• 3 February 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf

Breaking: Ross not envoy to Iran

dennis_ross_01301Photo: Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly / Getty

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell is reporting that Dennis Ross will not be appointed Obama’s special envoy to Iran, and that he will instead act as a “strategic advisor” on Iran and the Persian Gulf at the State Department.

After months of speculation, it appears that the Obama administration was not comfortable with naming Ross to such a high-profile position handling the Iran portfolio.

Contributing to the eventual decision not to give Ross the envoy job was the swirling controversy over some of his recent publications–notably the Bipartisan Policy Center report–as well as some of the (less than prudent) actions on the part of Ross’s friends and employers.  The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where Ross is the Zeigler Distinguished Fellow, released a congratulatory memo that proved a bit premature:

We are delighted to share the news that Ambassador Dennis Ross, counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute, has accepted an invitation to join the Obama administration as ambassador-at-large and senior advisor to Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton.

In that seventh-floor job, designed especially for him, Ambassador Ross will be the secretary’s top advisor on a wide range of Middle East issues, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran.

Ambassador Ross is expected to take his post immediately after inauguration.

Those following recent appointments would recognize the position described here as the one given to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

niacINsight has been told that insiders in the Obama administration were upset at the memo–which was released the first week in January–and that it raised questions about Ross’s discretion.

Then, on January 23, United Against Nuclear Iran released a congratulatory note to Ross and Richard Holbrooke on their appointments to the Obama administration.  (Holbrooke will serve as special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he will be advised by the eminent Iranian-American scholar Vali Nasr).  Again, the announcement proved premature, and again the lack of discretion ruffled feathers in the Obama administration.

Finally, reports have surfaced in recent days of a possible conflict of interest due to Ross’s involvement with an Israeli government funded think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.  According to some, Ross could face possible legal challenges under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which is intended “to protect against stealth propoganda and foreign lobbying through strict public disclosure filings,” according to PR Newswire.

Since 2002 former American diplomat Dennis Ross has filed no FARA activity declarations. This could be a problem according to IRmep director Grant F. Smith. “The US Department of Justice has always asked US recipients of Jewish Agency funding — whether the American Zionist Council and its US executives, or the Jewish Agency’s New York office — to register as agents of a foreign principal. With US-Iran diplomacy and restoration of productive relations looming so urgently, now is certainly not the time to resurrect foreign agent registration battles.”

Add that to the barrage of criticism Ross has received in the media and the blogosphere for his hardline stance on Iran, and it seems that the chances for his appointment as special envoy were effectively squashed.

His role at the State Department will obviously have less significance on Iran policy than was previously expected, but he will by no means be shut out in the cold.  Rather, he will advise the Secretary and Ambassador-at-Large Mitchell on the administration’s dealings with Iran.

Posted By Patrick Disney

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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.

Sincerely,

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