New Sanctions a “Sword of Damocles” over Iran

Washington DC – “I view the [Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act] as a sword of Damocles over the Iranians,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman. “This is a clear hint of what will happen if they do not engage seriously and move rapidly to suspend their uranium enrichment program.”

Berman said there is “no doubt” the American people stand with the Iranian people, but he said the U.S. will rally international support for imposing “crippling sanctions” if President Obama’s diplomatic strategy has not shown signs of success by the fall.

While most of the world has been captivated by events unfolding in Iran, Wednesday’s Foreign Affairs Committee hearing concentrated on Iran’s nuclear program and the use of sanctions against Iran. The committee hearing included a panel of six witnesses: Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Suzanne Maloney from the Brookings Institution, Abbas Milani of Stanford University, Karim Sadjadpour from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, and Orde Kittrie from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Kittrie, Rubin, and Clawson indicated their support for imposing new sanctions against companies that export refined petroleum to Iran, while Maloney and Sadjadpour indicated that it is too early to decide on this matter and that Congress should wait until “the dust has settled [in Iran].” Milani said that if diplomacy fails, he would support “crippling” international sanctions, akin to what was imposed on apartheid South Africa. While Milani argued that unilateral sanctions don’t work and would only help the government of Iran, he said that he would support refined petroleum sanctions as a “plan C.”

“I approve [refined petroleum sanctions] in precisely the that manner the Chairman indicates, as plan C. After plan A and B fail, then the plan C is certainly called for, and I believe many Iranian democrats will be calling for it as well,” Milani told the Committee.

Maloney noted that “the opposition in Iran has not expressed their desire for bilateral and unilateral sanctions that would cripple the government.” However, Sadjadpour stated that “many members of the opposition and the population actually are starting to come around. Their views towards sanctions have changed… They’re starting to see value in it.” Abbas Milani seconded this point.

Some of the Representatives expressed their concern that sanctions would not be enough to deter Iran. “I feel it already may be too late,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY). Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) compared Iran to Nazi Germany in advocating for harsh new sanctions. Burton added that if sanctions do not work, “they need to know what’s coming next.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told the panel he believes “we can do more than just sanctions,” advocating covert support for Iranian opposition forces “so that they will have the material well-being…to take on that government themselves.

Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) emphasized that he will support Israel if it bombs Iran because it “feels like it has to defend itself.” Kittrie argued it would be better for the United States to carry out any military action because “we have the right capacity.” Meanwhile, Rubin who prior to the Iranian presidential elections expressed his hope for an Ahmadinejad victory, stated that “the United States should not sacrifice its allies,” indicating support for military action if US allies in the region feel threatened by Iran.

The majority of the Committee agreed that, unless Iran suspends its nuclear program by the end of September, the Congress will likely move to impose additional broad sanctions against the Iranian economy.

Posted By Ali Delforoush

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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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