• 29 June 2011
  • Posted By Ali Tayebi
  • Sanctions

Catch Homa If You Can

Homa is legendary bird in Iran that is said to never come to rest, living its entire life flying invisibly high above the earth, and never alighting on the ground. It also happens to be the logo of IranAir, which last week–following pressure from Congress–was sanctioned by the Obama Administration.

In exchange, one of those members of Congress, Senator Mark Kirk, agreed to finally lift his hold blocking Obama’s choice for the new top Iran sanctions enforcer at the Treasury Department. But others, like Representative Brad Sherman, have demanded that Obama must also nix a plan to allow for repairs for Iranian civilian aircraft. And so, the punishment of Iran’s people for the behavior of their undemocratic government continues.

Sanctions can be evaluated based on their message and their effectiveness. These two points have been the most controversial aspects of the U.S. sanctions against Iran in last three decades, and targeted sanctions were supposed to be a solution to overcome with these challenges. The Iran Air sanctions seem to be a big step backward and demonstrate that these sanctions are anything but targeted.

IranAir has been the only governmental funded airline in Iran since 1946, but it has never play a major role in international flight across the region, and in Iran it mostly considered as a governmental service to Iranian citizens.

The immediate impact of the new sanctions is that it is now illegal for U.S. citizens and permanent residences to buy tickets or use Iran Air services. But if other countries voluntarily join the sanctions and block Iran Air flights, it won’t put considerable economic pressure on the Iranian regime–since Iran Air does not play a substantial role in Iran GDP with less than 5,000 annual international flights. It will, however, have a very significant economic pressure on Iranians who will now have limited options for international flights, with higher prices and more stops.

The new measures may also further prevent the repair of Iranian civilian flights. In the past decade, over one-thousand Iranians have been killed in airplane crashes, and many Iranians blame U.S. sanctions. With Iran Air sanctions, Iranians, who already hold U.S. sanctions responsible for airplane accidents in last three decades, may be further persuaded by regime propaganda that the United States has animosity towards the Iranian people.

Once again, Iranians are being punished for their government’s illegal activities, while they are under repressive pressure from the regime for claiming their basic human rights. We should ask ourselves if grounding Iran’s people is really the message we want to deliver.

Posted By Ali Tayebi

    One Response to “Catch Homa If You Can”

  1. Pirouz says:

    I’m curious:

    How is this latest sanction a step backward? From the perspective of the majority of Iranians inside Iran, it is yet another advance made in USG directed anti-Iran foreign policy.

    And, how is taking a partisan stance in Iran affairs in favor of a 1:3 minority (at most) against the majority characteristically “democratic”? All credible public opinion polls depict a majority of Iranians inside Iran supporting IRIG policies (the one’s you appear to object to, Ali). Such opposition to a popular majority is itself undemocratic.

    Let’s be realistic about this, shall we? Be upfront with the fact that you object to the views and aims of a more than 3:1 majority of Iranians inside Iran.

    Personally, I don’t see the advantage in adopting such a position, other than currying attention from certain USG officials. It certainly is counterproductive to conflict resolution, and does not represent the declared interests of ordinary Iranians inside Iran.

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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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