• 28 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran, US-Iran War

NYT is at it again

Apparently because the backlash against Alan Kuperman’s op-ed last week wasn’t harsh enough, the NYT has doubled down with this piece, by Selig Harrison, about US support for ethnic separatist groups in Iran.

The biggest threat to the ruling ayatollahs and generals in multi-ethnic Iran does not come from the embattled democratic opposition movement struggling to reform the Islamic Republic. It comes from increasingly aggressive separatist groups in Kurdish, Baluch, Azeri and Arab ethnic minority regions that collectively make up some 44 percent of Persian-dominated Iran’s population.

This echoes an assertion that Rep. Jane Harman’s made at this year’s AIPAC conference, in which she said it would be a good idea to “separate” Iran’s population along ethnic lines so that stirred up ethnic divisions would weaken the central government.

Now, bizarrely, Harrison says the US should give material support (beyond what it already may covertly provide) to PJAK, Jundullah, Arabs in Khuzestan, and anybody else who might accept it. But he overlooks the complex relationship Washington has with these groups already.  For example, Washington has condemned Jundullah terrorist attacks as a gesture to Iran, while at the same time reportedly funneled covert funds to the group and others like it.

Interestingly, Harrison has firsthand knowledge of some of these activities, including US support for

limited covert action carried out by proxy, in the case of the Baluch, through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate or, I.S.I., and in the case of the Kurds by the C.I.A. in cooperation with Israel’s Mossad. My knowledge of the I.S.I.’s role is based on first-hand Pakistani sources, including Baluch leaders.

There is no mention of Jundullah by name in the article, but that group has been one of the most active and high-profile ethnic separatist groups in all of Iran, repeatedly claiming responsibility for attacks on IRGC forces and Iranian border guards.

Compared to the massive protests in the streets of Tehran and Qum, the uncoordinated harassment of the regime by ethnic insurgents may seem like a sideshow. But if the ethnic insurgents could unite and if the democratic opposition could forge a united front with the minorities, the prospects for reforming or toppling the Islamic Republic, now dismal, would brighten.

Perhaps Harrison was constrained by a tight word limit, or perhaps his supporting evidence would have diverted too much attention from the overall conclusion of his piece; but one would be hard pressed to find a more unlikely scenario than that presented by these two gigantic “if’s.”  Ethnic insurgents, as he calls them, are not renowned for their ability to play well with others (see, Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Nigeria, et al).  And pinning ones hopes on the notion that the Green Movement might team up with some of the more reviled ethnic terrorist groups in Iran is not wise either.

The Green Movement, in its current form, is still not “revolutionary” or “counter-revolutionary.”  Its strategy still rests on being “more Catholic than the Pope”–or in this case “more Shiite than the Ayatollah.”  There’s just no way that the Green Movement will allow itself to be aligned with terrorist separatists without some extreme radicalizing catalyst.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    5 Responses to “NYT is at it again”

  1. Iranian-American says:

    This is quite literally one of the worst ideas I have ever heard regarding how to deal with Iran. I have heard many bad ideas. More than often they are a result of a lack of knowledge about Iran.

    Harrison’s article along with Rep. Harman assertion, on the other hand, are so incredibly absurd, that I believe they can not be a result of ignorance. Rather they seem to be trying to make things worse for all Iranians, by creating instability and civil strife inside of Iran, in hope that this will be better for Israel. This piece amounts to nothing less than advising the US to create the most horrific and dangerous situation for the Iranian people. A situation with suicide bombings, terrorist attacks and an excuse for the Iranian government to extend its brutality to level we can not even currently imagine. No amount of ignorance excuses this article.

    As much as I disagree with Kuperman’s op-ed, I can understand why NYT published it. It was great to see the backlash against his op-ed. On the other hand, there is no reason to even publish this garbage by Harrison. NYT should be ashamed.

  2. Pirouz says:

    I agree with just about everything I-A says in his comment.

    Such advocacy amounts to nothing less than war. It’s a page taken directly from Saddam’s failed war of aggression against Iran in 1980. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

  3. TPD says:

    I agree with both of you, but it would work for someone: the American ally in the middle east.

  4. John says:

    but it would work for someone: the American ally in the middle east.

    Why works for other in ME not Iran?

    I think there is some biased thought here.

    Iran history showed there were ethnics struggles, so as what happen In Iraq if you take the central power every thing fallen a part and inside Iran.

  5. Mike says:

    Since the IRGC through the Quds Force is threatening to expand its interference in Iraq and Afghanistan the Harrison article, with all its errors, is just a reminder to them what it might implicate.

    The problem with Iran is that no single group is in full command of the policies of the country and that the IRGC and other corrupt groups are benefiting financially from the present situation.

    However, it seems that the various factions in Iran fighting for control finally (when realizing that sanctions might be implemented) have agreed to a procedure for the nuclear exchange. Expect more problems in other areas due to the domestic fight for power.

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
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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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