• 12 July 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Nuclear file, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Sanctions Are the New Appeasement


Citizens United — famous for winning the Supreme Court case that ruled corporations have first amendment rights — has used the massive influx of cash that came with their notoriety to put together this ad.  It’s a lot of the usual “Obama is Chamberlain; Iran is Hitler” message that has been peddled by dozens of fearmongers since the Bush Administration and before.  But the spot was framed in an interesting light in the press release accompanying the ad, in which Citizens United Presiden David Bossie says:

From the first days of his presidential campaign through today, President Obama has displayed a dangerous naiveté when it comes to the threat that Iran poses to our allies in the Middle East and to the United States itself. History demonstrates that sanctions are not a cure-all for regimes bent on destroying other peaceful nations. The President must step up to this challenge before Iran has the opportunity to develop nuclear weapons. (emphasis added)

“Dangerous naiveté” is not a new criticism of Obama’s Iran policy.  But if you look closely, this is not a criticism of Obama’s engagement strategy. What Citizens United calls Obama’s naiveté seems to be his support for sanctions!  Sanctions aren’t enough, so the President must “step up” and “stop Iran now.”

This echoes the message in a Washington Post op-ed last Friday by former Virginia Senator Charles Robb and retired General Chuck Wald titled “Sanctions alone won’t work on Iran.” They argue that diplomacy and sanctions must be combined with credible threats of military force (what the two call “kinetic action”) if the US is to compel Iran to give up its nuclear program.

It’s been less than two weeks since the President signed new sanctions into law, [and the new law has not even come into force yet] but the groundwork is already being laid for the next escalation.

Now, I do not believe Barack Obama is necessarily leading the country down a path to war with Iran.  But that does not mean there aren’t powerful forces at work in Washington trying to shape a narrative that will make an attack more acceptable.  It would be wholly unsurprising if, the day after an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, more media attention is given to how it will have been justified than to the potential catastrophe it could mean for the US and the region at large.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    5 Responses to “Sanctions Are the New Appeasement”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Ah yes, another corollary to Godwin’s law.

  2. Jay Honeycutt says:

    I never read the AARP Bulletin, but happened across this very interesting article:


    I was struck as to how this very powerful, personal, human, peaceful piece made it into a mainstream publication. It seemed to penetrate an apparent news embargo on anything that might humanize the Iranian people, or undercut the warmongers’ march to yet another immoral butcher of wrong-skinned people.

    I have a profound fondness for Iran, as I lived there from 1959-1961, when my father worked on the Karaj dam. I may have been too young to understand then, but my visual memory retains strong. It was a jarring, yet wondrous experience to be dropped into a village where: camels and donkeys shared the roadway with cars and motorcycles, criminals were publicly hanged from airport lamp posts, people flogged themselves in the streets during Ramadan, etc.

    But, we were not tourists or detached from the population as were many American, French, German, Canadian employees of the contractor (Morrison- Knudsen) or engineering (Harza) companies. My parents found an Iranian tutor to instruct me in Farsi, who became a family friend and joined us on vacations to the Caspian Sea. I walked freely and alone throughout the hills behind our encampment, as well as through the streets crosstown to another American compound where many folks from the University of Utah agriculture project lived.

    Our “Karaj Dam” swim team competed with others from the US Embassy, Point Four Program, Department of Agriculture and other US agencies involved in “modernization” programs. We had no occasion to interact with the military, but I assume that they were well represented. Of course, Karaj was the location of the prison where Mosaddegh was isolated after his US-backed overthrow.

    I posted a film that describes the hydro-electric project that took our blue-collar family to Iran:


    Anyway, the people were warm and friendly and like people everywhere else. If you connected with them personally, they were great, except when they were not – again, just like people everywhere else.

    Now, the warmongers want us to forget the close ties our countries once had, and pretend that Iran is not full of people just like us. Their politicians, as do ours, pursue their agendas with ruthless manipulation. I hope that the respective sets of corrupt operators do not succeed with their schemes.

    • elna benoit says:

      well written – very enjoyable- and couldn’t agree more. We cannot assume that the Iranian people are like their politicians. And yes, it was a wondrous experience.

    • Sandra Lucas Julyan says:

      My father was field engineer on the Karadj project and I was there during the same time period.
      We must have met, but I do not remember the name.

      • elna benoit says:

        My family was there from 1956 to 1958. My father, jogn Benoit, worked for Harza. We lived in two of the camps, one just inside a mountain gate and one down by the river.

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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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