• 5 February 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, US-Iran War

Right on, Roger Cohen!

New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen has penned some extraordinary columns on Iran in recent weeks.  For his well-reasoned arguments, his forward-thinking approach, and his grasp of the nuance of US-Iran tensions, he should be applauded.

February 5, 2009

TEHRAN — When it comes to Iran, the choice of metaphor is limited.

“I would never take a military option off the table,” Barack Obama declared during the campaign, a position unchanged since he became president.

“We are not taking any option off the table at all,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at her Senate confirmation hearing.

As for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he tweaked the mantra this way: “The military option must be kept on the table.”

All three have also talked up dialogue with Iran. But the question, more pressing since Iran fired its Islamic satellite into orbit this week, remains: what in reality is this threat of force and what purpose does it serve?

I’ve read think-tank scenarios that have the United States bombing Iran’s nuclear installations at Natanz, hitting Iranian military bases to limit the response, imposing a naval blockade and infiltrating special forces from Iraq or Afghanistan. After eight Bush-Cheney years, such plans exist at the Pentagon.

To which my response is: Hang on a second.

The United States’ role in the 1953 coup here that deposed the Middle East’s first democratically elected government lives in memory. Any U.S. attack would propel 56-year-old Iranian demons into overdrive and lock in an America-hating Islamic Republic for the next half-century.

From Basra through Kabul to the Paris suburbs, Muslim rage would erupt. The Iranian Army is not the Israeli Army, but its stubborn effectiveness is in no doubt. Rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas, and newly tested Iranian long-range missiles, would hit Israel.

Chaos would threaten Persian Gulf states, oil markets and the grinding U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. war front, in the first decade of the 21st century, at a time of national economic disaster, would stretch thousands of miles across the Muslim world, from western Iraq to eastern Afghanistan.

It is doubtful that a bombing campaign would end Iran’s nuclear ambitions, so all the above might be the price paid for putting off an Iranian bomb — or mastery of the production of fissile material — by a year or so.

In short, the U.S. military option is not an option. It is unthinkable.

This is the poisoned chalice handed Obama by Bush, who responded to Iranian help in Afghanistan in 2001 by consigning Iran to the axis of evil, rebuffed credible approaches by the former moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, and undermined European diplomacy.

No, the real “Red Line” will be set by Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s leading candidate to become prime minister after elections next week, has said “everything that is necessary” will be done to stop Iran going nuclear. I believe him.

Never again is never again. There’s no changing that Israeli lens, however distorting it may be in a changed world. That could mean an Israeli attack on Iran within a year. If the U.S. military option is unthinkable, equally unthinkable is the United States abandoning Israel.

That is Obama’s dilemma. Netanyahu is right about one thing. The Iranian nuclear program, which Iran implausibly says is for civilian purposes, is “the greatest challenge” now facing 21st-century leaders. If Obama fails, his “new era of peace” will become the bitterest phrase of his inaugural.

I asked Mohsen Rezai, the former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and secretary of one of its highest state organs, the Expediency Discernment Council, how he sees the U.S. threat. “America will not do anything military within the next 10 years,” he said. “What the U.S. needs to do now is regroup, repair, reconstruct.”

And an Israeli attack? “Maybe, but it would be one of its stupidest decisions.”

There is little time to lose. Vice President Joseph Biden and senior Iranian officials, including Ali Larijani, the speaker of Parliament, will mingle at the Munich Security Conference this weekend. They should talk.

But only Obama can overcome the gridlock. He must break with the Bush years in more than words. That requires a solemn declaration that the United States recognizes and no longer seeks to destabilize the Islamic Republic — an implicit renunciation of force.

A threat, in Iranian eyes, can only come from a domineering power, the very U.S. attitude this country cannot abide.

I think the tightened sanctions being contemplated by Obama are a bad idea.

The sanctions don’t work; they enrich the regime cronies who circumvent them. Plunging oil prices are a cheaper weapon. They will concentrate Iranian minds as the economy nose-dives.

Decisiveness is foreign to the many-faceted Iranian system. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and ultimate arbiter, will not easily be swayed from a course that would shred the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, of which Iran is a signatory, among other disasters. But reason can still prevail.

It was Rezai, back in the late 1980s, who wrote Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, telling him the course he had vowed never to alter — prosecuting the war against Iraq until victory — had to be abandoned or disaster would follow. Khomeini changed his mind. Peace came.

Khamenei’s ultimate duty is to preserve the revolution by being true to Khomeini’s example. Obama might, obliquely, remind him of that.

Posted By Patrick Disney

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Sign the Petition


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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