• 7 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Nuclear file

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post

Frustration is growing among the Iranian people over the Obama administration’s silence on human rights abuses in Iran. Condemnations of Tehran’s abhorrent treatment of its people have been few and far between. But before nuclear diplomacy moves towards a premature ending, the Obama administration must act quickly to reinvigorate its human rights agenda. Failure to do so may cause any future focus on Iran’s human rights violations to be viewed solely as a means to punish Tehran, rather than a strategic imperative worthy of pursuit in its own right.

The Obama administration made a genuine effort to kick-start diplomacy by focusing on building confidence and turning back the nuclear clock through a deal brokered by the IAEA. But rather than succeeding to build trust and slow Iran’s nuclear advances, Tehran is threatening to expand the program ten-fold.

The Obama administration cannot be faulted for not having sought genuine diplomacy with Iran. Washington unilaterally changed the atmospherics between the two countries by reaching out to both the Iranian people and their rulers. Through strategic messaging, the Obama administration helped create circumstances conducive to successful diplomacy.

While the Administration’s efforts were genuine, and while the failure to reach an interim deal thus far has more to do with internal Iranian infighting than with Washington’s diplomacy, the modalities of the Obama strategy were problematic from the outset.

First, the time-frame was too short. Due to pressures from domestic actors as well as US allies in the region, diplomacy was given no more than 12 weeks to make measurable progress. In contrast, US sanctions on Iran have been given more than 20 years to work, and are yet to produce tangible results. With such a short time frame, a single bump in the road could derail the process.

Second, significant capital and prestige was invested in an interim deal aimed at shipping out large portions of Iran’s stockpiles of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU). While the deal would have been of significant tactical importance, it was no more than an instrument to reach the strategic goal of a conclusive settlement of the nuclear issue. As such, the interim deal would have been helpful, but not necessary, towards reaching a final agreement. But by permitting the interim deal to determine whether diplomacy would proceed or not, a helpful tactical objective was made more important than the strategic goal itself.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the narrowness of the agenda – the sole focus on the nuclear issue – made the negotiations a single variable conversation. With only one track, any hurdle could effectively put an end to the diplomatic journey, as now seems to have happened.

In particular, the failure to make human rights a prominent part of the talks has been problematic, both in terms of support for talks inside Iran, and for the long-term prospects of finding a sustainable, positive relationship with Iran. Unfortunately, fear in the White House that a forward leaning posture on human rights could jeopardize progress on the nuclear front may have prevented broadening the agenda.

The end result is a vacuum on the human rights front from the American side with several negative effects. First, the Ahmadinejad government may have been left with the impression that it can get away with almost any human rights abuses due to America’s compromised position in the region.

Second, the green movement — which represents a force for moderation in the country — is turning increasingly skeptical about US intentions. While opinions differ within the movement as to the wisdom of US-Iran diplomacy at this time, the neglect of human rights fuels pre-existing suspicions about the objectives of American diplomacy. That is, the fear that the US is solely interested in reaching a nuclear deal and may be willing to sacrifice the Iranian people’s aspirations in the process.

Looking at Iran solely from a nuclear prism proved disastrous for the Bush administration. The Obama administration will fare no better. It needs to swiftly reinvigorate its human rights approach to Iran and begin giving significant prominence to this issue.

Time is of the essence. Iran’s human rights abuses must be addressed now and not just when our focus turns to punitive measures. Otherwise, the administration will unintentionally signal that the rights of the Iranian people are used solely as a pressure tactic against Iran when it fails to compromise on other issues.

Today, opponents of the Ahmadinejad government took to the streets once again, continuing the marathon to determine the future of the country. Their rights to assemble, to speak, and to live freely continue to be denied. The history of the Unites States in the Middle East shows that neglecting human rights comes at America’s own peril. Neither short nor long-term security is achieved by failing to recognize the breeding ground for anti-Americanism created when we remain silent on abuses in countries whose governments we engage with.

The Obama administration is right in not making itself a central actor in this historic Iranian struggle. It is also right to engage the Iranian government. But let there be absolute clarity that from a moral standpoint, the United States supports the Iranian people’s quest for democracy and human rights. Silence betrays that clarity.

Posted By NIAC

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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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