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

Hans Blix calls suspension precondition “silly”


Former weapons inspector Hans Blix, an interview with ABC News, had some interesting things to say about the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

According to Blix, demanding that Iran suspend enrichment before negotiations is ‘silly’

ABC News: From the latest IAEA report on Iran, what did we learn about the state of their nuclear program?

Hans Blix: Not very much new. It said that [the IAEA] cannot confirm that there is intent about nuclear weapons. But they’ve never been able to do that … however much they search and don’t find anything, that isn’t going to change the attitude in Washington or London. They’ll say, maybe they don’t have intention now but they could change in two months’ time.

ABC: Are you concerned by Iran’s intent?

Blix: The commission that I headed took the view that it is desirable to persuade Iran to walk back from the enrichment program because it has already increased tensions very much. Western powers came out and said they could facilitate investments and economic relations, we can support them to get into the World Trade Organization, we believe in civilian nuclear power industry. But first they must suspend enrichment. I’m skeptical about this last point, the conditionality. For Iran, the building up of the program is the trump card. And who throws away the trump card before the game starts? So I think that conditionality is silly.

http://niacblog.wordpress.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifIn the talks so far, two cards have been missing which can only be given by the United States: one is an assurance against attack — a commitment not to attack from the outside and not to try to change regime from the inside. The other point is about diplomatic relations. This is a card that has not been used, though it’s been talked about in the press, like the possible [American staffed] U.S. Interest Section in the Swiss Embassy

ABC: What lessons from the Iraq experience, in terms of nonproliferation, could be applied to the Iranian case?

Blix: I think they were motivated by different things. In most cases, countries that go for nuclear weapons are motivated by a perceived compelling need for security. In the case of Iran, I don’t see that it is there. That gives me optimism. Another motivation countries have is prestige and the aim to get a seat at the table. That could be the case, a motivation [for Iran]. For that reason I think diplomatic relations are important. There are not compelling motivations for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

In terms of lessons learned, I think Iran has been insulted. I’ve always thought that humiliation is very, very bad between states. When Condoleezza Rice once spoke about Iran must “behave itself,” I don’t think that’s a way to talk. The “Axis of Evil” might be good domestic politics, but it’s not international politics if you want to negotiate with someone. If you don’t like the other fellow, at least be correct.

ABC: Is there a military option? Some contrast Iran with the case of Osirak [the Iraqi reactor taken out by Israeli air strikes in 1981] and say a strike on Iran can’t be effectively hit the same way. Do you agree?

Blix: As soon as you discuss what you can do with the military … it’s clear the military options have not proved that glorious. In the case of Iraq, it certainly did not prove glorious.

ABC: But it did take out Osirak, didn’t it? It achieved that objective.

Blix: It took out Osirak, yes. But I don’t think Israel is a threat to Iran. And Israel is a threat to Iran if Iran continues enrichment. Nor do I think Iran is a threat to Israel.

ABC: What do you think of what happened in Syria, the strike on an alleged nuclear facility?

Blix : I think it’s mystifying … Mohammed Al Baradei had a point, saying why didn’t they come to us, ask for an inspection? Instead, they bombed. A bit more transparency, by those who often ask for transparency, would be desirable. What puzzles me now are reports from the IAEA that they’ve found some traces of uranium. That puzzles me because if it was a reactor, uranium is about the last thing you would introduce. If it were a reactor, that would mean it was practically ready.

ABC: What’s your hope for the Obama administration in terms of nonproliferation and Iran?

Blix: I’m as hopeful as everyone else is … all I’ve heard from him about nuclear disarmament is very positive. He has really taken onboard the initiative of Kissinger and Shultz and he has come out concretely in favor of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, to be reviewed again by the Senate.

Of course, there are parameters within which he has to move. But if Washington changes tune, if they want to go for disarmament, then something very important has happened. But it’s not going to happen unless they get a détente first. I don’t know if [the U.S.] is aware how much they have antagonized the Russians. There are two points there I think they must solve. One, the expansion of NATO — I don’t see that it is something essential, worth all of the trouble we have now. Second, is the missile sites in Eastern Europe. The missile sites anger the Europeans because the U.S. went directly to Poland and the Czech Republic without asking Europe or NATO. Later, they discovered that maybe it was a good idea to sell this also as a European interest.

To lose an empire is not easy. The British did it, and they learned how. The French did it, and they learned how. Then the Russians did it — they have not quite learned how. And now I think the Americans should learn how to lose an empire.

ABC: From a weapons perspective, does anything worry you about having an expanded nuclear map in the Middle East?

Blix: We will need more energy in many countries. We are all worried about global warming. We are all aware of the need to restrain CO2. My first choice is energy saving … but the second is expansion of the nuclear power. The renewables, yes, I’m not against them. But we need to grasp the sum of the physics. There’s a difference in energy density of things. Wind is everywhere, but it needs to be harvested. If you take water, even that is concentrated in rivers and you need to get it into waterfalls. If you take the sunshine, it’s everywhere, but also it needs to be harvested. Whereas, if you go to uranium, you get up to 50,000 kilowatt hours per kilogram of uranium, and that has some impact.

Nothing is without a risk. All energy sources have some risk, and I’m not saying nuclear is without some risk. But we have so far managed to keep it on an even keel. Long term, I’m more worried about global warming than about weapons of mass destruction.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

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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