• 13 October 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions

Iran’s Bait and Switch

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Iran’s parliament has approved slashing energy and food subsidies over the course of five years. The proposed move would bring Iran’s domestic prices more in line with international market prices to offset the $90 billion spent annually in subsidies.

While attempts to reduce subsidies were made in the past, the government was met with an infuriated Iranian citizenry that took to rioting and protesting. This time, the Iranian government may be employing a clever “bait and switch” – present their reforms for subsidy removal as an area of weakness. If the U.S. bites and imposes a “gasoline sanction” to instigate further unrest in Iran, “Tehran could simply ease its subsidies while pointing to Washington as the cause of pain,” according to Vivienne Walt of Time Magazine.

The AP article elaborated:

“The latest proposal could present Ahmadinejad with one of his government’s most serious challenges since the violence and protests resulting from the summer’s presidential elections that critics and the opposition contend he stole through widespread fraud.

Some economists contend…that the plan would only serve to sharply drive up inflation, further squeezing a country grappling with already high inflation and shouldering the weight of international sanctions.”

However, other economists rebuff the statements saying, “No Iranian government could afford to maintain [the subsidies] at current levels.”

This event can be seen as maneuvering in advance of proposed refined petroleum sanctions that could be levied in the event that Iran does not cooperate in the multilateral talks with the p5+1. If the sanctions were to pass and be put into place, it would give the regime the perfect “scapegoat” to catalyze its subsidy removal by blaming Western powers, thereby quelling any serious protest to the action.

In the end, proposed petroleum sanctions would only be temporary and not effective, according to Richard Dalton, former British ambassador to Iran and current associate fellow at think tank Catham House. He is quoted in the Time article:

“Chinese firms and, until recently, India’s Reliance, have been working on massive upgrades of the country’s refineries. ‘If Iran can maintain its refinery upgrades, they’ll be self-sufficient in gas by 2013.’”

Posted By Bardia Mehrabian

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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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