• 25 February 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran’s “Shark” Survives Another Round

Persia House, the Iran policy shop of Booz Allen Hamilton, has their latest take of the continued maneuverings of Ayatollah Heshemi Rafsanjani:

Despite Rumors of Rafsanjani’s Possible Demotion, the “Shark” Survives Yet Another Round in his Battle with Hardliners

The widespread talk of Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s possible demotion surrounding the latest Assembly of Experts meeting (held after a one-month delay [2] due to the post-election unrest) illustrates the serious challenges that the Chairman continues to face from powerful hardliners, who have for years been attempting to sideline him. A pragmatic, wily, and extremely wealthy politician, Rafsanjani exists as a major obstacle in the hardliners’ struggle to gain unchallenged control over the regime’s levers of power.

Rafsanjani has frustrated observers attempting to pinpoint his political stance, as he has swayed back and forth in the months following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, drifting along with the political tide. Early on in the post-election unrest, the regime heavyweight excited supporters of the Green Movement by appearing [3] to support the opposition against his bitter rival [4], Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This was followed by a period in which he was relatively quiet [5], perhaps out of concern for his and his children’s [6] well-being. In recent weeks, however, Rafsanjani has made a point of stressing his revolutionary credentials and of emphasizing the “strength [7]” of his relationship with Supreme Leader Khamenei. During the February 11 Islamic Revolution’s anniversary, for example, he marched alongside regime supporters at the same time that opposition protesters were being beaten by security agents. Furthermore, in his February 23 address [8] to the Assembly of Experts, Rafsanjani surprisingly declared his support for President Ahmadinejad’s subsidy [9] reform plan, saying that, although the removal of government subsidies will place short-term pressure on the country, “in the long run, it will have sweet results.”

The rift between hardliners and Rafsanjani is exemplified by his ongoing dispute [10] with Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (who did not attend the important Assembly of Experts meeting; he was placed [11] in the intensive care unit of Qom’s hospital the night before) over the role of velayat-e faghih, or the Supreme Leadership. Yazdi contends that the Supreme Leader’s legitimacy is derived from God and cannot [12] be questioned. Rafsanjani tends toward the belief that the individual in that position should be subject to the oversight of the 86-member Assembly of Experts, which has the (little exercised) constitutional authority to select, supervise, and remove him. Furthermore, Yazdi and other hardliners have been upset with Rafsanjani for a number of years because of his suggestion that a three-man leadership council replace the position of Supreme Leader following Ali Khamenei’s death; realizing the low likelihood of his being chosen as the new Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani likely feels that such a council would allow him to maintain his influence.

As for predictions that the Assembly meeting would be a bloodbath for Rafsanjani, a participant relayed [13] that the atmosphere “was a lot warmer than previous sessions.” And pictures [14] of the February 25 meeting of the Assembly with the Supreme Leader showed Rafsanjani and Khamenei holding a cordial conversation—an indication that the Chairman has survived yet another round. Notwithstanding the animosity felt by Yazdi and his allies, the Supreme Leader would almost certainly prefer that Rafsanjani be brought back into the fold and unequivocally back on the side of the regime.

The impact that the past few days’ machinations within the Assembly of Experts will have on the Green Movement remains to be seen. Some may see Rafsanjani’s statement [8] during the proceedings—that the solution to resolving the post-election unrest lies in working within the framework of the Islamic Republic’s institutions—to be an attempt at mediation. Others will likely be disheartened by his claim that “some [protesters] have been deceived” by those operating against the Islamic Republic.

You can find this article, and many more like it at Persia House’s new website.

Posted By David Elliott

David Elliott is the Assistant Policy Director at the National Iranian American Council.

    One Response to “Iran’s “Shark” Survives Another Round”

  1. Pirouz says:

    A $2500 subscription price for one year? Basically for translations? Without a truly balanced editorial content?

    David, surely these people must be joking.


    So Rasfanjani “survived.” Hardly surprising.

    Mousavi, Karroubi and the reformists’ standing in general would have better survived, too, had they not mistakenly positioned themselves as anti-establishment, immediately following the election.

    So right now, the reformist camp has been effectively sidelined. 22 Bahman burst the bubble of cyber/street activism, and the reformists actual political relevance in government has in recent times never been lower.

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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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