• 9 August 2016
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Congress, US-Iran War

An August 2016 report on Iran’s military capabilities in comparison with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) offers a straightforward take away: “the Arab countries are decisively winning this arms race.” The report, issued by the Center For Strategic & International Studies’ Anthony Cordesman, flies in the face of the all too common narrative that Iran is on the march to regional hegemony.

Cordesman details “three gaps” in Iran and GCC military capabilities: the military spending gap, the modernization gap, and the land/air/naval balance gaps. In every category, other than the sub-section of ground forces, it is revealed that the margin between the GCC states and Iran widened over the past four years.

Perhaps the most striking gap between Iran and the GCC states is with military spending. The GCC states’ $117 billion in annual military spending, compared to Iran’s $17 billion, is truly staggering. The report also references data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which highlights the striking gap in actual weapons acquired between the two. The modernization gap for actual new arms, as opposed to other military equipment, follows the same pattern as the military spending gap. From 2007-2014, Iran spent a total of $7 billion on new arms purchases while Saudi Arabia spent roughly $27 billion.

While Iran has historically held a dominant position with regards to land forces, the report found that a more detailed examination of the facts on the ground tell a quite different story. The land force manpower gap between Iran and the GCC has remained very wide according to the report, with Iran’s over 800,000 land forces outnumbering all GCC forces by a wide margin. However, the same does not hold with regard to land force equipment such as main battle tanks. The GCC states as of the 2016 report possess roughly 100 more tanks as well as more general ground force equipment such as armored infantry vehicles and armored personnel carriers. The report’s overall analysis as mentioned found that Iran’s Army is not structured for sustained maneuvers outside of Iran and into the GCC states.

The State Department’s recent approval for the sale of 130 Abrams battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, worth an estimated 1.5 billion dollars, further increases the GCC’s lead in the standard and modernized land forces domains.

With regard to the air force gap between Iran and the GCC states Cordesman found that “The Arab states have a decisive advantage in combat aircraft numbers and quality,” and that Iran’s surface to air systems and land based sensors are similarly limited in capability in comparison to GCC and complimentary U.S. systems. According to the report, Iran and Saudi Arabia possess a roughly equal amount of aircraft fighters, bringing the total number of GCC combat fighter jets to a few hundred more than Iran’s. However this number veils the larger modernization disparity between the two fleets according to the report, with the GCC states outnumbering Iran in “High Quality Fighters” by about 200.

The CSIS report is titled “The Changing Gulf Balance and the Iranian Threat,” however Cordesman tellingly opens the “naval balance” section with the following: “There really is no naval balance, [Iran’s naval capabilities are] just a naval component to joint naval-air-missile warfare.” Surface, submarine, and air-sea warfare, he says, is dominated by the U.S.’s naval and air presence, while Iran’s offensive capabilities are limited to low intensity attrition, random acts of mining, and raids.

In addition, the report examined Iran’s ability to close the Strait of Hormuz, an essential transit point for tankers leaving from the GCC states.  The report’s ultimate assessment pushed against the narrative that the Iranian navy is a serious threat to U.S. interests due to its ability to close the Strait of Hormuz. Cordesman found Iranian claims of being able to do so “[f]ar better for political leverage and intimidation than actual fighting.”

Much of the rhetoric we hear on Iran too often obstructs the real facts on the ground, which indicate that a highly one sided arms race is being played out in favor of the GCC states. Simply put, Iran is not capable of pursuing regional hegemony, and if the numbers are any indicator of future hegemonic aspirations, it is not spending like a future hegemon either.

Posted By NIAC

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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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