• 9 July 2008
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Election 2008, Presidential 2008 Elections, Sanctions, US-Iran War

The (Neglected) Ties that Bind

A huge majority of the stories on Iran are about the nuclear issue and how the US, Israel and the EU are dealing with a uranium-enriching ‘rogue’ state. Rarely are other aspects of the relationship analyzed closely, but recently they have come under the microscope again, as details of American exports to Iran, talk of a ‘special interests section’ and Israel’s pistachio ordeal have come to light.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the US has exported and continues to export hundreds of millions of dollars in commodities to Iran. Other news outlets quickly picked up the story from the wire and it has consequently been plastered all over the news (though it was put on the backburner because of this morning’s missile tests by the Iranian government).

Over the past eight years of the Bush Administration and its ‘axis of evil’ rhetoric, the number of exports has increased “tenfold,” including $158 million worth of cigarettes alone. When prompted for his thoughts on all the cigarette exports, presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) remarked – in a highly un-presidential fashion – “maybe that’s a way of killing them.” After quickly getting poked in the back by his wife, Cindy, the Senator claimed that he meant it as a “joke.” He then added to his alarming comment that he wanted to look into it, as this was the first he’d heard of it. I am not an economist, but I know that if the US were to ease economic sanctions, Americans and Iranians would benefit from increased trade. It is possible to sanction the Iranian government without harming the people.

Other commodities exported from the US include brassieres, bull semen, fur clothing, sculptures, perfume, musical instruments and military apparel. For the record, bull semen is used for commercial livestock breeding. These all fall under the few types of commodities that can be sold to Iran under strict guidelines. American sellers need to have permission from the Treasury Department to export to Iran, and few businesses that apply are turned down. Even so, the US is not the only country that allows its citizens to conduct trade.

Indeed, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post posted an AP article in late November divulging that Israel is a huge importer of Iranian pistachios. The Israelis claim they are from Turkey. It is clear, though, that they’re originally from Iran and only shipped via Turkey. The US has urged Israel to stop those imports. The spokesman for the Embassy in Tel Aviv, Stewart Tuttle, has said that he prefers Israel to import American pistachios, as they come from his native California (the second largest pistachio producer after Iran). Although I am deeply loyal to the Golden State and all its agricultural products, clearly even the Israelis can’t deny the great taste of Iranian pistachios.

Furthermore, at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s behest, the US is looking into opening a special interests section in Tehran, similar to the US’s office in Havana. The Islamic Republic has a special interests section here in DC – officially it is a branch of the Embassy of Pakistan but it has its own office. Currently, American interests in Iran are handled by the Swiss Embassy there.

Here are my questions for you: What do you think of John McCain’s comments? Should the US open a special interests section in Tehran? Are Iranian pistachios better – can you blame the Israelis?

Posted By Darioush Azizi

    One Response to “The (Neglected) Ties that Bind”

  1. Patrick Disney says:

    John McCain’s comments (the second crass remark he’s made about killing Iranians during this campaign) were unfortunate. We should be able to expect better from our leaders. NIAC issued a statement in response and sent a letter to the McCain campaign expressing our disappointment: http://www.niacouncil.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1163&Itemid=59.

    The news about exchange between the US and Iran is interesting: Iranians would undoubtedly benefit from increased US trade, but shipments of weapons and military parts raise eyebrows, and rightly so.

    As for Iranian pistachios, I can’t honestly say I’ve had the pleasure–surely someone will offer to share?

Leave a ReplyLeave a Reply to Patrick Disney

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

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.



Share this with your friends: