The Iranian American vote

I have often been asked, “There are so many Iranian Americans in California, how come the Presidential candidates are not asking for our votes?”

This is a good place to start our discussions about the Iranian-American voter and our potential impact on electoral politics. There are so many factors that help determine the relative impact of any community on the political process, and certainly the number of potential voters is one important variable.

(Below the fold I’m going to start our discussion about the potential impact of our community on the political debate, and begin a series on the 2008 election cycle…)

In the presidential primary cycle however, the most important factor may be where you live. Early caucus and primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada have a much bigger impact on the issues candidates address. Since the Iranian-American population in those states is far smaller then the national average (The 2000 census claimed only 491 Iranians lived in New Hampshire for example), we tend to be under-represented in the process.

(To see how many Iranian Americans live in your state or even district, check out NIAC’s “IranCensus” report from 2003)

This year, for the first time in decades, it is conceivable that the parties will not have chosen their nominees before “Super Tuesday”. Only six states will have voted during all of January, and on February 5 2008, 20 states are slated to hold primaries to select their party’s nominees for the Presidency. California, New York, and Illinois (with relatively large Iranian-American populations) are three of those states.

In addition, this election cycle is somewhat unique in that of the 34 Senate seats up for election this cycle, fully a third are going to be competitive, in states such as Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, and Colorado.

The 2008 election cycle provides a very distinct opportunity for the Iranian American community to impact the political debate in certain states, and our community should take advantage of this opportunity.

Over the course of the next twelve months, and particularly over the next three months during primary season, I will attempt to inform you about the electoral landscape and opportunities for our community to impact the discourse on the campaign trail. Join me in the comments section to talk about your state’s elections or other electoral topics you might be interested in.

Posted By Babak Talebi

    One Response to “The Iranian American vote”

  1. Babak Talebi says:

    Since this post appears near the launch of NIAC’s blog – I have no illusions about the probability that there will not be any immediate comments.

    However, if you do come across this post even months down the road – feel free to post a question about specific Senate or Presidential primary elections you are interested in and I will try to answer them as best I can.

    As the political season progresses, I hope to provide you all with relevant insights about the races, and where I think the IA community can affect the debate.

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Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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