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  • 16 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Always assuming the worst with Iran

Today we awoke to an AFP report that Iran had been caught red-handed trying to smuggle “nuclear material” out of Russia.  According the report, in response to this illegal act “a criminal enquiry has been launched.”  The report seemed to confirm many people’s beliefs about Iran’s willingness to use any means at its disposal, illicit or otherwise, in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Iran hawks have long been trying to compile evidence ranging from IAEA reports to “laptops of death” to support such assertions.  And no doubt today’s report about a furtive attempt to smuggle nuclear material into Iran must surely be one more piece of evidence demonstrating Iran’s efforts and intentions to pursue nuclear weapons. Right?

Wrong.  As more information emerged it turned out that the nuclear material was not weapons grade uranium or anything of the sort that could be used for any military purpose, but a rather innocuous radioactive isotope.  According to an ABC report:

On closer examination the isotope was identified as Na22, which is used in medicine.  It is commonly used to trace sodium in the body. It cannot be used in the production nuclear weapons.

While it is sometimes overlooked, there are very legitimate usages for nuclear material that range from civilian energy production to treating cancer.  In fact, Russia has an agreement in place with Iran to supply medical isotopes, such as Na22.   Such an agreement could mean that today’s “smuggling” of nuclear material is connected to a legitimate and recognized purpose, and not some nefarious militarized nuclear program.

Today’s revelations regarding this incident should illustrate two points.

  • 12 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/12

Iraqi PM to discuss Iranian influence after U.S. pullout
Obama is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and according to a CBS report, Iran will be one of the major topics of their discussions (CBS 12/12).  The Wall Street Journal reports that Maliki has vowed to prevent Iranian interference in his country.  He added that “If [Iran’s] excuse was that the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil posed a threat to their national security, then this danger is over now” (Wall Street Journal 12/12).

Asian states pulling out of Iran
The NY Times is reporting that Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies, a leading supplier of telecommunications equipment to Iran, has announced that it would voluntarily restrict business in Iran considering the “increasingly complex situation” there.  Huawei is the same company over which concerns have been raised in the past regarding its having provided Iran with equipment that assisted the regime in its crackdown on opposition members (NY Times 12/9).   Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reported, while Japan was resisting new energy sanctions against Iran, that they would be imposing new targeted sanctions, freezing the assets of an additional 106 organizations, one individual and three banks (Wall Street Journal 12/8).

Notable opinion
Tony Karon writes in his op-ed in Time that the current push for crippling sanctions, rather than being an alternative to war, are actually a step towards war.

“Behind the Administration’s hesitation over putting Iran’s economy in a chokehold at this point: it could prove to be a not easily reversible step on the path to confrontation. If such sanctions are adopted as the only alternative to war, as the current debate frames them, their (likely) failure to bring Iran to heel renders armed conflict inevitable — at least as long as the logic that “the only thing worse than bombing Iran is Iran getting the bomb” prevails in the Washington conversation.
Escalation could even happen relatively quickly. Most states would treat an effective economic blockade that imposed “crippling, unendurable pain” as an act of war, and if Iran responds militarily, directly or via proxy forces or terror attacks, the two sides could find themselves quickly locked into potentially disastrous war. Yet, the domestic political dynamic in both Washington and Tehran raises the cost for leaders in both capitals of restraining the momentum towards confrontation.”

To read the full piece click here.

  • 7 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 12/7

Details continue to emerge about fallen U.S. drone
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. drone that was recently downed in Iran was flying deep inside Iranian airspace when it crashed (Washington Post 12/7).  Additionally, the Huffington Post writes that drone was part of a “fleet of stealth aircraft that have spied on Iran for years from a U.S. air base in Afghanistan” (Huffington Post 12/6).  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal the US had plans to retrieve the drone inside Iran but opted against it because it could be considered as an act of war (Wall Street Journal 12/7).

