• 8 January 2008
  • Posted By Babak Talebi
  • Election 2008, Presidential 2008 Elections

As the national Presidential elections heat up after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, the Iranian American community can look forward to its participation in the states where it overwhelmingly resides.  On February 5th, 50.9% of Democratic delegates and 44% of Republican delegates to the national conventions will be selected from states including California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Minnesota.

Iranian-Americans have a real opportunity to affect the outcome of some of these elections for both the Republican and the Democratic parties.  However, we can only do this as a community if we are informed about the process and participate in great numbers.  This month, NIAC published an article on the potential Iranian-American influence in the Presidential Primary process that I hope helps further educate our community.

Below are a few thoughts on the candidates and I welcome you to join the conversation about these important elections.

As a 501c(3) organization, NIAC obviously has to remain non-partisan and can not recommend candidates for the community.  But I can try to illuminate how they have explained their positions relating to US-Iran relations during their campaigns.  

On the Democratic side

All the candidates seem to espouse some form of closer diplomatic engagement.  However, all of them, except for Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), have also used the phrase “all options are on the table.”  Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL), who after the Iowa primary and today’s expected New Hampshire win, looks very strong to become the Democratic nominee, explicitly stated in an October interview with the NY Times that he would “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran (Emphasis Added).

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has taken the most hawkish line among the Democratic candidates.  In fact, in an October debate in Philadelphia, her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman resolution received uniform derision from the rest of the candidates with MSNBC reporting that “The contention over the Iran resolution was the sharpest disagreement in a debate that saw Clinton, D-N.Y., come under a gang assault from a field of rivals hoping to chip away at her commanding lead in national polls.”

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), polling third nationally, has focused mostly on domestic priorities during the campaign.  Although he has not made diplomacy with Iran a centerpiece of his foreign policy positions, he did strongly disagree with the Kyl-Lieberman resolution stating “I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted.”

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Kucinich (D-OH), currently polling fourth and fifth respectively in NH, are candidates who have made their commitment to diplomatic engagement with Iran one of the central tenants of their foreign policy platform. 

On the Republican side

With no clear front runner emerging yet, the candidates hold various (though generally more hawkish) views on US-Iran relations. Except for Rep Ron Paul (R-TX), all the candidates generally support President Bush’s current policy towards Iran and in some cases have tried to out-hawk each other vis-à-vis Iran.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the surprise winner of the Iowa caucuses, and currently considered the “frontrunner” nationally (as of Jan. 6), was reported to have “urged consideration of restoring diplomatic relations with Iran”.  In the same Sept 28 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, he “criticized President Bush for naming Iran as part of the ‘axis of evil’.”  Though it is unclear whether he will be the Republican’s eventual nominee, it is interesting to note that the frontrunners in both parties have the most pro-dialogue positions.

Sen. John McCain, currently locked in a dead-heat with Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the NH primary caught a lot of national attention for jokingly singing “‘bomb Iran’?  Bomb bomb bomb, well anyway…”  McCain, who was endorsed by Hawkish Sen. Joe Liebermann (I-CT) has also been quoted as having said “I believe that this [attacking Iran’s nuclear sites] is a possibility that is maybe closer to reality than we are discussing tonight.”

Romney, like most of the Republican candidates has taken a hard-line stating that “Proposing that we negotiate with terrorist regimes like Iran… is just counter-productive.” 

Rudi Giuliani (R-NY), former mayor of New York, who was the national front-runner for most of 2007, has also opposed negotiations and even questioned the December National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). I should also note that one of Giuliani’s most important foreign policy advisors is none other than arch neo-con Norman Podhoretz who wrote “The case for bombing Iran.”

Former Sen. Fred Thomson (R-TN) who seems least likely at this point to earn the nomination, has been the most vociferous skeptic of the NIE in the Republican field saying “They’re still enriching uranium, and I’m very suspicious of the thing [NIE]”

And finally we come to Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman, has been the odd voice for peace.  He has often come under uniform assault by the other candidates during the debates for promoting a draw-back in American presence abroad.  An opponent of American military engagement across the world, he has often characterized the US as an “Imperial” power and stated unequivocally that Iran does not pose a threat to the US.  Paul is not expected to win the nomination, currently polling at around 5% nationally, but he has attracted a lot of attention for his dedicated online support with which he raised over $20 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 (the highest of any of the Republican candidates).

Posted By Babak Talebi

    2 Responses to “Our Community’s Influence on the Presidential Primary Races”

  1. Babak Talebi says:

    I hope that the lengthy post above was informative. I tried to draw as accurate a picture of the race as I could in this limited space considering the large number of serious candidates still in contention.

    I am very curious to hear your thoughts, your favorites, and your analysis of what is going to happen as the election process advances. Especially those of you in California and the other Feb 5 states – do you plan to vote? I hope you also plan to take as many of your family members to vote as possible.

    I will try to respond to all your comments.

  2. Babak Talebi says:

    Wow – looks like I should have waited until after NH to post this – the race has shaken up quite a bit, surprising every pundit and analyst out there.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about – The surprise result from Tuesday’s NH primary was that Sen. Clinton won with 39% of the vote to Sen. Obama’s 36% despite the fact that the pre-primary polls uniformly showed Obama up by as much as 14%.

    So what does this mean? What do you think happened? There are various theories as to why the polls were so off.

    What is NOT debatable however, is that for both parties, the Feb. 5 ‘Super Duper Tuesday’ primaries will be even more important then before. Especially the state of California which will have the most convention delegates up for grabs.

    Hold on to your hats – this is going to be a fun ride!

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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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