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

Iran to preside over 2010 NPT Review Conference?

iran-nuclear4I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile now, and it’s only now that I’ve found time.  But a couple weeks back, Jill Parillo from Physicians for Social Responsibility arranged a wonderful event called “Steps to Zero” at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  The evening featured a great panel of speakers talking about the nuclear challenges we’ll all face in the coming years and how to deal with them.  The wonderful Sharon Squassoni mentioned–nearly in passing–that there are rumors going around that Iran might be chosen to act as the President of the 2010 Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

In her words: “This would be a disaster.” 

Every 5 years, the NPT comes up for review.  With an intractable Bush administation in 2005, the last RevCon was a miserable failure and produced little to no substantive reforms.  And that’s a shame, because the NPT is not doing very well. 

There are 189 states party to the NPT.  That makes it one of the most successful multilateral conventions in history, with only 4 states refusing to sign on: Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea (who withdrew its signature in 2003).  That being said, it’s clearly falling into disrepair.

Article 6 requires the 5 recognized nuclear powers (the US, UK, France, China, and Russia) to take steps toward disarmament.  Though there’s no real deadline for this, it’s clear no one is taking this obligation seriously. 

In addition, Article 4 outlines every state’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear technology.  And this is where things get tricky.  Because of this provision, and because of the nature of nuclear technology, a country could very easily pursue a nuclear weapons capability under the guise of peaceful nuclear energy and never break its obligations under the treaty until the last minute–by which time it’s too late for the international community to do anything about it. 

So really, if you ignore the 4 Security Council Resolutions against Iran’s nuclear program, under current international law Iran has technically done nothing wrong and its nuclear program is perfectly legal.  (Including its uranium enrichment).  And with most estimates giving Iran somewhere between a year and two years before it can develop a nuclear weapon, 2010 is really the last chance the international community will have to fix the broken nonproliferation regime before it faces the prospect of irreparable harm.

According to a source at the UN:

The 2010 NPT Review Conference President will be be someone from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It goes in rotation among the different regional groups within the NAM.  In 2010 it will be someone from the Asian Group of the NAM.

The NAM is made up of 118 countries that strongly support Iran’s nuclear program, and with the rotation falling to an Asian representative, it’s very likely that Iran could be selected to act as President of this very important conference.  Needless to say, it is unlikely the vast amount of badly needed reforms will be enacted if Iran is in charge. 

This is not because Iran doesn’t have an interest in strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty–it clearly does, and has acknowledge so publicly.  Rather, it’s because the battle over Iran’s nuclear program is the case study on which the entire debate will hinge.  As President, Iran will have a clear conflict of interest, and will be more focused on protecting its rights to develop nuclear technology than finding any long-term solution to the NPT’s ailments.   In this example, everybody loses.  Because the best thing that could happen for Iran is for the international community to develop stronger safeguards against nuclear weapons development. 

See, as Saddam Hussein taught us so effectively (albeit unwittingly): whether or not a country is developing nuclear weapons is unimportant.  What matters is whether the international community has confidence that you’re not developing nuclear weapons.  That’s why Japan can be one screw-turn away from a nuclear weapon and nobody argues.  And that’s also why Iran could be 100% sincere about its desire to never develop nuclear weapons, but until the international community actually believes that claim–and has verification measures in place to be confident about that assessment–its nuclear program will never be recognized as legitimate.  (For evidence of this, see how conservatives in American have responded to the NIE from last year.  Despite the consensus opinion of all 16 intelligence agencies that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program, it’s still conventional wisdom in Washington circles that Iran is developing a bomb…)

So here’s hoping that we can negotiate a solution with Iran in the near-term, and follow that up with a massive overhaul of the NPT in 2010 to keep other countries from repeating this whole ordeal that Iran has put us all through.

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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