• 8 June 2009
  • Posted By Trita Parsi
  • 2 Comments
  • Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

Ahmadinejad’s little helpers

cross posted from HuffingtonPost:

Tehran is a happening place this week. Major US papers report of street rallies and parties, shouting matches between supporters of rival candidates and a general carnival atmosphere. Of course, many are only taking advantage of freedoms that solely descend on Iran days before presidential elections. This is the time to do what one otherwise can’t do – party, dance in the streets and yell out anger at Iran’s many injustices. But many are also genuinely excited about the prospects for change in the June 12 elections.

Mir Hossein Moussavi, the centrist-reformist candidate, is the main benefactor of this wave of excitement. But Ahmadinejad has helpers in unexpected places: The US Congress.

The Democratic House Leadership has put on the suspension calendar – meaning fast tracking a vote deemed to be uncontroversial – H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009.

H.R. 1327, among other things, authorizes State and local governments to divest from Iran. As of now, at least ten States have enacted Iran divestment legislation, but most legal experts agree that without federal authorization such measures violate the Constitution.

Supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, proponents of the bill argue that additional sanctions on Iran increases US leverage over Iran. The bill has been portrayed as a measure to enhance President Obama’s diplomatic strategy.

Obama, however, doesn’t seem to agree – even though he himself sponsored a similar bill when he served in the Senate. Secretary of State Clinton told lawmakers earlier in May that “Until we have tested, within the time period set forth by the president, where we think this engagement is going, I am not sure that adding new unilateral sanctions is really that helpful.”

When AIPAC pushed hard for another sanctions legislation this spring, the White House pushed back hard. The White House prevailed, but the showdown revealed that the window for US-Iran diplomacy may not only get closed by the ticking nuclear clock, but also by pressure from Congress for new sanctions.

Now, I am biased against this bill as I testified in Congress against it. My arguments echoed the arguments the White House later used – imposing new sanctions prior to diplomacy having begun will only decrease the chances of successful diplomacy.

But to put this sanctions bill on the suspension calendar – only three days before Iranians go to vote -may have another consequence: it may tip the elections in Ahmadinejad’s favor.

This Congressional act will likely be seen as a provocation in Iran – coming in the last crucial days before the elections. And if the Bush administration’s policies taught us anything, it’s that confrontational measures do not strengthen the moderates in the Middle East. It strengthens the radicals.

The timing couldn’t be better for Ahmadinejad. The momentum in the last week has clearly been with Moussavi. And contrary to Ahmadinejad’s calculations, the Iranian presidential debates – aired live on national TV – only helped strengthen Moussavi’s momentum. Much indicates that Ahmadinejad’s shot himself in the foot in the debates through personal attacks on Moussavi and his wife (!). Rather than creating doubts in people’s minds about Moussavi, Ahmadinejad only managed to showcase his own petty side. A typical case of negative campaigning backfiring.

Though Moussavi is still the underdog, all he needs to do at this stage is to ensure that Ahmadinejad doesn’t get a majority of the votes. If he and the two other anti-Ahmadinejad presidential candidates in the race – Karroubi and Rezai – can muster more than 50 percent of the vote, the elections go to a run-off on June 19. And in the run-off (assuming that it will be between Moussavi and Ahmadinejad), Moussavi may emerge as the favorite, since a stark majority of Rezai and Karroubi votes will go to him.

Most polls show that Ahmadinejad’s has a plurality of the votes, not a majority. So he is in trouble – and in need of help. And in Congress, he may have some helpers. If the House passes Iran Sanctions Enabling Act on Tuesday, Congress may give Ahmadinejad’s campaign the crucial vitamin injection that the Iranian electorate thus far has denied him.

update: NIAC has contacted Congressional leadership, which has confirmed that H.R. 1327 is no longer on the legislative calendar for this week, citing the upcoming Iranian election.

Posted By Trita Parsi

    2 Responses to “Ahmadinejad’s little helpers”

  1. a reader says:

    Contrary to what the author claims, the debates have boosted Ahmadinejad’s chance. What you say was true since middle of the last week. then, as I expected, Ahmadinejad has made a come back. It was quite expected that Ahmadinejad will change the course in the last 7-10 days of the campaign. As always, reformists have shown that they seriously lack a strategic insight. They have gone far off by demonizing Ahmadinejad. And it has so far made a backlash. The reformists were afraid that Mousavi’s 20 absence in Iranian political structure may result in a defeat. So, in the last 3 months, they have introduced him more than what he really was! and tried to ridicule Ahmadinejad, unfairly. no surprise, they ran out of time! Once again, it’s Ahmadinejad’s political (as well as his deep understanding of Iran economics’s problems, as he shown in his outstanding debate with Rezaei) creativity, as he also shown in dealing with the U.S-Iran standoff, that made the reformists helpless! the debate almost killed Karoubi’s chance altogether. For Mousavi also, it would have been nicer not to have them at all. Rezaei was the real winner of the debates, I think. after all, as it stands, Ahmadinejad will be re-elected, rightfully though, unless something really unexpected happens in the coming 2 days or so.

  2. a reader says:

    about your analysis, we say in Farsi: “bezar to koze abesho bokhor”. I am surprised how one,who has written greatly in the past, can be that far in predicting an obvious election. well, when one really thinks, he is the end of politics (specially; the politics of Iran), then, this kind of prediction is quite normal!

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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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