Most Saturday mornings, the Rev. Al Sharpton rallies his National Action Network on issues of civil rights and policing. But on Aug. 15, he made an unusual announcement: African-Americans had to back President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Sharpton urged hundreds of his fellow clergy to preach in favor of the controversial agreement.
Which made some wonder: What’s in it for him?
Sharpton has a history of speaking out — or staying silent — based on who is paying him. Corporations have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to NAN to gain influence with Sharpton, a key player in the black community and at times to ensure he will not target them as racist.
Coincidentally, if the nuclear deal is passed, sanctions will be lifted, and Iran will open to American companies.
One possible project is a 6,200-mile fiber-optic line linking Germany to the Mideast through Iran. The project, slated to cost up to $250 million, is called the Europe-Persia Express Gateway (EPEG).
AT&T and Verizon, which participated in a similar Europe-to-India pipeline, are barred by US sanctions from making direct investments in EPEG. That would change if the deal goes through.
AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are among the corporate sponsors of Sharpton’s NAN conference.
Sharpton told The Post he has no economic interest in the deal.
“I have no knowledge of what companies will be well placed,” he said. “I’ve not consulted them.”
He says his interest in the nuclear deal is about black soldiers.
“We have a disproportionate interest, being that if there is a war, our community is always disproportionately part of the armed services and that a lot of the debate is by people who will not have family members who will be at risk,” he told The Huffington Post.
“There needs to be a balance in this. Clearly, lobbyists and others . . . are pushing on their side, and there needs to be an organized effort on the other side.”
The agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capability in exchange for the United States lifting sanctions is expected to go to Congress for a vote next month.
Opposing it are key Democrats, including Sen. Bob Menendez and Sen. Charles Schumer, a Sharpton ally, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.
Sharpton said he has not consulted Obama, his political ally, about backing the Iran deal.
He said his support shouldn’t be viewed as unusual because he has taken stands on many other international issues, including his opposition to apartheid in South Africa and his support for lifting the US embargo against Cuba.
But Rep. Peter King, who opposes the pact, questioned his motives.
“Al Sharpton can have a lot of motives, usually the main one is self-promotion,” King (R-LI) said.
“First of all, only Al Sharpton can turn an Iran nuclear agreement into a racial issue. To me, it’s another attempt by Sharpton to get his name and face in the headlines.
I don’t know why anyone would listen to him.”