“All Options” on Iran Must Include Diplomacy

For the first time since the May 2010 “Tehran Declaration,” Iran has offered a proposal that could break the deadlock over its nuclear program.  While there are many unanswered questions about the contours of the proposal and about Iran’s motivations for offering it, there is only one way to answer those questions: renewed diplomacy.

According to Iran’s atomic energy chief, Iran is proposing that the IAEA would be granted “full supervision” of Iran’s nuclear program for five years in exchange for the removal of sanctions.

This proposal may be the first glimmer of opportunity towards a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.  It could present a rare chance for the U.S. and Iran to get negotiations on track after the false start of October 2009 and the diplomatic purgatory that set in with the implementation new UN and U.S. sanctions.

But while the details of any such proposal have yet to be laid out and would obviously have to be settled at the negotiating table, some—notably the Washington Post in a September 6th editorial—have already dismissed the proposal it out of hand.  In the past, the limited process of diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran has been undermined by each side dismissing the other’s proposals out of hand; and each time, the conflict has become more dangerous and more entrenched.

While sanctions and sabotage efforts have reportedly slowed Iran’s nuclear progress, and as recent reports show that U.S. diplomatic efforts have convinced China to “put the brakes on oil and gas investments in Iran,” the Iranian nuclear program is advancing, albeit at a slower pace.  It is widely acknowledged that sanctions have not changed Iran’s strategic calculus regarding its nuclear program.

The fact is, sanctions were never supposed to do that by themselves.  Even those who supported the sanctions touted them as a means to bring Iran back to the table for a deal.  But now that Iran has signaled a potential willingness to come to the table, we have to ask ourselves whether we value the idea of sanctions more than a potential diplomatic solution.

The idea that sanctions would be lifted in exchange for full supervision is a test for those who said the goal of sanctions was to serve as leverage.  By definition, a lever must be able to move.  Our sanctions regime, we may come to find out, is a lever that is stuck in place—a monument to “toughness” that places form over function.

Therein lies the crux of the matter.  Only diplomatic efforts can achieve a solution in which Iran does not achieve nuclear weapons capability and the U.S. is not drawn into war.  But does the political courage exist in Tehran and Washington to pursue serious diplomacy and realistic solutions to the nuclear impasse?

For the Bush Administration, “full supervision” of Iran’s nuclear program would not have been enough, even as experts argued it was the most effective way to ensure Iran could not develop a nuclear weapon.  The sticking point for Bush was a demand that Iran not have any nuclear enrichment on its soil at all, no matter how constrained or transparent.

This intractable standard left little room for a solution to the nuclear dispute, offering only a pathway to eventual war or acceptance of a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.

Obama Administration officials have, in the past, hinted at acceptance of a different approach to avoid such undesirable outcomes.

Hillary Clinton, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this year, stated that the U.S. and international community could accept Iran’s right to enrichment if Tehran lives up to the obligations that come with any such right—i.e. provide full transparency to the IAEA.

But as the 2012 election season begins to get underway, the political will may, once again, not be there.  Unfortunately, the political metric for Iran continues to favor tough talk and pressure for the sake of pressure over real solutions.  It may be more attractive for politicians to appear “tough” on Iran instead of pursuing realistic solutions to prevent a day in the future when we would have to choose between living with an Iran that has a nuclear breakout capability or engaging in a disastrous war.  The Washington Post seems to endorse this standard and the bad options that come with it.

This piece appeared originally on Huffington Post

Posted By Jamal Abdi

    One Response to ““All Options” on Iran Must Include Diplomacy”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Jamal, you would do well to study the failure of the 2003 Paris agreement. That’s the one where Iran temporarily put into effect the Additional Protocol but got NOTHING in return, and had to withdraw in disappointment.

    Now Iran is saying it will formally accept the AP if sanctions are withdrawn and its peaceful nuclear rights are acknowledged (including enrichment). This isn’t really a bold, new position. It’s more closer to the mark to describe it as restating its position with the additional qualification of retracting sanctions.

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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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