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  • 18 November 2011
  • Posted By Helia Ighani
  • Congress, Sanctions

Unintended Consequences from CBI sanctions


 In an attempt to “collapse the Iranian economy,” Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) put forward an amendment to the 2012 defense authorization bill yesterday that would impose crippling sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).

The so-dubbed “nuclear option” has gained increased momentum in Washington in light of the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear program activities.

In addition to the Kirk amendment, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a letter yesterday to President Obama calling for him to sanction the CBI.

But the Administration has warned that such measures may in fact collapse the Western economy, not Iran’s.  The Director of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Adam Szubin, warned Congress that the sanctions could be a “boon” to Iran, saying, “If there is a hike in the price of oil, Iran gains. If there is a spike in the price of oil…there could be profound harm to the global economic recovery and a windfall to Iran.”

Another serious repercussion of the sanctions would be to undermine efforts made by the reformist Green Movement in Iran by strengthening support for the regime.

As CNN’s Fareed Zakaria recently explained after visiting of Iran, “the basic effect [of our sanctions] has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state – the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.”

USA Today also reported today that existing “Iran nuclear sanctions hurt the middle class, not [the Revolutionary] Guards”:

“People using the open banking system, average businessmen, are having a much harder time doing business,” says Vali Nasr, an Iran expert at Tufts University in Massachusetts who served as an adviser to the State Department from 2009 to 2011. “There is political pressure (on the Iranian regime), but it’s not likely to change the attitude of the Iranian government on the nuclear issue.”

NIAC is organizing efforts to stop the Central Bank measure from moving forward, and expects the proposal to face a vote within the next two weeks.  You can join those efforts by sending your own letter here.

  • 11 October 2011
  • Posted By Helia Ighani
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, UN

The Fight For Access to Higher Education in Iran

In the same way that international forces are imposing sanctions on Iran in an effort to alter its nuclear aspirations, Iran is punishing its own people by “sanctioning” their access to basic human rights.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nation’s religious minorities have withstood waves of repression, not limited to imprisonment, torture, and in many cases, execution.

In particular, members of the Baha’i Faith (Iran’s largest religious minority) have been denied access to higher education, essentially blocking their ability to pursue a professional career.

Some will attempt to flee the country to attend University elsewhere. Since this is not a possibility for most individuals, the most common alternative is participation in the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which has been subject to constant government raids and arrests since its beginning in 1987.

As Roxana Saberi’s emphasized in her editorial last week in the Wall Street Journal:

“U.N. officials—particularly Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay—plus member states and other individuals must place constant pressure on Tehran just as they have in cases such as mine. This will bring attention and justice to the real heroes, the everyday Iranians in prison for pursuing universal human rights and demanding respect for human dignity.”

Such attention is necessary and is definitely a step in the right direction. Bringing international condemnation of human rights violations in Iran will hopefully one day succeed in toppling persecutory methods ensued by the Islamic regime.

  • 19 September 2011
  • Posted By Helia Ighani
  • Afghanistan, Congress, Legislative Agenda, Persian Gulf, US-Iran War

U.S. military leaders push for direct communications with Iran

In January 2008, the U.S. Navy was on the verge of opening fire on three Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats, which were taking provocative action in close proximity to the American ships.  Fortunately, no shots were fired that day, but the danger of armed conflict breaking out between two nations already on the brink was clear.

As the Wall Street Journal reported today, a series of “near-miss” encounters between U.S. and Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf has convinced many U.S. military officials that there needs to a direct military hotline between the United States and Iran to defuse any potential situation that could arise.

During a talk at the University of Miami last week, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen told the audience that he is troubled by the lack of contact between the United States and Iran. “Even in the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said, “U.S. officials could still talk with the Soviets.”

The catalyst behind the recent push rises out of the concern that a run-in between the two severed nations in the Persian Gulf could escalate to a large-scale conflict.  As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said, “This [the Persian Gulf] is a very volatile area. The risk of an incident, and of an incident escalating, is real.”

In fact, the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law late last year, included a provision mandating the Pentagon “to assess the merits an Incidents at Sea agreement between the US, Iran, and other states to avoid military confrontation in the Persian Gulf.”  That provision was based on the Incidents at Sea resolution, introduced in the previous Congress by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Geoff Davis (R-KY).

As the Wall Street Journal notes, opening up communications with Iran could not just help prevent a confrontation in the Persian Gulf, it could also develop into a mechanism to stabilize tensions and prevent conflict throughout the region:

“Although that current proposal would only cover naval incidents, some U.S. officials say they believe that if it proves workable and useful it could be expanded into a broader hot line that could be used to defuse not just confrontations at sea, but also a broader array of potential conflicts. The issue is also being studied at the State Department’s Policy Planning office.”

Military leaders, including Mullen, Gates, and David Petraeus, have vigorously pushed back against calls for military strikes on Iran and have emphasized the dangers that war with Iran would bring.  Clearly it is in the interest of those responsible for U.S. troops and national security to prevent a disastrous war.  Establishing direct lines to prevent incidents in the Persian Gulf would be a positive first step, but further talks must be established to address the many volatile issues–such as instability in Afghanistan and Iraq–where conflict could quickly push us past the brink.

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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