• 4 May 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Senators Take on Obama over Iran Sanctions

The Cable reports that a bipartisan group of Senators have sent a letter to the Chairmen of the Iran sanctions conference, laying down the gauntlet regarding changes sought by the Obama Administration for the final bill, as well as multilateral efforts being pursued by the Administration.

The letter highlights the infamous Gates memo, in which Defense Secretary Gates stated that Iran could potentially assemble all the parts needed for a nuclear weapon “but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.”  The Senators write that this is a reminder “that there is little time left to wait for tough new multilateral sanctions – from the United Nations or otherwise.”

However, Gates was warning that Iran may pursue the Japan model instead of seeking to become a full blown nuclear power; if anything he was calling for a serious evaluation of U.S. policy options should sanctions fail to dissuade Iran from pursuing this model, not supporting the letter’s argument that we should all panic and abandon other tools so we can rush forward with unilateral sanctions.  If there is an argument for how much time we have available to develop and pursue better options, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright assessed that Iran could not have a nuclear weapon for at least two to five years.

The letter also opposes an upfront exemption sought by the Obama Administration for countries the U.S. is working with to impose new U.N. sanctions.

“By definition,” the letter states, “we believe that any country that is meaningfully ‘cooperating’ in the global effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability will take steps to ensure that companies in its territory are not engaged in the kind of trade with Iran that is sanctioned by the House- and Senate-passed bills.”

This prejudges what “the global effort” entails—the rest of the world has not decided that preventing gasoline from going to Iran has anything to with efforts to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons; in fact, denying gasoline is not even part of the Obama Administration’s efforts—it is only part of Congress’ unilateral effort.  To coerce partners and erode multilateral cooperation suggests that it may be Congress who is not part of the “global effort”.

The letter goes on to argue that an upfront waiver is not needed because “the waiver authority provided in this legislation is more than sufficient for the President to make decisions about the invocation of sanctions based on the national interest of the United States.”

But this takes for granted that the “national interest” wavier that currently exists will remain intact—actually, the House version of the sanctions bill raises the threshold whereby the President may waive sanctions from “important to the national interest” to “vital to national security interest”, meaning the President would have less discretion to waive sanctions.  Given this letter, either the House provision has been scrapped or the letter’s signatories are unaware of it.

The letter does call for human rights provisions in the final bill, but the only suggestions offered are for further sanctions.  While sanctioning human rights abusers and companies that provide censorship tools, as called for in the letter, are a good step—they are both a part of Keith Ellison’s excellent Stand With the Iranian People Act—they are not sufficient.

Conferees should include proactive human rights proposals that have been offered, such as the other element of the Stand with the Iranian People Act that would ease unnecessary restrictions that prevent NGOs from working in Iran for humanitarian and human rights purposes.

Posted By Jamal Abdi

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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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