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  • 21 July 2010
  • Posted By Azadeh
  • 2 Comments
  • Nuclear file, US-Iran War

War is Bad For Democracy

Speculation abounds as, once again, the military option against Iran has come front and center. What is the worst case scenario if Israel attacks Iran? Most experts agree; there will be a significant toll on civilian life, Iran could justifiably withdraw from the NPT, and there could be prolonged regional insecurity that drags the US into a third Middle Eastern conflict.

Perhaps the most important consequence of an attack on Iran, however, is the damage it would do to the indigenous democracy movement.

Plain and simple, an Israeli attack would destroy the Green movement.  History shows that external threats have only served to buttress repressive regimes. In the case of Iran in the 1980’s, the revolutionary government used the Iran-Iraq War as a pretext to silence dissenters and consolidate its hold on power.  Without the specter of a foreign enemy, it’s unlikely the post-revolutionary regime would have remained in tact.

The Green Movement’s current efforts to protect civil liberties, combat repression, liberalize domestic politics, and improve Iran’s standing in the international community will certainly be cut off if Iran is thrust into similar circumstances. After the bombs start falling, the hardline government will ensure that only the issue of national security is allowed to dominate the domestic political discourse.  (This should be easy for Americans to imagine, given that the US experienced a similar situation in the aftermath of 9/11).

Iran war hawks like William Kristol Robert Kagan talk about how a nuclear-armed Iran would be tolerable so long as it is run by a secular, pro-American and democratic government.  Since last June, the Iranian people have begun the long slog toward freedom and democracy, and yet those who claim to support them are calling for precisely the thing that will make this dream impossible.

There is still unrest in Iran. Bazaar strikes, an ailing economy, and widespread inflation are just a few problems plaguing the lives of Iranians every day, and as this discontent lingers, the calls for reform will only grow louder.  Even more than its immediate devastation on the lives of the Iranian people, an attack on Iran will constrain Iran’s political evolution and defer the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.

Barbara Slavin often says that the US and Iran never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  The US now has a chance to keep the hope for a democratic Iran alive or, alternatively, to snuff out that possibility in one fell swoop.  We should choose wisely.

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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