• 31 July 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Why the role reversal on Iran?

The ultra-hardline Iranian newspaper Kayhan argued yesterday that the West is confused about how to engage Iran in the aftermath of Iran’s election and crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. However, it isn’t confusion that they’re witnessing – it’s a surprising role reversal. Many people who previously advocated for engagement now say that we need to hold off for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Iran’s fragmented political system is in too much disarray to respond to U.S.-backed diplomacy. Conversely, many hawks in the U.S. are now arguing that engagement must begin immediately.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it clear what the Obama administration thinks. “We’ve certainly reached out and made it clear that’s what we’d be willing to do, even now, despite our absolute condemnation of what they’ve done in the election and since, but I don’t think they have any capacity to make that kind of decision right now,” she said. As one blogger astutely put it, demanding Iran to talk to the U.S. right now would be akin to Russia demanding that the United States negotiate an arms reduction treaty in the midst of Bush v. Gore.

Rather than benefiting from Iran’s vulnerabilities, engaging now could lead to the most dangerous scenario. As Dr. Parsi said yesterday in Foreign Policy magazine:

Of all scenarios the Obama administration could end up facing — an Iran that refuses to come to the table, for example, or an Iran that only uses talks to play for time — the worst scenario is another one: where the parties begin talks according to the set timetable, but fail to reach an agreement due to an inability to deliver. If talks fail, U.S. policymakers will be left with increasingly unpalatable options as a result.

Perhaps this explains why advocates of sanctions and/or war, who not long ago were saying that we shouldn’t talk to Iran at all, are now saying that the U.S. should engage Iran immediately with a short timetable.

Why the role reversal? Many in Washington believe engagement is a pointless exercise and are eager to impose sanctions and/or bomb Iran. The perma-skeptics of diplomacy think we should impose an artificial deadline, rush to engage, and then run headlong into Iran’s political paralysis. Their plan would have us miss the deadline,  sanction Iran as much as possible, and then lobby for the U.S. to bomb Iran when sanctions fail to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Of course, this is an incredibly foolish “solution.”  As every Iran expert worth their salt has noted, bombing Iran is perhaps the only thing that can cement this government’s hold on power indefinitely into the future.

With Israel’s head of intelligence publicly saying Iran won’t be able to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon until 2014 at the earliest, the U.S. can and should wait for the right time to engage.

Posted By David Elliott

David Elliott is the Assistant Policy Director at the National Iranian American Council.

    2 Responses to “Why the role reversal on Iran?”

  1. Nameless says:

    Don’t lose sight of what Obama is doing in Iraq to appease the Iranian dictatorship. Recently, he released Iranian operatives. Now he has ordered the dismantling of the Mujaheddin camps in Iraq. What will he get in return?

    Hopefully, Obama will be successful. But it will be funny if the Iranian Islamic Dictatorship (IID), double crosses him. It won’t be the first time they’ve done so – but at least Obama will then grow up and enter the real world.

  2. The Reader says:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124906414428797467.html

    There is nothing consistences in western diplomacy these days; apparently western businesses are pro coup regime and influencing the direction of this movement more than any western politicians, UN or EU!

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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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