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  • 3 May 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy

Dysfunctional Congress Threatens Iran Talks

As the United States and Iran look for an exit ramp off the road to war, they may find a surprising new obstacle: the very sanctions legislation that many credit for bringing Iran back to the negotiating table. As a result of that sanctions bill, Congress now has the de-facto power to block any diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. And the scary reality is that the same dysfunctional institution that almost drove the nation into default last summer can exercise this veto power over diplomacy by doing what it does best: nothing at all.

Congress created this dilemma when it passed draconian sanctions on Iran’s financial system and oil exports, but failed to give the President the power to repeal those sanctions under any conditions, regardless of whether Iran makes major concessions. Unlike all previous Iran sanctions, Congress did not make these new sanctions conditional on Iran’s behavior. If Iran agrees to certain criteria at the negotiating table, the President does not have the power to lift the sanctions. Now, only Congress can lift the most severe sanctions ever imposed on Iran.

  • 30 March 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Military Leaders Warn Against War with Iran

As politicians have made increasingly belligerent statements about war with Iran, top current and retired military officials have come forward to warn that the consequence of war would be devastating and that it should only be considered as the very last option.  In fact, eight senior retired military and intelligence officials even published a letter urging the President to say no to a war of choice against Iran in a full page Washington Post ad that was sponsored by NIAC.  Below is a compilation of statements by senior military leaders warning about the tremendous costs and very limited benefits of attacking Iran:

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran… I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us … A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives.”[1]

  • 9 March 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Sanctions

Dumb and Dumber Sanctions

What happens when Senator Mark Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman — the two leading advocates in Congress for sanctions that deliberately hurt the Iranian people — get together to design a new Iran sanctions package with the neoconservative “Foundation for Defense of Democracies”?

The result is legislation that would impose extraterritorial sanctions on all Iranian banks and make foreign central banks subject to a U.S. sanctions if they engage in any significant transaction with Iran.  These sanctions would build on the already draconian sanctions on Iran’s central bank that Congress passed last year, and would further compound problems that those sanctions are already causing.

Despite having an exemption for humanitarian items, the sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank are choking off sales of food, medicine, and medical devices — including even those explicitly licensed by the U.S. Treasury.  The chilling effect has been so strong that foreign banks simply won’t facilitate the transactions even though they’re perfectly legal and have the U.S. government’s stamp of approval.  Extending the extraterritorial sanctions to all Iranian banks would be the nail in the coffin for trade in these humanitarian items because there simply wouldn’t be any Iranian banks that could transfer the money needed to actually pay for these goods.

Of course, Iran and foreign countries will set up elaborate workarounds for lucrative oil sales and other major transactions, but it is much less certain whether ordinary Iranians will be able to continue purchasing imported medicine and medical devices.  After all, why would an American company even bother to apply to get a license to sell a medical device in Iran if there is no way to actually sell the device in Iran?

It is unclear if this will concern the bill’s sponsors.  After all, Israeli officials recently went on the record advocating for sanctions to literally starve ordinary Iranians in order to try to get the regime to capitulate on the nuclear issue.

As for sanctioning other countries’ central banks, the downsides are obvious enough.  Imagine how the following conversation might end:

“Hey China, stop trading with Iran or we’ll sanction your central bank. Yes, your central bank…  Umm yeah, I know you have a trillion U.S. Treasury bills…”

Soon enough we’ll hear that these sanctions are necessary to make diplomacy work and won’t spike the price of gas.  When that happens, just remember the words of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Executive Director, Mark Dubowitz, who has said that the sanctions he is advocating for “would quash any hopes for progress through engagement” and “could also shock the oil markets, possibly causing considerable political trouble for Obama in an election year.”

  • 9 November 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

Congress Playing Dangerous Game on Iran Sanctions

Are Congress and the White House on a collision course over Iran?  That’s looking increasingly likely, as Congressional proponents of the “nuclear option” of sanctions — sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) — try to force President Obama to pull the trigger.  But the White House has reportedly decided against the nuclear option, saying it would “disrupt oil markets and further damage the U.S. and world economies.”

The news came shortly after the Treasury Department’s top sanctions enforcer finished a tour of our major European allies – the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.  The message he received is obvious enough.  It seems Europe isn’t interested in weighing down its economy at the moment; it’s a bit preoccupied with containing the Eurozone debt crisis that’s imperiling the very future of Europe’s economic union.

