NYT Interview with Ahmadinejad in New York

Let no one say that Ahmadinejad is a stupid man.  His public persona is so fiery and controversial, yet in private he is reserved, calm, and accessable.  Seeing him in this setting, it would be easy for one to forget the vicious vitriol that he flung just moments before from the podium in front of the UN General Assembly.  (or possibly his uniquely hostile rhetoric toward Israel and the United States…or his government’s abysmal human rights record…or his bizarre and ridiculous statement about there being no gays in Iran…etc).

What strikes me about all this is that his hostility toward Israel and the US is not visceral; it’s rational, thought out, and developed policy.  If he can hold onto these radical ideas in such a calm and polite discussion, then it must–at least in his own mind–make sense.

It seems to me that for politicians, whether in the US or Iran, everything is easier when you have an enemy.  An enemy can serve a number of very valuable purposes–it can distract from costly economic mismanagement, strict repression at home, or political corruption.  And this is a lesson Tehran has learned very well.  In the early days of the Islamic Republic, when Saddam Hussein tried to destroy the regime while it was still relatively weak, the Iranian people rallied around the one thing they had in common: their country.  In the presence of an enemy, they united behind their leaders and consolidated the revolutionary government.

The United States experienced something very similar throughout the Cold War.  Americans were unified more by the common enemy of the Soviet Union than anything else.  And even for those of us working in Washington, it’s always easier to be against something than to be for something. Anyone can mobilize an angry mob to make sure Congress or the President doesn’t do something they’re considering, but it takes a much more sophisticated effort to persuade lawmakers that they should take a certain positive action.

In my opinion, the ultimate tragedy of President Ahmadinejad is not that he is an extremist and takes an overly-belligerent international posture, but rather that he uses his extremism and belligerence as a crutch to make up for his inability to make his country better.  This, after all, is the reason he was elected in the first place: to improve the lives of his people.

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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