• 19 December 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Presidential 2008 Elections

Breaking: Obama to appoint special envoy to Iran

from the Washington Times:

EXCLUSIVE: Obama to create Iran outreach post
Friday, December 19, 2008
The incoming Obama administration plans to create a new position to coordinate outreach to Iran and is considering a number of senior career diplomats, State Department officials and Iran specialists say.

President-elect Barack Obama promised during his campaign to seek dialogue with Iran without preconditions in an effort to persuade Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but also has pledged to toughen sanctions.

A State Department official said the idea of naming a senior Iranian outreach coordinator was broached in the first transition meetings with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s choice for secretary of state, and her transition team earlier this month.

“The idea is that the position should build on the existing diplomatic framework,” the official said. He asked not to be named because a nominee has not been announced.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton declined to comment for this article. Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the transition, also would not comment.

However, several Iran specialists said such a position was in the works.

“There is every indication that they are seriously considering going this way,” said Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a group that has warned of the dangers of Iranian proliferation.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, an organization that supports U.S.-Iran dialogue, said that a special envoy position for Iran is planned.

The current administration has refused to negotiate with Iran unless Tehran first suspends its uranium enrichment program. However, in July, Undersecretary of State William Burns attended a meeting in Geneva with an Iranian nuclear negotiator along with senior diplomats from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – Britain, France, China and Russia – plus Germany.

The “P-5 plus 1” has sent envoys to Tehran and drafted three U.N. Security Council resolutions that have sanctioned organizations and individuals affiliated with the Iranian nuclear program.

However, Iran has refused to suspend its program. Indeed, two days after the Geneva talks, the head of Iran´s Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, announced the testing of an anti-ship missile he said could close the Straits of Hormuz, the chokepoint for 40 percent of the world’s oil supplies .

Critics of engagement doubt that Tehran will agree to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for economic and diplomatic concessions.

“We’ve lost the [nuclear] race with Iran,” said John R. Bolton, a former undersecretary of state and U.N. ambassador.

Others say the United States has not tried hard enough.

Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the Brookings Institution and former member of the State Department’s policy planning staff under the Bush administration, said creating a senior coordinator position was important in part because Iran policy is now subject to an unwieldy interagency process.

“There is a huge interagency component to this,” she said, noting that the Treasury Department has been responsible for numerous banking and other financial sanctions against Iran.

She also said that a senior coordinator position “communicates a seriousness on Iran, irrespective of what position you take.”

Coordinator positions traditionally are given to mid-level career diplomats, but in this case the job will likely to go a senior figure, the State Department official said. In addition to the nuclear issue, the coordinator will reach out to Iran regarding its activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

A shortlist of candidates includes Dennis Ross, the former special envoy for Arab-Israeli negotiations under the Clinton and first Bush administrations, and the current U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker.

Mr. Crocker testified before Congress that Iran has supported Iraqi militants who have killed U.S. soldiers. However, from the fall of 2001 until late 2002, he took part in talks in Europe with senior Iranian diplomats over the aftermath of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He has also met twice with Iran’s ambassador to Iraq.

Other names mentioned by U.S. officials and Iran specialists include Robert Galluci, President Clinton’s point man for negotiating a 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea. Also said to be on the list is Mr. Burns.

James Dobbins, a former Bush administration envoy who worked with the Iranians to prepare Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban government, has also been mentioned. However, Mr. Dobbins said Thursday that he had not been approached by the Obama transition team.

He said a good first step would be to authorize U.S. diplomats around the world to talk to their Iranian counterparts on a routine basis.

Mr. Clawson said there are two models for dealing with the intricate diplomatic challenges presented by Iran.

One is to leave the coordination of policy to the assistant secretary of state for the region. This approach has been used for North Korea.

“This worked well with North Korea because the main countries concerned are under the same regional group as the problem country,” Mr. Clawson said.

“For Iran the main countries who need to be brought on board are scattered across the globe. … And so some kind of a coordinator or special envoy makes sense.”

Much about Mr. Obama’s Iran policy remains unclear as does Iran’s likely reaction to an offer of talks.

On Dec. 7 on NBC´s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Obama said he would offer both carrots and sticks to Iran, pointing out that Iran, a leading exporter of oil, still has trouble providing its population with refined petroleum.

The next day a spokesman for Iran´s ministry of foreign affairs, Hassan Qashqavi, said such a carrot-and-stick approach “is unacceptable and [has] failed.”

• Barbara Slavin contributed to this report.

Posted By Patrick Disney

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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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