As this makes clear, the U.S. is running out of things to sanction, except for ourselves and our allies.

So Central Bank sanctions are out, at least for now.  And the administration may be realizing that with a full year left before the next election, it needs to engage in serious, tough diplomacy now to convince the Iranian regime to implement the additional protocol and to adopt the transparency measures that are critical to addressing the very serious concerns raised IAEA in today’s IAEA report.

That isn’t sitting well with many members of Congress.  In August, 92 Senators sent a letter calling on President Obama to sanction the CBI, and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) warned the President that he would introduce legislation to force his hand if he didn’t comply.

Now, Kirk is looking to make good on that threat.  No less than three days after the LA Times reported Central Bank sanctions are no longer an option, Kirk announced that he’s introducing legislation that would require the President to sanction the Central Bank.  And given the idea’s support in Congress, there is a very real chance the Senate will vote to do exactly that, possibly as soon as this week.  So what would be the effect on the global economy, our alliances, the Iranian people, and the regime if the Congress were to do this?  Let’s examine:

 

Impact on energy prices, the U.S. and the global economy:

“…U.S. officials have decided that such sanctions could disrupt oil markets and further damage the U.S. and world economies.” – L.A. Times

U.S. and European officials “fear sanctioning Bank Markazi risks sharply driving up global energy prices, as Tehran could find itself unable to execute oil sales.” – Wall Street Journal

 

Impact on global efforts against Iran:

“European countries reportedly oppose such a sanction as an extreme step with potential humanitarian consequences.” – Congressional Research Service

“U.S. officials have worried that unilateral Americans sanctions against Bank Markazi might not be respected by even some American allies. This could place Washington into the difficult position of either backing down or theoretically trying to ban important foreign companies and governments from using the U.S. financial system.” – Wall Street Journal

“Some U.S. officials have pointed out in internal discussions that the step could risk the cooperation of a number of countries that have been less enthusiastic about past international sanctions, including some of the most important developing nations.” –L.A. Times

 

Impact on humanitarian situation in Iran:

The oil embargo of Iraq, which was accomplished in part by sanctioning the Central Bank of Iraq, contributed to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children according to UNICEF estimates and failed to depose Saddam Hussein or prevent war. – UNICEF

Sanctioning the CBI would cause massive secondary effects, such as preventing the import of food and medicine into Iran. Even without CBI sanctions, “Americans who broker sales of food and medical items to Iran report difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions,” according to the Atlantic Council.  When the U.S. and the international community sanctioned Libya’s central bank, AFP reported, “Although some essential goods could be imported under the current sanctions regime, they cannot be paid for because … foreign banks are refusing to do business with Libyan entities.”

 

Impact on Iranian regime:

Iranian government officials discount the effects of sanctions on the government’s finances since the sanctions and regional tensions also increase concern about global oil supplies and thus increase the price of Iran’s oil exports –  Bijan Khajehpour, Iranian economist

“These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country. Look at Cuba and North Korea. Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.” – Mehdi Karroubi, Green Movement

“[Sanctions’] basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state — the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.” – Fareed Zakaria, CNN


Effectiveness and precedent

Sanctions have failed to achieve their objectives in 95.7% of case since World War I, and sanctions are more than three times more likely to end in military conflict than success. – Dr. Robert Pape, Harvard’s Journal of International Security

Though the UN Security Council has imposed central bank sanctions against Iraq and Libya, which ultimately ended in war, the U.S. has never imposed unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions on a central bank.

  • 18 August 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Let's Talk Iran

Use and Misuse of the Word “Terrorism” – Let’s Talk Iran

Discussing the use and misuse of the word “terrorism” with commentator, activist, attorney and author of her award-winning book War on Error: Real Stories of American Muslims, Melody Moezzi. Melody addresses the media’s role in politicizing the term and what the likely implications are for the Iranian-American community and U.S. policy.

Play
  • 16 August 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • MEK

Iran’s Greens Warn U.S. Against Supporting the Mujahedin

Kaleme, a leading Green movement newspaper run by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has a very strongly worded editorial today warning foreign governments (ie, the U.S.) not to support the Mujahedin-e Khalq.  This comes shortly after 37 activists warned against delisting the MEK from the U.S. terrorism list, and is yet another sign of how concerned the Green Movement has become about the possibility that the MEK will get off the terrorism list and win U.S. backing.

