GOP Mega-Donor Sheldon Adelson Funds Mysterious Anti-Iran Pressure Group

by Eli Clifton

Nearly one-third of anti-Iran pressure group United Against Nuclear Iran’s 2013 budget came from the country’s foremost Republican mega-donor, a man who invested a reported $98 million to defeat Barack Obama in the 2012 election, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson routed his $500,000 donation to UANI through his family foundation, according to tax documents.

Over the past six months, a number of unanswered questions have swirled around UANI. The Justice Department continues to shield information about the group’s internal workings from coming to light; the group hasn’t accounted for a mysterious funder who stands to profit from a confrontation with Iran; and UANI’s own president is out of sync with the group’s hardline positions.

But now we have some partial answers as to who supports the group’s vociferous opposition to negotiations with Iran, de facto advocacy for blockades on food and medicine to the Islamic Republic, and characterizations of the White House’s November 2013, interim agreement with Iran as a “disappointment” that “[provides] disproportionate sanctions relief to Iran.”

Adelson and UANI’s public positions don’t always match up but hostility for Iran and doubts about the efficacy of diplomacy are shared between the organization and its funder. UANI, despite issuing vocal oppositions to the White House’s negotiations with Iran, has avoided calls for military action; Adelson is far more outspoken.

Adelson, as reported by Connie Bruck in a June 2008 issue of the New Yorker, commented, “I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.” That message stands in sharp contrast to UANI’s claims of supporting human rights in Iran and seeking a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

The Las Vegas Sands CEO also told an audience at Yeshiva University in October 2013 that Obama should launch a preemptive nuclear attack on a swath of uninhabited Iranian desert (the first use of a nuclear weapon against another country since the nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima) and threaten that Iran will be “wiped out” if the country’s leadership doesn’t dismantle their nuclear program.

So how does UANI—a group which denounces Iran’s “incitement to genocide” for its threatening comments toward Israel—respond to their own funder’s calls for the nuking of Tehran, a city of 7.8 million people?

The organization’s leadership did not respond to requests for comment.

Adelson’s position as the GOP’s top donor in the past presidential election cycle may put him above criticism in many circles. But his support has come at a political price for groups enjoying his largesse.

Even the Foundation for Defense of Democracies , a hawkish think tank, which  received $1.5 million from Adelson and whose “Iran experts” have pushed for aggressive measures—including preemptive military strikes against Iran, found itself in an awkward situation when confronted by NPR’s Andy Carvin with Adelson’s proposal for preemptively attacking Iran with nuclear weapons at an October 2013 Capitol Hill forum.

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz, perhaps fearful of offending his billionaire donor, deflected the question and Reuel Marc Gerecht—who has advocated for attacking Iran so many times that, according to him, “even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far”—responded only that deploying a nuclear weapon against Iran “wouldn’t be my first suggestion.”

Indeed, both UANI and FDD have fallen short of publicly endorsing Adelson’s proposal for escalating, preemptive nuclear attacks on Iran.

But Bruck’s 2008 article hinted that a group or individual’s position on taking military action against Iran has guided Adelson’s philanthropic decisions at least once in the past. Bruck wrote that Adelson declined to lend his support to one Iranian anti-regime activist because, in the words of an interlocutor, “he doesn’t want to attack Iran.”

This article was published by The Nation on Jan. 14, 2014, and was reprinted here with permission.

Copyright The Nation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Isn’t the whole idea of a nuclear free Iran a worthy idea? Who cares who funds it? Heck I don’t care that George Soros funds a whole bunch of stupid ideas or groups either. Rich people are always going to do what they want with their money. I’m sure LobeLog wouldn’t turn down some generous largess. The only important issue is the end goal and making Iran and for that matter all of the Middle East, including Israel, nuclear free is a worthy goal. If I thought Greenpeace would have traction in Iran, I’d donate to them too if it meant a nuke free world. As a dedicated pacifist, I abhor the idea of nuclear weapons existing and think they should be banned and I especially dislike the idea of a religious theocracy interested in developing nuclear weapons or even nuclear technology. Iran and the rest of the world needs to invest in renewable energy sources and stop funding petroleum and carbon pollution. Most of Iran and the rest of the region is already in spiraling drought because of global warming and Big Oil is at fault.

  2. Sheldon Adelson’s primary agenda seems to be getting rid of the Palestinians, even if this means endless war in the Middle East.

  3. And Iran’s primary aim should be to renounce nuclear technology and oil and turn itself towards making its environment better and cleaner and being a force for good and change. Why not turn the desert in large solar farms? Why not invest in wind turbines?

  4. I’m curious Mike, do you know how many products are derived from 1 barrel of oil? As for wind and solar, there is that one thing that isn’t noted, that being the sand storm season. You might also note,m that no ware in all the Israeli based postings, is it mentioned what the results of “Nuking” Iran’s many facilities would have on the rest of the neighbors, not just the act, but the aftermath for years to come.

  5. So Norman, I bet you’re an advocate for fracking then? Many of the products derived from fossil fuels are replaceable with renewable and organic sources just as whale oil was replaced. If we replaced motor oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, and non-biodegradable plastics and harmful petroleum pesticides with natural products and sources we can finally put a halt to global warming…which has been the hottest decade on record yet! That is by far the biggest global threat out there. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, all those nations need to be weaned off oil and we need to drive a stake in the heart of these petroleum economies that use their money to just keep the rest of the world chained to carbon-based fuels.

Comments are closed.