• 14 January 2008
  • Posted By Ali Scotten
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Panel Discussion

Samore Wants to Talk to Iran…But Just Not Yet

Gary Samore doesn’t believe that negotiations with Iran should be pursued under the current administration. Instead, he thinks Bush should work towards another round of UN sanctions and leave the dialogue up to the next administration.

In his presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center entitled “Prospects for an Iranian Nuclear Deal”, Samore argued that Bush should just ride out his current approach for the rest of his ‘lame duck’ term.

On my first day as an intern here at NIAC, I accompanied NIAC’s Dan Robinson to my first event coverage. Since I moved to DC last fall to begin a Masters program at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, there definitely hasn’t been a shortage of Iran events to go to. Iran has been on everyone’s lips, in my classes, on TV, and at numerous talks around DC. I’m excited to have finally been able to attend an event as a NIAC representative, and look forward to keeping you all informed of future events throughout the spring semester!

Below are some of my thoughts from Gary Samore’s talk. I’ll post the link to the CSPAN coverage when it becomes available. I’d be interested to hear your opinions!


While it is positive that presidential candidates from both parties have recently come out in favor of future bilateral talks with Iran, Samore’s suggested containment strategy to maintain the status quo for the next year could prove dangerous. As we have seen with the recent Iranian patrol boat incident, the situation is still a tinderbox waiting to explode. With the Iranian and American military in a continual stare-down, things are still unpredictable.

Samore further argued that maintaining the preconditions on negotiating with Iran is a “sensible strategy,” since without them Iran would have the incentive to drag out talks—all the while continuing with its uranium enrichment. But isn’t Iran already continuing its uranium enrichment program after two rounds of UN sanctions? The choice now seems to instead be between having Iran continue uranium enrichment in isolation, or continue enrichment while preliminary dialogue takes place.

Samore actually does agrees that a thawing of US-Iran relations would weaken Iran’s hardliners, who would actually see any American concessions as “poison carrots” that would weaken their domestic position (which relies on maintaining public fear of a US attack). But he thinks we should wait until next year to do this.

While he does take Iranian domestic politics into account with regards to the country’s foreign policy stance, by addressing the March elections in the majles, his suggestion to time a new round of UN sanctions to coincide with the elections may end up backfiring. That’s because if the sanctions end up being only a watered-down symbolic resolution—as will likely be the case as per Russian and Chinese design—they would not have a tangible effect on voters and may instead result in more pro-hardliner votes at the polls. The hardliners will definitely use a third round of sanctions as an excuse to rally their base by threatening that the West is still out to get them.

Rather, it seems that it would be better to offer up dialogue right before the elections. Then the onus would be on the Iranian regime to act, and the pragmatist and reformist coalition that is currently gaining ground would be given a boost if some type of breakthrough seemed near.

In all fairness, Samore is right on target on his analysis of Iran’s intentions and strategic decision-making. Iran is a rational actor that is acting in its national security interests just like any other country. It’s the geopolitical atmosphere that Iran finds itself in—rather than the nature of the regime itself—that would pressure them to move toward a weapons capability. Therefore, some type of agreement does need to be reached with Iran.

Posted By Ali Scotten

    One Response to “Samore Wants to Talk to Iran…But Just Not Yet”

  1. Ali Scotten says:

    What do you think? Should Bush try to maintain the current state of affairs and wait for a new administration to engage Iran, or should the current administration begin the process themselves?

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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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