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  • 7 July 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Sanctions

UAE Ambassador speaks before he thinks

“’We cannot live with a nuclear Iran. The United States may be able to live with it, we can’t.”

On Tuesday, the UAE Ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, publicly endorsed military action against Iran if sanctions fail to stop its nuclear program. That’s a bold statement coming from neighboring  Muslim country, and more importantly, a neighbor that conducts $12 billion in trade with Iran.

“I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” al-Otaiba said in a public interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”

What was al-Otaiba thinking when he made that statement? Apparently, his remarks stem from his own personal opinions as the statement was promptly walked back by other UAE officials. Immediately after the statements were made, the UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Tareq Al-Haidan said “the statements attributed by the Washington Times to the UAE Ambassador to the United States Youssef Al-Otaiba are not precise.” In addition, Al-Haiden said:

“The UAE totally rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and rather calls for a solution through political means that are based on the international legitimacy, transparency as well as the need for working, through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on the right of all states to the peaceful use of nuclear energy”.

The use of force is not the solution, and I am glad that Al-Haidan realizes that. As a diplomat, you cannot just say whatever is on your mind, though . Even discussions held “on the sidelines of an unofficial gathering” will be leaked one way or another, putting diplomatic relations at risk.

  • 9 June 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • Nuclear file

An Unsolved Mystery: Shahram Amiri


Shahram Amiri, an Iranian physicist who has been missing since June of last year, has uploaded two separate videos online sharing completely contradictory accounts of his situation. Which video is real? Or are both just a fraud?

In his first video, Amiri says he is residing in Tuscon, Arizona after having been abducted from Medina “in a joint operation by terror and kidnap teams from the US intelligence service CIA and Saudi Arabia’s Istikhbarat.” He says that he was abducted for information about Iran’s nuclear program. Toward the end of the video, he says that if this is the last video that his family sees…for them to have patience. He looks quite disheveled in the grainy video, though there seems to be no hard evidence to indicate either that the video is real or fake.


In the second video, he is well dressed and has asked for everyone “to stop presenting a distorted image of me.” He starts off by saying that he is thankful for having the opportunity to talk and that he is living freely in the United States. He refers to himself as a simple medical physicist, and that he misses his wife and family.

Recently, US officials acknowledged that Amiri had defected and had been resettled in the United States after extensive debriefing, in which he reportedly shared valuable information to American intelligence agencies.

A U.S. official familiar with the case scoffed at the notion that he had been kidnapped, noting that if Amiri were imprisoned, it would not be possible for him to make videos for Iranian television.

Both videos raise lots more questions than answers. For now, it seems like the case of Shahram Amiri will remain an unsolved mystery.

  • 25 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Persian Gulf

Arab FM Blasts Iran’s “Occupation” of Gulf Islands

Last week, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah blasted Iran’s claims of ownership over three islands in the Persian Gulf, comparing the situation to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land:

Occupation of any Arab land is occupation … Israeli occupation of Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, West Bank or Gaza is called occupation and no Arab land is dearer than another.

The Persian Gulf Cooperation Council Ministers have supported the United Arab Emirates claim recently of Iran “occupying” three islands in the Persian Gulf: the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Moussa.  But Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast says the three islands “are inseparable parts of the Iranian territory.”

The dispute over these islands is nothing new, dating back more than a century to the era of British colonialism.  In 1888, the British Minister confirmed to the Shah of Iran that the islands belong to Iran. Later in 1903-04, when Iran was on the brink of civil war, the Sheikh of Sharjah took the opportunity to claim the islands for himself. The dispute continued throughout the 20th Century, when the islands were formally returned to Iran in November 1971 through a legal procedure that occurred before the creation of the UAE as a state.

Despite Iran and the UAE’s strong trade relations, the two have maintained no formal diplomatic relations since 2008, when Iran installed maritime offices on one of the disputed islands.

The GCC has urged Tehran to engage in direct talks or go to the International Court of Justice to resolve the issue.  The downside of going to the ICJ is that it has no way to enforce its decisions, so whatever the outcome turns out to be, the parties may decide not to abide by the result. Yet this is precisely the sort of international incident that the ICJ was created to resolve.  So one could be forgiven for just wishing the two countries would just grow up and settle their dispute like reasonable members of the international community.

It’s easy to understand why this issue is so vexing for Iran and the UAE: as with so much else it’s all about oil.  These islands more than likely have oil reserves that any country would want to claim for itself.

However, comparing the dispute over the Gulf islands to the Israeli occupation isn’t going to help anyone.  Instead, it will only cause the two parties to dig their heels in further, as their pride and egos get in the way of any real settlement.  But all of this only postpones the inevitable: some day, Iran and the UAE are going to have to act like adults and find a peaceful way to settle this argument.

