President Trump has a new policy towards Iran. As Susan Wright recently explained, Trump has said (among other things) that “he would be instructing the Treasury Department to sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] over its support of terrorism in the Middle East.” Trump called this a “long overdue step” — and it was.
There is, however, one company that is clearly tied to the IRGC that is curiously not getting sanctioned: Azarpassillo. You’ll never guess what distinguishes this company from the rest. Yup, sure enough, Azarpassillo has done business with the Trump Organization:
After Trump’s speech, the Treasury named Shahid Alamolhoda Industries, Rastafann Ertebat Engineering Company, and Fanamoj as, essentially, tools of the Revolutionary Guard. Strikingly, the Treasury did not name Azarpassillo, an Iranian firm with a leadership made up of lifelong Revolutionary Guard officers. Azarpassillo’s leaders have been named by U.S. officials as likely money launderers for the Revolutionary Guard and, through their international construction operations, the company is ideally suited to provide W.M.D. components.
Azarpassillo has another interesting connection; one of its apparent partners in money laundering, the Mammadov family of Azerbaijan, was also, until quite recently, in business with the Trump Organization. In fact, for the entire Presidential campaign, the Trump Organization knew that it was actively involved with a company that was likely laundering money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is not a wild conspiracy theory; it is an acknowledged fact, confirmed by Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, and not disputed by the White House or any of the people involved. Ivanka Trump directly oversaw the relationship with the Mammadov family, led by Ziya Mammadov, a man whom American diplomats have called “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.”
Davidson first revealed the Trump Organization’s dealings with Azarpassillo in March, although I just learned about it yesterday. With a #FAKENEWSMEDIA that is notoriously hostile to Trump, it is curious how little play the story has received. Some Democrat senators have shown interest and asked questions, but the arrangement has certainly not been the subject of unrelenting consecutive days of television coverage.
Davidson’s pieces do not accuse Trump of a secretive support for the IRGC. Davidson says: “There is no reason to think that anyone in the Trump Organization was intentionally seeking to help the Iranians.” He notes that Trump’s top lawyer is an Orthodox Jew, who supports Israel and abhors Iran. But, Davidson explains, the Trump Organization has been licensing Trump’s name around the world to “people and businesses who were unable—or unwilling—to work with the vast majority of international companies which demand comprehensive due diligence.” The results are unsurprising:
A remarkable number of Trump’s business partners met one or more of the warning signs of troubling business practices: they had been investigated or convicted of fraud or other economic crimes; they were government officials in a position to abuse their power for financial gain; or they were secretive entities, hidden behind shell companies.
It’s not that Trump is trying to help the IRGC. It’s that the Trump Organization has been willfully blind to the shady doings of many of its business partners. As Davidson noted in his March piece, this may have violated the law, as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act “made it a crime for an American company to unknowingly benefit from a partner’s corruption if it could have discovered illicit activity but avoided doing so.”
If Trump were to include Azarpassillo on the list of sanctioned companies, it would be an open admission by the administration that the Trump Organization has done business with a company connected to the Revolutionary Guard and money laundering. And Trump’s motto is: no matter how obviously true something is, you don’t admit it if it hurts Donald Trump. Apparently, even if it is in the nation’s security interest.
I’m frankly at a loss as to how Trump supporters will defend this. The salient facts are beyond dispute. Azarpassillo is run by IRGC officers. The Mammadovs’ connection to the Revolutionary Guard has been publicly known for several years. The Trump Organization’s lawyer “learned of the Mammadov family’s likely relationship to Azarpassillo in the summer of 2015.”
By leaving Azarpassillo off the list of sanctioned companies, Trump is putting his personal interests ahead of the interests of the country. Similarly, those who defend him on this are sacrificing the interests of the United States in favor of their narrow partisan interest in defending Donald Trump, come hell or high water.
UPDATE: Commenters at my site point out that I should have been more careful to note in the post that, according to Davidson, the Trump Organization did business, not directly with a company run by the IRGC, but with a corrupt money-laundering partner of a company run by the IRGC. I don’t think this renders Trump’s decision not to sanction Azarpassillo any less suspect. The mileage of Trump partisans may vary and probably does.