• 15 October 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Friendly advice on how to engage Iran

From Nobel Peace laureate to Nobel Peace laureate.

Shirin Ebadi talked to the Washington Post, offering some advice to President Obama.  Although it’s not a mistake to be engaging with the government, she said, “paying so much more attention to Iran’s nuclear ambitions than to its trampling of democracy and freedom is a mistake both tactical and moral.”

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “is at the lowest level of popularity one can imagine,” Ms. Ebadi said. “If the West focuses exclusively on the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad can tell his people that the West is against Iran’s national interest and rally people to his cause. But if the West presses also on its human rights record, he will find himself in a position where his popular base is getting weaker and weaker by the day.”

To anyone familiar with internal Iranian politics, this should sound very familiar.  For years, NIAC has told policymakers that the nuclear issue is the strongest card in Ahmadinejad’s hand, precisely because he can paint it as a black and white issue in which the world is trying to deprive Iran of its rights.

Human rights, on the other hand, has long been the government’s weakest pressure point. Now that Ahmadinejad faces an unprecedented legitimacy crisis, that vulnerability grows larger every single day.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    2 Responses to “Friendly advice on how to engage Iran”

  1. Pirouz says:

    I disagree, Patrick. While important, in itself, the human rights issue for the US is quite muddied. What about Guantanimo? Bagram? Abu Ghraib? What about civilian victims of American aerial bombardment? How about US support for crimes committed by the Zionists? Waterboarding?

    Then there’s the case of American Middle East allies like Egypt. How can the US punish Iran and reward Egypt? It doesn’t work, does it.

    While it’s definitely correct to be concerned about human rights in all countries, international relations is a far more complicated game than simple matters of ethics and morality. I mean, for gosh sake, look at what Israel gets away with. And they’re considered America’s closest ally in the world!

    Every Iranian-American should be concerned primarily with one thing: improved US-Iran relations. That, by itself, would generate many positive improvements not only for Iran, but also the US.

    Shirin Ebadi, I rest my case.

  2. Someone says:

    @ Pirouz:

    […]Every Iranian-American should be concerned primarily with one thing: improved US-Iran relations.[…]

    Are you for serious? Don’t you care one bit about the brutal repression that has taken place in Iran for the past few months?

    Human rights may not be a suitable item for negotiation between states (what’s the realist view on that, Mr. Parsi?) but to say that Iranian-Americans should ignore human rights and only focus on improved US-Iranian relations is, well, impossible for anyone with an ounce of compassion and a love for his people.

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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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