• 5 March 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Election 2010, Events in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Mark Kirk’s Fuzzy Iran Logic

On February 19, Mark Kirk, a Republican Congressman from Illinois running for a promotion to the US Senate, delivered a speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to share his views on Iran policy.  While initial reports didn’t indicate anything much new was said by the Representative, who has been calling for a gasoline “quarantine” on Iranians since 2007, audio from the event has just been released that reveals some troubling insights into Kirk’s gasoline embargo rationale.

During the Q&A, Kirk brushed aside concerns that a gasoline embargo will hurt innocent Iranians and stated that, in fact, the US should punish innocent Iranians as a means to engineer anti-government protests in Iran:

Q: The oil embargo or quarantine sounds like a very plausible alternative … why the opposition from the administration?

Kirk: Um, in a discussion I recently had with administrative officials they said we would feel worried that it would hurt the Iranian people… (laughs)

But it’s that actual pain that I think has to be imposed, in my view, a gasoline quarantine would immediately trigger anti-American demonstrations in downtown Tehran, organized by the regime.

But over time the regime fears large groups of people gathering because as you know a mob can turn very quickly.

When you hear that you can’t get enough gasoline that day, and you read in the state controlled paper that it’s Barack Obama’s fault, you’ll be mad at Barack Obama that week.

But as your factory closed down and as the refrigerator starts to run out, the naturally tendency of any people is turn to their own leader and say “fix this”.

I cannot feed a nuclear weapon to my family. It is more important to feed my family than eat nuclear weapons. And that’s the dilemma you want to put them in.

So, the Kirk Plan, in a nutshell, is to cut off gasoline for Iranians and triggering anti-American protests in Iran.  Sounds bad so far.  But then, eventually, Kirk says, the “mobs” will turn and Iranians will suddenly start protesting against their own government.

I’m not sure if Kirk has been following Iran for the past nine months, but somebody better tell him that Iranians are already standing up to their government. And they didn’t even need Mark Kirk to engineer their discontent.

But while the Iranian government has displayed increasing aptitude for repressing and silencing its opponents, the last thing Iranian activists and human rights defenders who  are putting their lives on the line need is for a wannabe Senator to intervene on behalf of his own protest movement—not one contesting the legitimacy of the Iranian government or demanding rights for the Iranian people, but one in which Iranians beg their government to give in to US demands so that they are able to heat their homes or drive their cars.

Early on in his speech, Kirk also remarks that it was he who first introduced legation to impose a gasoline embargo on Iran back in 2007, not Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, who is the sponsor of the current bill moving through Congress.  Kirk explains that Democratic Leadership came to him saying “we want to move your bill, we don’t want to exactly give you credit for it” and asked if they could replace his name on the legislation with Chairman Berman’s.  Kirk claims that he magnanimously replied “I so believe in this bill” that he would be willing to let a Chairman from the opposing party steal the credit.

Unfortunately, Mark Kirk is going to have to play second fiddle yet again, not to a Democratic colleague, but to the Iranian government.  Because if anyone deserves credit for inciting Iranians to take to the streets to protest Iran’s government, it’s the Iranian government.  And if anybody deserves credit for standing up to the government, it’s not a Congressman on the campaign trail in Chicago, it’s the Iranian people actually suffering for their cause in the streets of Iran.

Congressmen like Mark Kirk would be wise to, instead of rehashing tired schemes to mobilize an already mobilized Iranian population, consider ways that Congress can actually stand with the Iranian people by removing unintentional US burdens in place against them, not adding new, intentional burdens to further punish them.

If Kirk’s gasoline embargo does pass, however, he can certainly share credit with his colleagues for punishing innocent Iranians, helping undermine the indigenous opposition in Iran, and providing Iran’s government with some much needed assistance in their propaganda efforts.

Posted By Jamal Abdi

    2 Responses to “Mark Kirk’s Fuzzy Iran Logic”

  1. Rob says:

    Since the US does not export gasoline to Iran, I wonder how he thinks this could work 😐

  2. Pirouz says:

    Jamal, who is this monolithic “Iranian people” you are referring to? Do you honestly believe there is 100% support for political subversion inside the Islamic Republic of Iran? Or 60%? Or even 40%?

    How do you possibly reconcile your attitude with this? Or in your opinion, should hard data that get’s in the way of personal emotion be ignored?

    I agree with your characterization of this US Representative. But please, stop applying your attitudes and beliefs on the whole of the mainstream Iranian electorate, which includes me. There are many Iranian voters like myself that voted Green in the June 2009 election, who are not protesters, recognize Dr. Ahmadinejad as president and are in no way subversive. Think I’m alone? The hard data suggests completely otherwise.

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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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