Saudi Arabia pressing for sanctions while threatening to pursue nuclear weapons

Oil has risen for the fourth straight day due to concerns about supplies given considerations of an oil embargo against Iran (Businessweek 12/7). AFP reported last week, according to comments made by Senator Mark Kirk, Saudi Arabian officials are eager to help fill any production gap caused by an Iranian oil embargo, which would presumably lead to billions of dollars in additional profits.  Today the Associated Press is reporting that for the first time the Saudi’s, “in a remark designed to send chills through the Obama administration” publically threatened that unless steps are taken to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon that they will pursue a nuclear capability of their own (Associated Press 12/7). 

Notable Opinion
In an Atlantic Council op-ed, Dominic Tierney says that the Iran Threat Reduction Act is an “insane plan to outlaw diplomacy with Iran.”

In an almost unprecedented move, the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905) includes a clause that reads, “No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that … is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran.”

The notion of outlawing contact with Iran is one of those ideas that at first glance sounds merely awful — and then upon reflection, seems truly dreadful.

The United States does not have formal relations with Iran but Washington engages in a variety of unofficial contacts, most of which would become illegal. The bill would outlaw discussion with Iran about ways to end its nuclear program, even though this is a supposed aim of U.S. foreign policy. It would also stop the United States and Iran from cooperating in areas like Afghanistan, where there is actually some overlap of interests in avoiding a Taliban resurgence.

To read the full piece click here.

  • 2 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/2

Senate passes sanctions on Iran’s central bank
The Senate voted 100-0 yesterday to include the Kirk-Menendez amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would force the President to sanction Iran’s central bank, with some limited exceptions (NIAC 12/1).  The broader bill was passed by the Senate, but the President has threatened to veto it due to concerns about provisions regarding detention of American citizens linked to terrorism (Washington Post 12/1).

Before the vote,  the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hosted Administration officials at a hearing in which they strongly warned against the proposed Iran amendment.  Josh Rogin wrote in Foreign Policy’s The Cable, after being told by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen that the Kirk-Menendez amendment was going to be counterproductive to U.S. policy objectives, that Sen. Robert Menendez was “livid” (Foreign Policy 12/2).

The National Iranian American Council released a press release yesterday criticizing the passing of the Kirk Menendez amendment, stating “The Senate ignored warnings of dire economic consequences for America and its allies, and of disastrous humanitarian consequences for the people of Iran.  On all sides, there appears to only be the political will to escalate, with utter disregard for the ramifications.” (NIAC 12/1).

Iran war watch
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who recently said that Israel is not currently planning to attack Iran, posited that a military strike may become the only option for dealing with Iran (Huffington Post 12/1).  Meanwhile, Yossi Melman says that the sabotage, mysterious explosions and assassinations of nuclear scientists signify that “war with Iran has already begun” (Haaretz 12/2).  Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan says that an “Israeli attack on Iran must be stopped to avert catastrophe” (Haaretz 12/1).

David Miliband and Nader Mousavizadeh argued in an op-ed that a war with Iran would be exceedingly destructive, and as such the international community needs to make a serious push for diplomacy to prevent “sleepwalking into war” (Financial Times 12/2).  In contrast, Iraq War advocate Max Boot writes in the LA Times that the only way to prevent a nuclear armed Iran is through military strikes, even though he acknowledges that such strikes would only temporarily delay Iran’s nuclear program (LA Times 12/1).

EU sanctions update
The Financial Times reports that “Italy, Spain and Greece – the biggest buyers of Iranian oil in Europe–had dropped their opposition to an [oil] embargo but had asked for time to find alternative supplies” (Financial Times 12/2).  Energy market analysts meanwhile are concerned that Iran could preempt such a move by implementing an oil embargo against Europe now–when energy use is at its peak–before Europe imposes its own embargo early next year when they can better mitigate the loss of Iranian supplies.  The article explains that this could be problematic for Europe because they would not have the time they need to find replacement sources for the Iranian oil it currently imports (Financial Times 12/2).

