Alaska shouldn't be investing in Iran

Sean ParnellThe Philadelphia Inquirer

It's time for Alaska to pull investments with companies doing business in Iran.

With the Iranian government emerging as a growing nuclear threat and with its politics of avowed destruction of other nations, Alaska's funds should not be used to underwrite this regime.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report placed Iran under intense scrutiny for "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program." The agency is an organization of member nations -- among them is Iran -- whose mission calls for working toward peaceful use of nuclear energy and preventing widespread use of nuclear weapons.

After releasing an early November report, the director, Yukiya Amano, addressed the agency's board of governors. He said the agency now has a "fuller picture of Iran's nuclear program," and "the information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."

The Iranian government has a declared enemy: Israel. Iran's president calls Israel "an illegitimate regime" with "no legal basis for its existence."

Neither Alaska's Permanent Fund nor pensions should invest in companies that do business in Iran. We should not invest there as long as Iran's policy is the destruction of Israel and furtherance of worldwide terrorism.

There are those who argue that free markets, not politics, should drive investment decisions.

And yet, no free market exists when one nation builds a nuclear arsenal while it continuously and steadfastly advocates the eradication of another nation. The foundational principles of life and liberty are at stake. This requires action.

The United Kingdom is cutting ties with Iranian banks. Our nation is responding with economic sanctions. Twenty states have joined. Alaska should too. You cannot persuade a terrorist to disarm by looking the other way. Nor can you wish away petulance or implacability.

History shows appeasement does not work. It has proven to be a failed strategy. Standing on the sidelines and watching this play out is not an option. Appeasement was a classic failure during the Munich Agreement, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain mistakenly said those policies brought "peace for our time."

Appropriately, Winston Churchill weighed in with his own take on appeasement, saying, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

Unloading state investments, like from the Permanent Fund or our state pensions, comes as a last resort, one our state has refused to do when presented with the option in past years. Divestment is a dire step, taken during the most serious circumstances. It comes at a time when more modest diplomatic international efforts have failed.

I recently spent time in Israel meeting with business executives and government leaders, including President Shimon Peres.

My visit allowed me to reflect on a statement President Peres made last year: "A nuclear weapon in the hands of a fanatical regime such as the one in Iran poses a threat not only to Israel but also to the entire world."

It is an uncertain world and investment decisions are complicated. But one thing we should be very certain of is this: Investing in Iran comes at too high a price.

Sean Parnell has served as governor of Alaska since 2009.