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Persian Gulf

  • 7 July 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 1 Comments
  • 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.

  • 25 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Vl
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Persian Gulf

Iran’s Hardliners Continue Splitting

Tensions are boiling in Iran’s parliament over the government’s demand to take control over the assets of Azad University, which amounts to over $200 billion. This feud between the parliament and Ahmadinejad’s administration reflects the ongoing battles between the camps of Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad. (Azad University was one of the most successful pet projects and legacies of the Rafsanjani era.)

Recently, the hardliners organized a mob of Basijis to demonstrate against the parliament in order to make the MPs succumb to the government’s demands for changing the Azad University’s Board of Directors that are part of the Rafsanjani coterie. The mob chanted offensive slogans, like “Death to the hypocrites” and “Shame on this disgraceful assembly.”

But this intimidation actually backfired. In response, many conservative MP’s lashed out at the government of Ahmadinejad for instigating “such insolence.” This response is reflective of an emerging third conservative faction that has become disillusioned with the hard-liners like Ahmadinejad and is increasingly distancing themselves from their hostile policies. Prominent conservative elements of the Majlis, like Motahari and Larijani, are also fed up with the political tactics of intimidation employed by Ahmadinejad supporters.

Obviously, this rift in the establishment is the product of last year’s presidential elections. The post-election turmoil sparked an internal power struggle that is continuously fluctuating in its intensity. Without this constant struggle, it is unlikely that such a sensitive matter that would have so embroiled the different chambers of the Iranian government, and then have surfaced for the entire Iranian nation to see as well.

  • 25 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 2 Comments
  • 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.

  • 7 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 2 Comments
  • Persian Gulf, US-Iran War

Iran’s Bond-Villain Plan for Naval Superiority

Iran has purchased a super-advanced speedboat and is going to use it to sink an American warship in the Persian Gulf!

Well, we don’t know for sure that they’re using it to sink an American warship, but they’re definitely up to something. Actually, there’s not even any evidence that the boat is for military purposes; or that it was purchased by the Revolutionary Guards; or that it’s even all that much faster than other boats…

But still, someone in Iran bought a really fast boat, so everyone should be afraid; be very afraid!

That about sums up this tabloid-esque story that ran in the Financial Times Sunday, and then was reprinted in the Washington Post alongside a completely unrelated yet sufficiently eerie photo of a tanker ship that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef of all places.

Has a record-breaking British powerboat become the “ultimate toy” for an Iranian playboy or – as US investigators fear – is it now equipped with the world’s fastest torpedoes aimed at sinking an aircraft carrier in the Gulf?

In spite of efforts by the Obama administration to stop it falling into the hands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Bradstone Challenger – a high-performance powerboat built with support from a US defence contractor – is believed to be under new and dangerous ownership.

Iran at a Crossroads – LIVESTREAMING Here

UPDATE: It’s confirmed, we’ll be Livestreaming our conference here at niacINsight tomorrow.  So tune in between 9:00 and 2:00 to see what’s happening!

Iran used to be a pretty black-and-white issue. You either wanted war, or not.  Diplomacy, or not.  Regime change, or not.

Those days of simple choices between two clear opposites–they’re long gone.

Now, the rise of an indigenous opposition movement has thrown a new set of variables into questions of “regime change,” diplomacy, and even human rights.  Iran-watchers are struggling with the cognitive dissonance of it all: how can you still oppose war but support the dismantling of the Islamic theocracy?  How can someone help the opposition but still oppose overt US government involvement? And don’t even get me started on the nuclear issue…

All of this confusion amid the new complex reality of post-June 12th Iran means it’s probably a good thing that people are still debating the issue as vigorously as ever.  Open any major newspaper in the US and chances are you’ll find at least one or two (often four or five) different articles about Iran.  From op-eds advocating a preemptive strike, to analysts who say the Green Movement is just a fad–there is a wider diversity of opinions now than ever before.  Even politicians and pundits who might otherwise have the luxury of ignoring the Iran issue are being forced to weigh in (see Palin, Sarah), and despite their often ludicrous claims, ultimately the best thing for US-Iran policy is a robust debate about substantive issues.  That’s the only way we’ll be able to think our way through this difficult challenge.

