• 5 May 2008
  • Posted By Arash Hadjialiloo
  • Diplomacy, Election 2008, Presidential 2008 Elections, US-Iran War

Rhetoric Continues to Reign Supreme

It appears that rhetoric is the most resilient weed in the US-Iran diplomacy garden. Despite several rounds of both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama attacking President Bush’s “saber rattling,” Clinton has not been able to avoid falling back on the tough talk when in a pinch.

In her appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America on April 22, Senator Clinton said that she would respond in kind to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel and that the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran in the process. She defended this statement yesterday in an appearance on ABC’s This Week.

This comment, along with Clinton’s plans for a nuclear umbrella for the Middle East, have been heavily criticized by NIAC, some American newspapers, and international organizations. Last week the United Nations even received a complaint from Iran’s deputy UN ambassador on the comment. The secretary-general of the United Nations has not yet responded but his spokesperson Ferhan Haq has reportedly commented that the UN would pay much more attention to this sort of comment if Clinton is elected president.

Obama accused Clinton of mirroring President Bush’s style of “cowboy diplomacy, or lack of diplomacy.” Given the same question, Obama delivered a more measured statement saying that the US would use an appropriate and serious response to an Iranian attack on the US’ “most important ally.”

But as NIAC has pointed out, these hypothetical statements accomplish nothing and raise tensions between the two nations. The US should focus not on “nuclear deterrence, but nuclear diplomacy.”

The hypothetical questions placed before the candidates are such that the only appropriate response is to use overwhelming force against Iran. While Obama, for the most part, has resisted the premise of the hypothetical situation (On Meet the Press he said he would make sure Iran never got nuclear weapons in the first place), Clinton seems a willing participant in raising the stakes. As if to prove that she can out-hawk the neo-conservatives with her rhetoric.

For the most part, Clinton’s “obliterate” statement has been received in the press as just a campaign tool. However, the effect of her words is so dangerous and alarmist that one can imagine that as President, she is likely to pick up the old saber and start rattling.

Posted By Arash Hadjialiloo

    7 Responses to “Rhetoric Continues to Reign Supreme”

  1. Arash Hadjialiloo says:

    Clinton has received mostly criticism for her “obliterate Iran” comment. Has her comment changed how you feel about the candidates or the way you plan to vote? What do you think about the Iranian government’s response?

  2. sara says:

    I think it is so terrible how this is being portrayed in the our Iranian community and is being blown out of proportion. She has not said anything outside of what all the candidates have been saying. She was asked what she would do if Iran Launched a Nuclear attack on Israel. and I think this would have been the response of Obama as well.

    Obama in fact has said similar things in the past but for some reason Hillary’s comment was the only thing that was picked up. I think it is also funny how the video is cut-off and does not include the question, nor does it include the whole answer, where she ends her sentence by saying:

    “That’s a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that, because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic.”

    I did not like how NIAC handled this at all.

  3. shara says:

    when Obama says “he will not let Iran get nuclear weapons in the first place” and he also adds that he will consider a military option to prevent Iran from getting these weapons, doesn’t that imply that he will be willing to attack before Iran attacks Israel? are we only looking at how people “sound” rather than what they actually say?

  4. Babak Talebi says:


    I do understand what you are saying here… that any politician would respond the same way. And I think that is the exact point.

    no on in their right mind would doubt that if Iran were to do such a thing (IF they ever got nukes) then the US and Israel would respond with nukes.

    thats not the question. In fact, that is a standing policy since probably the late 60s… and it was US policy towards USSR… and the exact reason that Israel now has nuclear subs (second strike capability).

    the question is her ‘judgment’ in using such language – and more importantly – the effect it will have on the potential for resolving these complex issues between the US and Iran in an alternative way.

    My personal reason for being angry at her, is that this type of language helps out Ahmadinejad more then anything. Now he can go to the Iranian people and say “see – the Americans all want to kill us” he can raise his rhetoric too… and claim that his ‘wipe out’ comment was no different then the Hillary comment.

    If she does win the primary (which at this point seems extremely unlikely) and she does win the Presidency – I certainly hope she will not make outrageous and dangerous comments like this. This verbiage is Cheney territory.

    I do want to know though, why you think it is blown out of proportion? setting aside the primary – would you not feel outraged if say Bush or McCain or Lieberman had said this?

  5. Babak Talebi says:

    sara… in response to your second post…

    i think you are absolutely right that they are ‘saying’ the same thing ultimately. which everyone already ‘knows’. but the issue really does come down to ‘word choice’ or as you said ‘sounding better’.

    I dont think Iranian-Americans are ticked off at the idea of attacking back if Iran uses Nukes… in fact, we all hope that Iran or at least the IRI never does get nuclear weapons. But the point is, a willingness to say “obliterate” when it is unnecessary to do so – reflects a willingness to throw a whole nation of people under the bus for a few political points.

    And I think most people (correctly) interpret that as a lack of care on her part about Iranians (the people) and Iranian-Americans. I mean could you imagine any politician using that word about China over Taiwan?

    I am reminded of my parents telling me about the difference between “Befarma”, “Beshin”, and “Betamarg”. All mean the same thing… but one is far more diplomatic then the rest … and isn’t diplomacy the outcome we are all hoping for?

    sorry for the long response – but I really do want to have this conversation – because there are A lot of Clinton supporters out there (including my parents) who are struggling with this issue right now, and I am very interested in hearing their take on this dust-up.

  6. Michael Mahyar Hojjatie says:

    Clinton spoke, the press reacted, and Iranians (particularly Iranian-Americans) reacted even stronger. Was it for a lack of anything better to say? I can’t determine. I personally would vouch that she may get more and more desperate to bolster credibility and this juncture with her popularity waning, instead of just running her campaign on the scam to the effect of “Hey, look what I look like on the outside! Vote for me just because no prior president has ever looked like this!”. The tactics politicians use seem to get more and more shady with passing time. The 2000 and 2004 election “miscounts”, anyone?

  7. Mehdi says:

    When a government is weak, any opportunist wants to take a stab at it and profit from it. Hillary just showed her low and weak character by using words that show her arrogance and carelessness. I think she deserves every bit of negative media that she is getting. You just can’t be in a position of power and be so irresponsible.

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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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