• 25 July 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda

Seven senators have taken a pro-active approach to recent talk about opening up an interest section in Iran. On Thursday, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the President to offer congressional support for a limited diplomatic presence in the country.  The following is  the press release from Senator Murray’s  office.

“We know that a hands-off approach has isolated us and strengthened Iran,” said Sen. Kerry. “The Administration’s decision to reverse course and join direct talks with Tehran is the right one, however late. While the United States has remained on the sidelines and outsourced our diplomacy to Europe, Iran used that time to continue to master the nuclear fuel cycle and get closer to a nuclear weapons capability. Even if direct dialogue fails to reach an agreement, we will be armed with new leverage that strengthens our hand with Europe, Russia, and China to impose tougher sanctions and begin to reverse this dynamic.”

“I am pleased that the administration seems to be more open to engaging with the people of Iran,” said Sen. Feingold. “This sends a more positive message about our objectives and should enhance our ability to understand the political dynamics in Tehran, something that is sorely missing today. If Iranians are able to interact with Americans on a more regular and consistent basis they will be less likely to believe the negative rhetoric promoted by their government.”

“American strength, in part, resonates from our openness and visibility overseas,” said Sen. Durbin. “A robust international presence helps facilitate understanding between peoples and provides our diplomats with a far greater understanding of complex international situations. While we continue to work with our allies to put a halt to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, we should also reach out directly to the Iranian people and expand America’s diplomatic presence in this vital region of the world.”

“Opening an Interests Section would give the United States a formal diplomatic presence in Iran, and would be a positive step for two countries that have not had a diplomatic relationship for 30 years now,” said Sen. Feinstein. “I strongly support a robust diplomatic effort with Iran, and opening an Interests Section would be a step in the right direction. It would increase direct contacts between the American and Iranian people, assist Iranians wishing to travel to the United States, and improve our understanding or Iranian society. I strongly support this move.”

“An interests section in Iran would provide the base for diplomatic efforts with the Iranian public that has been missing for nearly 30 years,” said Sen. Murray. “It would facilitate travel, encourage an exchange of ideas, and allow us to communicate our common values with the people, despite our many differences with their government. It would also help us to better understand a country whose fate is so intertwined with our own national security. I urge the President to move forward with laying this important diplomatic groundwork because the stakes are simply too high not to.”

Full text of the letter is follows:

July 24, 2008

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are encouraged by recent revelations that your Administration is actively reviewing the possibility of opening an interests section in Iran, and write to express our support for this limited but strategically significant U.S. diplomatic presence. By establishing direct contact with the people of Iran, facilitating their travel to America, and increasing our understanding of Iran’s complicated domestic politics, this initiative will advance our national interests.

Along with your welcome decision to send Under Secretary of State William Burns to Geneva to join in talks with Iran over its nuclear program, this will send a positive message to the Iranian people and the international community about our intentions and enhance our ability to apply greater pressure on the Iranian government.

As you know, Iranians are among the most pro-American people in the Greater Middle East. Many hold the United States in high regard as a country that cherishes the values of freedom, tolerance, and human dignity. Despite our strong differences with their government over its nuclear ambitions, support for international terrorism, and hateful rhetoric towards Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said that “[w]e are determined to find ways to reach out to the Iranian people.” Opening an interests section in Iran, as we have done in other countries such as Cuba, is a highly-visible way of accomplishing this important objective.

The United States has not had any diplomatic presence in Iran since the hostage crisis in 1979. As a result, Iranians who are interested in traveling to the United States must go to Dubai to obtain U.S. visas, impeding familial, cultural, and scientific exchanges that over time can begin to transform Iran. The more frequently that ordinary Iranians have an opportunity to interact with Americans, the more likely they are to ignore their government’s propaganda demonizing our country.

At the same time, a limited diplomatic presence in Iran would improve our understanding of the competing political factions that influence Tehran’s decision-making. As Under Secretary Burns recently acknowledged, our knowledge of Iran’s political and policy-making processes is currently rather limited. Iran already operates an active interests section in Washington, DC, ostensibly for these types of reasons, so our own diplomats are at a relative information disadvantage.

While we recognize that this initiative alone will not resolve our profound disagreements with Iran’s leaders, we believe it is a step in the right direction with the Iranian people. If it comes to pass, we look forward to working with your Administration to provide any necessary congressional support.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your reply.


Posted By Emily Blout

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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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