Billionaire’s sketchy Middle East gamble: Meet the man betting on war with Iran

Eli Clifton reports: On the same evening last November that world powers announced an interim deal with Iran, halting its nuclear progress in exchange for a modest easing of sanctions, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) put out a statement complaining that the agreement was a “disappointment” and “provides disproportionate sanctions relief to Iran.” The group’s executive director, former U.S. diplomat Mark Wallace, suggested that no sanctions relief was appropriate as part of an interim deal: “By rolling back sanctions now, the international community is significantly lessening the pressure on Iran’s economy.”

That same group, at the end of July, turned up in a bit of intrigue: the New York Times revealed that the Justice Department had stepped in to a defamation suit against UANI to prevent the disclosure of documents revealing the group’s donors, among other information. UANI serves as a key pressure group for the enforcement of sanctions, frequently issuing reports and press releases about companies doing illicit business with Iran.

The Times reported that lawyers representing Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis, the plaintiff in the suit, accused UANI of receiving foreign funding and shaking down companies for donations. UANI had earlier accused Restis and his company of being “front men for the illicit activities of the Iranian regime.”

But it remains unclear what potential revelations the Justice Department is concerned about.

Among the pieces of heretofore undisclosed information the Justice Department’s shield might prevent from coming to light is the connection between UANI and one of the biggest investors in precious metals, Thomas S. Kaplan. Kaplan has emerged as one of the business world’s most outspoken proponents of investing in gold and other precious metals, investments he says will retain or appreciate in value during periods of political and economic unrest. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email