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  • 12 August 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, US-Iran War

Neocon War Plans Undermine Iranians’ Quest for Democracy

The “Bomb Iran” crowd, fresh off their historic blunder in Iraq, is now at it again with Iran. As if the daily drumbeat of articles and op-eds advocating war with Iran was not enough, Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced a truly dangerous resolution — explicitly green-lighting the use of force by Israel against Iran.

Any military strike — whether by the United States or Israel — is likely to pull the United States into a regional war and cause mass civilian casualties. Such an attack would truly be “calamitous” — to use the same description as the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen.

One could use the same word to describe what effect an attack would have on Iran’s struggle for democracy. If war breaks out with Iran, Iranians across the political spectrum would rally behind the government, and the emboldened government would be free to unleash the full potential of its terror to ruthlessly seek out and decimate the Green Movement — America’s best hope for a peaceful and democratic partner in Iran.

  • 19 July 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, US-Iran War

New Report: War Not an Option in Dealing with Iran

A new report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG), an independent UK based non-governmental organization, maps out the growing risk of an Israeli military strike on Iran and the devastating consequences that could lead to a long, protracted war. The report, authored by Professor Paul Rogers, warns that an Israeli attack “would be unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it.”

With talk of the military option against Iran back on the table, the consequences of such an attack are being assessed more and more carefully. The report indicates that a military attack would cause many civilian casualties in Iran, which would be met with a response that could bog down the United States in a protracted regional war. While considerable damage can be done to Iran’s missile and nuclear programs, it would increase political unity and strengthen the Ahmadinejad government.

An attack on Iran by Israel — a non-signatory to the NPT — would almost certainly lead the Iranians to withdraw from the treaty, and send a message to the international community that by staying out of the NPT you have more benefits then by joining.

Advocates of military strikes must ask themselves what they are going to do the day after an attack. Those who cannot answer that question should not consider the military option. Even implicit or explicit threats of war tend to be counterproductive, especially with Iran, as they make a possible accommodation more difficult.

The report indicates that an attack would surely extend the shelf life of the regime and should be firmly ruled out while alternative strategies must be pursued. The military option would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation and “the consequences of a military attack on Iran are so serious that they should not be encouraged in any shape or form. However difficult, other ways must be found to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.”

The report suggests that after the first strike comes the deluge, and the genie won’t be put back in the bottle. Iran would likely withdraw from the NPT, develop nuclear weapons to deter further attacks, set off a series of actions aimed at Israel and the United States, spark regional war, and cause a sharp rise in oil prices. As Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently warned, “If we attack Iran, our grandchildren will have to fight the jihadists here at home.”

The report warns that strikes will not solve the nuclear issue, and “put bluntly, war is not an option in responding to the difficult issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

  • 23 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 1 Comments
  • Culture

Iranian Adventurer on a Quest to Help Malagasy Children

Reza

A year ago, Reza Pakravan went on a three-week trip to Madagascar as part of a volunteer campaign with the charity group Afazady. What he experienced during his trip would change him forever.

“Living in a tent, eating rice and beans for every meal, using a bucket shower and working a demanding construction job with primitive tools would have been enough to put most people off from repeating the experience.” But for Pakravan, this experience was a calling to give back.

Realizing the difficulty of everyday life for people on the island, Pakravan decided to raise money to build two new schools in Madagascar. And so, along with friend Marco Gustapane, he launched “the Jellybabies on a bike campaign”—a 10-day 1,000 km cycling expedition across the Himalayas. The name originated when he offered children in Agnena village “Jellybabies” pastilles and was consequently referred to as “Jellybabies” by the entire village.

The schools that Pakravan visited in his time in Madagascar were typically overcrowded, and children were forced to walk at least 12 miles through crocodile-infested rivers to get there. Frequent floods often make these rivers impassable.

  • 16 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

One Year Later: Are We Missing the Real Story?

Much attention has been given to the absence of large street protests on the anniversary of Iran’s disputed elections. This focus on street protests however, largely misses the point of the opposition movement today.

“A government that is scared of a corpse is a weak government,” Shirin Ebadi said, referring to the government’s decision to bar families of killed protesters from holding public funerals. Attacks on Mehdi Karroubi and  raids on the offices of Grand Ayatollahs Saane’i and Montazeri show the increasing desperation of Iran’s rulers. Every website managed by WordPress (the most popular blog hosting platform on the web) has been filtered since this past weekend in Iran (including this blog), and the Revolutionary Guards have even set up a “Facebook Espionage Division.”

All of this indicates that the Islamic Republic is a regime that has become afraid of its own shadow.  And this is the real story of the past year.

Pundits in the West have been quick to write obituaries for the Green Movement because it’s been unable to maintain the mass protests we last saw on Ashura. They ignore the fact that the regime has now become permanently on edge, and every crackdown against the opposition is a testimony to this.

One year on, the real story is that a pro-democracy movement that had long been simmering under the surface has finally been thrust into the spotlight.

Those who expected to see the toppling of the mullahs within a year failed to grasp the difficulty of such a task in an authoritarian state. Ayatollah Khamenei understands better than anyone the fragility of his authority, and his actions in recent weeks are the best indication of this.

Movements in pursuit of democracy and independence are long, protracted struggles. At times, the efforts of the people manifest themselves in public displays of strength. But even more important are the times in between where ordinary citizens retreat to their homes and places of worship to discuss the future of their country, and to engage in a spirited discourse about the future of their political system. And this has been the most fundamental achievement of the Green Movement: to craft an alternative narrative for Iran’s future that abandons the status quo.