The editorial makes clear that the MEK has no support in Iran, and that any foreign support for the group would have very serious consequences. According to Kaleme, support for the MEK would benefit the very Iranian hardliners who are trying to destroy the Green Movement and “defame” the U.S. in the eyes of the Iranian people.

The translation, courtesy of Parisa Saranj, is below. The Persian text is available on Kaleme’s website.

Kaleme: Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK); The symbol of Treason, Violence and Terror in Iran

I am saying, as someone who cares, the MEK with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead. You, [the leaders of the government] don’t bring them back to life for the sake of scoring points and taking revenge.” — Mir Hossein Mousavi, Statement no.17

In the modern history of Iran, there is no organization, no party and no cult more infamous than the MEK amongst the Iranian nation. The Iranian people are yet to forget how their beloved children were terrorized and martyred in the worst ways possible. And, thousands of family members and children of those murdered are still alive and witnesses to these crimes. The Iranian nation does not forget how this organization, along with Saddam Hussein, craved for the lives and honor of Iranians and assisted him in the suppression and massacre of the people of Iran and Iraq. Iranians are proud of the years they stood against the MEK and Saddam and on any opportunity possible they praise the hundred thousand martyrs of the Iraq-Iran war. Iranian people know very well that this organization used unlawful and illegal sources, which initially belonged to the Iranian and Iraqi people. They are well aware that the MEK owes its remaining financial power and its limited existence to the support which Saddam Hussein provided them during the war against our country.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of “violence and terror” in Iran and the slightest mention of this word [MEK] and the remembrance of this organization is needed to remind the Iranian audience of the violence, terror, and treason they caused. As long as the groundwork of this organization is cult-like behavior, the only solution for them is to submit to foreigners in order to stab its own people in the back. Any country that supports this organization defames itself among the Iranian people and remains infamous for defending violence and betrayal.

Leaders who are deceived into supporting the MEK are only making the wall of mistrust between the nations taller and are bringing back to life the bitter memories of anti-Iranian policies, such as 1953 coup.

Mojahedin-e Khalq are outcasts of the Iranian people; even before being the outcast of the government. To invigorate the ominous name of the MEK is only the wish of sinister enemies of democracy and rule of the people in Iran. Seekers of violence whether by MEK’s side or against them would be happy to see them empowered since violence creates violence.

The presence of this terrorist group in any part of the world could become an excuse for those in power in Iran to have unlawful confrontations with critics and protesters. They [those in power] would be the only group welcoming the official presence, even if they pretend to be their enemies.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of violence, animosity, submission, and reliance on foreign powers. Thus, the organization is illegal and is the reminder of the most bitter of betrayals. Today, Iranian people who have become the example for nonviolent resistance, anti-dictatorship and independence for other countries, do not accept “violence and submission” and do not look kindly on the support of any government that relies on violence and submission.

In supporting the great Green Movement, we continue to consider Mojahedin-e Khalq hypocrites who “with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead.” And we repeat Mir Hossein Mousavi’s warning by saying “No nation should bring them back to life for the sake of rewards and if they do so, they will remain infamous in the memory of the Iranian people.”

  • 8 July 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • MEK

Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Factsheet

MEK=TERROR
In a matter of weeks, a terrorist group known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) may succeed in getting removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations — not as a result of any change of heart — but as a result of an unprecedented and possibly illegal multi-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.

Iranian Americans know the truth about the MEK, but high-priced public relations and lobbying firms are hard at work trying to whitewash the MEK’s violent and disturbing record. And while they’ve been remarkably successful, they can’t completely escape the truth.  So, for the record, here are the facts about the MEK (you can find this and more at www.mekterror.com):

  • The State Department reports the MEK is a terrorist group that has murdered innocent Americans and maintains “the will and capacity” to commit terrorist attacks within the U.S. and beyond. [1]
  • The MEK claims to have renounced terrorism in 2001, but a 2004 FBI report states “the MEK is currently actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism.” [2]
  • RAND and Human Rights Watch have reported that the MEK is a cult that abuses its own members. [3] [4]
  • MEK has no popular support in Iran and has been denounced by the Green Movement, Iran’s peaceful democratic opposition movement.[5]

Iran’s Opposition Green Movement Rejects the MEK

  • The leaders of the Green Movement, Iran’s true popular opposition movement, have denounced the MEK and warned that the Iranian government seeks to discredit Iran’s opposition by associating it with the MEK:
  • “The Iranian Government is trying to connect those who truly love their country (the Greens) with the MEK to revive this hypocritical dead organization.” – Mehdi Karroubi, Green Movement leader. [6]
  • “The MEK can’t be part of the Green Movement. This bankrupt political group is now making some laughable claims, but the Green Movement and the MEK have a wall between them and all of us, including myself, Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Khatami, and Mr. Karroubi.” – Zahra Rahnavard, Women’s rights activist and wife of Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi[7]

Iraqi National Congress Redux?

