• 8 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Leave the NIE Alone


The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece today that criticizes continued reliance on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2007, which stated that in 2003 Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program. The article’s author points out that the NIE defined “nuclear weapons program…[as] weapon design and weaponization work and . . . uranium enrichment-related work” rather than Iran’s “declared” nuclear facilities.”

The author argues that the NIE was misleading, since U.S. intelligence knew about Iran’s Qom facility at the time. The logic follows that Iran was working towards uranium enrichment, and, therefore, its nuclear weapons program was still active. Of course this thinking is flawed.

The NIE definition of nuclear weapons program has three parts: weapon design, weaponization work and uranium enrichment-related work. Simply enriching uranium does not equal a nuclear weapons program. The United Arab Emirates is planning on developing a facility to generate nuclear power, but this does not mean they are automatically working towards developing an atomic weapon. Brazil and Japan even have active enrichment programs, but you don’t hear anyone talk about the looming Brazilian nuclear weapon.  It seems reasonable to assume that the real indicators of an active nuclear weapons program is actually enriching uranium to weapons grade levels and designing the weapons parameters.

In addition, the fact that the I.C. knew about the Qom facility in 2007 does not mean that the NIE was faulty. We often make the mistake of believing that our spies know everything about everyone; unfortunately it’s not that easy.  While the I.C. did amazing work to discover the facility at an early stage, it was not clear what exactly the site was being constructed for.  (Remember that no nuclear materials had been introduced, even by the time the facility was revealed to the public).  We still don’t know exactly when the decision was made to convert the facility from its original purpose (some type of tunnel complex, possibly for a munitions depot) to an enrichment site.

The Wall Street Journal piece is representative of a recurring problem in numerous recent articles that have covered Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s yearly budget is $75 billion, and out of that massive budget came an NIE that stated Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. However, articles continue to appear that argue against the NIE report, and yet those articles fail to deliver any new evidence to support their claims.

It is always good to question government, and make sure government officials are held accountable. At some point, however, it begins to appear unreasonable when good intelligence is repeatedly questioned.  Are we really supposed to believe that the Wall Street Journal editorial board knows more than the US Intelligence Community?

Posted By Matt Sugrue

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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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