• 14 February 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

While much attention has been paid to John Brennan’s policy on drones during his tenure as chief counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, surprisingly less has been given to his positions on Iran.

Slotted to be the new head of the CIA by President Obama, Brennan faced a confirmation hearing in the Senate last week that hardly dealt with Iran. But in the McCarthyite atmosphere in the Senate, anything approaching a substantive or nuanced view on Iran or Iran policy has become a political gambit. This was most apparent during Chuck Hagel’s recent confirmation hearing, in which the opposition turned the Iran debate  into a substance free and counterproductive contest of Iran-bashing.

John Brennan has actually spoken out against the use of exactly this type of hyperbolic and politically charged rhetoric when it comes to talking about Iran. In a 2008 paper, he even argues that engaging in such talk runs counter U.S. interests, saying:

“A critical step toward improved U.S.-Iranian relations would be for U.S. officials to cease public Iran-bashing, a tactic that may have served short-term domestic political interests but that has heretofore been wholly counterproductive to U.S. strategic interests. Rather than stimulating a positive change in Iran’s behavior, politically charged and wholesale condemnation of Iranian policies has energized and emboldened Iranian radicals at the expense of Iranian moderates.”

This paper, entitled “The Conundrum of Iran: Strengthening Moderates without Acquiescing to Belligerence,” sheds light on Brennan’s views toward Iran policy at a time before it was politically inconvenient for him to be so forthcoming. In it, he offers striking analysis on the decades old standoff between the U.S. and Iran and even offers several policy recommendations for reaching a peaceful solution.

The paper highlights a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which assessed that Iran had no nuclear weapons program; a fact which Brennan then uses to censure the Bush administration on for not using as grounds to show an “interest in easing the pressure on Iran.” This is  a far cry from his sole statement in last week’s Senate hearing, in which he said Iran is “bent” on getting nuclear weapons–a contradiction of the overwhelming consensus that Iran has not made a decision to actually build a weapon.

Brennan goes on in the 2008 paper to recommend a more even-handed U.S. approach towards Iran. “Public recognition of legitimate Iranian national interests and positive Iranian engagement in places like Afghanistan—would have the benefit of bolstering the position of those Iranians who advocate improved ties with the United States,” he says. This will have the effect of eliciting behavior from Iran that will be in the interests of the U.S., leading to “productive discourse [between Tehran and Washington] and more constructive Iranian behavior.”

Brennan also recommends that the U.S. appoint a special envoy to Iran, something he argues is chiefly necessitated due to Iran’s importance to U.S. strategic interests and stability in the region.  “Using third parties such as the Swiss to convey messages between the two capitals in the absence of diplomatic relations is wholly insufficient,” he argues. He adds that “a direct U.S. dialogue with Tehran should not have a narrow focus, as the array of issues of most concern about Iran—Tehran’s engagement in terrorism and support to subnational “extremist” groups, as well as its proliferation activities and regional ambitions—are inextricably intertwined.”

In fact, a bill to establish a special envoy to Iran has been circulating in Congress for some time and the proposal even received a vote in the House last year, but failed by a vote of 77 to 344. The support of a new CIA chief could give the proposal new found momentum.

Brennan’s paper ends with a bold proclamation, “If the United States actually demonstrates that it will work to help advance rather than thwart Iranian interests, the course of Iranian politics as well as the future of U.S.-Iranian relations could be forever altered.”

Posted By Sina Toossi

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Sign the Petition

 

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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