• 3 June 2008
  • Posted By Caroline Tarpey
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Sanctions, US-Iran War

The script between Washington and Tehran seems to be replaying like a broken record: The United States to Iran, “Suspend your uranium enrichment and we will talk.” Iran to the US, “We will not give up our right to nuclear energy.”

Iran’s unwillingness to acquiesce to external demands about the production of nuclear technology before discussion begins and the US’s unwillingness to drop the precondition before discussion begins causes the first casualty of preconditions: diplomatic engagement.

Yet, there is a second casualty of the failure to bring Iran to the table, a casualty whose inclusion in the international diplomatic exchange may provide hope for the cooling of US-Iran tensions: issue linkages.

The theory of neoliberal institutionalism in international relations discusses the ability of international institutions to facilitate cooperation among states. These institutions are designed to promote inter-state dialogue, and it is this dialogue that can allow cross-issue compromises.

Yet, with the precondition there is no US-Iran dialogue; without dialogue, issue linkages can never unfold. US-Iran issue clashes are salient enough that hardliners in both states leave little wiggle room for progress when an issue is examined singularly. At a February conference at the Middle East Institute, STRATEGA CEO Hillary Mann Leverett said, “Each item – sanctions, dealing with terrorist groups, the nuclear program – if treated on its own would essentially require one party to surrender on a very difficult issue for them and hope that the other party at some point would find it in their hearts to make good on a separate issue.”

Can you truly expect Iran or the US to make notable concessions on any of these hotbutton issues unless they can barter with all the bargaining chips? It seems faulty logic to expect Iran to play their nuclear card before all the cards are even presented. And if the precondition for any US-Iran negotiations, even over non-nuclear issues, is cessation of all nuclear activities by Iran, then progress is unlikely.

The script continues to play on the broken record, but it’s time to change it. Only through inviting open and unqualified discourse can the heavily negotiated, cross-issue compromises unfold in US-Iran relations. And that is essential to effective engagement.

Posted By Caroline Tarpey

    One Response to “US-Iran Issue Linkages: Instrument of Diplomacy, Casualty of Preconditions?”

  1. azadeh says:

    I think there are players here that benefit immensely from the conflict between the two nations and not only are not accommodating the contacts, but sabotage the opportunities. So, I think they should start with back channel talks and cease on negative propaganda (both sides), so they could be more determined to talk in the public arena.

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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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