Are you Ahmadinejad’s Valentine?

 In Iran


United Against a Nuclear Iran thinks this is what’s going on in your brain if you buy Nestle chocolate.

United Against a Nuclear Iran is at it again with another bizarre holiday campaign.  The fear mongering continues (cue ominous music): you might be President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Valentine and not even know it!

UANI launched an online business registry last week to encourage the misguided divestment movement from Iran. As a hook for this effort, they sent out an alert today letting people know that buying Nestle chocolate for your sweetheart = helping Iran develop a nuclear weapon.

Never mind that UANI’s press release claims that Nestle’s business in Iran aids “a regime that is bent on developing nuclear weapons,” despite the Iranian government’s claims and the consensus of 16 US intelligence agencies to the contrary. Their Iran Business Registry states that Iran is “uniquely susceptible to financial pressure,” without offering an explanation for this claim.

While divestment and boycotts can be useful tools in some cases, years of coercive sanctions have clearly not helped to reach the US’s ostensible goal–positive changes in the Iranian regime’s behavior. United Against a Nuclear Iran and its hawkish advisors (possible Obama administration appointee Dennis Ross among them) are really doing President Ahmadinejad a favor with their heated rhetoric. Conservatives in Iran feed off of the perception that the United States wants to punish the Iranian regime. Heaping on yet more ineffective sanctions and encouraging divestment gives Ahmadinejad a nationalist rallying point, rather than turning Iranian citizens against him. With a tough presidential election approaching in June, Ahmadinejad will surely be turning up his rhetoric if we give him fuel for that fire. If your goal is to push US-Iran relations to the precipice of military conflict, as it often seems UANI is doing, then ratcheting up unilateral and coercive financial measures might be your strategy of choice.

If your goal, however, is a peaceful resolution to conflict that addresses US security interests in the region, then the great Nestle scare is taking us in the wrong direction. The Obama administration is saying a lot of the right things about engaging Iran—both in terms of policy points like direct talks without preconditions, and psychological points like using a tone of respect when addressing the Iranians.  Now is the time to fully break with the Bush administration’s failed strategy and create the political space for productive engagement with Iran, and UANI is actively undermining that approach.

As for me, I’m thinking this Valentine’s Day might be the perfect time to buy some Nestle chocolate and send it over to the UANI office.

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