• 31 March 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Afghanistan, Diplomacy


Today, Benjamin Netanyahu will become Israel’s newest Prime Minister, leading a hardline Likud government alongside Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist (and largely racist) Yisrael Betenyu party and incorporating Ehud Barak’s Labor party.  The newly-formed government will place Kadima leader Tzipi Livni in the awkward position of leading the pro-peace movement (Livni is not widely regarded as a dove by any standards, but is nowhere near as hawkish as PM Netanyahu).

I recently attended a very interesting blogger discussion at the New America Foundation that Steve Clemmons put on to discuss all of this, which you can read about over at the Washington Times’ Potus Notes.  Basically, I left the meeting with the extremely depressing notion that despite President Obama’s emphasis on the peace process, Israelis and Palestinians are farther away from a deal today than they were even a few months ago.

In slightly more positive news, the so-called “Big Tent” meeting on Afghanistan is going on today at the Hague, with both Iranian and American diplomats in attendance.  Secretary of State Clinton invited the Iranian delegation to cooperate on stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, which was the first of a series of very positive moves by the Obama administration to kick off its plan to engage with Iran.

As we heard from Hillary Mann Leverett at our briefing last week, it’s important for Iran to send a signal at this conference that it is capable of reciprocating positive moves from Washington.  Iran needs to make it clear that on issues of mutual interest, there is nothing standing in the way of their full cooperation.

Unfortunately, as Laura Rozen pointed out last night, it’s not off to a great start.  The US is sending Secretary of State Clinton to the meeting, but Iran will be represented by the deputy foreign minister, Mehdi Akhundzadeh.  According to Trita:

“They are talking, and they will be there at the table, but they are sending lesser representation that is not on the par” with the other delegations, notes Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington group that advocates for engagement between Washington and Tehran. “It does send a signal,” that Iran is holding back somewhat on regional cooperation talks until “they have practical indications of America’s [larger] strategic objective with Iran,” he says. Tehran’s response is “predictable,” if unfortunate, he says, adding that Tehran’s “emulating Bush’s insistence on preconditions would be a mistake.”

update: The Cable is reporting that Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke held a “brief and cordial exchange” with the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister.  Also, Sec. Clinton said that she ordered a letter to be delivered to the Iranian delegation asking for informaion on the whereabouts of Robert Levinson and calling for the release of Roxanna Saberi.

update 2: The Atlantic is reporting on an eye-popping interview with Netanyahu in which he told Obama in very stark language that if the US doesn’t stop Iran soon, Israel will.

“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”

Posted By Patrick Disney

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

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.



Share this with your friends: