• 9 March 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Sanctions

Dumb and Dumber Sanctions

What happens when Senator Mark Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman — the two leading advocates in Congress for sanctions that deliberately hurt the Iranian people — get together to design a new Iran sanctions package with the neoconservative “Foundation for Defense of Democracies”?

The result is legislation that would impose extraterritorial sanctions on all Iranian banks and make foreign central banks subject to a U.S. sanctions if they engage in any significant transaction with Iran.  These sanctions would build on the already draconian sanctions on Iran’s central bank that Congress passed last year, and would further compound problems that those sanctions are already causing.

Despite having an exemption for humanitarian items, the sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank are choking off sales of food, medicine, and medical devices — including even those explicitly licensed by the U.S. Treasury.  The chilling effect has been so strong that foreign banks simply won’t facilitate the transactions even though they’re perfectly legal and have the U.S. government’s stamp of approval.  Extending the extraterritorial sanctions to all Iranian banks would be the nail in the coffin for trade in these humanitarian items because there simply wouldn’t be any Iranian banks that could transfer the money needed to actually pay for these goods.

Of course, Iran and foreign countries will set up elaborate workarounds for lucrative oil sales and other major transactions, but it is much less certain whether ordinary Iranians will be able to continue purchasing imported medicine and medical devices.  After all, why would an American company even bother to apply to get a license to sell a medical device in Iran if there is no way to actually sell the device in Iran?

It is unclear if this will concern the bill’s sponsors.  After all, Israeli officials recently went on the record advocating for sanctions to literally starve ordinary Iranians in order to try to get the regime to capitulate on the nuclear issue.

As for sanctioning other countries’ central banks, the downsides are obvious enough.  Imagine how the following conversation might end:

“Hey China, stop trading with Iran or we’ll sanction your central bank. Yes, your central bank…  Umm yeah, I know you have a trillion U.S. Treasury bills…”

Soon enough we’ll hear that these sanctions are necessary to make diplomacy work and won’t spike the price of gas.  When that happens, just remember the words of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Executive Director, Mark Dubowitz, who has said that the sanctions he is advocating for “would quash any hopes for progress through engagement” and “could also shock the oil markets, possibly causing considerable political trouble for Obama in an election year.”

Posted By David Elliott

David Elliott is the Assistant Policy Director at the National Iranian American Council.

    2 Responses to “Dumb and Dumber Sanctions”

  1. Sia says:

    Hi David,

    I have a ques. for you. is it the new policy not to hire international students on F1 visa by US based companies? or any company in general in the US?

    I have been told that the government put hold till April on that. Do you have any information about this.


  2. Quinne says:

    I really loved your article it was amazing! It had very good insightful information and I will definitely use in my Debate for school! Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

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.



Share this with your friends: