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Palestine | U.S. | Anti-War

Is nonprofit "United Against Nuclear Iran" a Mossad front?
by Grant F. Smith, Director of Research, IRmep
Saturday Aug 2nd, 2014 7:47 AM
The U.S. Department of Justice has blocked release of sensitive documents from a group pressing for more sanctions on Iran in a defamation suit. What is United Against Nuclear Iran hiding?
   
 

UANI.h1.gifOn July 19, 2013 Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis sued the U.S. based nonprofit American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran Inc. (PDF) which is more popularly known as United Against Nuclear Iran. UANI was incorporated in 2008 and is managed and advised by former U.S. and foreign government officials. UANI's advisory board includes former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, long time Israel lobbyist and U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Frances Townsend the former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush .

UANI raises between $1.3 and $1.7 million a year in tax-exempt donations. Like all U.S. nonprofit organizations, the group is not required to reveal the names of its donors in annual public filings to the IRS. The group lobbies Congress and drafts legislation aimed at thwarting a program no credible intelligence agency including the CIA claims even exists—an Iranian program to build nuclear weapons. UANI obtains information about companies it suspects are doing business with Iran in contraventions of economic sanctions and issues news releases, letters, Facebook posting and blurbs through its twitter feed as "private sanctions campaigns" designed to pressure a targeted company to cease and desist. UANI, according to Restis court filings, acts as a judge, jury and executioner demanding "the targeted company or individual sign a sworn statement under the penalty of perjury refuting whatever charges UANI has made; submit to an examination of the business UANI has targeted by an auditor on its referral list; and subject itself to an audit and review by an 'independent' counsel.'"

UANI.h2.gifUANI's charges that Restis is a "front-man" for Iran are thinly based on UANI's possession of a proposal letter for Restis to meet Iranian officials in Greece and a second "consultancy engagement agreement letter." UANI has refused to publicly release to the public either of the two letters which Restis claims are crude forgeries. On July 3, 2013 lawyers for Restis issued their own "cease and desist" letter to UANI managers which triggered more UANI accusations and adverse publicity, scuttling a planned initial public offering and other large business deals.

Restis has received many death threats as a result of UANI's unrelenting campaign, being called "an evil, greasy, greedy bastard," a "Greek fuck," "animal," "crook" and "Christian pig." Restis is Jewish and claims he supports Israel and is opposed to Iran ever developing nuclear weapons. Visitor comments on UANI's Facebook page urge "hang him,"  "just shoot him" and "lock and load torpedoes."  Mr. Restis was approached by Rami Ungar, an Israeli shipping executive with no visible public connection to UANI according to court filings. Restis claims Ungar was a fixer who mysteriously knew all the details about the UANI situation. Ungar claimed that on behalf of the group’s supporters he was “authorized to try to resolve the issues.” Restis is having none of it.  In an April letter to the presiding judge, the Restis legal team claimed they uncovered information that UANI “is being funded by foreign interests” that like Ungar, were presumably also from Israel. Restis filed court documents to compel not only Rami Ungar's sworn testimony but also that of UANI advisor Meir Dagan, the Israeli former Mossad intelligence chief. Restis claims it was Mossad that served as the conduit between the source and UANI. 

UANI.h4.gifUANI's savior appears to have finally arrived—and it is the same one that in 2009 saved two AIPAC officials from suffering the public ordeal of a 1917 Espionage Act prosecution after using classified U.S. national defense information to try to precipitate U.S. attacks on Iran—the Obama Department of Justice. Presumably at the invitation of UANI, the U.S. Justice Department became "ex parte" to the case on March 10, 2014 after UANI lost a series of key battles to release sensitive donor and internal operational information. The Justice Department claims it is reviewing whether "certain information at issue in discovery is properly protected from disclosure pursuant to the law enforcement privilege" and has prohibited Restis from obtaining UANI files through a series of stays granted by the judge. On July 31, 2013 DOJ asked presiding judge Edgardo Ramos to extend yet another a stay on any discovery of UANI's secret files pending "review of a possible privilege assertion by the Government" until September, 2014.

According to reporter Matt Apuzzo, Judge Ramos finds the government involvement "very curious." Apuzzo subtly poses the question of why the Obama administration Justice Department is not indicting UANI under its zero tolerance policy wielded against whistle-blowers and journalists if UANI in fact possesses classified information. However the Justice Department intervention is no surprise to those who have watched Israel lobbying organizations twist and turn their way out of public accountability before warranted civil and criminal accountability for decades.

UANI.h5.gifThe Justice Department has observably developed a soft spot for protecting information wielded on behalf of Israel and its many U.S. lobbyists. DOJ has recently issued a blanket prohibition on the FBI from releasing any counterintelligence information about Mossad operations in the United States under the Freedom of Information Act. DOJ has protected from release the FBI investigation into another set of sloppy fake letters, the "Niger Forgeries" that were used to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.  It has quashed release of FBI wiretaps of AIPAC lobbyist conversations with Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler that led to 2005 Espionage Act indictments, among many, many others.

Restis claims his shipping businesses have lost billions of dollars under UANI's withering public relations assault.  But even without the unwarranted intervention of the Justice Department, Restis is unlikely to ever recover any damages. In a fatal error on March 7, 2014 Restis retained elite Washington laywer Abbe David Lowell as his lead counsel. It was Lowell who successfully defended AIPAC's Steve Rosen and Keith Weismann from having to face an Espionage Act prosecution in court as damning evidence remained bottled up and out of public purview and implicated Israeli embassy officials hastily left the United States. Lowell is unlikely to let the tip of the Israel lobby's nonprofit sanctions spear against Iran be sued out of existence by an angry slandered Greek no matter how compelling the evidence or potential damage award.