• 7 September 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Heffner
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, UN

Who is reporting on the report?

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday expressed concerns about Iran’s nuclear facilities and capabilities as part of its quarterly report onthe Iranian nuclear program, eliciting an immediate outcry from news outlets, with several calling the new report clear evidence that tough sanctions and even military action might be necessary to prevent Iran from “going nuclear.”  For some, this shows the futility even of a sanctions regime in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program because this report was released after the latest round of UN sponsored summer sanctions.  They are focusing on the Iranian decision to reject two nuclear inspectors as a clear sign of Iranian intransigence.  However, to what extent are the concerns expressed in the report new?  Furthermore, is the expulsion of these two inspectors really a sign of Iran’s malevolent intentions?

The first key finding of the report was that Iran has enough nuclear material for two or three potential nuclear weapons.  This pronouncement has commentators up in arms.  However, the IAEA makes it clear that this nuclear material is inspected regularly by its teams, and is not currently refined enough to become weapons grade material.  Inspections by the IAEA work precisely because Iran would have to overtly declare its nuclear intentions by refusing to allow inspection of its uranium to start a nuclear program.  Even then, it would take over a year for Iran to turn uranium processed at a 20% level into anything approaching a nuclear weapon and two to three years for it to engineer a deliverable bomb or nuclear missile.  Far from a new declaration of previously unknown Iranian capabilities, this report just reiterates previous well-documented IAEA concerns about the Iranian nuclear program while showing that Iran is years away from an actual bomb.

The second important aspect of the report, and a new piece of information offered, is the expulsion by Iran of two nuclear inspectors for filing a “false report.” Iran claims that the inspectors added their own suppositions and that even the IAEA has privately acknowledged they went too far (something the IAEA publically denies).  The IAEA acknowledges that Iran has the legal right to do this, and Iranian officials are quick to point out that they have accepted the alternative inspectors proposed by the organization.  Little information is available about who these two inspectors are, and the report certainly would be more troubling if it was found that these inspectors had a certain expertise that other individuals were unable to duplicate.  At the very least, this is concerning because it takes months to train the new inspectors regarding important aspects of the nuclear program. However, this is not the same as inspectors being denied further access to facilities (other than previously noted Iranian resistance).

Every new IAEA report on Iran seems to bring a barrage of alarmist news reporting, with many claiming that each statement furthers the case for “decisive” action against Iran’s nuclear facilities and shows the futility of IAEA work.  In particular, this IAEA report after the latest round of sanctions is being framed as a rejection of even a heavy handed sanctions regime.  However, after viewing the report, there is a clear gap between the report itself and the conclusions drawn by some because of it.  An informed reader will take in multiple opinions as well as read the IAEA report itself because, like always, who is reporting about the report makes all the difference.

Posted By Patrick Heffner

    One Response to “Who is reporting on the report?”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Good points.

    I recommend the following for current and previous perspectives pertaining to Iran’s nuclear power program:

    – Comments at Arms Control Wonk

    – Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett at Race for Iran (including comments)

    – Cyrus Safdari at Iran Affairs

    – Arnold Evans at Middle East Reality

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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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