• 2 July 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Bad Timing: Covert War on Iran

If you haven’t read it yet, take the time to read Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster article in The New Yorker about US covert activities in Iran. 

This article is important for a number of reasons.  At the very least, it should be read because Seymour Hersh is an investigative journalist in a class by himself–he received a Pulitzer Prize during Vietnam for breaking the story of the My Lai massacre, he uncovered much of what we know about the Abu Ghraib scandal, he broke the story of last year’s Israeli strike on a Syrian nuclear site, and most recently he has revealed valuable information about US covert activities in Iran. 

And his current article, “Preparing the Battlefield,” makes a few surprising and significant observations.  The first and most striking for many of us is a number: 400 million.  That’s how much money the US has authorized for covert operations in Iran.  The purpose — and here Hersh cites what’s called a Presidential Finding signed by President Bush — is to destabilize Iran’s religious leadership and gather intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program. 

NIAC has long opposed a proposal for $60 million for these purposes; now we hear that Congress authorized over 6.5 times that much through classified procedures.  And it might surprise you (or not) to hear where this money is going: to covert activities supporting Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups, with the chance that some could also go to three known terrorist entities, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), PJAK, and Jundallah. 

For expert commentary on Hersh’s article, check out Laura Rozen’s blog War and Piece, particularly this post. 

This news is tragic enough by itself, but it comes at exactly the time when it appears a major breakthrough on Iran’s nuclear program is drawing near.  Former Iranian foreign minister and foreign policy advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati has hinted that Iran might accept the most recent offer by the P5+1 to suspend its uranium enrichment program.  This would pave the way for a diplomatic solution to the current standoff.  Check out Trita’s analysis of the latest news here.  And also read the comments by the eminent Iran scholar Gary Sick here

This also follows news that the Bush administration has been considering creating a US interest section in Iran, which would open up the first diplomatic channel between the US and Iran in nearly three decades. 

In all, it’s been a pretty busy week, and that’s not even including news of the plans for a blockade (up to 224 cosponsors now…), Trita’s newest op-ed with former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami in the Christian Science Monitor, or NIAC’s fund-raising efforts. 

Anyway, there’s a lot going on, but we’re not too busy to say one last thing: Happy 4th of July!






Posted By Patrick Disney

    One Response to “Bad Timing: Covert War on Iran”

  1. Chris Dornan says:

    Thanks Patrick. Please do use this blog to keep us informed.

Leave a ReplyLeave a Reply to Chris Dornan

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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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