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Profiting From Iranophobia?

By Jim Lobe (source: LobeLog)

Eli has a new blog post on The Nation’s website today that provides additional details about the curious - one is tempted to say incestuous - relationship between the staff of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and the corporate interests of billionaire gold and silver investor, Thomas Kaplan. It also provides more details about the relationship between UANI and Harvard’s Belfer Center, a major beneficiary of Kaplan’s largesse, which hired UANI’s president, Gary Samore, shortly after he stepped down as a top proliferation adviser to Obama in 2012 (some prominent faculty members also serve on the group’s advisory board). We excerpted Eli’s original Salon piece on UANI’s ties to Kaplan last Friday.

Eli’s latest is based on a recent filing by the plaintiff, Greek shipowner Victor Restis, in his pending defamation case against UANI. It adds new layers of intrigue to the alleged connections between UANI and Kaplan:

[Kaplan] got his start with help from the family of Leon Recanati, a Greek-Israeli entrepreneur whose family owns and still operates Overseas Shipholding Group (“OSG”), a rival shipping company to Enterprises Shipping and Trading. See Exs. 4, 5. OSG operates oil tankers that compete directly with Mr. Restis’ tanker company, Golden Energy Maritime Corp., whose initial public offering had to be abandoned in 2013 when Defendants launched their defamation campaign that is at the heart of this litigation. See Am. Compl. ¶ 97. OSG would stand to profit if Mr. Restis and his companies were no longer able to operate. Kaplan married Leon Recanati’s daughter Dafna Recanati and was introduced to Israeli investor Avi Tiomkin, by Dafna Recanati’s mother.

If this allegation is true - that Kaplan and/or the Recanati family stood to gain a competitive advantage by publicly charging (through UANI) that Restis and his companies were violating sanctions against Iran - then UANI’s failure to publicly disclose any and all of its ties to Kaplan would obviously constitute a serious ethical breach.

(This is not the only example of billionaire financiers allegedly trying to benefit from Iranophobia. As Charles Davis wrote for IPS a year ago, when the fight between Argentina and Paul Singer and other hold-out, or “vulture” bondholders of the country’s debt was getting relatively little media notice, Singer and his fellow-holdouts founded the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), which has led a lavishly funded public relations and lobbying campaign against the Kirchner government, including a host of full-page ads in national and Capitol Hill newspapers, at least two of which assailed Argentina’s ties to Iran and suggested that Kirchner was engaged in a cover-up of Tehran’s alleged - and highly doubtful - role in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. One even showed a photo of Kirchner alongside then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the headline, “A Pact with the Devil?” Singer, who has given millions of dollars to the Likudist Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), stands to make tens of million of dollars in profit if he and his other hedge-fund holdouts prevail in the case.)

In addition to the connections between Kaplan and UANI, which Eli had previously documented in his Salon article, the plaintiff’s filing alleges that UANI operates out of offices at Rockefeller Center. Those offices are provided rent-free by Continental Properties, whose managing director, Mark Fisch, co-funds an NYU fellowship with Kaplan, and whose staff member, Kim Hillman, has served as an UANI director. The filing also notes that UANI’s CEO, Mark Wallace, serves not only as CEO of Kaplan’s Tigris Financial Group as Eli reported last week, but also as an officer and/or director of at least five other Kaplan enterprises, as well. It concludes:

Wallace has not drawn a salary from UANI since 2009, so Wallace appears to be getting his financial benefit indirectly through UANI supporter Kaplan.

Read the rest of Eli’s piece here.

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About the Author:

Jim Lobe Jim Lobe is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the neoconservative influence in the Bush administration. The Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS), Lobe has written for various outlets and was featured in BBC and ABC television documentaries about motivations for the US invasion of Iraq. Read his complete biography.

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