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  • 4 May 2012
  • Posted By B.Farshneshani
  • Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

A Neocon Upstart Attacks Academic Freedom and Iranian American Views

I thought it would be a typical Thursday at work last week, but as soon as I arrived to the office, an associate pulled me aside and pointed to a series of defamatory tweets against me and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the organization for which I intern.

The tweets were directed at me by neoconservative upstarts Sohrab Ahmari and Peter Kohanloo in response to comments I tweeted (here and here) regarding an article written by Ahmari demonizing American academics who had recently travelled to Iran.

At the time, I was completely unaware of the author’s ideological affiliation and only later was it revealed to me that Ahmari is a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a neocon think tank in London. In a recent article, MJ Rosenberg provides a wonderful exposé revealing the agendas of Ahmari and some of his associates:

“Ahmari, the neocons’ favorite Iranian, is very much in the mold of the neocons’ favorite Iraqi. During the run-up to the 2003 invasion Ahmed Chalabi was their darling because, as an Iraqi émigré, he was thought to have unique credibility. Neocons loved hearing an Iraqi say that invading Iraq would not only prove successful but would be welcomed by his fellow Iraqis. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a fake, whose agenda was almost entirely personal. The war he and his friends promoted was an infamous catastrophe. And, to put it mildly, the invasion he told us that Iraqis would welcome was not welcomed.”

To neoconservatives’ disappointment, Iranian Americans, including myself, are unlikely to be familiar with the names of Ahmari or Kohanloo, let alone give those who argue for war on their motherland any credibility. As Rosenberg correctly observers, “Neither of these spokesmen [Ahmari and Kohanloo] have a following, either among Iranian Americans or Iranians, a fact that probably makes them deeply resentful of the Iranian-American organization that does, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).”

  • 26 March 2012
  • Posted By B.Farshneshani
  • Nuclear file, Sanctions

Applying the Lessons of South Africa Sanctions to Iran

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post

“My basic approach is that sanctions have a limited place in international diplomacy or pressure,” says F.W. de Klerk, the former president of South Africa who presided over the end of the apartheid regime and the dismantling of the country’s nuclear weapons. Discussing whether sanctions are a useful tool of statecraft, de Klerk observed, “In the case of South Africa, it kept us on our toes. It halted economic growth, but it hurt the black population much more than the white population. It didn’t help those who it was intended to help, it actually harmed them more than it harmed the intended victims of the sanctions.”

De Klerk’s comments, delivered earlier this month at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, may be useful in assessing the utility of broad sanctions against Iran. Proponents of Iran sanctions cite the case of South Africa as an example of a successful sanctions regime against a state that transitioned to a democracy and subsequently dismantled its nuclear weapons. But out of the 35 authoritarian states that have transitioned to democracies, South Africa is the only one that did so under the weight of broad economic sanctions.

However, according to de Clerk, “sanctions at times delayed reform. In our case the biggest change agent, which in many respects made nonsense of the apartheid, was economic growth and development. Economic growth and development created an impetus in black education. Because of economic growth and development, so many black universities were created. By the 1990s there were more black students in universities than white students. But economic sanctions twisted our economy.”

According to economist Mats Lundahl, many of the sanctions imposed on South Africa depressed the industrial sector and actually perpetuated the dominance of a skilled labor force led by whites. Lundahl argues that if industrial markets were allowed to flourish, the expansion of its labor market would naturally prompt a quicker end to the apartheid regime.

  • 10 February 2012
  • Posted By B.Farshneshani
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 02/09

NBC: U.S. Officials Say Israel Sponsored MEK to Assassinate Iranian Nuclear Scientists

After long suspicion by the Iranian government that assassinations of the country’s scientists are being carried out by members of the MEK terrorist group and trained by Israel’s Intelligence Agency, Mossad, NBC says U.S. officials have confirmed that MEK was behind assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists with Israel’s help:

“Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.” ( 02/09)

Next IAEA report on Iran being billed as harshest yet

The next IAEA quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear inspections are being framed by some diplomats as being “harsher than the last one” and will allegedly include new details that Iran has worked on developing nuclear warheads for a ground-to-ground missile. (Haaretz 02/09)

Ex-Marine sentenced to death in Iran needs U.S. intervention, lawyer says

Lawyer for Amir M. Hekmati, who has been charged in Iran for allegedly spying for the CIA and received the death sentence, says his client has a chance to be saved if the Obama Administration does everything possible to intervene.  US officials say Iran has denied US access to Hekmati, but that the Administration is continuing to press for his release. (Washington Post 02/09)

Notable Opinion: Will AIPAC & Bibi get their way?  

