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  • 20 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
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  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/20

Terms of nuclear talks to be disclosed

The P5+1 released the  details of a letter sent to Iran last October demonstrating a willingness to hold talks with Iran amidst tough sanctions and speculation of a military conflict (Reuters 01/20).

Details of U.S. letter to Iran emerge

Laura Rozen reports the Obama administration used three channels of communication to deliver a message to Iran’s Supreme Leader regarding “red lines in the Strait of Hormuz” and conveying that the U.S. and its allies “remain committed to a diplomatic solution,” with Iran.  They sent the letter through the Swiss Ambassador to Iran, through the UN, and through Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Rozen also reports that European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton’s office has released her October letter to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, which outlined proposed terms for nuclear talks (Yahoo 01/20).

Sanctions Watch 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that “time is running out” for diplomacy with Iran and called for China and Russia to back increased sanctions on Iran.  “We need stronger, more decisive sanctions that stop the purchase of Iranian oil and freeze the assets of the central bank, and those who don’t want that will be responsible for the risks of a military conflict,” Sarkozy stated. (Reuters 01/20).

  • 19 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/19

U.S. proposes a direct line of communication with Iran 

A  a conservative Iranian lawmaker, Ali Motahari, claims that the U.S. has sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader proposing direct talks. The Obama administration has denied the claim. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast claims that the proposal for direct talks was embedded in the U.S. letter warning Iran against closing the Strait of Hormuz (ABC 01/18).  

CNN reports that the United States has suggested creating a direct line of communication with Iran in order to prevent any escalating miscalculations between the two countries (CNN 01/18).

Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, at a joint news conference with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Turkey is prepared to host nuclear talks between Iran and Western countries. He urged for negotiations to begin immediately (Washington Post 01/19).

U.S. crafting new “confidence building measure” with Iran

The U.S. is crafting a new diplomatic proposal that would require Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20% and to give up its existing stockpile of 20% uranium  (Yahoo News 01/18).

EU set to approve central bank and oil sanctions

EU foreign ministers are expected to agree on an oil embargo against Iran and a freeze on the assets of its central bank at a meeting scheduled for Monday, according to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (Reuters 01/19). 

The director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said that the U.N. would press for full Iranian cooperation in meetings with Iranian officials. An IAEA delegation is set to seek explanations about allegations regarding Iran’s nuclear program (Reuters 01/19).

Meanwhile, Deputy House Whip Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), returning from a trip to the U.S.’s Gulf allies, said there is widespread concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and support for sanctions, but great reservation and worry about a possible military attack against Iran (Think Progress 01/18).

Japan, China statements on Iran oil

China’s premier Wen Jiabao, at a press conference in Qatar, defended their oil trade with Iran while warning against Iran developing and acquiring a nuclear weapon (The Guardian 01/19). Meanwhile, Japan has said that it is likely to reduce Iranian crude purchases over the next three months (Reuters 01/19).

Former Revolutionary Guard commander criticizes Iranian government

A high-ranking former Iranian commander, Retired Rear Adm. Hossein Alaei, has sparked protest and anger in Iran for publishing a letter perceived to be critical of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In the letter, Alaei implicitly compared the recent government crackdowns on the opposition to the repression during the time of the shah. Alaei publicly expressed regret for having written the letter after angry mobs, supporters of Khamenei, attacked his home (Washington Post 01/18).

Notable opinion: 

In a Politico op-ed, author and journalist Hooman Majd discusses the 5 main U.S. misconceptions about Iran:

Top five, 10 or 100 lists are standard at the end of the year. Though the Iranian year doesn’t end for roughly two months, given the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, with threats and counter threats over the Strait of Hormuz — to say nothing of most GOP presidential candidates’ views on what to do about Iran — it might be useful to compile one on the growing Iran crisis, early 2012 here and late 1390 there.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Three prominent journalists have been arrested in Iran ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections.

The New York Times reports that Iran’s currency fell to its lowest level ever against the dollar on Wednesday.

Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has urged Iran to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar, during a trip to Turkey, warned Arab states against aligning themselves too closely with the United States.

  • 18 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
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Iran News Roundup 01/18

Israel acknowledges Iran has yet to decide to pursue a nuclear weapon

Israeli officials will reportedly present an intelligence assessment next week that Iran has not yet decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. This comes as the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey visits Israel next week. Additionally, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel is “very far off” from making a decision about a military strike against Iran. (Haaretz 01/18).

Obama has followed Bush’s Iran policy says former top State official

Nicholas Burns, the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the George W. Bush administration said that the Obama administration’s policy “has been very tough with Iran,” and “has essentially followed President Bush’s policy towards Iran in President Bush’s second term.” The statement comes amidst allegations by the GOP presidential candidates that president Obama’s Iran policy has been weak (Think Progress 01/17).

  • 17 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/17

U.S.-Israel missile defense drill cancelled as concerns grow over Israeli attack against Iran

Senior military officials announced that the largest joint US-Israel missile defense drill has been postponed (Reuters 01/15).  Israel officially claimed this was due to budget cuts, but some U.S. and Israeli officials said the exercise was mutually postponed to not inflame tensions with Iran (Yahoo 01/16).  Still other U.S. officials expressed concerns privately that Israel had postponed the Spring exercise to clear the way for a strike on Iran, while others speculated that the exercise was cancelled by the U.S. to send a signal to Israel and Iran (IPS 01/16).

U.S. defense leaders have become increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing an attack against Iran, stepping up plans to protect U.S. facilities in the region in case. U.S. officials have been sending Israel private messages warning about the disastrous consequences of a conflict with Iran (WSJ 01/14) Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff will be visiting Israel on Thursday amidst the United States’ increasing concerns of a possible Israeli military strike on Iran (Haaretz 01/15). Additionally, Sen. George Mitchell said a case has not been made for attacking Iran (Think Progress 01/13).

UK foreign minister William Hague said that all options remain on the table regarding Iran, but said, “we are clearly not calling for or advocating military action. We are advocating meaningful negotiations, if Iran will enter into them, and the increasing pressure of sanctions to try to get some flexibility from Iran” (The Guardian 01/15).

John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman downplayed reports that the U.S. is increasing military presence in the Middle East is solely because of Iran (Reuters 01/13).

U.N. Secretary-General condemns assassination of Iranian scientists

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying that “Any terrorist action or assassination of any people, whether scientist or civilian, is to be condemned. It is not acceptable. Human rights must be protected” (Reuters 01/13).

Iran’s foreign minister sent a letter to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests, saying Iran has evidence of U.S. involvement in the assassination of Iranian scientist Mostafa Roshan.  “We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA,” the letter stated (Reuters 01/14).

Meanwhile, nearly a 100 scholars, academicians, and journalists have signed a petition condemning the murder of Iranian scientists.

  • 13 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/13

CIA memos uncover Mossad “false flag” operations

A series of CIA memos, written during the George W. Bush’s administration, describes how Mossad agents, pretending to be American agents and carrying US passports, reportedly recruited the terrorist group Jundallah to carry out a covert war against Iran (Foreign Policy  01/13).

U.S. sends warning to Iran’s Supreme Leader 

According to government officials, the U.S. has warned Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, via a secret channel of communication, that closing the Strait of Hormuz would constitute a “red-line” which would provoke a U.S. response. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also stated on Thursday that the closure of the Strait would not be tolerated (NY Times 01/12).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei responded to Wednesday’s assassination of an Iranian scientist by saying that those behind the killing would be punished. “We will continue our path with strong will … and certainly we will not neglect punishing those responsible for this act and those behind it,” said Khamenei (Reuters 01/12). The Iranian scientist, Mostafa Roshan, was buried yesterday in Tehran (BBC 01/13).

U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta echoed strong denials by other top U.S. officials of American involvement in the assassination (The Guardian 01/13).

Russia considers Iran war a threat to security

Russia’s departing ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told reporters that Russia considers Iranian involvement in any military action as a direct threat to Russia’s security. He also said that Israel is pushing the U.S. towards a war with Iran (Reuters 01/13).