  • The MEK claims it is “the main opposition in Iran,” yet similar to Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress that helped bring the United States into war with Iraq, the MEK is an exiled organization that has no popular support within Iran. [8]
  • RAND reports that the MEK are “skilled manipulators of public opinion.” The MEK has a global support network with active lobbying and propaganda efforts in major Western capitals. [9]
  • Members of Congress have been deceived and misinformed into supporting this terrorist  organization:
  • In 2002, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led efforts for the U.S. to support the group, prompting then-Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House International Affairs Committee, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos, to send a Dear Colleague warning against supporting the MEK.  They cautioned that many Members had been “embarrassed when confronted with accurate information about the MEK.” [10]
  • In the current Congress, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) have each introduced resolutions calling for MEK to be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

A Capacity and Will to Commit Terrorist Acts in the U.S. & Beyond

  • The Bush administration determined in 2007 that “MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond.” [11]
  • The Canadian and Australian governments have also designated the MEK as a terrorist organization. The Canadian government just reaffirmed its designation in December. [12] [13]
  • An EU court removed the MEK from its list of terrorist organizations, but only due to procedural reasons.  According to a spokesperson for the Council of the European Union, the EU court “did not enter into the question of defining or not the PMOI [MEK] as a terrorist organization.” [14]

Saddam Hussein’s Terrorist Militia

  • The MEK received all of its military assistance and most of its financial support from Saddam Hussein, including funds illegally siphoned from the UN Oil-for-Food Program, until 2003. [15]
  • The MEK helped execute Saddam’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds. Maryam Rajavi, the MEK’s permanent leader, instructed her followers to “take the Kurds under your tanks.” [16]

A Cult That Abuses Its Own Members

  • Human Rights Watch reports that MEK commits extensive human rights abuses against its own members at Camp Ashraf, including “torture that in two cases led to death.” [17]
  • A RAND report commissioned by DOD found that the MEK is a cult that utilizes practices such as mandatory divorce, celibacy, authoritarian control, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, confiscation of assets, emotional isolation, and the imprisonment of dissident members. [18]
  • RAND concluded that up to 70% of the MEK members at their Camp Ashraf headquarters were likely recruited through deception and are kept there against their will. [19]
  • The FBI reports that the MEK’s “NLA [National Liberation Army] fighters are separated from their children who are sent to Europe and brought up by the MEK’s Support Network. […] These children are then returned to the NLA to be used as fighters upon coming of age.  Interviews also revealed that some of these children were told that their parents would be harmed if the children did not cooperate with the MEK. ”[20]

A History of Anti-Americanism

  • One of the founding ideologies of the MEK is anti-Americanism—the MEK is responsible for murdering American businessmen, military personnel, and even a senior American diplomat. [21]
  • The MEK strongly supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, vigorously opposed their eventual release, and chastised the government for not executing the hostages. [22]

The MEK was Not “Added” to the FTO List as a Goodwill Gesture to Iran

Delisting MEK: Disastrous Repercussions

The MEK is opposed by the Iranian people due to its history of terrorist attacks against civilians in Iran and its close alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

  1. The greatest beneficiaries of delisting MEK would be Ahmadinejad and Iranian hardliners who seek to link the U.S. and the Green Movement to MEK.
  2. U.S. support for MEK would be used as a propaganda tool by hardliners to delegitimize and destroy Iran’s true democracy movement.
  3. American credibility among the Iranian people would be ruined if the U.S. supported this group.

Full citations below the fold:

  • 28 April 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran

NIAC Interview with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi

At an event hosted by NIAC on Saturday, Nobel Laureate and human rights lawyer Dr. Shirin Ebadi called for international attention on the human rights situation in Iran and warned that war, or threats of an attack on Iran, would be devastating for the country’s indigenous human rights and democracy movement.  But before speaking at the NIAC event in Virginia, Dr. Ebadi gave an exclusive interview with NIAC President Dr. Trita Parsi and Dr. Hazhir Rahmandad, a NIAC member and assistant professor at Virginia Tech.

