Iran at a Crossroads – LIVESTREAMING Here

UPDATE: It’s confirmed, we’ll be Livestreaming our conference here at niacINsight tomorrow.  So tune in between 9:00 and 2:00 to see what’s happening!

Iran used to be a pretty black-and-white issue. You either wanted war, or not.  Diplomacy, or not.  Regime change, or not.

Those days of simple choices between two clear opposites–they’re long gone.

Now, the rise of an indigenous opposition movement has thrown a new set of variables into questions of “regime change,” diplomacy, and even human rights.  Iran-watchers are struggling with the cognitive dissonance of it all: how can you still oppose war but support the dismantling of the Islamic theocracy?  How can someone help the opposition but still oppose overt US government involvement? And don’t even get me started on the nuclear issue…

All of this confusion amid the new complex reality of post-June 12th Iran means it’s probably a good thing that people are still debating the issue as vigorously as ever.  Open any major newspaper in the US and chances are you’ll find at least one or two (often four or five) different articles about Iran.  From op-eds advocating a preemptive strike, to analysts who say the Green Movement is just a fad–there is a wider diversity of opinions now than ever before.  Even politicians and pundits who might otherwise have the luxury of ignoring the Iran issue are being forced to weigh in (see Palin, Sarah), and despite their often ludicrous claims, ultimately the best thing for US-Iran policy is a robust debate about substantive issues.  That’s the only way we’ll be able to think our way through this difficult challenge.

(Incidentally, some major steps have already been taken in formulating a coherent policy proposal: see here and here for one approach that’s coming clearer into view).

Our goal here at NIAC is to contribute some wisdom and clarity to the debate on Iran — both among the Iranian-American community and inside the Washington DC beltway.  Toward that end, we are pleased to announce our upcoming conference on Capitol Hill: “Iran at a Crossroads: Assessing a Changing Landscape.” We’re bringing together the top Iran experts in the world, alongside members of Congress and their staffs, to explore the most important questions facing US-Iran policy today.

We’ll look into the current state of the Green Movement as the latest chapter in Iran’s 100-year democratic evolution.  We’ll examine the prospects for US-Iran relations one year after President Obama began his engagement strategy, and we’ll try to determine if there is a US-Iran war looming on the horizon.  (And we’ll also celebrate the upcoming Norooz holiday with some excellent food and our very own haft-seen table).

The video will be streamed live on this site, niacINsight, so check back here next Wednesday morning (March 10) at 9am for the feed.  Or feel free to RSVP and show up in person.

We are grateful to our special guests Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with all of our excellent panelists (including our friends at EA).

Full info available below the jump, or at  Hope to see you there!

Iran at a Crossroads

– Assessing a Changing Landscape

Wednesday, March 10
106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Refreshments will be served

9:00 AM-9:30 AM


9:30 AM-9:45 AM


Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA-14)

9:45 AM-10:15 AM

Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5)

10:15 AM-11:30 AM


Prof. Shireen Hunter

Visiting Fellow, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Prof. Scott Lucas

Professor, University of Birmingham, UK, Editor, Enduring America Blog

Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak

Director, Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Center for Persian Studies, University of Maryland


Neil MacFarquhar

New York Times

12:00 PM-12:15 PM


Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15)

12:15 PM-1:30 PM


Prof. Juan Cole

Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan

Amb. Robert Hunter

Senior Advisor, RAND Corporation

Prof. Muhammad Sahimi

Professor, University of Southern California


Dr. Trita Parsi

President, National Iranian American Council

1:30pm – 1:45 pm

Dr. Trita Parsi

President, National Iranian American Council

Priority given to Members, Staff and Accredited Media

RSVP by March 9, COB at


Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Kenbe Foundation, Ploughshares Fund

Posted By Patrick Disney

    11 Responses to “Iran at a Crossroads – LIVESTREAMING Here”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Congresswoman Anna Eshoo represents my own personal district. I’ll be carefully assessing her commentary.

    Disappointing not to see Flynt Leverret giving a perspective at this event. The Leverrets appear to be the most realistic voices on these issues, and have just returned from a personal visit to Tehran.

  2. Observer says:

    What kind of thought-provoking ‘discussion’ can arise from what is, IMHO, a like-minded lineup of panelists/speakers?

    Also, you have no genuine greens involved. They are, after all, primary and what it’s all about.

  3. Eric says:

    I’m still waiting for one of your long-winded justifications for the Jafar Panahi arrest or the stone thrower being put to death…

  4. Iranian-American says:

    Eric, don’t hold your breathe. It is far more convenient to ignore such blatant human rights’ violations when one is dead-set on ignoring reality. As the Islamic Republic reveals its true brutal nature, Pirouz’s justifications have becoming increasingly absurd. Perhaps he has realized this. Perhaps not…

    It seems that in Pirouz’s opinion, hard evidence of human rights’ violations by the Iranian government that get in the way of his national pride should be ignored. Instead, we should be focused on the injustices of the UC school system and their tuition hikes. Seems reasonable.

  5. Pirouz says:

    Sorry, Eric.
    I didn’t know this was directed at me, and I hadn’t checked the previous post’s comment. I’ll address your comment:

    As an elderly American (my mother’s people are Native Americans, my father was Iranian), I’ve seen similar things right here in the US. I remember the day Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder were shot dead by US Army National Guard troops at their university in 1970. Although I did not approve of the action taken by these troops, the incident did not turn me subversive or anti-America. (It did many of my peers at the time.)