MJ Rosenberg predicts Israel will not attack Iran this year because the consequences are uncertain and potentially grim:

“Despite all this, I do not think that either Netanyahu or his lobby are all that eager to go to war. After all, Israel’s intelligence community opposes it for a host of reasons starting with the fact that it would not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. There is also the fear that Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border, have tens of thousands of missiles that they can let fly if Iran is attacked. Above all is the understanding that no one knows if an attack would make Israel safer or threaten its very existence.” (Huffington Post 02/09)

  • 8 February 2012
  • Posted By B.Farshneshani
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 02/08

Iran Sanctions Squeeze Country’s Food Supply

Sanctions are beginning to seriously affect Iran’s ability to import food products.  The All India Rice Exporters’ Association has called on its members to stop exporting rice to Iran on credit after Iranian buyers defaulted on payments for 200,000 tons of rice (Chicago Tribune 02/07).  In addition, Ukraine has stopped selling grain to Iran due to payment difficulties, and Malaysia has similarly stopped providing palm oil (Reuters 02/08). 

Former Israeli Spymaster: Israel Does Not Face Existential Threat

Former director of Mossad, Meir Dagan, maintains that there is no existential threat to Israel, putting him at odds with the country’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, who he has accused of dashing toward a rash military strike on Iran (Washington Post 02/08).

  • 7 February 2012
  • Posted By B.Farshneshani
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 02/06

Obama Walks Back Panetta’s Warning About Israeli Strike

In an interview with NBC last night, President Obama appeared to walk back Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement that Israel was likely to strike Iran within months.  The President said he does not believe “Israel has made a decision on what they need to do” and said ultimately, Iran must be convinced that pursuing a nuclear weapon is not in their interests (Video 02/05).  Barbara Salvin speculates that Panetta’s comments are part of a concerted effort by U.S. officials “to smoke the Israelis out,” forcing Israeli officials into an unprecedented public debate about their options in hopes of staving off war. The President also said in his interview that he believes “Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive…and so our preferred solution here is diplomatic.” When asked about the dangers of retaliation posed by Iran against the United States, Obama said he did not see “any evidence that they [Iranians] have those intentions or capabilities right now.”  U.S. officials believe the burden of an Iranian retaliation to an Israeli attack would ultimately fall on the shoulders of the United States and this is why “We are telling them [Israel] every which way we can “Don’t do it [attack Iran],” said Salvin.
 (Washington Times 02/05) (France 24 02/06)

New Senate and White House Sanctions

Last Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee unanimously approved the toughest measures yet against Iran. One provision would aim sanctions at SWIFT, effectively locking Iran’s banking system out of the global financial telecommunications network(New York Times 02/03).  An additional an amendment to the bill would strip Persian artifacts of their last legal protections as noncommercial items.(NIAC)

Today, President Obama signed an executive order that would freeze all Iranian government assets held or traded in the United States. These measures, he said, are taken “in light of the deceptive practices” of Iran’s central bank to conceal activities already banned by previous sanctions. The new sanctions will require American financial institutions to freeze assets related to Iran’s Central Bank, rather than just reject them as is current practice. (Reuters 02/06)

Meanwhile, new reports of the humanitarian impact of escalating sanctions suggest they are increasingly being felt among ordinary Iranians. “I don’t care about the nuclear dispute. Soon, I might not be able to afford food and other basic needs of my children,” said Mitra Zarrabi, a school teacher and mother of three.  (Reuters 02/05)

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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