• 12 May 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

Video: Gates on Iranian politics

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Secretary of Defense Gates spoke with CNN’s John King yesterday about the internal situation in Iran and whether the resentment and popular unrest following last year’s election is still continuing.

I think Secretary Gates is correct in saying that, despite things being calm on the surface, there is a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction among the Iranian people.  That doesn’t mean that the regime will be overthrown tomorrow, nor does it even mean that there is going to be a huge protest on the anniversary of the June 12 election.

What it means is there is a whole political faction lying in wait.

Before last year’s election, progressives in Iran were largely Khatami-style reformists.  Now, the progressive movement in Iran is made up of the Mousavi/Karroubi school of reform — in addition to the more radical viewpoints among a portion of the population, which supports abolishing the Islamic government altogether.

As for the matter of sanctions — Gates says they have “had an impact,” and that more sanctions will have “more of an impact.”  But by defining the goal of sanctions (the “principal value,” as he says it) as political isolation for Iran, Secretary Gates shows a much more nuanced understanding of the sanctions issue than most sanctions proponents in Congress and among outside organizations.

To hear these people talk about it, sanctions are a magic bullet that can tear down Iran’s economy and bankrupt Tehran’s treasury.

Fortunately, Gates realizes that isn’t going to happen.  So — we hope — the administration has a plan for what to do next, after the sanctions are put in place and before we realize that they haven’t made all of our wildest dreams come true…

Posted By Patrick Disney

    3 Responses to “Video: Gates on Iranian politics”

  1. Iranian-American says:

    Defenders of repressive governments, like the current Iranian government, typically follow the same formula: They excuse, and more importantly distract from the repression of the people by the government (e.g. downplay the killings, arrests and torture of dissidents, blame outside “enemies”, fear-mongering etc.). Then they point to the success of the repression as some sort of proof that the repressive government is popular with the people.

    Sound familiar?

  2. Pirouz says:

    What plan could there possibly be after a successfully escalated sanctions regimen?

    You know, Patrick, I recently used a NIAC form to write my congressperson and senator. Congressperson Eshoo didn’t bother to write back. But I did get a detailed response from the office of Dianne Feinestin. She states that her position is the US approach should be “carrots and sticks.”

    Honestly, carrots and sticks have not worked for 31 years, and we’re expecting this latest application somehow will? If anything, the Islamic Republic of Iran is beginning to garner further support, particularly from members of NAM, who increasingly see the obvious hypocrisy of this US effort.

    One other thing, I don’t really see the difference between a Khatami style reform and that of a Mousavi/Karroubi school of reform, that is to say from a grass roots vantage point. Sure, the issues of contention have been updated with time and by events. But what other distinctions are you referring to? Perhaps you could elaborate further on this in a future post.

    Also, I think its more accurate to characterize the opposition movement in Iran as “an undercurrent” rather than a “a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction. “But that’s a quibble in the big picture of things.

  3. Iranian-American says:

    “Also, I think its more accurate to characterize the opposition movement in Iran as “an undercurrent” rather than a “a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction. “But that’s a quibble in the big picture of things.”

    Not surprisingly, I disagree both with Pirouz’s characterization of the opposition movement, and the claim that the characterization is not that important in the big picture.

    I know many Iranians, both inside and outside of Iran. Of the Iranians I know outside of Iran, some have been here for many years, some for a few years, and a few of them who have been in the US for less than a year. Literally every Iranian I have spoken to, including a couple who are quite unhappy here in the US (they miss the city life in Tehran), either dislike or despise the current Iranian government. I have not met a single Iranian that speaks positively of the Iranian government. I have not even met a single Iranian that is neutral, or does not care.

    While I will admit that the Iranians I have spoken to, both inside and outside of Iran, are well-educated and most of them do not come from a poor family. But, according to them, the opposition movement is very much a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction that includes the poor and rural areas. Personally, I trust these people’s perspectives much more than a poll conducted by phone in a country where any opposition to the government can lead to arrest, torture and sometimes execution.

    One really needs to either go to Iran and/or speak with Iranians to accurately characterize the opposition movement. Furthermore, I also disagree that this is a “quibble”. I think it is critical to realize the extent of the dissatisfaction because of the implications it has for the future of Iran.

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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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