    When Bobby Seale was bound and gagged at his “show trial” in 1968, following US antiriot police breakup of the demonstration at the Chicago Democratic Convention, I didn’t approve of it. But it didn’t turn me subversive or anti-America. (It did many of my peers at the time.)

    When I learned that pre-teen boys had been picked up in Afghanistan by US Special Forces in 2002 and imprisoned for a considerable time at Guantanimo, I was very disappointed. But I didn’t become subversive or anti-America.

    When I learned of the severe torture deaths of Afghan civilians Habibullah and Dilawar at Bagram in 2002, it broke my heart. But I didn’t become subversive or anti-America.

    When I saw the numerous photos of flagrant torture and sexual abuse being dealt out to ordinary Iraqi citizens by US Army Reserve Military Police at Abu Ghraib in 2004, I was appalled. I was also appalled how tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis were being held in US military police custody, without due process. But this did not make me subversive or anti-America.

    So yes, Eric, there are stories coming out of Iran that may appear objectionable. But they do not make me subversive or anti-Iran.

    If they did, I’d surely be guilt of hypocrisy- would I not?

  6. Iranian American says:

    Pirouz, the Leveretts are brain-washed, there is no reason why NIAC would want to have their skewed, Ahmadi-infatuated opinions littering a discussion about the Iranian people’s 100 year long quest for representative govt.

    Observer, I agree, but I’m inclined to say the Greens wouldn’t appear at a conference on Capitol Hill for obvious reasons.

    Do you ever read Muhammad Sahimi’s work with Tehran Bureau? Maybe you should look into it…

  7. Pirouz says:

    That should read “guilty of hypocrisy.”

    For those not alive or in the US during the 1960’s and 1970’s, you can’t realize the intensity of dissatisfaction, particularly among the young, towards the US government at the time. US law enforcement shot dead dozens of protesters at numerous demonstrations, particularly within the African-American community. Hundreds were injured in each of these engagements. There were thousands and thousands of arrested. This went on year-after-year-after-year. And, the whole while, the US government was at war with VietNam, where a million Vietnamese people were slaughtered. (My favorite cousin fought in that war as a teenage US Marine, and died of injuries sustained in battle.)

    It all hurt to watch. I know: hard to imagine for you younger folks.

    Hopefully, things will settle down in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this sort of thing won’t last as long and be as intense as it was during the period of anti-establishment unrest endured here in America during the 1960’s and early 70’s.

  8. Pirouz says:

    I disagree, the Leveretts are not brainwashed. They offer a more objective and balanced American-centric view on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    It’s really unfortunate that Flynt Leverett wasn’t included in this “debate.” I’m disappointed the US Representative from my home district won’t hear his more realistic assessment of the situation, as well as his more logical advocacy of US policy. And correct me if I’m wrong, he would have been the only one on the panel to have physically visited the Islamic Republic of Iran since the June 2009 election.

    Really, a missed opportunity not hearing his views at this NIAC event.

  9. Iranian-American says:

    Pirouz, your comparison is not fair. How do you measure the “intensity” of the anti-establishment movement today in Iran to that in America in the 1960’s. Let me give you a few objective criterion.

    Protestors killed by pro-government forces:
    US in the 1960’s: maybe a dozen
    recently in Iran: hundreds

    Protestors raped by pro-government forces:
    US in the 1960’s: 0
    recently in Iran: maybe a dozen

    Number of arrests:
    US- Aug. 16, 1966, 55 arrests
    US- Oct. 21, 1967: 647 arrests
    A few hundred arrests in London outside the US embassy if you want to count those.
    Iran today: thousands

    Furthermore, Nixon was impeached because unlike Iran, the US had (and still has) and independent judiciary that the Executive must abide by. To believe Iran’s judiciary is independent would demonstrate an incredible level of naivety.

    It sure is nice being able to throw out subtle yet misleading statements like,”Hopefully, things will settle down in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this sort of thing won’t last as long and be as intense as it was during the period of anti-establishment unrest endured here in America during the 1960’s and early 70’s.” without any factual basis to back it up.

    It does not seem like you have ever been to Iran Pirouz. Have you ever visited? I also grew up in the US, but I have been back many times. Speaking with anyone of my cousins that lives in Iran, it becomes very quickly clear that this picture you have painted for yourself about Iran is a far way from reality. I have a cousin in Sharif and I have cousins in University of Tehran. Some of my cousins have left Iran and study in the US, Canada or Europe. The rest would like to do the same.

    While ignoring the reality of the situation in Iran may help you sleep easier at night, it does nothing to make life better for Iranians, or make Iran a more powerful and significant player in the international community.

  10. Observer says:

    Iranian-American: “Do you ever read Muhammad Sahimi’s work with Tehran Bureau? Maybe you should look into it…”

    Thank you for the advice. Yes I’ve read Sahimi’s fine work at Tehran Bureau. He eloquently says what many — non-Iranians, too — must feel:

    Different Shades of Green

    “The Green Movement and the struggle for democracy in Iran are the result of the sacrifices of countless courageous Iranian men and women for over a century. Their fate should be decided in Iran, not in Western capitals, particularly Washington. Iranian people are fully capable of advancing their own democratic cause.”

    The Political Evolution of Mousavi

    “Whatever one thinks of Mousavi and his past, one thing should be clear: He has emerged as the leader of the Green Movement. Though he has humbly and consistently emphasized that it is he who is following the people, not the other way around, he has led the Movement shrewdly, strongly, and with deep conviction.”

  11. Ayandeh Sabz says:

    When will you guys put up the link? I’m looking forward to seeing this conversation.

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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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