• 3 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Washington Times: Obama wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei

From the Washington Times this morning:

President Obama sent a second letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before Iran’s disputed presidential elections, an Iranian-American activist says. The Washington Times reported in June that Mr. Obama wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei in May seeking talks and improved relations between the longtime adversaries.

An Iranian Web site, Tabnak, reported Wednesday that the president had sent a second letter, but did not provide a date.

An Iranian individual familiar with the report told The Washington Times that the second letter arrived two weeks ago via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The individual, who asked not to be named because he was discussing sensitive matters, said the letter asked for “better cooperation” between the two countries, which have not had diplomatic relations since 1980. White House officials cast doubt on the report but declined to deny it on the record.

“There have been multiple ways that communication has taken place with Iran,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor wrote in an e-mail. “We do not discuss the details or modalities of those communications.” Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian-American Council, a group that represents Iranians in the U.S., said Ayatollah Khamenei had responded to Mr. Obama’s first letter and that Mr. Obama then sent another letter to the Iranian leader.

Mr. Parsi, who did not disclose the contents of the letters, said that the entire exchange took place prior to the June 12 presidential elections, which handed a disputed victory to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since the vote, thousands of Iranians have protested in the streets, and the regime has arrested hundreds of reformists, academics and Iranians with ties to the West. At least 30 people have been killed, according to government figures, and 100 are being tried on charges they sought to overthrow the Iranian government with foreign help.

The Iranian press report about a second letter from Mr. Obama came as diplomats from six world powers met in Frankfurt to urge Iran to agree to talks or face new sanctions. On Tuesday, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said Iran was preparing a new offer for negotiations over its nuclear program.

Posted By Matthew Negreanu

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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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