• 30 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

Only a few weeks after US-Iran diplomacy began in earnest, it seems to be heading towards a premature ending. Rather than tensions reduction, the world has witnessed the opposite. Iran is refusing to accept a fuel swap deal brokered by the IAEA, the IAEA has passed a resolution rebuking Iran, and Tehran has responded by approving a plan to build ten more nuclear facilities.

With the potential end of at least this phase of diplomacy, fears of a disastrous Israeli attack on Iran are on the rise once more. But contrary to Washington’s official line, America is capable of preventing Israel from initiating a war that would further destabilize the Middle East.

Conventional wisdom in Washington reads that the United States has little influence over Israel, particularly on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, since Israel maintains that it is an existential threat.

Washington has utilized the perception of Israeli immunity to international pleas to pressure China to rebuke Tehran. According to the Washington Post, National Security Council officials recently traveled to Beijing and used the Israeli card to get the Chinese on board.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don’t listen to other countries,” according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran, leading to a crisis in the Persian Gulf region and almost inevitably problems over the very oil China needs to fuel its economic juggernaut.”

It is questionable that the Chinese were moved by the notion that Israel cannot be influenced by the international community on this issue. Mindful of the strength of US-Israeli relations, it is hardly convincing that Washington cannot influence Israel’s actions towards Iran.

Indeed, there is an important precedent in which Washington successfully prevented Israel from taking military action even when Israel itself had been attacked.

On August 2, 1990, almost a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Iron Curtain divide, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within months, the George H. W. Bush administration carefully assembled a coalition of states under the UN flag and defeated the Iraqi army and restored Kuwait’s ruling family, the House of Sabah. The Bush senior administration saw particular value in ensuring that the international coalition contained numerous Arab states. But to get the Arab’s to join a war alongside the US and against another Arab power, Israel needed to be kept out of the coalition.

This turned out to be a tricky issue, particularly when Saddam Hussein hurled thirty-four Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, in an obvious attempt to lure Israel into the war. Then-National Security Advisor, General Brent Scowcroft, told me in an interview that the United States told Israel “in the strongest possible words” that it needed to keep itself out of the Iraq operation because Israeli retaliation would cause the collapse of Washington’s alliance against Iraq.

For the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, this was a very tough decision. Saddam’s missile attacks damaged Israel’s public morale; the country’s otherwise lively and noisy capital quickly turned into a ghost town. Bush sent Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger to Israel to assure Israeli leaders that the United States was doing all it could to destroy the Iraqi missile launchers.

But neither the Israel Defense Forces nor the Ministry of Defense was convinced. Instead, a feeling prevailed among Israel’s leaders that Washington was untrustworthy and that it could not be relied upon when it came to Israel’s existence. Bad blood was created between Israel and the United States, according to Efraim Halevi, the former head of the Mossad. Washington’s protection of Israel was ineffective, and the image that Israel was relying on the United States for protection was hard to stomach for ordinary Israelis. Shamir’s decision to accommodate the Americans was extremely unpopular, because it was believed that it “would cause irreparable damage to Israel’s deterrent capabilities,” Halevi told me. To make matters worse, people around Shamir felt that the United States did not reward Israel for, in their view, effectively enabling the coalition to remain intact by refusing to retaliate against Iraq.

Just as Israeli retaliation against Iraq in 1991 would have been devastating for the US, an Israeli preventive attack against Iran today would spell disaster for US national security.

In July 2008, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned against any Israeli military action against Iran, saying that the Middle East would become “more unstable” and that it would put US forces under much stress, indicating that an Israeli attack on Iran would inevitably suck the US into war with Iran. “From the United States’ perspective, the United States’ military perspective, in particular, opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us,” Mullen told reporters.

A year later, Mullen’s line was echoed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who warned that a military attack would only be a “temporary solution.” “There’s a lot of talk about a military effort to take out their nuclear capabilities, but, in my view, it would only be a temporary solution,” Gates told reporters in September 2009.

Beyond the impact an Israeli attack on Iran would have on US national security, the first casualty of war with Iran would be the Iranian pro-democracy movement. Having shown great courage in challenging the Ahmadinejad government, the last thing Iran’s pro-democracy activists need is for Iran to get embroiled in a military confrontation with Israel and the US. Their struggle for democracy will be infinitely more difficult in the midst of war.

Should diplomacy with Iran fail, and should Israel seek to attack Iran, America will have plenty of reasons to prevent such a disaster from taking place. And history shows that contrary to conventional wisdom, Washington has the ability to prevent Israel from taking actions that would endanger America.


Follow Trita Parsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tparsi

Posted By NIAC

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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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