  • 1 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 12/1

European ambassadors called back from Iran
In the wake of Tuesday’s attack on the UK embassy in Iran, several EU countries have voiced their disapproval.  The UK has not only pulled all of its diplomats from the country, but has closed the Iranian embassy in London, though this is not yet permanent.  The NY Times is reporting that Netherlands, Germany, and France have recalled their ambassadors, with Italy considering a similar move, and Norway closing its embassy “as a precaution” (NY Times 12/1).  The same article warns that such steps are likely to complicate any future attempts to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, as such diplomatic lines have served in the past as a means of contact especially for the U.S., which hasn’t had an embassy in Iran for over 30 years (despite what Michelle Bachmann may think).  Barbara Slavin writes that, while the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Iran might help further isolate Iran, this comes at the cost of increasing tensions that could spiral out of control (Slavin IPS 12/1).

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Israel may not notify U.S. if it strikes Iran
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Haaretz that the U.S. would be alerted by Israel if it attacks Iran.  Dempsey says that the U.S. believes sanctions and diplomatic pressure are the best way forward right now, but that he is “not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that” and may move without the U.S. (even if this forces the U.S. into war) (Haaretz 11/30).  This came the same day that President Obama told donors at a campaign event that Israel is the United States’ “most important ally” and we would not compromise when it comes to Israel’s security (Reuters 11/30).  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and raised American concerns about the unintended consequences of military strikes against Iran.  According to a report by AFP, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says that Israel is holding off an military strikes “for the moment” but that all options remain on the table for the future.

EU imposes new sanctions but oil embargo questionable
Today the EU decided to increase existing sanctions on Iran by placing travel bans on and freezing the assets of an additional 180 Iranian individuals and companies (Radio Free Europe 12/1).   Reuters is reporting that the UK has decided to support an oil embargo against Iran, whether it is “unilaterally or with France and Germany” (Reuters 11/30).  The Wall Street Journal writes that for the EU’s part, it has not yet decided on whether to implement an oil embargo against Iran, and that Greece is leading opposition to the measure, as they fear it could damage their struggling economy (Wall Street Journal 11/30).   With this increased talk of an oil embargo against Iran, Bloomberg reported today that crude oil is trading at a two week high, and concern over an embargo in the EU is a major driver for this (Bloomberg 12/1).

Additional Notable News:

The U.S.’s economic sanctions on Iran has created confusing conditions for Iranian Americans trying to send money to their families in Iran, reports NPR.

US News is reporting that Iranian sanctions could actually do more harm to the West than to their intended targets in Iran.

The Financial Times reports that the recent increase in tensions with the West are pushing Iranian politicians to ratchet up their rhetoric against the West.

Expanding international trade in surveillance technologies is a growing concern because, as a Washington Post article reports, once such technologies are getting into the hands of the Iranian regime and assisting in their suppression of dissenters.

  • 30 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 11/30

Fallout from embassy attacks
The Guardian reports that the UK government has given 48 hours for all Iranian officials to leave the country in response to what the British government believes was a government supported attack on their embassy.  The article states that while this step will not mean a complete severance of ties, it does mark a “new low in relations” (Guardian 11/30).   The Guardian also reports that Norway has decided to temporarily close its embassy in Iran, and that Sweden has called the Iranian ambassador in Stockholm to its foreign ministry to answer questions about yesterday’s events (Guardian 11/30).  The Jerusalem Post reports that Germany is also recalling their ambassador to Iran (Jerusalem Post 11/30).

Contrary to the reports from Iranian news outlets, an EA WorldView article provides evidence that the “students” at yesterday’s embassy attack were actually members of the Basij (EA Worldview 11/30).

