• 7 December 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Sanctions

The Washington Post today has a pretty shocking report about the effect of the US petroleum sanctions against Iran.  Because the US has been so successful in imposing “draconian” measures against Iran (the Obama Administration’s words, not mine), average Iranians have faced the prospect of not being able to get petroleum for such nefarious purposes as driving to work or keeping their homes heated.

So, in response, Iran has begun selling its own form of “locally produced gasoline”:

The product is the result of an emergency plan to prevent fuel shortages following a vote by the U.S. Congress in July that banned oil companies from selling gasoline to Iran.

The Islamic Republic’s leaders have lauded their oil industry for swiftly supplying the market with its own mixes of high-octane fuel, which is manufactured in petrochemical plants rather than refineries.

But the brew is now seen by many as the main reason for the unprecedented air pollution levels in Tehran, Isfahan, a city in central Iran, and other large population centers.

“This fuel is our political ace [against the sanctions],” the Ayandeh Web site, which is critical of the government, said Monday. “But it is of low quality and polluting.”

The article goes on to quote Mohammad-Reza Shababi, the father of a three-year old girl who is suffering from extreme windpipe infection due to the increasing pollution:

“The arrow of these sanctions is hitting my daughter’s windpipe,” said Shababi. “What has she done? Both our leaders and the U.S. should think of the consequences of their acts.”

In fact, just last week before Congress, Under Secretary of State Bill Burns highlighted the success of US sanctions in decreasing Iran’s gasoline imports by 85%.   He didn’t mention any concerns about what this might  mean for regular Iranians, but perhaps this was because he was testifying before a panel that included Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), each of whom have said that sanctions must punish ordinary Iranians in order to work.

Not surprisingly, we hear little these days from the Administration about sanctions being designed to “not hurt the Iranian people.” This includes  when Obama appeared on BBC Persia several months ago and  tried to convince Iranians that they should not blame the US for their suffering under sanctions (reports from Iran suggested that Iranians were left “seething” by the President’s logic). The Administration has calculated that if they can show how just how tough they are, perhaps they will buy some time to actually pursue engagement.

With Congress focused on ways to punish Iran by any means necessary, with the Administration committed to buying itself space by demonstrating how “draconian” its sanctions can be, and with an Iranian government far more committed to its own preservation rather than the wellbeing of it citizens, we once again find the Iranian people caught in the middle.  But I suppose that means the sanctions are working.

Posted By Jamal Abdi

    One Response to “The (literally) suffocating sanctions against ordinary Iranians”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Well, if by “engagement” you mean “capitulation”, then I guess you might agree Germany was seeking a similar form of “engagement” with the British back in 1940!

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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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