• 2 May 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Israel, Neo-Con Agenda, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Threats of war with Iran were never intended to drive the U.S. and Iran into sustained talks.

Hawks in Congress have gone so far as to attempt to institutionalize the U.S. “no-contact” policy with Iran.  Bibi Netanyahu has in many ways so effectively perpetrated the post-Cold War reorientation of Israel against Iran as to take his country to the brink of war.

But in pushing the policies of no-contact and permanent hostilities with Iran, while at the same time ruling out the very policy of containment, the hawks have taken a failed paradigm to its logical, unsustainable conclusion.  Having brought Israel and the rest of the world to the fork in the road, we are faced with either choosing war or shifting to a new paradigm.

Netanyahu’s war threats were supposed to pressure the international community to expand Iran’s isolation and to further institutionalize Iran’s non-relationship with the United States.  The war threat, faithfully amplified by willing stenographers in the U.S., has been aimed more at the U.S. and international community than at the Iranians.

But the security establishment in the U.S. is firmly against the idea of war with Iran.  And, we are now finding out, Israel’s security establishment agrees and is deeply concerned about the potential of Netanyahu taking Israel into the abyss.  In just the past few weeks, the current IDF chief and the former heads of Shin Bet and Mossad, not to mention Netanyahu’s political opponents, have joined a building chorus of voices in Israel who have pounced on an opening to confront Netanyahu over his dangerous war posturing.

Meanwhile, because other means have failed to mitigate the side-effects of looming war—namely record high oil prices—diplomacy may be exactly what the saber rattling has unintentionally forced current United States political leadership into pursuing, despite the political costs. 

In an election year, it is perhaps strange that President Obama has decided to reinvest in diplomacy that he himself has characterized as a political liability.  But the political costs for the President of being maligned as “soft” on Iran because of daring to negotiate have been eclipsed by the even bigger liability of high gas prices.  And the real costs of war with Iran simply do not add up when you consider that anything short of a full-scale occupation (which experts say would require around one million troops) would be more likely to deliver an Iranian nuclear weapon than doing nothing at all.

Doing nothing at all, however, is not an option.  Hawks criticize the President as being more concerned with preventing Israeli from bombing Iran than with preventing an Iranian nuke.  This silly notion assumes we can’t do both.  It misunderstands that both challenges are endemic of the same flawed and untenable paradigm that Obama pledged to shift by pursuing direct negotiations.

The President, I think, is indeed more concerned at the moment with the need to prevent a potentially imminent war than he is with the distant threat of Iranian building a weapon—a decision they have yet to even make that would likely take years for them to actually achieve.  But above all, his Administration may be most focused on dealing with what is already here—an escalating cold war with Iran that could not just spiral into real war, but which has helped produce high gas prices that are hurting the economic recovery and pissing off voters.   And, while it may be the economic threat that helped spur the new U.S. willingness to engage, ultimately a shift away from the absurd paradigm of trying to turn Iran into another Cuba is the only solution for all of the above threats (and more–including meaningfully dealing with Iran’s repression of human rights, democracy, and civil society).

While the U.S. is talking directly to Iran, Israel is unlikely to bomb.  Those talks can, hopefully, yield immediate Iranian concessions to cap its nuclear program and produce a diplomatic process that puts us on track for a peaceful resolution, shifting us off of the current war trajectory.  Talks can also, hopefully, yield reciprocal moves by Europe and possibly even the United States to hold off on implementing oil sanctions that would not just punish Iran, but would further squeeze the oil market and punish ourselves.

So, thank you to Netanyahu and the neocons and the hawks in Congress for taking us to the brink and forcing some tough decisions.  Now it’s time to find out if we will be able to make the right one.

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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