Sabotage and the recent Iranian explosions
The Australian is reporting that yesterday’s explosion in the city of Isfahan did in fact occur and damaged Iran’s nuclear facility.  The article also quotes Israeli Intelligence Minister, who appeared to be hinting at Israeli involvement, as saying, “There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat” (The Australian 11/30).  This comes on the heels of satellite photos showing extensive damage from the previous explosion at the Malard missile facility, which appears effectively destroyed by the blast (Washington Post 11/28).   In an op-ed in NY Times, Robert Cohen argues the merits of covert attacks, which he says have been the cause of the two recent Iranian explosions.  However, in the op-ed he also acknowledges that such covert attacks are problematic as their legality is dubious and that they “invite repayment in kind” (Cohen NY Times 11/29).

Aggressive Iran polices options likely to raise price of oil
The Financial Times is reporting that oil prices are already rising based on talks of a potential Iranian oil embargo by the EU (Financial Times 11/29).  AFP reported yesterday that the lead sponsor of Iranian sanctions, Senator Mark Kirk, says that Saudi Arabian officials have told him that they will help to make up any loses caused by an embargo against Iranian oil to prevent price increases (AFP 11/29).  Additionally, The Financial Times has published the findings of a PIMCO study that gives four potential scenarios for the price of oil if an attack on Iran was to occur.  All four of these scenarios show a significant increase in oil, of which even the most optimistic scenario would be “enough to collapse global economic growth” (The Financial Post 11/30).

Additional Notable News:
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan warns that an Israeli attack on Iran would cause a regional war that would have severe consequence for the country, according to an article in Haaretz.

Human Rights Watch writes that residents of Camp Ashraf, the site housing members of MEK in Iraq, should be allowed to meet with UN refugee agencies privately and away from the camp in order eliminate “fear of harm from either camp leaders or the Iraqi authorities.”

  • 29 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 11/29

UK Embassy stormed during Basiji student protest

Regime supports, protesting the UK’s most recent sanctions against Iran, broke into the UK embassy in Tehran.  According to a Washington Post article, the attackers threw petrol bombs at the building and committed various acts of vandalism inside the embassy (Washington Post 11/29).   According to a Guardian report, all embassy workers are now safe and accounted for, although Iranian security forces did have to intervene to free six embassy workers surrounded by protestors.  The Guardian also reported that in response to the embassy attacks, Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi has apologized to his British counterpart and called the incident “a very serious failure by the Iranian government” (Guardian 11/29).  The Daily Star reported, in addition to the main British Embassy, a second diplomatic compound was breached by protestors in Northern Tehran (Daily Star 11/28). (To view pictures of today’s events click here.)

Sanctions watch
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, European Council President said that they are preparing more sanctions against Iran (Jerusalem Post 11/28).  In the U.S., Senators Menendez and Kirk appear to have agreed upon language for an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, to be voted on this week, that would require the president to sanction the Central Bank of Iran and would expand existing sanctions on Iran’s petroleum industry (Rogin The Cable 11/29).

Doubts continue to be raised about how effective these sanctions will be.  Ron Paul’s congressional website posted a new statement calling sanctions “folly” and recommending instead that the U.S. pursue a free trade policy with Iran to ease tensions and build an economic relationship.  Reuters reported that Iran sanctions are unlikely to work as the regime seems to be willing to accept the costs, and “are entrenching themselves in a siege mentality, ready for a showdown if need be” (Reuters 11/28).

Notable Opinion

Robin Mills writes in the National that no matter what outcome would come from sanctions they will be harmful to the U.S. and its allies.

“These sanctions therefore really have no good outcome for the US. Either they fail, or they hurt America and its allies.

Intensified rhetoric, whether from Tehran, Tel Aviv or Washington, stirs fears of crisis and pushes up oil prices. As long as Iran’s oil exports are not seriously affected, it probably gains more in the “fear premium” than it loses in increased transaction costs. Russia, another strategic competitor to the US, gains both from the current mini-Cold War, and if a hot war does break out.

