• 22 June 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda

Learning a Lesson from North Korea

Yesterday, June 21, the Washington Post broke a story about North Korea’s nuclear activities that just about defied comprehension.

If you’re not familiar with recent events, the United States and others negotiated a disarmament agreement with North Korea to dismantle their nuclear weapons in exchange for economic incentives and energy aid. For most observers, this deal was a huge breakthrough. Remember: North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, declared to the world it possesses at least six nuclear weapons, and even detonated a weapon in October of 2006 in the first nuclear test of the twenty-first century.

As part of the deal, Pyongyang revealed over 18,000 pages of documentation covering their nuclear program. This is the incredible part: someone had the idea to test the papers for radiological material. And what they found was surprising.

The paper showed traces of highly enriched uranium (HEU). North Korea never disclosed an HEU program anywhere in the 18,000 pages, but the evidence was literally all over the papers they handed over.

We at NIAC have viewed the North Korea deal as a model for how diplomacy can resolve nonproliferation issues. US diplomats won much-deserved praise for their handling of the negotiations, and it appeared that a crisis could be averted and a positive outcome could be found for everyone involved. Now all of that is in jeopardy.

The lesson that I learn from this is that nothing is more complicated than dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons. This is the case because the stakes are so high – no one wins in a nuclear war, everyone loses. But that is precisely why every effort must be made to ensure these weapons are never unleashed on human beings again. And the international community unanimously agrees that nuclear proliferation is unacceptable.

Thus, the case of Iran is a tricky one. The National Intelligence Estimate declassified in December, 2007 declared with high confidence Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Yet the international community remains suspicious of Iran’s nuclear intentions–and events such as yesterday’s in North Korea explain why. Trust is not a luxury the world can have when it comes to nuclear weapons.

Therefore, every effort must be made to ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains for peaceful purposes only. The problem is, current US policy actually encourages Iran to pursue a bomb. A constant drumbeat for escalating tension, thinly veiling the possibility for military action, will only encourage the government of Iran to pursue a weapons program as the best way to gain security. The US must stop going down this road. The US must talk directly with Iran. Negotiations don’t guarantee success – North Korea proved that – but not talking to Iran guarantees failure. And the stakes are too high to fail.

Posted By Patrick Disney

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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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