New York

Mayoral Hopeful Bill de Blasio Gets Involved in Foreign Policy, Targets Iran


Running for mayor of New York City? Well, you better stick your nose in some foreign policy issues — and backing Israel certainly won’t hurt your cause.

Enter Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is expected to run for mayor in 2013, and who held a press conference this morning — on a plaza on 43rd Street overlooking the United Nations — to announce the launch of a consumer action campaign to pressure companies to stop doing business in Iran.

Backed by groups Iran180 and United Against Nuclear Iran, de Blasio unveiled an interactive website called designed to target companies that are doing business with Iran and in some cases allegedly selling directly to Iran’s military. They are starting the campaign by focusing on twelve foreign car companies that continue to sell vehicles in Iran, despite economic sanctions.

“Iran is one of the greatest threats to international security,” de Blasio told reporters. “Iran is a profound threat to the United States of America. Iran is a profound threat to Israel, our closest ally.”

“For me, my interest and involvement in this issue happened very organically,” he continued. “I have felt for years troubled, disgusted by the actions of Iran, by the statements of its leader, by the Holocaust denial, all of the elements that have made so many decent people in this country and around the world deeply distressed by the actions of the Iranian regime.”

One way to fight the regime? Social media!

“We have in my office applied social media organizing approaches on local issues,” the public advocate said. “We found time and time again that using social media allows us to provide information to American citizens in a way that they can act on.”

This, after all, is kind of a local issue, given that some see New York City as essentially the number one target for Iran.

The new website is designed to offer consumers an interactive tool to explore what kinds of relationships different car dealerships have with Iran.

De Blasio, who is likely looking to court Jewish voters for the 2013 race, emphasized his support of Israel.

“New Yorkers should feel it is our responsibility to act — put pressure on these auto companies in every way we can so that we’ll ultimately affect the Iranian regime. New Yorkers feel the most profound relationship and connection to the state of Israel. And we well know Iran’s incredibly violent intents toward the state of Israel. New Yorkers should feel an obligation to protect the state of Israel by acting as citizens and consumers to constrain the actions of Iran.”

Speakers also announced that today Hyundai would be ending its business in Iran — lowering the list of targeted car companies in the new campaign from 13 to 12.

This isn’t de Blasio’s first time supporting Israel this week: He spoke out against a possible boycott of Israeli products at the Park Slope Food Coop — a debate which has gotten quite a lot of media attention.

After the news conference, the Voice asked de Blasio why it was important for him, as public advocate in New York City, to get involved in these kinds of foreign policy matters.

“One piece of this is a lot of my life and training — I have a masters in international affairs from Columbia. This was a part of my life and career at one point, and I carry the interest with me,” he says. “But look, you can’t talk about New York City and its role in the world without thinking about a number of other issues. We obviously are very closely tied to Israel as a city. The fact that we are probably the number one terrorist target in the world. All of these issues start to come together. On this one, it came from my trip to Israel in August and my views for a long time that Iran poses a threat to the world unlike one we’ve seen in quite awhile.”

He added, “We…[have] a platform, because this is New York City. We are one of the capitals of the world where I can speak to some of these issues and hopefully have a positive impact as a citywide official here in New York.”

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