran has described as "a lobbyist for the Iranian regime."
Iranian dissidents have accused Hubert Verdine of acting in Tehran's interests on a number of occasions. In 1998, for example, Verdine was accused of arranging the arrest of a French-Iranian opposition activist to appease the Iranian regime. The same year, Verdine was reported to have arranged the release of a convicted Iranian as part of "another French concession to Tehran."
The most notable Western attendee, however, is former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who has a long history of working with the Iranian government. In 2003, Straw and Richard Dalton negotiated a deal with Iran, in which coalition forces would bomb Iranian dissidents living in Iraq in return for a promise by Tehran not to interfere with the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq -- a promise the regime did not keep. The coalition's bombing of non-combatant Iranian dissidents killed fifty people.
Most recently, in September 2014, Straw wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph in which he praised the Rouhani government; advocated that Iran should be allowed to continue its research of nuclear technology, and encouraged the West to work with Iran to achieve "stability in Syria, northern Iraq and the Lebanon" -- a remarkable statement, given that Iran is the source of the instability.
Not everyone chose to dismiss the connection of the conference with the regime: after listening to the objections of anti-regime activists, Danish engineering firm FLSmidth withdrew from the event.
Leading British businessman Martin Sorrell did attend the event, but blithely called upon Iran to resolve the nuclear crisis with the West and recognize the state of Israel. Dr. Emmanuel Navon, an academic based in Jerusalem, stated that Sorrell's comments were "worse than naive."
The current negotiations between Iran and the West on Iran's nuclear program are expected to conclude on November 24. Under President Rouhani, the Iranian regime has redoubled its attempts to ensure the easing of Western sanctions. Despite efforts to portray his government as the moderate successor to Ahmadinejad's regime, according to Iranian opposition groups, 800 Iranians were executed during President Rouhani's first year in office.
The Europe-Iran Forum marks Iran's preparations for a nuclear-capable Iran in a comfortable post-sanctions world, for which the regime is advocating in spite of its continued sponsorship of terror abroad and the oppression of its citizens at home.
Yet it is politicians and businessmen from the West working to aid the regime's duplicity. A nuclear Iran, unencumbered by sanctions, will not be pleasant for the free world. It would be far better for international security to stand firm against Iran, and not be distracted by deep pockets and false smiles.