• 8 August 2016
  • Posted By Karina Bakhshi-Azar
  • Events in Iran, Iran deal, Nuclear deal, Nuclear deal

Frustration Grows in Iran Around Sanctions Relief Complications

This week Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani addressed the Iranian public on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Both Khamenei and Rouhani acknowledged frustration with the pace of economic relief following the lifting of sanctions, while blaming the U.S. for failing to fulfill its commitments.  As has been the case in the past, Khamenei struck a more strident tone while Rouhani emphasized that the economy was growing in spite of complications.

Khamenei addressed thousands of Iranians from different provinces on August 1 2016, to discuss his thoughts on the current state of the JCPOA. He questioned the economic benefits of the deal stating: “Weren’t the oppressive sanctions lifted so that the people would feel a change in their lives? Has there been a tangible effect on the people’s lives in the past six months [since the nuclear agreement’s implementation]?”

Khamenei’s remarks appear to be at least somewhat reflective of many in Iran, whose support for the accord has slipped since implementation. According to a study done by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, while the nuclear deal is still supported by a majority, the number has diminished in the past year, with the proportion who strongly approve of the agreement dropping by half.

Iran is still struggling to attract large-scale foreign investment as major banks have abstained from conducting any business involving Iran. A major factor behind these banks’ hesitancy is existing U.S. sanctions on Iran for reasons outside the nuclear sphere, including prohibitions on utilizing dollars – the world’s reserve currency – that enter the U.S. financial system. Political risk in both the U.S. and Iran also contributes to the complications, though the maintenance of sanctions has provided a window of opportunity for hardliners like Khamenei to target the deal and American’s trustworthiness. If the sanctions relief issues are not resolved, they could raise trouble for the accord down the line.

In his speech, Khamenei doubled down on rhetoric indicating that the American government cannot be trusted, stating, “They tell us ‘Let’s talk about regional issues, too.’ But the experience of the nuclear deal suggests this is deadly poison and in no way can the Americans be trusted. Negotiation with such a government means diversion from the correct path of advancement of the country, giving constant concessions and allowing a bullying policy in practice.”

Faced with criticism on his signature achievement, President Hassan Rouhani held a nationally-televised press conference on Tuesday. In it, Rouhani stressed many of the same themes of Khamenei but framed the accord in a more positive light. Rouhani emphasized that “the threat of war was lifted” because of the deal. He also stated that “If the deal had not happened we wouldn’t be able to export oil, access to our assets would have become harder by the day, and the sanctions on the automobile sector, petrochemicals, money transfer and precious metals would have caused very dire circumstances for the country. The nuclear deal has created a good situation in the country.”

Rouhani also emphasized the “dignity” the deal has given to the nation by putting them in charge of their oil industry once again. “When we had sanctions, our friends always reached out to others. Sanctions did not bring us any dignity. The first thing that the JCPOA brought for us was dignity.”

“The JCPOA means that you are free to pick dozens of countries to buy [our] oil instead of just two countries,” Rouhani continued. Iranian oil exports have nearly doubled since implementation day on Jan 16, 2016, and some estimates indicate the country’s GDP is expected to rise by 4% this year.

However, Rouhani’s speech suggested disappointment over a lost opportunity. “If the United States had implemented the nuclear agreement with good faith and precision, and had reduced the obstacles and delays that we see today, we could have had more trust and engaged in negotiations on other subjects, which could have been in the interests of the region, the United States and us,” said Rouhani, who was elected to the presidency on a promise of constructive engagement.

Khamenei, as the country’s Supreme Leader, was always a skeptic of the negotiations but provided space for them to proceed as he preserved his own flexibility to hedge his bets. His ultimate endorsement of the nuclear talks was instrumental in protecting the negotiations and final agreement from sabotage from hardline opponents. However, Khamenei’s increasing criticism of the deal is leaving Rouhani open for criticism from hardliners as the president enters an election year in 2017. Rouhani will likely face mounting criticisms of his signature achievement from political opponents, and less political capital to advance an agenda of moderation, so long as complications in sanctions relief continue.

Posted By Karina Bakhshi-Azar

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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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