• 12 January 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Sanctions, US-Iran War

iran-north-koreaKyodo News has reported that North Korea would consider disarming its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a renewal of diplomatic relations with the United States.

For those not familiar, North Korea developed nuclear weapons after it pulled out of the NPT in 2003, tested a weapon in October of 2006, and is currently estimated to have approximately 5 warheads (give or take a few).

The US has engaged in multiparty negotiations with North Korea for the better part of two decades, with progress coming in fits and starts throughout.  Though the source for this latest news was particularly vague, it seems that “diplomatic relations” would involve the establishment of a US Embassy with an ambassador in Pyongyang.

I, for one, am encouraged by this revelation.  It is a very big deal for a country–any country–to give up nuclear weapons once it obtains them.  For North Korea–which is often and accurately referred to as a Stalinist state–relinquishing its nuclear arsenal is no small gesture.

And this is also an interesting case study for those who want to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon.

I’ve often said that North Korea provides a useful model for engaging Iran.  This is especially true when it concerns questions along the lines of: “Can a nuclear Iran be deterred?”; “Can negotiations lead to an acceptable agreement on disarmament?”; and “Should talks be given enough time (possibly even years) to succeed?”

But the model only works to a certain extent.  I’m definitely not advocating that the US wait until Iran withdraws from the NPT, kicks out inspectors, and develops and tests a nuclear weapon before getting serious about engagement.

Actually, the North Korea model proves once again the need to engage with Iran now.  If Iran follows the same path and develops a nuclear weapon, the best the US can hope for is to trade away Iran’s nuclear arsenal in just the same way as this news account suggests.

So if we’re eventually going to be forced to deal with a nuclear Iran, and if we’re in the position to provide Iran with enough incentives today to talk them down from the nuclear ledge, why would we wait?  Waiting to deal only accomplishes the following:

  1. Furthering illicit nuclear proliferation, doing irreparable harm to the global nonproliferation regime
  2. Threatening regional stability in the Middle East and risking setting off a regional nuclear arms race
  3. Postponing an eventual agreement, during which time an accidental skirmish either in the Strait of Hormuz or on the Iraq-Iran border could lead to full-scale military conflict

So let’s recap:

We could keep threatening Iran with sanctions, blockades, and war until Tehran decides to develop a nuclear weapon, after which we’ll be forced to come to the table and make a deal–that is, of course, assuming there isn’t a freak accident that leads to a nuclear detonation and full-scale nuclear war.


We could negotiate today and take our chances with diplomacy which, incidentally, poses no risk of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.  Tough call…

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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