• 24 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Drop Broadband, Not Bombs

Although plenty of Washington policymakers say the US should “support the green opposition in Iran,” how to do so remains a puzzle.

One proposal in today’s Guardian has caught some attention: provide Iranians with high speed internet access.

One of the pillars of [Iran’s] repressive policy has been media propaganda depicting protesters as vandals and stooges of foreign powers. In pursuing this policy, the government actively curtails alternative sources of information in the country (especially the BBC and VOA broadcasts in Persian), thoroughly filters sensitive websites used by protesters to communicate (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc) and reduces internet speed to just about nil to render video streaming or uploading impossible. It has even moved to ban Gmail.

Thus, one answer could be to beam high-speed Internet into Iran via satellites:

The technology to overcome this already exists. Households and businesses in areas with poor infrastructure connect to the internet through satellites. A Japanese satellite, Kizuna, was launched in 2008 to provide mountainous areas of Japan and other parts of East Asia with the world’s highest-speed internet connection using 45cm aperture antennas (the same size as existing communications satellite antennas widely used in Iran). The Japanese intend to expand this project into an international one.

A number of satellites currently covering Iran’s territory can be used to provide internet access. Indeed, the US army, through private subcontractors, successfully provides its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (where infrastructure is poor or inexistent) with near-high-speed satellite access.

One problem, though, is that US sanctions are actually contributing to the Iranian government’s ability to censor information in Iran by impeding the legal distribution of anti-filter software to Iranians and even outlawing downloads of popular networking software such as ‘Google Talk’.

Foreign companies have blocked almost all access to online shopping and financial transactions from Iran. If anyone in Iran buys software from abroad using a foreign account, their internet address will reveal their location and the bank account will be frozen.

Websites selling internet domains and hosting services will not provide services to Iranians and internet phone company Skype, which would provide Iranian dissidents with a safe means of communication via its messenger, does not allow Iranian internet addresses or let Iranians buy credit.

Even a large open source software resource recently changed its rules to stop Iranians from using it.

Access to high speed Internet in Iran is currently subjected to the whim of the ruling elite.   By providing broadband internet access for common Iranians, and giving them a more active, less censored voice, the United States will be able to support the Green Movement, without ever being directly involved within Iran’s domestic affairs.

Posted By Nayda Lakelieh

    4 Responses to “Drop Broadband, Not Bombs”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Nothing about Rigi? Iran just captured their equivalent of Osama bin Laden! And silence from NIAC?

    Here’s the Iran Air Force role in the terrorist takedown: Rigi’s passenger plane with 113 aboard (likely B-737, Kyrgyzstan Airlines QH 454, operated by Eastok Avia), enroute from Dubai (DXB / OMDB) to Bishkek-Manas, Kyrgyzstan (FRU / UAFM), was forced to land at Bandar Abbas TFB.9 (BND / OIKB) by two intercepting Iran Air Force F-4E Phantom IIs. (If the scrambled F-4E Phantom IIs came from TFB.9, perhaps elements of 91 TFS.)

    Congratulations VEVAK and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force!

  2. providing internet phone services in places that can’t get this service in any other way is a blessing for the people that live in Iran. if they will be able to call the world without censorship that will help then a lot.

  3. Eric says:

    But how will the dictator and his little sidekick keep “law and order” if the people have high speed internet and internet access where they previously didn’t?

  4. Iranian-American says:

    The real story about Rigi is that because of the Iranian governments common use of outlandish and transparent lies and propaganda regarding foreign interference (e.g. claims that BBC and Voice of America are intelligence wings of the CIA supported by forced confessions) and its use of torture to extract (often false) confessions, the claims of US involvement will fall on deaf ears in the international community, despite the fact that they may very well be true.

    Rigi’s statement regarding US assistance lacks any details that would lead a reasonable observer to believe him. Nonetheless, it is very possible that the US does in fact support violent terrorist groups like Jundallah. While it would unfortunately not be unprecedented (e.g. support for the MEK), it would be a real shame if it was the case, and as a representative of Iranian-Americans, it would be NIAC’s duty to strongly condemn any such support.

    What is important to understand here is that the Iranian government’s lack of credibility is a failure of the Iranian government, not the international community. The Iranian government is not fit to protect the Iranian people from terrorism. While the capture of Rigi is a good thing, since he is, by all accounts a terrorist, as with terrorism anywhere in the world, such a capture has very little effect in protecting Iranian citizens. In fact, it is quite possible that it will only encourage Jundallah, who has already picked a new leader, to commit more acts of terrorism against the Iranian people in revenge for the capture.

    Congratulating VEVAK and the Islamic Republic without seeing the big picture, demonstrates the same shortsightedness that plagues many American’s who allow the capture of high-ranking al-Qaeda (e.g. Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani) to distract them from the failures and crimes of their own government. The only difference is that the US government is in a much better situation to get international support to fight terrorism against its citizens. If the Iranian government was not continually talking about the destruction of Israel, so vocally supporting groups that blow up busses and clubs, making idiotic statements regarding the Holocaust, and all the while torturing its own citizens and forcing them to make false confessions, it would not find itself with so little credibility.

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Sign the Petition


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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