Until then, they should knock this type of rhetoric off.

  • 24 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • Diplomacy, US-Iran War

Peace in our time!

The era of threat and force is over! At least according to President Ahmadinejad. During a meeting last Thursday in Tehran with Kuwaiti Speaker Jassim Mohammad al-Kharafi, Ahmadinejad stated:

Those, thinking that they can be influential through threat and force, should know that the era of such behaviors is gone.

The thought of Ahmadinejad claiming to want to engage in “logic and dialogue” instead of using force and threats to solve global issues gives a little bit of hope to peace loving individuals everywhere. Of course, I’m not holding my breath.

Iran has been reaching out to several states in an effort to strengthen bilateral ties, given the uncertainty at home. In regard to “Iran-Kuwait ties, President Ahmadinejad said both countries can run the region along with each other and guarantee full security there”. In addition, the Kuwaiti speaker has said that it has always been ready to remain by Iran and that it proved that it ” seeks fully peaceful nuclear energy and follows diplomacy of dialogue to solve all problems”.

What is ironic is that a few weeks ago, Iran was accused of running an espionage ring in Kuwait after seven people were arrested in connection with a spy cell. Iran denied it and said that the Kuwaiti government should “not be trapped by tricks”. “The claim discussed by some media on discovering a spy cell in Kuwait seeks undermining bilateral ties,” the Iranian embassy in Kuwait said in a statement.

  • 20 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Hikers and Mothers in Emotional Reunion

[vodpod id=Video.3663241&w=425&h=350&]

The three American hikers who were detained by Iranian officials back in July were finally reunited with their mothers in Iran today.

Relatives of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal, say that the trio were hiking along northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region and accidently crossed the border into Iran. A simple mistake, no? Tehran does not think so. Tehran is paranoid at the thought of anyone trying to topple the Islamic Republic and will detain anyone who seems suspicious. On one hand, in the case of the hikers, it is understandable that Iran would worry about someone crossing into the border, especially from Iraq since the United States has such an overwhelming presence there. Look at the United States. We enforce a very strict border control with our neighbor Mexico.

However, to detain them for so long and only allow them to speak to their families once is not acceptable. Yes, they have allowed the mothers to visit for a week, but it is not enough. These individuals have not been given a trial even though the Iranian Foreign Minister stated in December that they would be given one, nor have the three been charged — which is a violation of Iranian law.

So is there any hope for these three Americans to be released soon? In the past, Iran and the United States have made backdoor agreements where detainees from both sides have been released in an exchange. For this particular case, some analysts do believe that Iran will release the hikers in a prisoner swap, similar to what was rumored to have been done with the Frenchwoman Clotilde Reiss. The Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told reporters that Iran has been treating the hikers according to their “religious principles”  and “on humanitarian grounds”, and that the United States should reciprocate with Iranian detainees in their custody.

It is true that human rights violations occur everywhere and that Iran is not the only judicial system which has its faults.  It is also true that Iran and the United States have poor diplomatic relations. If the hikers were Malaysian, for example, things may have been slightly different.  The hostility between Iran and the West is not helping the situation and politics is politics no matter what. However, when an individual has not even been told what they are charged with, it is no longer politics but a violation of rights.

Here’s hoping for a safe and speedy return.

  • 19 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • Events in Iran, Uncategorized

The Iranian African Connection

Since Iran has a difficult time in making friends with the West, it has been keeping its eye on Africa for partnerships over the past decade. Why reach out to Africa? According to an Iranian MP, “Iran looks at these countries through a humanitarian view based on prominent Islamic values”. Like Iran, governments such as the Sudanese and the Democratic Republic of Congo have a well known history of human rights violations. With that in mind, one cannot help but wonder what this “humanitarian view” consists of.

Instead, Iran’s efforts are political and economic.  Sudan turned to Iran two years ago for a military cooperation when China and Russia decreased their military aid. According to Sanam Vakil, an expert on Iran at the Johns Hopkins University, “Iran has been successful in strengthening ties with Sudan because the two countries have an ideological link. They are standing up against the West and imperialism”.

Meanwhile, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” forming a joint commission on economic cooperation, lifting visa requirements and political consultations. For those not aware of the DRC’s history, it is currently trying to recover from “Africa’s World War’, where approximately three million lives were lost between 1998-2003. The war was partly to blame for economic reasons, as the country has valuable mineral wealth. While one of the Congo’s two main religions is Islam, I would not be shocked if Iran is more interested in reaching out to engage in economic cooperation.  For its part, the Congolese government is planning to open up an embassy in Tehran in its efforts to expand bilateral cooperation.

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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