• 1 December 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Sanctions

This morning, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sent a letter to the Senate to “express the Administration’s strong opposition” to a proposed amendment that would impose sanctions on countries and entities that deal with the Central Bank of Iran, Bank Markazi.

Geithner says that the amendment would undermine the multilateral efforts that have been put in place by the White House to isolate Iran:

Rather than motivating these countries to join us in increasing pressure on Iran, they are more likely to resent our actions and resist following our lead – a consequence that would serve the Iranians more than it harms them.

If passed, Geithner writes, the measure “could have the opposite effect from what is intended and increase the Iranian regime’s revenue, literally fueling their suspect nuclear ambitions.”

Fears of an Iranian oil embargo, the practical effect of the Senate amendment, have driven oil prices up significantly over the past week.  The measure could threaten the European economy and not just increase Iran’s oil profits, but benefit China and Russia.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also strongly opposed the Senate measure, which could raise gas prices in the U.S. as well.

An oil embargo measure is reportedly being blocked at today’s European Union meeting due to concerns that such a measure would threaten Greece’s teetering economy and risk throwing the Eurozone into recession.

Nonetheless, the amendment is expected to come to a vote before the Senate later today as part of the debate on the annual National Defense Authorization Act.  NIAC has opposed central bank sanctions, noting that such measures are the broadest, most indiscriminate sanctions possible that will continue to punish ordinary Iranians for the actions of the regime.  Similar sanctions were put in place against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and only contributed to immense humanitarian suffering that failed to punish the regime, and ultimately only ended in war.

Administration officials testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning, reiterating objections to efforts in the Senate and House to force the President to issue sanctions against Iran’s central bank.  The Administration says they share the same goals as the Senate in isolating Iran, but that a reckless approach that divides international unity and benefits Iran politically and financially is counterproductive.  They were harshly rebuked by the amendment’s lead sponsor, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Posted By Jamal Abdi

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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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