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Leaders on Iran in the 111th Congress: the Progressive Caucus

As 2009 rapidly approaches, look for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to become a more central player in the 111th Congress, particularly on Iran legislation.

The Progressive Caucus’ (CPC) position on Iran policy places a very high premium on shifting towards dialogue, rather than confrontation with Tehran. Arguing for the establishment of “a diplomatic dialogue with the Government of Iran as well as deepening relationships and cross-cultural exchanges with the Iranian people”, the CPC firmly believes that these efforts will ultimately “help foster greater understanding between the people of Iran and the people of the United States. These actions would also enhance the stability and security of the Persian Gulf region, including reducing the threat of the proliferation or use of nuclear weapons in the region, while advancing other United States foreign policy objectives in that region.”

Israel, Iran and Obama: the region reacts to U.S. election

The Iranian reaction to the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States seems to be overall positive so far, with MP’s such as Hamid Reza Haji Babai welcoming the victory “as an opportunity and test, with Iran now waiting for that change”. Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and President Ahmadinejad similarly echoed a hope for change in the direction of U.S. foreign policy. While Elham stated that “Iran hopes Obama changes America’s international image and avoids invading foreign countries.” Mottaki argued that “the election of Barack Obama… is a clear sign of the American people’s wish and desire for fundamental changes in America’s domestic and foreign policies.” Ahmadinejad issued a brief congratulatory note to Obama on his website; the first time an Iranian President has extended such a congratulatory letter to an American President in thirty years.

The reaction from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni was however more reserved. Ali Aghamohammadi, a close aide to Khamenei, said in a Reuters interview that a “change of political figures is not important by itself. What is more important is a change of American policy.” Simultaneously, the Iranian Armed Forces (which is under the Executive Command of the Supreme Leader) issued a stark warning to U.S. forces in Iraq that Tehran “would respond to any violation of Iranian airspace, a message analysts said seemed directed at the new U.S. president-elect more than neighboring American troops”

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv expressed nervousness about Obama’s plans for the Middle East. Having sent several “high-level messages to Washington in which it expressed its objections to the [Bush Administration’s] proposal to open an interests sections [in Tehran],” Israeli Foreign Minister (and Prime Minister candidate) Tzipi Livni said Thursday that “Obama shouldn’t talk to Iran just yet, warning that such dialogue could project weakness.” One should perhaps view Obama’s nomination of Rahm Emanuel – a high-ranking Democrat that flew to Israel to volunteer with the Israeli army in 1991 – as his Chief of Staff, as a maneuver aimed at calming Tel Aviv..

  • 28 October 2008
  • Posted By Ali Hosseini
  • US-Iran War

US expanding cross-border attacks; next up Iran?

After cross-border air and ground incursions into Pakistan earlier this year, which were reportedly authorised by an executive order signed in July, U.S. Special Forces/CIA raided a village compound 5 miles into Syrian territory late last week.  Ostensibly, they were in the search of high-value terrorists, but the daring cross-border operation killed several civilians including women and children, and it is still unclear if any al-Qai’da members are among the dead.

The assault might be an escalation of an announced strategy to widen the scope of operations in the region in search of “high-value al-Qai’da operatives previously beyond” the reach of U.S. forces. Similar to “pre-emptive strikes,” these cross-border operations undermine central concepts in international law, especially state sovereignty.

And this is particularly relevant to the Iranian-American community. Why? In the context of escalated ‘covert operations’ inside Iran (carried out by the CIA, in collaboration with radical Iranian militants), and Congress’ designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a ‘terrorist entity’, there’s a chance the Bush administration might see an opportunity to challenge Iranian sovereignty, too.

Let’s just hope that President Bush doesn’t try to salvage his legacy by initiating a third war in eight years; after all, the ‘third time’s a charm’.

  • 10 October 2008
  • Posted By Ali Hosseini
  • Events in Iran, Iranian American activism, Persian Gulf

Sales Tax Incites Rare Private Sector Strikes in Iran

Widespread strikes shut down stalls in the Tehran, Esfehan, Mashhad and Tabriz bazaars earlier this week in protest to the implementation of a 3% sales tax. The sales tax is an integral pillar of Ahmadinejad’s revision of Iran’s antiquated tax code and banking systems; hoping to cut government expenditure and lowering inflation.

Although the implemented 3% sales tax only applied to gold and jewellery shops in the bazaars,  other shopkeepers closed down their stalls in solidarity.  Bazaaris are worried that being forced to pass on the sales tax to consumers will hurt their businesses, in the context of a reported 29% inflation rate in September according to Iran’s Central Bank. Some retailers didn’t mind paying the sales tax, but worried that there would be an arbitrary implementation, ultimately benefiting only larger competitors with government connections. In the words of a carpet salesman quoted in a Washington Post article, “In Iran, if you have connections, you don’t have to pay any taxes…but we don’t have those connections. So we probably have to pay double.”

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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