U.N. to discuss nuclear program in Tehran

A senior U.N. nuclear agency team will be visiting Tehran on Jan. 28 to discuss allegations over Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian officials have suggested that they are ready to talk about the issue, according to two diplomats (Reuters 01/12). Some in the West have expressed skepticism over Iran’s readiness to discuss its nuclear program (Reuters 01/13).

  • 11 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/11

Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated

An Iranian nuclear scientist and a department supervisor of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was assassinated after an assailant on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his car. Iranian officials claim that Israel is responsible for the assassination (New York Times 01/11).

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “The United States strongly condemns this act of violence and categorically denies any involvement in the killing” (Washington Post 01/11).  Israeli officials have declined to comment. (Reuters 01/11).

The Guardian provides a timeline of similar attacks on Iran’s nuclear program and scientists.

Sanctions watch

Rebuffing pressure from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs repeated China’s opposition to sanctions on Iran’s oil export.  “We oppose pressuring or international sanctions because these pressures and sanctions are not helpful. They have not solved any issues,” he said. “We believe these problems should be solved by dialogue.”  (NY Times 01/11).

While India’s foreign minister insisted Iran is “crucial” to India’s energy security, companies such state-owned refining company Hindustan Petroleum Corporation are working to diversify their oil supplies away from Iran and are increasing imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. (Financial Times 01/10).

Reaction to Fordo site

Russia expressed concern over Iran’s announcement of uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo site near Qom, and urged all parties to resume talks through the P5+1.

Secretary of State Clinton condemned the announcement, saying “there is no plausible justification” to enrich uranium to a 20 percent level. She said the step brings Iran closer to nuclear weapons capacity (AP 01/10).

Meanwhile, GOP candidate Rick Santorum said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is ignoring the facts when he says that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 01/10).

U.S. intelligence official discuss the effects of U.S. sanctions

A senior U.S. intelligence official tells the Washington Post that sanctions may “create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”  However, the intelligence official also acknowledged that the sanctions “could have the opposite effect from what’s intended and impel the Iranian leader to decide, ‘We’re going to build that nuclear weapon.’”  The official argued further that obtaining a nuclear weapon “actually might temper [Iran’s] behavior.” (Washington Post 01/10).

Iran blocks MPs from running for reelection

Iran’s interior ministry has barred at least 33 Iranian members of parliament from running in March’s parliamentary election. Most reformist candidates are refusing to participate in the election. (The Guardian 01/10).

IPS reports that, less than two months before the parliamentary elections, the Iranian government has instituted a new round of arrests and prison sentences for Iranian activists and journalists (IPS 01/10).  Meanwhile, Iran’s police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam discussed the launch of Iran’s national Internet service.

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for Foreign Affairs, writer Hooman Majd, returning from a 11 month visit to Iran, discusses the political climate, the effects of sanctions, and the state of the opposition movement:

So sanctioning Iran’s central bank and embargoing Iranian oil, tactics the White House may be using as a way to avoid having to make a decision for war, will neither change minds in Tehran nor do much of anything besides bring more pain to ordinary Iranians. And making life difficult for them has not, so far, resulted in their rising up to overthrow the autocratic regime, as some might have hoped in Washington or London.

Predicting the future in Iran is a fool’s game, as the country and its people have defied expectations for years. But with continuing political turmoil among conservatives, pressure from the West, parliamentary elections in March, and the almost complete crushing of the reformists, it seems that this year promises to be another annus horribilis for both the leadership and the people.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

A Washington Post editorial argues “every effort must be made” to stop “Iranian sales of oil everywhere in the world,” and that the Obama administration should not engage Iran at this point.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published a list of a 110 secret executions in Iran’s Vakilabad Prison.

The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet near the Persian Gulf saved a group of distressed Iranian mariners.

