• 21 April 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Neo-Con Agenda, Sanctions

New Legislation Targets Iranian Civilian Flights

When President Obama told Iranians this past Norooz, “though times may seem dark, I am with you,” NIAC presented several small but significant steps the President could take to support a brighter future for the Iranian people.

Meanwhile, Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) was busy working on legislation to turn out the lights on hopes of building goodwill between the U.S. and ordinary Iranians.

On Friday, Sherman unveiled the fruits of his labor—H.R. 1655, a bill that would strip the President’s authority to allow civilian aircraft parts and repairs to be sent into Iran to prevent humanitarian tragedy.

Send a letter to your Representative in Congress to tell them to oppose H.R. 1655

Flying is already a dangerous affair for Iranians, thanks in part to a U.S. embargo that has left the country’s civilian aviation fleet in disrepair.  In the past decade, over 1,000 people have been killed in at least fifteen plane crashes in Iran, including seventy-seven passengers who were killed just three months ago in a Boeing 727 crash.

But for Sherman, these tragedies represent an opportunity.

Under current law, the President may bypass the embargo on a case-by-case basis to allow the sale of parts and repairs for Iranian civilian.  This humanitarian waiver has been used only once, by President Bush in 2006.

But on March 16, President Obama notified Congress that he would use this authority to allow Iran to repair fifteen General Motors engines used in civilian planes that were recently deemed a safety risk by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sherman responded almost immediately, sending a letter with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) condemning the move and calling for the President to pull the plug.  According to Sherman, the U.S. should not allow repairs for Iranian civilian planes “until Tehran grounds its nuclear weapons program.”

Leveraging human suffering against an Iranian government that continues to abuse the human rights of its own people is unlikely to change Tehran’s calculus regarding its nuclear program.   But using Iranians as pawns in a dispute with Iran’s government is likely to diminish the United States’ standing among the Iranian people.

Given Sherman’s stated belief that sanctions should punish ordinary Iranians, and his dismissal of warnings from Green Movement leaders that such measures hurt the democracy movement and help hardliners in Iran’s government, H.R. 1655 should come as no surprise.

Unfortunately, Sherman is not a lone voice in Washington.  Five Members of Congress, two Republicans and three Democrats, are original cosponsors of H.R. 1655.  And while Ros-Lehtinen declined to sign-on to Sherman’s bill, she is reportedly working to advance her own sanctions legislation that may also revoke Obama’s humanitarian waiver.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) claimed last week that the way to support the Iranian people is through increased sanctions, arguing that Iranians “will be more inclined to suffer the consequences” of sanctions if the U.S. says they are meant to “assist” them.

Now, if Sherman gets his way, those consequences will likely include more airplane accidents and civilian deaths in Iran.  The President should focus on building goodwill with Iranians and reject shameful proposals to make the U.S. complicit in such tragedies.

Write your Representative in Congress to tell them not to target Iranian civilian airplanes and to oppose H.R. 1655

Posted By Jamal Abdi

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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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