Once that idea catches on in the minds of the people, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality.

Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi points out in the Green Movement charter issued on the anniversary:

“By rejecting the ruling establishment, by going back to their own homes and developing and expanding their social networks, strong and reliable relations between the various strata of the nation have been established. The social networks have created miracles in the area of informing [the nation] of political-social and cultural [developments]. All we need to do to understand this is to glance at their artistic productions, the amount of news and information that is exchanged, and the analyses that are going on in a completely democratic way. The Green Movement has created a powerful wave of debate and discussion concerning the critical problems among the people that is unique in our recent history.”

This debate — more than the number of people out on the streets or in the jails — is the true measure of the movement. Those who ignore this are missing the biggest story of the past year. “Just because there are less people on the streets does not mean that the movement has weakened, but that the criticism has taken a different form,” Shirin Ebadi said on Tuesday.

Joe Klein of Time Magazine said in reference to Iran on Sunday that “this is the greatest mismatch between a people and a government of any country in the world.” Very true. And that mismatch — not displays of strength on the street — is what will ultimately bring about the change Iranians have long been waiting for.

  • 10 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Iranian American activism, Iranian Youth

The Iranian Diaspora’s New Political Awakening

There is change afoot in Iranian communities all across the globe.

The Iranian Diaspora is coming of age politically, and nothing has helped propel this change more than the disputed presidential elections of June 2009 and the young Iranians who led the post-election unrest. Whereas once the Diaspora communities were psychologically fractured and plagued with ideological differences, the events of last summer have managed to forge a degree of unity unseen in the past 30 years.

Rallies to raise awareness about the Green Movement are planned in cities as diverse and far apart as São Paulo, Tokyo and Johannesburg. With hundreds of rallies scheduled for the anniversary of the June 12th election, global attention will once again be focused on the Iranian struggle for democracy. One key group, United4Iran, is coordinating over 60 demonstrations on June 12th across six continents. They aim to show the world that the thirst for freedom and the desire to have a meaningful say in one’s own affairs is an Iranian struggle over a century old, dating back to the Tobacco Protest of the 1890s.

A significant development, though largely unnoticed, is the impact students of Iranian descent are having in leading these efforts. This young college population can best be described as pragmatic, with a keen understanding of how to appeal to non-Iranians and attract them to this cause.

Iranian-American author Reza Aslan explains the difference between the outlook of younger and older generation Iranians in the Diaspora. The younger generation does not

carry the baggage of their parents. The generation that was forced out of Iran and into exile…has quite understandably a very emotional resonance when it comes to the Islamic Republic, and unfortunately as a result is not always a rational voice for dealing with Iran as a problem.

Not having that baggage puts them in a much better position to deal with the reality of Iran.

This generation of socially active and politically conscious youth can be credited for much of the unity seen today. Although some older activists still remain entrenched in the ideologies they have held since even before the Islamic Revolution, many others are now finding common cause realizing that they all share the same end goal. This new Iranian pragmatism is cause for great hope. As Nietzsche once said, “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

Young Iranians across the globe are making sure that that is no longer the case.

  • 4 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 1 Comments
  • Israel, Nuclear file, Sanctions

The Real Winner of the Flotilla Raid

Israel’s attack on the aid flotilla headed toward Gaza has sparked international outrage. But it also reminds us that since 2001, Iran has improved its geostrategic position more than almost any other country in the world, and it has done so based almost entirely on the blunders of others.

Just as scholars have for years declared Iran to be the ultimate winner of the US war in Iraq, the winner of this week’s events off the coast of Gaza is clearly Iran.

In a meeting Tuesday between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the topic of discussion was supposed to be imposing a new round of sanctions on Iran. But instead, the flotilla incident dominated.

Better than anything Iran could have hoped for, the flotilla incident threatens to complicate the sanctions push in the UN. Washington Turkey expert Soner Cagaptay predicts that where Turkey would have likely abstained on an Iran sanctions vote, it may now vote nay. “Turkey is now freer to vote with its heart on Iran sanctions,” he said, “which means that Turkish-US relations are heading towards a major crisis if we don’t end up defusing the storm gathering over Iran sanctions.”

All of this comes as great news to Iran. The Israeli raid and the resulting international backlash have distracted from the Iranian nuclear issue. On Monday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a harsh report on the lack of cooperation with the agency and Iranian efforts to acquire equipment that would give it the capacity to enrich uranium at higher levels. The report received little media coverage having been overshadowed by the flotilla incident.

Other recent developments can only be cause for celebration in Tehran. Washington’s mild condemnation of Israel puts the Obama administration in an awkward position in which it can’t possibly please everyone. Turkey’s recent statements that it would provide naval escort to humanitarian ships sending aid to Gaza will also only prolong this whole circus, with a chance of more violence or confrontation.  All of this amounts to a miracle for the mullahcracy in Tehran, only days before the anniversary of the election.

And so the task of the Obama administration becomes increasingly difficult. At some point soon, it will have to take an unequivocal position on the flotilla raid. Will Washington placate a vital strategic ally like Turkey, or will it continue its unconditional support for all Israeli action? Appeasing one will come at the expense of damaged relations with the other, and no matter the outcome, it doesn’t make for a very good Iran policy.

As with virtually every major regional event since 2001, the Iranians will need only to sit back without firing a single shot to come out on top.

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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