All these questions on the technical efficacy of sanctions are, of course, secondary to their impotence as tools of policy. Iranian policymakers are unlikely to be swayed by even severe economic damage, sanctions hurt ordinary people while empowering the regime’s most hardline elements, and it is unlikely that Tehran can offer any concessions that will satisfy Washington.

Presumably US policymakers are well-aware of all these issues, suggesting that the latest round of sanctions is intended to provide the White House with political cover against accusations that it is “soft” on Iran”

To read the full piece click here

Additional Notable News:

Washington post has published before and after satellite photos of the Malard missile development base that was the subject of a suspicious explosion on November 12.

Inter Press Service reports that despite sanctions Iranians show a continue willingness to spend money, even on luxury items, regardless of increasing prices.

Their continued to be conflicting reports on the nature of a reported explosion in Isfahan, where Iran’s houses one of its main nuclear facilities, according to a report in the Guardian.

  • 28 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Legislative Agenda, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 11/28

Sanctions push in Europe, US
Financial Times writes that France is leading a push to implement a European Union oil embargo against Iran.  They report that while the UK is behind such a move, it is expected to meet resistance from Spain and Italy who are the two biggest importers of Iranian oil in Europe (Financial Times 11/24).   According to statements made by German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, Germany may be willing to support an oil embargo, but is not behind sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) (EA Worldview 11/28).  In the U.S., amendments to the annual defense authorization bill that would force CBI sanctions and limit any Presidential waiver could go to a vote this week.   Currently there are two competing amendments being proposed by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk, and according to a report in CQ efforts talks are currently underway to find language regarding these sanctions that both sides and the White House “can live with” (CQ 11/26).

Effects of Sanctions here and Iran
Recently there are increasing signs that Iranian sanctions are having an effect both inside and outside Iran.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the price of oil is rising as a result of talk by the EU of an oil embargo on Iran (Wall Street Journal 11/28).  Some have argued recently that if an such an embargo was put in place that Saudi Arabia could prevent an increase in oil prices by increasing their oil production to make up for the loss of oil from Iran.  Despite such talk, an article in Foreign Affairs argued against this, pointing out that if an embargo occurred, Saudi Arabia’s spare production capacity would be insufficient to replace the lost supply of Iranian oil, nor is it clear they would be fully willing to do this ( Foreign Affairs July/August).   Sanctions targeted against Iranian officials prevented Irani’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi from a planned visit to Denmark after Hungary refused to allow him to fly over their country (AFP 11/28).

Notable Opinion
Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer writes in the New York Times about parallels between the 1981 Israeli strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor and the current talks of striking Iran’s nuclear program.  He warns that we must heed “The Real Lesson of Iraq“:

Israelis tend to credit this attack for denying Iraq a nuclear weapons capability. However, sources that have emerged since 2003 demonstrate that the attack created an unprecedented Iraqi consensus about the need for a nuclear deterrent and triggered a more intensive effort to acquire them. By the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq stood on the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability.

What is known about Iran’s nuclear program suggests an attack could have similar consequences. Iran’s erratic nuclear advances over the past decade suggest that there is no consensus about whether and when to develop a nuclear weapons capability. While it is possible that Iran could develop fissile material for a nuclear weapon within weeks or months, such a high-risk move would require a consensus that does not currently exist in Tehran. Instead, Iran is edging closer toward a nuclear weapons option. An attack is one of the very few events that could create consensus in Tehran that it is necessary to develop nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.

Read the full piece at nytimes.com

  • 23 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Election 2012, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 11/23

Iran highlighted at Republican debate

At last night’s Republican primary debate the candidates discussed Iran at some length. Here are some of the notable positions they talked about:

Herman Cain suggested he would support an Israeli attack, and if their plan was strong enough he would “join with Israel” for the strike.

Ron Paul rejected aiding an Israeli attack, saying Israel can handle themselves and paraphrasing the former head of Mossad Meir Dagan said that an attack against Iran would be the stupidest thing to do in the world.”

