• 28 April 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy

Kerry: Diplomacy can and will work with Iran

cross posted from US News and World Report:

President Obama is right to open the door to direct engagement with Iran. Negotiations-backed by escalating sanctions to show we mean business if talks fail-are the only way short of war that we can persuade Iran to rein in its nuclear ambitions and begin building a more stable and secure Middle East.

Not talking to Iran failed miserably. With the Bush administration wrapped in a cloak of empty rhetoric and refusal to engage, Iran crossed red line after red line in its nuclear program, producing enough low-enriched uranium to eventually develop a nuclear weapon if it chooses. At the same time, Iran’s regional influence has expanded, and its radical anti-Israeli proxies Hamas and Hezbollah are more powerful, too.

Bullying is not a strategy. The Obama administration has embarked on an approach rooted in the recognition that the deeply interconnected problems of the Middle East will be resolved by more talk, not less.

Engagement is not a reward for Iran’s past actions; it is in our national interest. A better relationship offers the opportunity to explore mutual interests, like stability in Afghanistan, where we have worked constructively in the past. It provides the chance to solidify Iraq’s security as our troops prepare to depart. And it represents the best option for averting a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Beyond those immediate goals, long-term security in the region will be improved by recognizing Iran’s growing influence and transforming it from outlier to partner. Iran must change its unacceptable behavior, but engagement provides incentives for it to stop undermining peace and play a more positive role.

We choose to engage Iran not out of weakness but from a position of strength. Iran’s economy is suffering not just from the decline of oil prices and the overall global economic downturn but from decades of corruption and neglect. Whoever is elected president of Iran on June 12, the first order of business will be to fix the domestic economy-a task that will be much harder if the international community ratchets up the sanctions regime.

The administration has already reached out to Iran. President Obama recently offered a “new beginning” in a video appeal to the Iranian people, and Iran participated in last week’s Afghanistan conference at the invitation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Such overtures empower Iranian moderates and put hard-liners on the defensive: They can reject the overtures and risk further isolation both internationally and from their own people, or they can start down a path that could lead to real change. So far, the response has been tepid, though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran would welcome talks based on “honesty.”

Direct talks will not be easy. They will not erase half a century of mutual distrust. Radical elements within Iran will try to sabotage any progress, and there will be critics on our side, too. But if negotiations fail to achieve our goals, Iran will find itself isolated and our good-faith effort will solidify our standing with allies and friends for the tough measures that will follow.

We cannot succeed alone. We need to build a robust coalition to persuade Iran to moderate its behavior. Russia will be a critical coalition member. The first steps toward bringing the Russians on board began last week in London when President Obama and President Dimitry Medvedev vowed a “fresh start” in relations and said they will cooperate on arms control and other issues. Russia, China, and many allies have strong economic ties with Iran. Persuading them to risk the repercussions of tough sanctions in the midst of a global economic crisis requires that we exercise leadership through multilateral diplomacy, not unilateral intimidation.

Multilateral negotiations will increase our influence. But they are no substitute for our bilateral talks with Iran. The United States is the only country that can give the security assurances sought by our friends in the region-and by Iran. We have many common interests, but the ultimate success of engagement will depend on the U.S. ability to provide the mix of incentives and pressure to turn Iran away from its current track. We need to sit down with our allies and establish both realistic goals for curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and a set of escalating steps should Iran fail to respond. At the same time, we need to reassure Iran and its people that our days of advocating regime change are over and that we recognize its legitimate place at the table.

Make no mistake: Military action must be regarded as the last resort. It would expose our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to deadly reprisals from Iranian agents and proxies. It would destabilize the Middle East and encourage anti-Americanism throughout the world. It would continue to distract us from Afghanistan and Pakistan. And there is no guarantee that even sustained airstrikes would do more than delay Iran’s nuclear program. We should not be deluded, as we were six years ago with Iraq, into thinking that military strikes would be welcomed by the Iranian people. On the contrary, an attack would drive a moderate, pro-American population into the waiting arms of the most anti-Western elements of the Iranian government and security apparatus.

The Middle East’s security challenges are interrelated, which requires a comprehensive regional strategy. Progress in the Arab-Israeli conflict can reduce regional tensions and pay dividends in our engagement with Iran. A diplomatic breakthrough with Syria wouldn’t sever its relationship with Iran, but it would undermine Hamas and Hezbollah and put Tehran on the defensive.

By engaging rather than bullying Iran, by listening rather than threatening, we have our best shot at averting the creation of a new nuclear power and at opening the door to lasting stability in the region. By exercising responsible global leadership rather than walking away from a threat to international security, we can reclaim the moral high ground and the strategic initiative.

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: