• 28 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

Divided House Committee Passes Iran Sanctions

A divided House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) today by voice vote. The lead sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the committee, Howard Berman (D-CA), said his overriding concern is preventing Iran from “acquiring the capacity to acquire nuclear arms.”

IRPSA would expand unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions and target companies exporting refined petroleum to Iran or helping to develop Iran’s oil refining industry. Before the hearing, Rep. Berman amended the legislation to make lifting the sanctions in it conditional on Iran ceasing all uranium enrichment.

The bill received vocal support from much of the committee, including the ranking Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). “Unless we impose the maximum pressure on Iran, and this bill is a major step forward in that direction, the regime will continue its march towards acquiring nuclear weapons,” said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

However, a bipartisan group of representatives voiced their opposition to the legislation.

It was pointed out by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) that many human rights defenders inside Iran, such as Shirin Ebadi, are against additional economic sanctions. Quoting Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, he said that “sanctions would not actually act against the government; rather they would only hurt the people.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) echoed those concerns, and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said he did not support IRPSA because unilateral sanctions are ineffective and punish American allies.

Committee members who supported IRPSA frequently stated their belief that the bill would be an effective deterrent for Iran’s government. “Since Iran imports forty percent of its refined petroleum, this legislation will have a significant impact on Iran’s economy, and will send a clear message that Iran must stop its nuclear enrichment program,” said Rep. Mike McMahon (D-NY).

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) said he would vote for the measure, but made clear he felt it was less than ideal. Meeks argued that sanctions should be targeted at Iran’s leaders, not the general population. According to Rep. Meeks, “We need to find sanctions that are going to affect those few who, in effect, have hijacked the entire country.” Meeks also emphasized that President Obama’s diplomatic efforts should be given time to succeed.

The Senate Banking Committee will consider a more expansive Iran sanctions bill tomorrow.

Posted By Matt Sugrue

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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.

Sincerely,

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