Iran News Roundup 01/10


Hooman Majd, Vali Nasr, Bret Stephens, and Hillary Mann Leverett discuss the effects of sanctions, the probability of negotiations, and the likelihood of war on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Chinese foreign minister rejects Iran sanctions as Europe and Japan move forward

China’s vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai, responsible for U.S. relations, repudiated the idea of sanctioning Iranian oil. “The normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue,” he stated.  Cui rejected the argument that normal business dealings with the Iranian government financially supports Iran’s nuclear program. “According to this logic, if the Iranians have enough money to feed their population, then they have the ability to develop nuclear programs,” Cui told reporters. “If that is the case, should we also deny Iran the opportunity to feed its population?” (Washington Post 01/09).

These comments coincide with U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s trip to Asia seeking support from China and Japan for boosting financial pressure on Iran (WSJ 01/09). Meanwhile, Europe and Japan have moved ahead in planning for cuts in Iranian oil imports. Japan has asked Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help it make up any shortfall in case it joins the international embargo on Iranian oil (Reuters 01/10).

Iran begins uranium enrichment at Fordow site

On Monday, Iran confirmed the start of uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear plant near Qom (Huffington Post 01/09).

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, in a daily press briefing, said enrichment at the Fordow nuclear plant constitutes a “further escalation” of Iranian violations of international obligations (Christian Science Monitor 01/09).

Germany and Britain also criticized Iran’s decision. UK foreign secretary William Hague said that “If Iran has nothing to hide, it should seek every opportunity to reassure the international community of its peaceful intentions.” Germany’s foreign ministry described Iran’s decision as a “further escalation.”  (Financial Times 01/09) 

Iran reiterated, however, that all activities at the Fordow site are under the permanent supervision of the IAEA. Fordow “was declared more than two years ago and since then the agency has continuously monitored all the activities,” said Iran’s delegate to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh. “Every step we have taken so far and will take in the future has been and will be under IAEA containment and surveillance” (Business Week 01/10). Soltanieh also said that Western reactions to the news have “political purposes” (Reuters 01/10). 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his tour of Latin America, dismissed allegations that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon (Huffington Post 01/10).

Meanwhile, oil prices have risen to around $113 a barrel as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program increase (Reuters 01/10).

State Department condemns U.S. national’s death sentence

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned Amir Hekmati’s death sentence handed down by Iran’s Revolutionary Court. “Allegations that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA, are simply untrue,” said Nuland said (Think Progress 01/09).

A website has been launched in support of Amir Hekmati by his family.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has called on Iran’s Judiciary to reverse Hekmati’s death sentence.

Santorum claims principle motivation of Iran is martyrdom

GOP candidate Rick Santorum made several contested statements about Iran.  In a contention disputed by most experts, he said that Iran’s leadership is inherently irrational and suicidal, which is encouragement for Iran to use a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 01/09).  Santorum also said that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would not start a war (Thinking Progress 01/10).

  • 9 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/09

Defense Secretary Panetta: Iran seeking nuclear latency, not nuclear weapon

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared on Face the Nation and said of Iran, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon.”  (Transcript: CBS Face the Nation 01/08(Think Progress 01/08).

Iran announces future enrichment at underground site as talks loom

On Friday, diplomats in Vienna said Iran has taken steps in preparation for uranium enrichment at the Fordo site. According to one diplomat, Iran began feeding uranium gas into centrifuges as part of preparations for enrichment (Reuters 01/06).

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Iran and international powers have in principle agreed to resume talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Turkey. Additionally, Feireidoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that Tehran has shown a new generation of centrifuges to the IAEA (Fars News Agency 01/08).

  • 6 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/06

Iran and West may resume nuclear talks

Turkey’s foreign minister said that on his trip to Iran he delivered a western offer to resume nuclear talks and Iran has accepted (Reuters 01/05). A European official says that Iran has not formally responded in writing to the proposal for a new meeting (Yahoo 01/05).

Countries react to U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports

China is criticizing unilateral U.S. sanctions against companies that conduct transactions with Iran’s central bank. China’s foreign ministry spokesman said, “China opposes placing one’s domestic law above international law and imposing unilateral sanctions against other countries” (AFP 01/05).

