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  • 20 August 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 4 Comments
  • US-Iran War

NIE to Shed Light on Iran’s Nuclear Debate

David Sanger has another story on the front page of the The New York Times today urgently alerting us that Iran is [still] at least a year away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.  If you’re like me, you’ve lost track of how many times Sanger has reported this one year timeline. But that is not the correct timeline for how long it would take Iran to build a nuclear weapon — it is the timeline for how long it would take Iran to enrich the uranium necessary for a weapon. These are not the same thing.

If Iran were to commit to building a nuclear weapon and kicked out international inspectors, it would take Iran 2-5 years to build “something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon,” according to the Congressional testimony of General James Cartwright on April 14, 2010.  Gen. Cartwright clarified that it would take at least three years for Iran to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon.

All this is not to say Sanger’s article isn’t worth reading. In particular, this very important news is tucked away near the bottom:

The current draft of the [forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iran] also describes considerable division in Iran about whether the goal of the nuclear program should be to walk right up to the threshold of building an actual bomb — which would mean having highly enriched uranium on hand, along with a workable weapons design — or simply to keep enough low-enriched uranium on hand to preserve Tehran’s options for building a weapon later.

Such a debate is telling, since it indicates that the motivation — even for the hardliners — is to acquire a nuclear capability for its value as a deterrence.

The experts know that Iran is ruled by ruthless, repressive, and rational men interested in preserving their own rule. This is well worth remembering as the debate over whether to go to war with Iran heats up in Washington. Netanyahu will continue saying Iran is an existential threat ruled by a “messianic apocalyptic cult” hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and neoconservatives will continue to repeat this line.

It’s not a credible argument, though. Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister has publicly said Iran is not an existential threat, and the motivations of those who are trying to convince the United States to start another war are obvious enough.  As Trita Parsi and Robert Wright have pointed out, advocates for war with Iran are now trying to frame this debate as a matter of “who should bomb Iran, not about whether Iran should be bombed.”

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/08/13/trita_parsi_jeffrey_goldberg/
  • 22 June 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 5 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Obama’s Pursuit of Sanctions Came at Expense of Human Rights

When the United States’ efforts to pass new Iran sanctions finally came to fruition just days before the June 12 anniversary of Iran’s dubious presidential elections, some observers concluded that the new sanctions must have been a result of the Iranian government’s atrocious human rights violations.

The Obama Administration encouraged this impression, even though the sanctions push actually came at the expense of concerted action on Iran’s human rights crisis. The day after the sanctions vote Secretary Clinton declared. “The sanctions that were passed by the United Nations yesterday are designed to target those who are behind government actions that have increased human rights abuses, like the Revolutionary Guard.”

The truth is that the U.N. sanctions did not make even a passing reference to Iran’s human rights crisis. The Revolutionary Guards were sanctioned not for their appalling human rights abuses, but for their role in Iran’s nuclear program.

Indeed, the Obama Administration made a conscious decision to forgo a major push on human rights in Iran so as to not distract from the all-important UN sanctions push, according to multiple officials who’ve worked with the Administration on Iran’s human rights crisis.

Continue reading at the Huffington Post >>

  • 15 April 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 6 Comments
  • Immigration Policy, Iranian American activism, Legislative Agenda

Tell President Obama to Fix the Single-Entry Visa Policy for Iranian Students in the US

So many Iranian Americans began their journey in the U.S. as students, but now that path is becoming increasingly closed. Not only is it more difficult for Iranians to obtain visas to study in the U.S., but Iranian students are only eligible for single-entry visas.

This means that Iranians studying in the U.S. cannot visit their family or travel abroad without losing their student visa. Even in emergencies—such as if a family member falls ill—or academic opportunities—such as an international conference—Iranian students who leave the U.S. cannot come back unless they start the entire application process over again and obtain a brand new visa.

President Obama stated in his recent Norooz message that he is “committed to increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities.”

We should thank the President for this commitment, but we must also take this opportunity to say: Mr. President, please fix the “single-entry only” student visa policy that unnecessarily burdens all Iranians studying in the U.S.

Send a letter urging President Obama to address the single-entry only policy so that Iranian students in the U.S. can visit their families, attend international conferences, and travel abroad for personal and educational purposes.

  • 20 March 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran

President Obama’s Norooz Message

Today, I want to extend my best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz in the United States and around the world. On this New Year’s celebration, friends and family have a unique opportunity to reflect on the year gone by; to celebrate their time together; and to share in their hopes for the future.

One year ago, I chose this occasion to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to offer a new chapter of engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. I did so with no illusions. For three decades, the United States and Iran have been alienated from one another. Iran’s leaders have sought their own legitimacy through hostility to America. And we continue to have serious differences on many issues.

Continue Reading Below the Fold – Click here for the Persian version (pdf)

  • 25 February 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran’s “Shark” Survives Another Round

Persia House, the Iran policy shop of Booz Allen Hamilton, has their latest take of the continued maneuverings of Ayatollah Heshemi Rafsanjani:

Despite Rumors of Rafsanjani’s Possible Demotion, the “Shark” Survives Yet Another Round in his Battle with Hardliners

The widespread talk of Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s possible demotion surrounding the latest Assembly of Experts meeting (held after a one-month delay [2] due to the post-election unrest) illustrates the serious challenges that the Chairman continues to face from powerful hardliners, who have for years been attempting to sideline him. A pragmatic, wily, and extremely wealthy politician, Rafsanjani exists as a major obstacle in the hardliners’ struggle to gain unchallenged control over the regime’s levers of power.

  • 10 February 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Bearing Witness

By all accounts, tomorrow should be another crucial day for Iran’s Green movement. 22 Bahman marks the anniversary of the fall of the Shah in 1979, and the three main opposition leaders – Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami – are all calling on their supporters to come out en mass.

The Iranian government has been stepping up its crackdown against dissidents in an effort to deter anti-government demonstrations, and the Guardian is reporting that Iranian security forces are “deploying in strength in Tehran.”

NIAC will be live-blogging tomorrow’s events. The world must continue bearing witness to what’s happening in Iran. As NIAC’s Trita Parsi wrote for tomorrow’s Financial Times, Iran cares about its international image because it aspires to be a regional leader. Iran appreciates the value of “soft power,” and it understands it loses prestige every time another protester is beaten on the streets for demanding democratic rights. That is why the government of Iran must never be allowed to carry out crimes against its own people  under the cover of international indifference.

Both Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari and WINEP’s Mehdi Khalaji have made this point. Bahari and Khalaji’s father were imprisoned in Iran, only to be released some time later. Both credit international attention and pressure for helping to secure their freedom.

With up to 1,500 Iranians imprisoned since the election unrest began, some prisoners now being executed, and countless more brave Iranians prepared to demand their human rights tomorrow, the world must continue to bear witness.

  • 14 January 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 1 Comments
  • Civil Rights Legislation, Congress, Immigration Policy

Tell Congress to Stop the STEP Act

Last week, NIAC united the Iranian-American community against Congressman Gresham Barrett’s (R-SC) plan to reintroduce the Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, a bill he originally introduced in 2003 that sought to deport all non-immigrant Iranians in the US and ban Iranians from entering the US.

Iranian Americans immediately sprung into action, sending nearly 5,000 letters calling on Rep. Barrett to rethink his disgraceful legislation.  Hours after NIAC delivered your letters to his office, Rep. Barrett confirmed to NIAC that the deportation language would be removed in the revised bill.

This was a major victory, but the fight is not over yet.

The STEP Act was introduced on January 13th-it still labels all Iranians as “terrorists” and would ban them from getting US visas. This bill would prevent Iranians from visiting their family in the US, and at a time of increasing repression in Iran, would impose even greater burdens on Iranians seeking refuge.

  • 8 January 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 6 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Assassination attempt against Karroubi fails

There was an attempted assassination attempt against Mehdi Karroubi several hours ago, when the cleric and leading opposition figure arrived in Qazvin for a mourning ceremony of opposition supporters killed in protests.

One of Karroubi’s family members gave this first-hand account to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

“Members of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards gathered at their garrisons prior to Mr. Karroubi’s arrival. As soon as he entered Qazvin, they appeared. Their actions were fully coordinated with Fars News Agency. As soon as Mr. Karroubi entered the private home where he was staying, Fars News reported it. The coordination between the Revolutionary Guards and Fars News was extensive.

When the Basij and Revolutionary Guards members assembled to protest Karroubi’s presence in Qazvin, two bullets were fired at his car. Fortunately the car was bullet proof. The front windshield was much stronger and only cracked. Otherwise the bullets would have entered the car and caused serious injuries.

I believe the message to Mr. Karroubi is that he is not safe anywhere he goes and if he doesn’t restrict himself to his house, he will be targeted.”

Fars News is closely affiliated with the IRGC.

Congressman Introducing Legislation to Bar & Deport Iranians from U.S.

Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC) has announced his intention to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit “the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism as well as Yemen to the United States.”  The Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, first introduced in 2003, also would have required all persons from these countries on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange and tourist visas to leave the United States within 60 days, despite their legal status in the country.  Residents and nationals of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen would be affected.

The bill makes an exception only in the cases of individuals who are seeking political or religious asylum, or who have immediate emergency medical needs.

Congressman Barrett said his bill came in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas-day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. “While President Obama may have declared an end to the War on Terror, it is clear our enemies did not get the message. Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the Administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens.”

The American Army major and Nigerian alleged to have committed those attacks would not have been affected by the STEP Act.

In response to Barrett’s announcement, the National Iranian American Council has launched a campaign against the bill, saying it is “offensive to American principles, harmful to US interests, and discriminates against Iranians and Iranian Americans.”  The group also noted that no Iranian has ever committed a terrorist act on American soil.

The 2003 version of the bill is available online.  Congressman Barrett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.  Aside from the inclusion of Yemen, and a new provision to prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States, Congressman Barrett has not indicated any further differences between his new bill and the legislation he introduced in 2003.

  • 6 January 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

ICHRI: Authorities Attempt to Crush Remaining Active Human Rights NGOs

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran just came out with a statement examining how the Iranian government is systematically attempting to dismantle human rights organizations in Iran:

Iran: Authorities Attempt to Crush Remaining Active Human Rights NGOs

Human Rights Community in the Iran has been decimated

(6 January 2009) Islamic Republic authorities are attempting to shut down the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, one of the few human rights organizations still active in the country, and to stop the human rights activities of the student alumni group ADVAR, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today. Some members of the groups are being arrested, and others are under intense pressure to halt their work.

“In illegally shutting down independent, domestic human rights reporting, the authorities are attempting to preserve their own impunity before Iranian and international law,” said Campaign spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi.

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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