• 30 April 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

You’re either with us, or against us


Just like clockwork, with the AIPAC policy conference set to begin this weekend, Congress has introduced a new round of draconian Iran sanctions. 

S.908 and H.R.2194 would allow the President to shut down all operations of any businesses inside the US that have any connection to Iran’s petroleum industry.  That includes any company that helps ship the petroleum to Iran, the company that builds the boat that ships the petroleum, the insurance brokers who underwrite the boat that ships the petroleum…it goes on and on.  You’re all no longer welcome here in the US of A, thank you very much.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) put it bluntly to our allies — many of whom we’re asking for help from on any number of important things like Afghanistan, the economy, etc:

“You can either do business with Iran’s $250 billion economy or our $13 trillion economy, but not both.”

Eerily reminiscent of another “with-us-or-against-us” approach, no?

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), the lead sponsor of the House sanctions bill, struck a bit milder tone with his press release this evening, saying:

I fully support the Administration’s strategy of direct diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I have no intention of moving this bill though the legislative process in the near future.  In fact, I hope that Congress will never need to take any action on this legislation, for that would mean that Iran at last has complied with the repeatedly-expressed demand of the international community to verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program and to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons once and for all.

Forgetting for a moment that Obama’s intelligence chief has said Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program to end…and looking past the fact that Berman is just repeating the Bush administration’s failed demand that Iran give up its uranium enrichment…whether it is deliberate or not, this new legislation hurts Obama’s diplomatic effort.

Many in Congress see this as a way to play “good cop, bad cop.”  But there is a danger that the bad cop won’t let the good one get a word in edgewise.  After thirty years, eight Congressional statutes, and over forty Presidentially-imposed sanctions, we can’t even let Obama open his mouth to talk to Iran without shouting him down with a call to cripple Iran’s economy?

The fact is, it’s not the threat of new sanctions that will change Iran’s behavior; it’s the promise of lifting the existing ones that will evoke good behavior.  That’s how it worked with Libya and South Africa.  We already have enough leverage to solve this problem, what we need is a Congress that will stay out of the President’s way.

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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