We all remember the Iranian uprising in June of 2009, or what became known as the Green Revolution. This was the one citizen uprising in the Middle East President Obama did absolutely nothing to encourage or protect. As the president sat on his hands and voted “present,” we all watched as an opportunity to overthrow the Iranian Mullahocracy slipped away.
What might have been the first and most vital moment in the so-called “Arab Spring,” what might have been our best chance at ending Iran’s nuclear program without an all-out war in the area, was allowed to wither and be massacred. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya, however, would receive all kinds of support from this very same White House.
The point of this is to be clear on what David Ploueffe knew in December of 2010 when he accepted a speaking fee from a subsidiary group of MTN Group, what The Washington Post describes as “an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran’s government.”
Quite laughably, in its headline, the Post also describes Plouffe as an “Obama associate,” which would be like describing Michelle Obama as an “Obama relative.” Plouffe was Obama’s campaign manager in 2008 and, just a month after making these speeches, this “associate” returned to the White House as a top member of the President’s tight inner-circle with an office just a few feet from the Oval Office.
Though Plouffe himself wouldn’t comment on the matter, the White House did, and their key defense is that, at the time, it wasn’t illegal to do business with MTN (which is true) and that this company, which enjoys a partnership with Irancell, a telecommunications firm owned by the Iranian government, wasn’t on any watch lists in 2010…
[White House spokesman Eric] Schultz said in a statement to The Washington Post[:] “At the time, not even the most zealous watchdog group on this issue had targeted the Iranian business interests of the host’s holding company. Criticism of Mr. Plouffe now for issues and controversies that developed only years later is simply misplaced.”
…Which isn’t true. United Against Nuclear Iran, a respected and bipartisan non-profit advocacy group committed to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, listed MTN on its target list in 2009.
Moreover, in December of 2010 everyone knew MTN had developed a partnership with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. To most of us, the idea of taking any money from such an enterprise would be unthinkable. For a high-profile figure behind the election of an American president to lend his image to this unholy union is nothing short of outrageous.
Something else that was known at the time Plouffe took this $100,000 is that MTN Group and Irancell were and are suspected of working with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to hamper the Green Revolution with the blocking of text messages and Internet phone services — the very tools that helped to organize the movement.
From a LA Times article published in August of 2009:
One of the country’s main cellphone operators, Irancell, co-owned by South Africa’s MTN, warned customers Sunday that it would be suffering unspecified “technical” problems over the next three days, which coincide with the anticipated unrest.
Today, MTN is facing international sanctions due to suspicions it’s aiding the Iranian government in using cell phones to track dissidents.
Also of interest is the fact that Plouffe only listed one speech on his financial disclosure forms, when he gave two.
Something Plouffe cannot claim is ignorance. It’s impossible to believe that in December of 2010, someone as savvy, smart, and plugged-in as Plouffe was unaware of the controversies involving MTN Group, especially in the wake of the tech-driven Green Revolution.
It’s also impossible to believe that in December of 2010 the MTN group didn’t see the writing on the wall in two ways: The first being the very realistic possibility Plouffe would return to the White House to aid Obama’s reelection; the second being the looming threat of international sanctions. The White House can claim that MTN earning a place on the United Against Nuclear Iran 2009 target list wasn’t on Plouffe’s radar, but it’s a safe bet MTN knew.
The Obama campaign’s response to the article was to attack Mitt Romney due to a financial interest in a company called Turkcell, which is supposedly attempting to do business with Iran.
Mitt Romney is the same candidate who failed to keep his promise to get rid of any investments in companies that do business with Iran – his trust remained invested in these companies for years after his pledge to divest. Mitt Romney had a financial interest in Turkcell which is attempting to advance its business interest in Iran. We’re happy to have a debate over what clients Mitt Romney’s advisors have chosen to advise – from human rights abusers to Chinese oil companies – but what is more significant is Romney’s own failure to keep his word when it came to Iran divestment.
It’s a weak response made even weaker by the fact that in 2010, Plouffe accepted a $48,000 speaking fee from this very same Turkcell.
The media, naturally, is treating these damaging revelations of a senior Obama advisor accepting a $100,000 speaking fee from a company associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as *yawn* tit-for-tat campaigning. You can practically hear them asking, “Can we go back to discussing something important, like Romney’s tax returns?”
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC