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  • 17 August 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: Week in Review

‘Israel Willing to Hit Iran, Even to Delay Nuke Program’
Barak: Waiting on Iran Would Be More Dangerous, Complicated
A Grave Warning on Iran From ‘The Decision Maker’
Ex-Obama Official Warns: Take Israel Iran Threat ‘Very Seriously’
Mofaz slams Netanyahu’s Iran saber rattling
Israel strike on Iran would be disaster: Netanyahu’s ex-deputy
Israel’s Peres against any solo Iran attack, trusts Obama
Report: Iran pardons 130 post-election detainees
Iran Group May Remain on U.S. Terror List
Iran Rejects Foreign Aid To Help Earthquake Victims – Or Does It?
Standard Chartered Bank Sued By Lebanon Bombing’s Victims’ Families Over Iran Connection
Syrian Rebels Said to Be Holding Elite Fighters From Iran
Iran’s Response ‘Huge’ If Targeted By Israel, Hezbollah Says
U.N. Watchdog May Lower its Estimate of “Missing” Iran Uranium
Iranian Media Reports On Calls For Khamenei To Curb Ahmadinejad’s Power
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad calls Israel’s existence ‘insult to all humanity’
Iran Seeks Higher Returns on S. Korea Bank Accounts -Source
Notable Opinion: Diplomacy is the Best Tool for Iran

  • 13 August 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 1 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: August 13, 2012

Iran earthquakes: Tehran criticized for response to disaster
Iran Moves to Distribute Aid After Two Earthquakes Kill 307
Iran raises toll from Saturday’s earthquake to 306 dead, over 3,000 injured
Israeli Minister Asks Nations to Say Iran Talks Have Failed
Revised gov’t protocol gives PM unprecedented powers

Nuclear ruse: Posing as toymaker, Chinese merchant allegedly sought U.S. technology for Iran
Oil rises to near $94 on Israel-Iran concerns
Standard Chartered in talks to settle Iran laundering probe
 
Notable Opinion: Why Do Israeli Media Keep Predicting War With Iran?

  • 27 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Sanctions

How Sanctions Actually Help the Regime

Although Iran has been under some form of sanctions since 1979, today it faces indiscriminate sanctions so severe that ordinary Iranian citizens are being hurt the most. Reports have already indicated that sanctions are adversely affecting public health, personal finance, public education, and progressive social movements in Iran. Still, Western lawmakers claim that this is the unfortunate price that must be paid in order for regime change in Iran to be possible. Their argument is simple and unproven: economic pressure will trigger popular unrest that eventually overthrows the regime. However, the demonstrated reality is quite different: sanctions are lending power to the regime, and in turn crippling the people who are crying for change.

In the past, the government’s of sanctioned countries have been able to manipulate the effects of sanctions to reward supporters and disproportionally weaken opposition. Political scientist Dan Drezner explains: “In authoritarian regimes, leaders had an incentive to create private and excludable goods for supporters, as opposed to public goods for the mass citizenry.” Robert Worth, a journalist for the New York Times, notes: “Ordinary Iranians complain that the sanctions are hurting them, while those at the top are unscathed, or even benefit. Many wealthy Iranians made huge profits in recent weeks by buying dollars at the government rate (available to insiders) and then selling them for almost twice as many rials on the soaring black market.”

In addition to the regime’s ability to manipulate sanctions to their benefit, women and the middle class have emerged as the two groups most severely affected by sanctions.  Both groups are fundamental in Iran’s quest for progressive social and political change, and the regime consistently fights to repress these efforts. Sanctions help the regime’s efforts by impeding, and often reversing, the progress that these groups have struggled to make.

  • 25 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Sanctioning Iranian Women

Recently, the International Civil Society Action Network  (ICAN), provided an analysis of the effects sanctions have had in Iran, focusing in part on the impact of sanctions on Iranian women.

The report, “Killing them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of Ordinary Iranians,” points to the wide range of direct ways sanctions are harming ordinary Iranians such as restricting access to foreign-made medicine in Iran and severe economic recession.

Sanctions, ICAN says, weaken society, not the state, and is undermining U.S. and EU credibility among Iranians.  “With the impact of current sanctions seeping into every day life now, many Iranians consider them to be a profoundly insidious and destructive force and source of basic human rights violations, affecting a wide cross section of Iranians.”

According to the report, it is Iranian women who are bearing the brunt of the economic and social punishment of sanctions.  The sanctions, ICAN says, are marginalizing women by pushing them out of the job market and limiting their access to education. With women’s education as a “key engine of socio-political change,” sanctions are impeding progressive change for women and the greater society in Iran. Thus, in addition to all the detrimental direct effects, “externally imposed sanctions will allow conservatives to further their regressive social agenda,” and will limit progressive social change within Iran.

“The US and EU have been strong proponents of the global women, peace and security agenda with the development of priorities and action plans to ensure women’s empowerment,” reads the report. “But sanctions undermine and contravene these policies. The contradictory nature of US and EU rhetoric, policies and actions increase the Iranian public’s suspicion about them, and credence to charges of hypocrisy.”

  • 21 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, US-Iran War

A Wakeup Call in the Persian Gulf

USNS Rappahannock, right, with the USS James E. Williams

USNS Rappahannock, right, with the USS James E. Williams

Earlier this week, many in Washington held their breath after the U.S. Navy announced that the USNS Rappahannock had resorted to “lethal force” and fired on a small vessel in the Persian Gulf that had rapidly approached the U.S. ship.  Although we subsequently learned that it was Indian fishermen – not Iranian sailors – who had been shot, the incident illustrates just how dangerous the situation in the Persian Gulf really is.

What would have happened if the fishing boat had in fact been an Iranian naval vessel? Could the incident have escalated into armed conflict? It’s not hard to imagine a dangerous escalation when the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations has no way of communicating with his Iranian counterpart.

The U.S. has managed to convey messages to Iran in a number of ways – from working through the Swiss to sending letters through the Turkish prime minister.  But the reality is that sending letters by courier is utterly insufficient when people are shooting at each other.

It is shocking that, in a time of crisis, the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations cannot pick up the phone and prevent the situation from spiraling out of control by talking to Iran’s naval commanders.  Given the tensions between the U.S. and Iran and the close proximity of U.S. and Iranian vessels operating in the Persian Gulf every day, it is downright dangerous that we do not have such a simple capability.

  • 20 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 1 Comments
  • Sanctions

Treasury’s Flawed Defense of Iran Aircraft Sanctions

Last week, the New York Times examined how sanctions that prevent Iran from purchasing Western aircraft and spare parts are hurting ordinary Iranians and have contributed to a record of over 1,700 plane crash deaths in Iran over the past decade.

David Cohen, the Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence–who is responsible for enforcing sanctions–disputed the article and defended the aircraft sanctions.  He wrote that Iran Air aids Iranian weapons proliferation and so is not a purely civilian airline.  He also asserted that the U.S. does allow for inspections and repairs of Iranian civilian aircraft as long as the services are performed outside of Iran.

But Cohen’s response leaves out some very important points.

Although his first point is true – Iran Air is not only a passenger airline, but also provides services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Cohen incorrectly cites June 2011 as the date these sanctions began. In reality, Iran has been unable to purchase Western planes or parts since 1979. Due to decades of sanctions, Iran’s aging fleet of airplanes has one of the worst air safety records in the world, suffering from at least one major plane accident a year. Iranian aircraft safety is so terrible that Iran Air was banned from flying over European airspace in 2010, due to safety concerns.

Cohen’s second point is also technically true: the U.S. has “issued licenses to allow for the inspection, and in previous years also the repair, of Iran’s civilian aircraft, so long as those services were performed outside Iran so the parts and services could not be misdirected to Iran’s military aircraft.”

However, he fails to mention that, if Iran were to send planes outside of the country, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the planes would be tampered with or bugged with espionage equipment. Given the recent barrage of espionage-related activities against Iran – ranging from assassinations to computer viruses – it is no surprise that Tehran would be unwilling to allow Iranian airplanes to be inspected or repaired under U.S. auspices in a third country. Thus, Iran will likely not risk sending any planes outside of the country for inspection.

  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Internet Censorship, Sanctions

How Google, Yahoo, and Go Daddy are Helping to Silence Iranians

Given the public attention surrounding Apple’s over-enforcement of sanctions, now is a good opportunity to look at the broader issue of how sanctions policies negatively impact access to communications technology for people inside Iran. Today, NIAC called on Internet service companies to lift the “electronic curtain” over Iran and other sanctioned countries in a letter signed by a coalition of Iranian, Cuban, and Syrian diaspora organizations, and human rights and Internet freedom organizations.

The fact is, even as the White House takes efforts to lift the “electronic curtain” imposed by Iran’s government, U.S. sanctions are part of the fabric of that curtain.

As of now, many companies that offer basic Internet communication services and websites–like Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, or Go Daddy hosted sites–do not allow their services to be accessed by Iran, even though they are technically exempt from sanctions. NIAC is targeting these companies in today’s letter and demanded that the public of sanctioned countries have access to the basic tools and platforms necessary for communicating safely and securely online

Before 2009, Iran was subject to extremely strict and broad sanctions at the hands of the United States, completely blocking communication technology such as computers, phones, modems, etc. These communication tools are increasingly essential in embargoed countries as a means of communicating freely and supporting operations that are pushing for social and political change. With these tools cut off, activists struggle to find the means necessary to communicate freely–relying on a sort of cyber black market involving Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or thumb drives to access software, services, and websites.

Especially after seeing the effect that social media had during the 2009 Green Movement, the Obama administration has made some adjustments to U.S. sanction policy. In 2010, the Obama Administration exempted basic, free Internet communication tools from sanctions and issued special licenses for other Internet communication software and hardware. In addition, this past Norooz, Obama pushed Internet communication companies to make their services available in Iran and to help lift the “electronic curtain” that is helping to silence the Iranian people.

However, despite these efforts, many companies are still not providing their services to the public of embargoed countries. This is unacceptable.

  • 25 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • discrimination, Sanctions

Apple’s ‘Iran Policy’ Shows Why We Can’t Shy Away from Politics

NIAC’s Jamal Abdi and Nobar Elmi published a piece in Tehran Bureau last Friday in which they argue that recent allegations of discrimination by Apple employees against Iranian Americans are rooted in flawed US-Iran sanctions policy. They write, “we need to realize that what is happening is not just a series of individual cases of alarming behavior,” but are instead “just the latest example of sanction laws being so broad that they are misinterpreted or overenforced and mistakenly applied.”

What is happening at Apples stores, Elmi and Abdi say, is not just the result of private companies “being overly cautious or not educating their employees about their sanctions policies,” but also a result of the U.S. government “continuing to broaden the sanctions and not issuing clear exemptions and guidelines for what is allowed.”  They do point out the Obama Administration’s efforts to exempt certain communication software to promote Internet freedom in Iran, but say private companies like Google and Yahoo are, regardless, still blocking basic Internet communication tools in Iran.

Their conclusion is that the Apple episode demonstrates the many ways US-Iran relations affect our community, both inside and out of Iran, and cite this as why Iranian Americans must not to shy away from politics:

“None of us should be surprised that this is happening. Unintended consequences are the reality of broad sanctions. It’s been the policy of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for many years to oppose broad, indiscriminate sanctions because they don’t punish the right targets (e.g., human rights abusers, the Iranian government) and instead hit ordinary people. The first time NIAC dealt with discrimination due to sanctions policy was ten years ago, when Monster.com prohibited job seekers from listing any work experience in Iran and other sanctioned countries, and removed such references from their resumes. We challenged Monster’s overenforcement and succeeded in correcting the company’s policy.

“We need to call on the U.S. government to take the necessary steps to ensure sanctions do not continue to be misapplied or overenforced to the detriment of Iranian Americans and Iranians. We also need to continue to call out private companies that are overenforcing and misapplying sanctions. And we need to challenge companies like Apple, whose employees’ actions are demeaning and discriminatory.”

To read the full article, click here.

  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Kristol’s Push for Military Strikes Against Iran

William Kristol and Jamie Fly, neoconservatives who were instrumental in orchestrating the War in Iraq, are at it again.  While their previous war advocacy shop, the Project for a New American Century, is now defunct (after a job well done), they have reconstituted their pro-war efforts in the form of the Foreign Policy Institute.

This time they are calling for Congress to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iran–with or without support from Commander in Chief Obama.  Completely contradicting US, Israeli, and European intelligence, Kristol and Fly insist that Iran is a dangerous threat that is “closer than ever to nuclear weapons.”

These fear mongering tactics may have worked back in 2003 when Kristol and Fly organized support for the War in Iraq, but today we know better than to take the advice of war hawks such as Kristol and his cronies.  Their ridiculous claim that military action against Iran would “serve the nations interests,” only illustrates their disregard for the lives of U.S soldiers and the words of people who actually know what they are talking about.  The most prominent words used by military and civilian leaders to describe a strike against Iran are: disastrous, calamitous, and dangerous.  Their words to describe folks like Kritol and Fly could probably be summed up as: chicken hawks.

  • 15 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, US-Iran War

If ECI, AIPAC, and Senate hawks think it’s time to launch a war, they should say so

Yesterday, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) released a new ad (see the J Street response, above) rejecting diplomacy and calling for an immediate “action” with regard to Iran, further adding to the list of pro-war efforts to sabotage diplomacy and limit Obama’s maneuverability at the upcoming Moscow sessions. Although they never directly call for military action, ECI’s efforts to push for war with Iran are increasingly transparent.

The ad implies that an Iran with nuclear capabilities is around the corner, completely ignoring U.S, European and Israeli intelligence reports that say Iran has not decided to build a bomb and is years away from creating a nuclear warhead. Similarly, last week the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released a memo saying, “Iran has taken advantage of the talks to advance its nuclear program.”

In a Senate letter AIPAC is sponsoring that is circulating in the Senate, Robert Menendez and Roy Blunt demand the most improbable ultimatums for Iran talks and tells President Obama to offer nothing in return, effectively killing any chance to negotiate a deal at Moscow.

However, neither ECI, AIPAC, nor Congressional hawks are directly calling for a war with Iran. A direct declaration of war would invite questions concerning the astonishing costs, the lack of achievable objectives, and why the country is being dragged into another war in the Middle East. In short, it would be political suicide. Instead, they choose the easier route of demanding Iran meet impossible red lines and blaming Iran when their demands are not met. 

As Obama has said, “If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.” They have rejected diplomacy, but are too cowardly to voice the only other option that they leave on the table- war.

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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