• 4 September 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

The Campaign Against Rafsanjani

The latest analysis by Persia House, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Iran shop, is out. It has an interesting analysis of the campaign against Rafsanjani, the powerful head of both the Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts. Persia House reviews the attacks by Ahmadinejad and his hardline supporters dating back to 2005 before analyzing the current situation:

In retrospect, Rafsanjani’s gamble seems to have lost. Now, with the Reformists and election opposition under severe pressure, he stands most prominently in the sights of Ahmadinejad’s cohort of hard-liners. Making matters worse for him, a new Friday prayer imam has been added to the four-man roster of Tehran prayer leaders which includes Rafsanjani; he will have less opportunity to take the bully pulpit. More recently, his son Mehdi Hashemi has been accused of embezzlement, money laundering, and forgery in a detainee’s confession, and may recently have fled to England. Rafsanjani has seen these events for what they most likely are: a “complicated conspiracy” to neutralize him.

For the time being, Rafsanjani seems to have retreated from his earlier support for the election opposition. A letter to him by Mehdi Karroubi alleging the abuse and rape of election protestors in prison has gone unanswered. And Rafsanjani has formally called on Iranians to follow the commands of the Supreme Leader. Khamenei, however, has long regarded Rafsanjani—a potential successor as Supreme Leader—as a threat and a rival. Having pushed many other prominent clerics out of the loci of power, the Supreme Leader will likely give Rafsanjani only the pretense of support, at best. In fact, during Rafsanjani’s two terms as president, he was both outsmarted and politically thwarted by Khamenei and other conservatives. In Ahmadinejad, Khamenei may hope he has found the man to finally rid him of this turbulent cleric.

How Rafsanjani’s fortunes fare now will depend on who comes out on top in the political power struggle between various factions of conservative hardliners, and whether or not he can influence the outcome of the fight. If Ahmadinejad and his supporters in the Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC) have their way, Rafsanjani’s political career may well be over and the path cleared of a major obstacle to a military-intelligence takeover of Iran’s government. Such a turn of events would be dramatic, since for thirty years, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has deftly scaled the treacherous heights of Iranian politics. Should he lose his footing and fall now, it would be a very long way down indeed.

Enduring America makes a compelling argument against the assessment that Rafsanjani has “retreated.” This debate will likely go on until he makes his next [public] move.

Simultaneously, Persia House translates an article by the Iran’s official news agency linking Rafsanjani’s most recent speach to the Freedom Movement of Iran, a party banned in Iran in 1991. Persia House concludes that, “By attempting to link Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the Freedom Movement, some in the regime may be trying to lay the groundwork for his eventual arrest or ouster.”

Persia House adds, “It is noteworthy that the article calls Rafsanjani by the Shi’a clerical title “hojat-ol-Eslam” (literally “proof of Islam”). Rafsanjani is in fact an “ayatollah”(or “sign of God”), a rank higher than hojat-ol-Eslam. Calling him by a lower designation is disrespect by demotion, and a very obvious insult.”

Posted By David Elliott

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

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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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