• 4 November 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran

Video: Hostage John Limbert speaking with Khamenei

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This fascinating video came to our attention yesterday.  It shows Amb. John Limbert, at the time a hostage in the US Embassy, speaking with Ali Khamenei, then Iran’s president Deputy Defense Minister (and currently the Supreme Leader).  Just this morning, Amb. Limbert — a NIAC advisory board member — joined us at our Capitol Hill conference for a panel assessing Obama’s diplomacy with Iran, but this is an amazing look at his experience thirty years ago today.

For non-Farsi speakers, the exchange between Limbert and Khamenei here is incredibly interesting.  To paraphrase: Limbert politely welcomed Khamenei, who was being treated as a guest since he was visiting the hostages at their “residence” where they were being held.  Limbert remarked about the Iranian cultural quirk known as “taarof,” which characterizes the uniquely Iranian version of hospitality, saying: Iranians are too hospitable to guests in their country, when we insist that we must be going, you all tell us “no, no, you must stay.”

When Limbert pressed the matter further, Khamenei revealed that the real issue was the United States’ willingness to allow the deposed Shah to enter into the country for medical treatment.  When the US returns the Shah to Iran so the revolutionary government can prosecute him, Khamenei explained, then the hostages will be allowed to leave.

For those old enough to remember the hostage crisis as it happened, this will surely evoke strong memories from that period thirty years ago.  But for the rest of us, this is an amazingly personal glimpse into the ordeal that held the world’s attention for so long, and for which all of us are still dealing with the repercussions.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    3 Responses to “Video: Hostage John Limbert speaking with Khamenei”

  1. kevin says:

    For a U.S. honkie, that’s not some bad Farsi.

  2. interested says:

    I hope a translation with be forthcoming, especially in view of recent events in Iran, celebrating the I would like also to hear Khameinis reaction – translated too. I’m sure many iranians would also like to hear th anniversary of this event, and with brutal repression of opposition demonstrations still by this same cleric. This man like all the corrupt mullahs and politiciens in the country, is doomed but he’s managed to keep his country in their ignorance with the SAME words today, that the enemies are americans…. (yet using US and western technology… internet, satelites….no gratitude… )This regime is doomed, and will fall within a few months.. nobody likes him except a few revolutionary guards who beat up people and rape women and men… they can’t admit it.. he’s an old man, but has should be tried before international court

  3. Nader Vadiee says:

    It is a small world !

    Dr. John Limbert, US State Department assistant secretary, was my English professor in Shiraz University in 1970. He was one of my best professors and I always enjoyed his lectures and he has inspired me a lot. As far as I recollect he is married to an Iranian woman from Shiraz (my hometown). He is very proficient in Farsi and has studied and researched Persian literature and culture. Later, after the 1979 revolution and during the US-Iran hostage crisis he was one of the American hostages .

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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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