• 4 May 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

“[It] is clear that we are now approaching a defining moment in [US-Iran] history and in the relationship between the international community, including especially the United States, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran—a defining moment in which both sides must make big decisions, whose consequences will carry far into the future,” Senator Joseph Lieberman said at the American Enterprise Institute’s conference on Iran last week.

“In this regard, Secretary Clinton said last week that the Obama administration will approach its new engagement with Iran with eyes wide open and under no illusions. That’s exactly the right way to do it.”

Lieberman spoke about a Senate bill he introduced Tuesday giving the President expanded authority to crack down on companies that export gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran. “I have spoken to [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid and he is supportive, he added.”
Following Lieberman’s speech, a panel with AEI scholars Michael Rubin and Fred Kagan and Brookings scholar Kenneth Pollack discussed US options on Iran.

In contrast to Lieberman’s emphasis on sanctions, the panelists emphasized many of the costs associated with additional sanctions and other punitive measures. “Look, we need to be honest about this: Iranians are going to die if we impose additional sanctions,” Kagan said in a realistic tone.Pollack stressed the great opportunity provided by engagement. “Some Iranian elites and the Iranian people want relations with the US. I think we should really give [engagement] a good shot. We need to develop concrete steps that we can ask the Iranians to do to build confidence,” he added.

“First, we should reach out to the Iranian people to ask if their government serves their interest. Second, we can influence the Iranian government through reaching out to the people, because the government cares about what its people think, in some way.” Pollack added, “Third, the US cannot change its relationship with Iran unilaterally…if we go forward with multilateral diplomacy, we have more support for other measures.”
The neoconservatives on the panel emphasized the disadvantages of a military attack.

“We should not hand Ahmadinejad the nationalist card through a military attack,” Rubin said in ruling out military intervention. “In the case of a military strike on Iran,” Rubin warned, “people would rally around the flag.” Rubin had argued as recently as 2007 that the US needed to take on Iran to achieve victory in Iraq.

“We have a fundamental choice: are we ready to use force to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons?” Kagan asked. Questioning the strategic effectiveness of such an attack, he followed, “What will you do after a military strike? How will you use it to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons?”

Rubin said it was unrealistic to expect a complete halt to Iran’s nuclear activities regardless of U.S. policy. He quoted Reformist Presidential candidate MirHossein Mousavi’s first news conference saying that Iran cannot retreat on the nuclear issue. “US-Iran relations should not to be tied to the nuclear issue,” Rubin quoted Mousavi as saying.

Pollack concluded the panel saying, “Iran needs to be a top priority for the Obama administration always, so we don’t find out the implications of a nuclear Iran after the fact.”

Though this panel of Iran conservatives did not produce unanimous support for diplomacy, the neoconservatives’ retreat from military options is surprising. The Obama Administration’s continued support of robust diplomacy appears to have caused a paradigm shift in the Washington debate on Iran.

Update: I am sorry, it appears that I inadvertently put the phrase “take on Iran” above in quotations  in this piece. Fixed.

Posted By NIAC

    One Response to “Lieberman: “We are now approaching a Defining Moment in US-Iran History” (Updated)”

  1. Ali Scotten says:

    Sounds like the neocons have had a dose of reality. Let’s hope it stays this way.

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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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