• 26 March 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Persian Gulf, US-Iran War


Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) will introduce a resolution this morning next week calling for the US military to negotiate an agreement with Iran for the prevention of incidents in the Persian Gulf.  This resolution, intended to protect American ships and sailors operating in harm’s way, is the first bipartisan call for direct dialogue with Iran to come out of this Congress.

Talk of a bilateral agreement on naval protocol with Iran began to surface after the incident in January of last year, when Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats harassed three American Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf.  The speedboats took provocative action in close proximity to the American ships, which very nearly opened fire.

Then, as well as now, an accidental clash between the US and IRGC navies could have sparked a full-scale war, with catastrophic consequences for regional stability, American national security, and the global economy.  Forty percent of the world’s oil is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz, making any military clash in that strategic body of water extremely costly.  Additionally, a third war in the Middle East would place considerable strain on the US military, which is already universally recognized as being stretched thin.

Many prominent military officials have called for the negotiation of a naval protocol to govern US and Iranian operations in the Gulf, drawing on a similar agreement between the US and the Soviet Union signed in 1972.  Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, formerly the Commander of Naval Operations, US Central Command, pushed openly for the Bush Administration to begin talks with Iran for just such an agreement.

Many historians consider the US-Soviet agreement as one contributing factor to the absence of overt military conflict during the Cold War.

With President Obama’s promise to engage Iran directly on a wide range of areas of concern, this resolution provides an opportunity for Congressional leaders to weigh in on the Iran issue at a critical time.  While there has been no shortage of Iranspecific legislation (most of it very aggressive) coming from both sides of the aisle, the US Congress is yet to pass a resolution expressing support for diplomatic engagement with Iran in any form.

Given the non-controversial nature of this particular resolution–which is intended above all to strengthen our national security and protect our sailors in harm’s way–this is perhaps the best opportunity for Congress to express bipartisan support for direct engagement with Iran.

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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