• 12 August 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, US-Iran War

The “Bomb Iran” crowd, fresh off their historic blunder in Iraq, is now at it again with Iran. As if the daily drumbeat of articles and op-eds advocating war with Iran was not enough, Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced a truly dangerous resolution — explicitly green-lighting the use of force by Israel against Iran.

Any military strike — whether by the United States or Israel — is likely to pull the United States into a regional war and cause mass civilian casualties. Such an attack would truly be “calamitous” — to use the same description as the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen.

One could use the same word to describe what effect an attack would have on Iran’s struggle for democracy. If war breaks out with Iran, Iranians across the political spectrum would rally behind the government, and the emboldened government would be free to unleash the full potential of its terror to ruthlessly seek out and decimate the Green Movement — America’s best hope for a peaceful and democratic partner in Iran.

The recent influx of articles arguing for an Israeli or American-led attack downplays the unintended consequences such a strike would have inside Iran. Proponents of war argue that it would create outrage amongst Iranians against the government who brought the attack upon them, and would even potentially cause Iranians to overthrow their regime. To believe this is to seriously misunderstand nationalism, the Iranian people, and Iranian history.

The constant in Iran’s century long quest for democracy has been progress in times of peace and steps back in times of siege. From the time of the Tobacco Revolt in 1891 onward, attempts at democracy have been repeatedly frustrated by acts or threats of foreign intervention.

In the wake of last June’s disputed elections in Iran, members of Congress such as Mike Pence, Dan Burton and Kay Granger all sponsored resolutions expressing support for the Iranian people, their human rights, and democratic aspirations. Yet all of them are also sponsors of Gohmert’s resolution encouraging an attack on Iran–an attack that would have the exact opposite effect of what they claim to support. This is the height of hypocrisy.

Nine days after the 9/11 attacks, neoconservatives Reuel Marc Gerecht and William Kristol sent a letter to President Bush urging war with Saddam “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack.” It is Déjà vu all over again as Kristol and the crowd over at the Weekly Standard now scream for an even more foolish assault on Iran. Kristol recently berated President Obama for purportedly failing to support Iranian protestors last summer. One cannot claim to support the Iranian people while simultaneously working tirelessly to promote war with Iran. Kristol seems to want to have it both ways.

Reuel March Gerecht on the other hand is just wrong. Gerecht doesn’t even pretend to care about the Iranian people, and in his recent 11-page war opus in the Weekly Standard pushes for a war scenario in Iran that he says should “rock the system.” Gerecht argues that now is the best time to attack Iran and that an attack would help the Green Movement thrive. But such reckless disregard for Iran’s history and internal dynamics is to be expected from someone who claims “Iranians have terrorism in their DNA.”

Many Iranians strongly dislike or even despise their government, but Iranians have historically rallied around unpopular governments when faced with an external threat. Eight years of war with Iraq strengthened the nascent Islamic revolution by mobilizing people against Iraq and giving Iran’s most ruthless leaders the cover necessary to purge political opponents. While we witness and read seemingly endless reports of human rights abuses being committed on a daily basis in Iran, it is worth remembering that Iran executed as many as thirty-thousand political prisoners under the cover of the Iran-Iraq war.

More recent history proves the same. Iranians took to the streets in 1999 in student protests that posed the most serious challenge to the Islamic system since the 1979 revolution. This occurred at a time when moderates ruled both in Iran and the United States, and tensions with the West were at an all-time low. Under the Bush administration, however, Iranians fearful of an attack were forced to scale back their criticisms and attempts at political liberalization.

In the words of the prominent Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji, “Since Iranians, in particular opposition groups, do not want to see a repeat of Afghanistan or Iraq in Iranthey’ve actually had to scale back their opposition to the government in order not to encourage an invasion [by the U.S.]”

It was not until 2009 that Iranians were again given the same political space. The Obama administration’s less-threatening language toward Iran allowed reform-minded Iranians to challenge the status quo without being labeled enablers of the enemy. “Obama offered a dialogue with Iran and this change in discourse immediately gave rise to that outpouring of sentiment against the Islamic Republic last year,” Ganji said.

In short, a war against Iran would be the external influence needed by the regime to extend its shelf life. It will decimate the Green Movement by giving hardliners an excuse to crack down on dissent and ruin any hope for liberalism and democracy for the foreseeable future.

In the words of one Iranian merchant in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar who participated in the recent strikes against the Iranian government’s proposed tax hikes, “We are a people with a strong sense of national awareness. We have serious disagreements with the government, but if there’s war everyone will fight.”

Bombing Iran would do nothing short of destroy Iran’s chances for democracy. Neoconservatives who argue an attack on Iran would do wonders for the Green Movement are pushing an idea that is not just wrong, but dangerous. The same individuals told us once before that we would be greeted as liberators. We would be wise not to let them fool us twice.

This article also appeared in the Huffington Post.

Posted By Shawn Amoei

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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.

Sincerely,

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