• 15 May 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

State Dept: “No deadline on talks”

IanKelly

After reports from Haaretz earlier in the week that the Obama administration is considering an October deadline on talks with Iran, and following the Wall Street Journal’s reportage of the same deadlines story, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was confronted at yesterday’s press briefing on the administration’s timeline for engagement.

Personally, I think the poorly-sourced and largely speculative Haaretz report is much ado about nothing.  And I am no more convinced now that the Wall Street Journal has decided to pick it up and run with it–of course there are “senior US officials” more than willing to confirm reports of some talk of a deadline, but that in no way makes it the policy regardless of whatever wishful thinking these folks might be engaging in.

Fortunately, State’s Ian Kelly was pretty definitive yesterday:

QUESTION: Back to Iran , there’s a press report this morning that the Administration is basically going to give Iran until like, the UN General Assembly in September to respond to the U.S. dialogue – an effort hasn’t started yet.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Does that coincide with your view on it?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me just say that we’re not setting any deadline.

We’re not interested in setting any kind of specific or even notional timeline. We are, of course, monitoring very closely what the Iranians are doing, assessing progress. But it – we don’t have any timeline forward.

What – you know, we’re not going to let this string out forever, of course, but we don’t have any timetable on it.

QUESTION: Well, what —

MR. KELLY: Yes. Sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: They were saying the same thing. They’re saying the same thing, that they are watching the U.S. Administration and waiting for signs of change in policy, so —

MR. KELLY: Well, there is a change in policy. I mean, we have – we’ve decided that we – we’re going to – we want to – we’re going to have a seat at the table, of the P-5+1 table. We’ve decided to engage. We’ve decided that the – our previous approach of isolating Iran didn’t work. And so we want to give engagement a chance.

I’m sorry, Matt. You —

QUESTION: Well, I just – back on the whole idea of the timeline, then.

This was first reported in the Israeli press over the weekend, this whole October idea. You’re saying that that’s incorrect?

MR. KELLY: I’m saying that we do not have any timeline.

Interestingly, buried deep within the Wall Street Journal piece was a fascinating claim attributed to “political insiders in Iran,” who say that Iran could agree to a short-term “freeze for freeze” formula in which Tehran would halt its uranium enrichment in return for the West’s holding off on new sanctions.  The experts say that Iran would then offer to accept stringent monitoring and inspections to ensure its program remains purely civilian in nature in return for sharing technology and expertise.

This was part of the bargain in 2003 that President Bush rejected out of hand because “we don’t talk to evil” — though that offer has essentially remained on the table to this day.  When I spoke with him just before he entered the administration, White House WMD czar Gary Samore said that he supports exactly this type of approach to negotiations–and he represents more of the hard-edged wing of the Obama administration’s Iran team.

If you’re asking for any sort of prediction on what type of engagement with Iran is most likely to be successful–for my money, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Posted By Patrick Disney

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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.

Sincerely,

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