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  • 30 March 2012
  • Posted By Richard Abott
  • 0 Comments
  • Nuclear file

How do we know Iran isn’t moving to weapons?

With the alarmist rhetoric for military action against Iran, there seems to be significant confusion about the status of Iran’s nuclear program.  Numerous U.S. officials and intelligence assessments have reiterated that Iran has not made the decision to build a nuclear weapon.  This includes the 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates, and statements by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.  Israeli intelligence, despite statements by political leaders, reportedly agree.

So why do some on the hawkish side of the debate dispense with assessments that an Iranian nuclear weapon is by no means imminent and instead wrongly assume Iran is racing invariably towards a weapon?

This assumption fundamentally misunderstands that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintains inspections in Iran. While secret intelligence sources are a big part of the assessments of Iran’s program, the other main component is from the IAEA monitoring and inspections of over 15 declared facilities and locations, which are conducted regularly on the ground.The logistical and technical reality is that, despite U.N. Security Council Resolutions telling Iran to suspend enrichment and to fully comply with the IAEA, Agency safeguards measures are still largely in place. There are disagreements on what level of information Iran must provide and what version of safeguard provisions are relevant but safeguards and inspections are clearly in place.

  • 22 March 2012
  • Posted By Richard Abott
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iranian human rights and democracy defenders on sanctions and war

Below is a compendium of public statements by notable Iranian human rights and democracy defenders regarding the impact that sanctions and threats of war have on Iran:

Iran sanctions strengthen Ahmadinejad regime – Karroubi, The Guardian, August 11, 2010:

  • “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,” he said. “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.”
  • “On the one hand, the government’s mishandling of the economy has resulted in deep recession and rising inflation inside the country, which has crippled the people of Iran and resulted in the closure of numerous factories. On the other hand, we have sanctions which are strengthening the illegitimate government.”
  • In relation to how the current Iranian regime treats its opponents more harshly than the shah, who was sensitive to international criticism, did: “But because Iran is getting more isolated, more and more they [Ahmadinejad’s government] are becoming indifferent to what the world is thinking about them,” he said.
  • Mir Hossein Mousavi co-authored a public letter with Karroubi: “Sanctions have targeted the most vulnerable social classes of Iran including workers and farmers,” the letter said.

  • 9 March 2012
  • Posted By Richard Abott
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, US-Iran War

Ratcheting Down the Rhetoric

On Wednesday, the New America Foundation hosted a discussion about “America, Israel and Iran after Netanyahu’s Visit” (watch the video here) and the participants pointed out several important takeaways from the 2012 AIPAC conference.

Daniel Levy, Co-Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation, observed that Netanyahu got what he wanted rhetorically from Obama’s speech at AIPAC. Obama may not have significantly shifted his position on Iran red lines, but as former chief of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin hoped, Obama cemented the “zone of trust” Israel can have about American intentions.

This point deserves further questioning, however. Senator Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he believes an attack by Israel is very likely if Iran does not open all of its facilities to inspections and stop enrichment as required by several UN Security Council Resolutions. Moreover, even if Obama used strong rhetoric about not having a containment strategy, did Netanyahu really get what he wanted? Obama did not change his redline to a nuclear weapons capability or endorse negotiations restrictions that 12 Senators (Democrats, Republicans, and Joe Lieberman) want. Perhaps he did just enough to make a modicum of political leeway for negotiations to begin.

  • 10 February 2012
  • Posted By Richard Abott
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 2/10

Amidst increased sanctions, Asian powers push negotiation

The Foreign Ministry of China has said it would send an Assistant Foreign Minister to Iran to “have a further exchange of views with Iran over its nuclear program,” amidst sanctions that are affecting trade. China has already sought discounts on Iranian oil and cut purchases this year by over half, pushing up India to be the largest buyer of Iranian oil, although India is still working out the details of a barter system (Reuters 02/10). Moreover, Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, has said it would consider proposals from Iran in barter trade. According to Reuters, Tehran is offering gold bullion in overseas vaults and tankerloads of oil in return for food and basic staples (Reuters 02/10). Meanwhile, as a delegation of Indian businessmen head to Tehran for new trade opportunities, Prime Minister Singh said “There are problems with Iran nuclear programme. We sincerely believe that this issue can be and should be resolved by giving maximum scope to diplomacy” (Reuters 02/10).

Japan is trying to gain a waiver from U.S. penalties on companies doing business with Iran while it seeks suppliers to offset a reduction in Iranian oil imports. Japan currently gets about 9% of its oil from Iran and it has already reduced Iranian oil imports by 40% in five years (AP 02/10).

Iranian oil trade flows drop and steel imports collapse

The International Energy Agency has said up to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iran’s 2.6 million bpd of oil exports could be replaced once sanctions go into effect, significantly greater than the 600,000 bpd of Iranian oil the EU bought last year (Reuters 02/10).

Steel exports to Iran, one of the world’s largest importers of steel billet, are collapsing because sanctions are preventing local buyers from using major currencies. Major steel traders are unwilling to accept payment in alternative currencies such as Indian rupees and Russian roubles. Steel billets are semi-finished long steel products used primarily in construction. The reduction in Iranian imports is depressing the prices of international steel billets, which fell by about $50 a tonne in one month (Reuters 02/09).

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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