India’s MRPL, that country’s biggest purchaser of Iranian crude oil, says it hasn’t cut purchases despite U.S. sanctions.  However, Reuters also reports “Indian companies have begun talks with alternative suppliers to slowly replace Iranian oil, fearing their current mechanism for payments to Tehran for some 350,000 barrels a day (bpd) via Turkey could soon succumb to sanctions.” (Reuters 01/06).

Japan and South Korea are looking for new suppliers of crude oil to gradually lessen their dependence on Iran in response to U.S. pressure.  (Financial Times 01/05).  However, a Japanese government official also told the Wall Street Journal that “There is no change to our position that the 10% oil supply from Iran remains vital to Japan, and that we will continue to make efforts to protect this supply” (WSJ 01/06).

Iran’s economic minister said the proposed embargo on Iran’s oil exports are “an economic war” (NY Times 01/05). 

Politico reports that rising gas prices caused by growing tensions between Iran and the U.S. are increasingly factoring into election politics (Politico 01/06).

New war games as tensions rise; U.S. Navy rescues Iranians from pirates

Iran announced it will conduct a new round of naval drills in February, while Israel announced that it is preparing for a major joint missile defense exercise with the United States that will involve thousands  of troups (The Guardian 01/06).

Britain’s defense secretary warned Iran that an attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz would be unsuccessful and illegal (Huffington Post 01/06).

 

Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy destroyer rescued 13 Iranian fishermen from pirates in the Gulf of Oman. The rescued Iranian captain offered his “sincere gratitude,” according to the Navy (CNN 01/06).

Human rights watch

Iran is imposing increased surveillance on Internet cafes and is reportedly preparing to strengthen internet censorship by replacing the Internet with a “halal” intranet system, potentially within the next few weeks (WSJ 01/06).

The Mothers of Laleh Park, a group of women whose children were killed or detained during Iran’s 2009 post-election crackdown, have issued the names of seven members or supporters who have been sentenced to prison (Rferl 01/05).

Notable Opinion

In an article for Foreign Affairs, Brooking’s Suzanne Maloney argues that the Obama Administration’s Iran policy “is sliding toward regime change.”

The Obama administration’s new sanctions signal the demise of the paradigm that had guided U.S. Iran policymaking since the 1979 revolution: the combination of pressure and persuasion. Moreover, the decision to outlaw contact with Iran’s central bank puts the United States’ tactics and its long-standing objective — a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions — fundamentally at odds. Indeed, the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy. As severe sanctions devastate Iran’s economy, Tehran will surely be encouraged to double down on its quest for the ultimate deterrent. So, the White House’s embrace of open-ended pressure means that it has backed itself into a policy of regime change, something Washington has little ability to influence.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Enduring America posts an analysis of why the Iranian rial is falling and what that means for Iranians.

  • 5 January 2012
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Iran News Roundup 01/05

Sanctions watch

Turkish energy ministry official said that Turkey would seek a waiver from the U.S. in order to exempt its biggest refiner Tupras from new U.S. sanctions. Turkey gets about 30 percent of its oil from Iran (Reuters 01/04).

Meanwhile, A senior Iranian oil official has said that Iran has alternatives to keep oil exports up if the European Union decides to prohibit imports of Iranian crude oil (Reuters 01/04).

A State department spokesperson welcomed the European Union’s statement that it agrees in principle to an oil embargo on Iranian oil imports (Guardian 01/04). Meanwhile,

China analysts say that, in the event of a European embargo, China crude purchases will remain motivated by commercial, not political, interests and so it is unlikely to make up for lost Iranian exports. (Christian Science Monitor 01/05). China will reduce crude oil imports from Iran for a second straight month as China presses for better payment terms (Reuters 01/05).

Iran’s fuel rod

Former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen assesses that Iran’s production of its first nuclear fuel rod, which he says would be used at the planed Arak heavy water reactor–not the Tehran Research Reactor, may indeed present diplomatic opportunities for the P5+1 to pursue with Iran.

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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