The interview (in Persian) is below, while our English-only audience can read highlights on NIAC’s website, here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zIPCn6dDaU]

  • 14 February 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Inspired by Egypt, Iran’s Green Movement Shows Its Resilience

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWri7zoJUU0&feature=player_embedded]

On the heels of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, large numbers of Iranians defied ominous threats from their government, taking to the streets to express their own aspirations for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The demonstrations were the largest since Ashura in 2009, with the Associated Press and Washington Post estimating that “tens of thousands” of Iranians were in the streets.  While critics of the Green Movement have often tried to portray it as confined to Tehran or even just north Tehran, today’s protests were occurred all across the country.  The BBC reports that there were demonstrations in Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz, while Tehran Bureau reports there were also protests in Kermanshah and Rasht.

Chants rang through the streets of Iran, including one proclaiming “Mubarak, Ben Ali, it’s your turn Sayyed Ali [Khamenei]!”

Despite cynical statements of public support for the revolutionary protests in Egypt, the Iranian government deployed thousands of security forces and reacted brutally to the demonstrations in their own country, calling them illegal attempts to stage “riots”.  Opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were placed under house arrest and prevented from joining the demonstrations, while tear gas was fired into crowds and protestors were arrested and beaten by riot police.  And at least one person is confirmed dead in Tehran, according to the BBC.

No one yet knows if this portends a revival of the demonstrations that rocked Iran’s establishment after the June 2009 elections, but it is clear that while the Green Movement may be bruised and battered, it is in no way dead.  We would all be wise to remember that, regardless of whether Iranians are risking their lives to demonstrate for their rights.

  • 1 February 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 3 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Execution of Dutch-Iranian Woman Demonstrates Need for Greater International Pressure on Rights

Zahra BahramiOn Saturday, Iranian-born Dutch citizen Sahra Bahrami was executed purportedly on charges of drug smuggling.  Bahrami was first detained in December 2009 for “security crimes,” but her family believes that she was executed for her involvement in the 2009 Ashura protests while visiting family members in Iran.  In violation of Iranian law, Bahrami’s own Iranian attorney, Jinoos Sharif Razi, and family members were not even informed of when her execution took place.

Despite her possession of Dutch citizenship and passport, Bahrami was denied access to the Dutch consulate because Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.  Gharib Abadi, the Iranian ambassador to the Netherlands, even went so far as to say that “the hanging was ‘an internal issue’ that should have no impact on diplomatic relations.”  Of course, it did, and the Netherlands immediately froze all diplomatic relations with Iran in response to Bahrami’s execution.  On Monday, the European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and the U.S. State Department called for an immediate halt on all pending executions.  The EU Foreign Affairs Committee also passed a resolution today calling for a focus on Iran’s human rights violations targeted sanctions against “Iranian officials responsible for serious human rights abuses,” mirroring the policy advocated by NIAC and implemented by the United States last September.

Sahra Bahrami’s case is yet another indication that Iran is on an “execution binge.”  From December 19 to January 19, Iran executed 97 prisoners, including four prisoners of conscience. That’s one execution every eight hours.  Such an extensive problem requires a global, systematic response, not one-off statements or reactions.

In March, the international community will have the opportunity to confront Iran’s human rights abuses at the United Nations Human Rights Council.  In particular, the Council can establish a mandate for an international human rights monitor to focus much-needed international scrutiny on Iran’s human rights crisis.  Strong U.S. leadership on the council is required in order for any substantive action to take place since other concerned countries almost always look to the United States for leadership.  Iran will moderate its human rights abuses when it comes under severe international scrutiny, as the  suspension of Sakineh Ashtiani’s sentence to death by stoning demonstrates.

A human rights monitor can create space for Iran’s human rights and democracy movement by keeping the attention of the international community focused on the abuses transpiring in Iran.  When a U.N. human rights monitor was in place for Iran from 1984 to 2002, measurable progress on Iran’s human rights was achieved.  But since the mandate for the human rights monitor was discontinued in 2002, human rights conditions in Iran have significantly worsened, especially after the fraudulent June 2009 elections.

It is an outrage that the Human Rights Council has not already established a human rights monitor for Iran, but to miss yet another opportunity to do so while so many Iranians continue to suffer would be unconscionable.

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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