• 15 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 (H.R. 1327), which passed a vote in the House yesterday, allows state governments to withdraw public funds from companies doing over $20 million a year with Iran’s energy sector. H.R. 1327 is problematic in that if it passes a through the Senate it will allow individual state governments to conduct foreign policy for the United States.

The Constitution explicitly denies individual states the right to engage in foreign policy, either economic or military, unless Congress authorizes them to do so through law. Putting aside those early debates over Federalism and Republicanism aside, the framers of the Constitution had an excellent reason for keeping individual states away from foreign policy: it is a terrible idea.

A country’s foreign policy should be presented as a unified, single position. This is necessary both to indicate the seriousness with which foreign policy decisions are made, and so that other nations know whom to engage and negotiate with over issues of international importance. One of the problems with trying to negotiate with nations like Somalia, or any other country that lacks a unified government, is that there are so many groups that control large swaths of the country that it is impossible to know whom to engage. It also presents the question of what is Somalia’s foreign policy.

I was born and raised in Connecticut, and it makes me nauseous when I think about the state legislature and especially the governor having direct influence over U.S. foreign policy. Connecticut is a state that three times elected a governor who was jailed for graft before completing his third term. The erstwhile governor’s replacement had to have the Connecticut attorney general explain how the state constitution outlines the power of the governor’s office. This is not exactly the caliber of politician I want weighing in on U.S. relations with Iran.

Allowing individual states to decide for themselves whether or not to divest companies tied to Iran’s energy sector leads to the fragmentation of U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. What if President Obama prefers to delay sanctions while the diplomatic track gets underway, yet a flood of states contradict the Commander-in-Chief by unilaterally sanctioning Iran anyway?  This is the crux of the problem, and it’s why yesterday’s vote was so counterproductive.

According to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), there are twenty states that have already passed bills that divest public funds from companies dealing with Iran; in effect enacting sanctions against Iran. If the Senate passes its version of the bill (S. 1065), it will be interesting to watch the next round of negotiations with Iran. U.S. negotiators may say that sanctions will be put off if Iran holds to agreements made in Geneva, but meanwhile nearly half of the United States will, in fact, be sanctioning Iran.


Topics: Human rights, violence, protests, crackdowns, arrests, important political and religious figures (positions, statements…), other influential people, internal divisions within hardliners, freedom of press, important events (memorial ceremonies, Friday prayers, …)


http://www.parlemannews.com/index.aspx (followers of Imam’s path)

http://www.mowjcamp.com/ (Mousavi supporter)

http://www.autnews.me/ (Amir Kabir University Newsletter, reformist)

http://www.irna.ir/?lang=fa (State owned)


http://www.etemademelli.ir/ (I think it belongs to Karroubi)

http://www.norooznews.ir/ (pro-reform)

http://zamaaneh.com/ (pro-reform)



http://www.kayhannews.ir/ (extremely conservative)





http://mowj.ir/index.php (Mousavi’s)

http://www.sarmayeh.net/ (quietly reformist newspaper in Iran)

http://www.rajanews.com/ (extremely conservative)


http://ghalamnews.ir/ (Mousavi)

Media sources used for the blog:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian (this is BBC Persian it has great articles and also provides videos)

http://www.facebook.com/mousavi?ref=nf#/mousavi?ref=nf (Mousavi’s facebook page)

http://www.facebook.com/mousavi?ref=nf#/pages/Mehdi-Karroubi/68765459902?ref=ts (Karroubi’s facebook page-it is not updated as often as Mousavi’s facebook page, but it does provide useful information from time to time)

http://twitter.com/greenvote (Mousavi’s twitter page, very useful it has links and up to date information. The links are very useful they are links to sites such as Moje, parliman news, galam and many others)

http://www.roozna.com/ (Karroubi’s official newspaper site)

http://www.etemademelli.ir/ (Karroubi’s official web site)

http://greenrevolutioniran.blogspot.com/ (This site has the latest videos and pictures of the events that are taking place in Iran)

http://www.mowj.ir/index.php (Mousavi’s official web site)

http://twubs.com/iranelectionhttp://twittbee.com/IranElection/ (twitter feeds from Iran and others who are twitter on Iran, site offers a variety of pictures and video, although the feeds are not always reliable-use discretion)

http://www.kodoom.com/ (Iranian American news site, offers unbiased news)

http://www.kayhannews.ir/ (Conservative Iranian newspaper)

http://mahid.wordpress.com/ (Iranian blog-not always reliable-use discretion)

I usually start by covering the facebook pages and BBC Persian in addition to etemadmeli. All three sources provide key information on the political activities of Mousavi and Karroubi.

From the start the basic news will be on the activities of the politicians and their daily rhetoric. This bit is news worthy if it is not covered by mainstream media. Etemadmeli in particular is a well written newspaper that provides criticisms and daily editorial reports on the government of Iran.  While looking for videos and pictures the twitter feeds are the best place.

In addition to etemadmeli, Mousavi’s twitter page is where I find a lot of info. The twitter page provides a number of links that are different news sites and blogs.

The topics that I generally cover are:

· Human right issues in Iran (includes arrests, news on the prisons, killings)

· Letters and speeches that are delivered by key clerical and political figures

· Khatami, Rafsanjani, Khamenei, Karroubi, Mousavi and ministers and clerics from Qom

· Also I focus on influential individuals such as the mayor of Iran, IRGC commanders and people from the art/entertainment community.

· Any general events in Iran that are newsworthy

Posted By Matt Sugrue

    3 Responses to “State Divestment from Iran: What Would James Madison Think?”

  1. john says:

    James Madison would think, what idiots we are for funding groups like NIAC who support the regime in Iran.

  2. Pirouz says:

    You know, it’s funny. Many analysts here in the US think that Iran’s power structure is impossible to fathom, and can’t figure out if the supreme leader, the president or the IRGC makes the decisions, or what.

    Last year, Khamenei said the same about America, that it was impossible to figure out along similar lines. He could well be correct.

    Responding to your comment above, john, you’re more than welcome to sponsor MEK- oh wait, their terrorists.

  3. Someone says:


    NIAC has held a principled stance since I’ve been following them and one in line with the views of the majority of Iranian-Americans (the just recently conducted a poll).

    They’ve stood against the Iranian regime on human rights. They’ve stood with the Iranian people in and outside of Iran in supporting diplomacy and opposing sanctions and war.

    Calling the NIAC a supporter of the regime in Iran just because they hold a different view than you on how to effectively open up Iran to the international community is pretty low (in an ad hominem kind of a way) and stifles debate.

    It also betrays your inability to come up with a reasoned opposing argument.

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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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