• 22 January 2009
  • Posted By Sahar Jooshani
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf

A Critical Decision in the Midst of the New Administration

Obama has taken office. His first day was filled with phone calls to the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority. It is evident that Obama is making an early effort to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an effort that was lacking in the administration of George. W. Bush.

Yet, we have seen little confirmation as to who will take on the difficult role of dealing with Iran. The three rumored front-men for the job are Dennis Ross, George Mitchell, and Richard Haas. Though these three men come from politically impressive backgrounds, their areas of expertise are distinctively different.

http://niacblog.wordpress.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifThis morning, Obama announced Mitchell’s appointment as Mideast envoy. Though this move was well-received, it surprised many. Mitchell is an expert on the Palestinain-Israeli conflict. When discussing Mitchell, Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel stated “He’s neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian.” “He’s, in a sense, neutral.”

Though this is good for the Palestinian-Israeli issue, this leaves little answered on the Iran issue.

Dennis Ross, who has still not been officially appointed for anything yet — and his visibility has been low (well except for this disturbing “let’s bomb Iran now and get it over with” report), has undeniably controversial opinions towards Iran. Dennis Ross’ appointment as envoy to Iran is not something to be taken lightly. Based on his comments on Iran, his approach to solving the nuclear issue could prove troublesome for present and future relations between the two countries.

Ross has repeatedly taken to bullying tactics. In November of 2008 he stated, “Iran has continued to pursue nuclear weapons because the Bush administration hasn’t applied enough pressure.” “Its oil and natural-gas industries-the government’s key source of revenue, which it uses to buy off its population-desperately require new investment and technology. Smart sanctions would force Iran’s leaders to see the high costs of not changing their behavior.”

What Obama needs is a non-partisan non-biased party, an individual who isn’t scared. In his inaugural address he stated, “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Mitchell is capable of approaching this conflict with a mutual respect, but Ross’ previous statements about Iran shows that he is not.

Iran is a critical state. The success of U.S. foreign policy depends on the willingness of the new administration to engage Iran. Arab and Iranian leaders alike seem to be hopeful with President Barack Obama. It is essential to keep this hope alive by appointing an envoy that would offer a knowledgeable non-biased approach to the growing issues in the region.

Posted By Sahar Jooshani

    One Response to “A Critical Decision in the Midst of the New Administration”

  1. Daniel Robinson says:

    I definitely believe the search for an appropriate, impartial envoy is critical to Obama’s diplomatic game plan with Iran. The EU and the rest of P-5 partners have been desperately waiting for the US to take a lead role in negotiations, but the crises in the Mideast increasingly involve Iran as an actor (Israel-Palestine conflict, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon) and it will be necessary to find someone who has the heavyweight status to approach all the issues that affect the US and Iran besides the nuclear program.

    The evolving situation on the ground in the Mideast might delay that outreach, and the President may be forced into the chronic ‘deal-with-the-crises-as-they-come’ tactical approach, especially in light of the deepening global economic crisis.

    Obama’s position is not that different from that of Ronald Reagan in 1981. With the hostage crisis still occurring and the growing war in Afghanistan, Reagan still had to focus on the economy as the US faced a crippling recession that pushed back Reagan’s own rhetoric on the campaign trail about fighting the Soviets and dealing with the Iranians. If not for the release of the hostages, Reagan would have had even greater difficulty in addressing the economic situation and the standoff with the Kremlin.

    I refer everyone to a NY Times article about Reagan comparisons instead of LBJ, JFK or FDR that appeared this week (http://100days.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/obamas-reagan-transformation/?ref=opinion)

    Unfortunately, the decision-making will be deliberate and long, and the process still relies on what happens on the ground which is continually shifting from promise to further frustration (presidential election in Iran, G-8 Summit and even the NATO summit).

    The President needs someone with the energy, independence, and forward thinking vision that anticipates conflicts and provides the President with solutions while also pushing the Administration to exercise the patience and tenacity needed to fill unheeded, long term strategic goals.

    That’s why for these reasons that an experienced, nose-to-the-grindstone negotiator and diplomat who has worked the long hours in preparing the ground for engagement is needed: A policy ‘heavyweight’ instead of a celebrity pick like Tony Blair or Richard Holbrooke.

    I think the President should consider an experienced diplomat like Amb. James Dobbins or Amb. Peter Galbraith as US envoy to Iran because the US cannot afford more bloviating, Manichean neoconservative/neoliberal interventionist thinking on Iran that doesn’t consider Iran’s strategic role as an energy supplier and influence peddler. In addition, the US’s needs to re-balance the region away from military clientelism, armed conflict and ignorance of the region’s changing demographic trends unfortunately, if Mr. Ross were selected, would be left wanting.

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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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