Rick Perry advocated Central Bank of Iran sanctions, saying that they “will shut down that economy.”  He also tied the idea of a no-fly zone on Syria as a way to demonstrate U.S. resolve regarding Iran.

Newt Gingrich said that a strategy of energy independence could “break the Iranian regime” within a year, and that we should be “sabotaging the only refinery they have.”

Michelle Bachmann again repeated her false claim about Ahmadinejad, saying,  “he has said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel of the face of the earth.  He will use it against the United States of America.”

Mitt Romney acknowledged that sanctioning Iran will negatively impact the U.S. economy by increasing gas prices, but said it is a necessary cost cost to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

(Click here for the complete transcripts)

Responses to the latest round of sanctions

Following the announcement of new sanctions against Iran experts have begun questing their effectiveness.  Robert Dreyfuss writes in The Nation, the new untargeted sanctions are “dumb” and will not change Iran’s decision making process.  He says that they are only being introduced to “buy more time for the Obama administration” politically (Dreyfuss The Nation 11/22).  A Washington Post editorial argues that the sanctions are “half-measures” and will increase the likelihood that military action will be required later (Washington Post 11/22).  Iran responded to the sanctions claiming they will “be in vain” and will not affect their ability to do business with other countries (Reuters 11/22).  While many are questioning the impact that these latest sanctions will have on Iran, the Christian Science Monitor and others have reported that they already have increased the price of oil (Christian Science Monitor 11/22).

  • 22 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Election 2012, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 11/22

New Iran Sanctions
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced new sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical industry and classified Iran and its Central Bank as a “primary money laundering concern” (To read the full transcripts click here).  The U.K. announced their own sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), cutting off all financial ties with the country, and France called for the EU in its upcoming meeting on December 1 to freeze CBI assets and stop importing Iranian oil (Reuters 11/21).  Russia, however, warned the sanctions undermine efforts to negotiate with Iran , and Iran has called them “psychological warfare” (Christian Science Monitor 11/22).

Meanwhile, fears that the new sanctions may disrupt oil supplies led to a rise in oil prices (Businessweek 11/22).

Barbara Slavin writes that the primary motivation for the sanctions yesterday was domestic politics. She quotes Brookings’ Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department policy advisor, who says, “The administration is trying to buy off Congress, buy off pressure from Israel and make sure nothing will further erode the president’s chances for re-election.”  Maloney also expresses concern that the Administration “lacks adult supervision” on its Iran policy (Inter Press Service 11/22).

GOP’s continues to saber rattle on Iran
Think Progress posted a video of Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum saying that Iranian nuclear scientists should be considered enemy combatants and should be treated like “garden variety terrorists.” (Think Progress 11/21).  According to the Huffington Post, fellow Republican primary candidate Mitt Romney has decided that Obama is vulnerable on Iran, and that by highlighting Romney’s willingness to use military force against Iran, the Romney campaign hopes to make Obama look weak (Huffington Post 11/22).

More signs of political infighting in Iran
A melee broke out yesterday at the office of an Iranian newspaper when security officials attempted to arrest Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s media advisor and managing editor of IRNA, Ali Akbar Javenfekr. The Washington Post reported that security forces stormed office of the building using tear gas and electric batons as they arrested 33 people. Javenfekr sustained bruises to his face during the process, and was only freed after a personal call from Ahmadinejad (Washington Post 11/21).

Additional Notable Articles:

UN passed a Canadian sponsored resolution requiring Iran to allow the Special Rapporteur into the country to investigate alleged human rights abuses by the regime.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam editorializes in the Guardian that contrary to the narrative often expressed in the West, Iran is not on the verge of political or economic collapse, and currently appears to be relatively stable.

U.S. asks the Iraqi government to make greater effort to fight Iranian backed militias as the U.S. continues its force draw down, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Washington is currently considering selling bunker busting bombs to the UAE, according to a Telegraph article.

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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