(Incidentally, some major steps have already been taken in formulating a coherent policy proposal: see here and here for one approach that’s coming clearer into view).

Our goal here at NIAC is to contribute some wisdom and clarity to the debate on Iran — both among the Iranian-American community and inside the Washington DC beltway.  Toward that end, we are pleased to announce our upcoming conference on Capitol Hill: “Iran at a Crossroads: Assessing a Changing Landscape.” We’re bringing together the top Iran experts in the world, alongside members of Congress and their staffs, to explore the most important questions facing US-Iran policy today.

We’ll look into the current state of the Green Movement as the latest chapter in Iran’s 100-year democratic evolution.  We’ll examine the prospects for US-Iran relations one year after President Obama began his engagement strategy, and we’ll try to determine if there is a US-Iran war looming on the horizon.  (And we’ll also celebrate the upcoming Norooz holiday with some excellent food and our very own haft-seen table).

The video will be streamed live on this site, niacINsight, so check back here next Wednesday morning (March 10) at 9am for the feed.  Or feel free to RSVP and show up in person.

We are grateful to our special guests Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with all of our excellent panelists (including our friends at EA).

Full info available below the jump, or at niacouncil.org/march10.  Hope to see you there!

  • 16 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 16 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Persian Gulf, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Clinton: Iran’s shift towards Military dictatorship

The NY  times reports that Secretary of State Clinton  sparked more tension with Iran on Monday by suggesting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards is shifting the nation towards a military dictatorship, as the IRGC is gaining more political, economic, and military power.

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Notably, Secretary Clinton impelled Iran’s political and religious leaders to stand-up against the IRGC, and “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people”. This would be the closest any senior US administration official has come to encouraging political disturbance in the nation.

Iranian officials did not take the news lightly, and Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki promptly responded that the description of a military dictatorship could also be applied to America. Mottaki further accused the US of using “fake words” and “modern deceit” to mask Washington’s true intentions for the Gulf region.

“We are regretful that the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to conceal facts about the stance of the U.S. administration through fake words,” Press TV quoted [Mottaki] as saying.

Clinton’s comments possibly stem from Washington’s new strategy of characterizing the IRGC as responsible for the domestic unrest in Iran, eager to lodge animosity between ordinary Iranian citizens and the more entitled IRGC.  Sec. Clinton’s frank approach could also be an attempt to rally more Iran-ambivalent regional allies and to gain support for a new round of more targeted sanctions directed at the IRGC, as these carefully calculated statements came just across the Persian Gulf. Regardless of the motivation, Clinton’s sharp words definitely inflamed the Iranian government.

  • 22 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Sanctions

Can Emirati oil crowd Iran out of China?

The United Arab Emirates, “in a step coordinated with Washington,” recently agreed to increase oil exports to China from the current 50,000 barrels per day to 150,000-200,000, the Wall Street Journal  reported Tuesday. The move is viewed as an Obama administration strategy to reduce Beijing’s reliance on Iran to meet its growing energy needs. It appears to be a move designed to contain Iran’s sphere of influence in the long run by offering China an alternative source of energy, therby reducing Iran’s leverage and influence.

(WSJ): “A senior Emirati official said Abu Dhabi plans to make a significant additional increase “within the next three years.”

Saudi Arabia, long at odds with Tehran, also appears prepared to offer China more oil to make up for any losses it incurs as part of an international effort to punish Iran, according to people familiar with Saudi thinking.

The kingdom buys considerable weapons, natural resources and consumer products from China, and is weighing how to leverage those purchases to persuade Beijing to distance itself from Tehran.

The U.S. strategy is as much about realigning diplomatic alliances as shifting the oil supply, U.S. officials said.

Flynt Leverett, director of the New America Foundation’s Iran Project, expressed his view that China would be unlikely to substitute Saudi Arabia for Iran to meet its oil needs in a recent discussion on China-Iran relations at Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School.

The U.S. is seeking China’s support for possible new sanctions on Iran should negotiations fail. Saudi Arabi and the United Arab Emirates could be instrumental to influencing China’s policy. China has given little indication that it is likely to go along with more sanctions, though. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently hailed cooperation with Iran.

  • 18 August 2009
  • Posted By Trita Parsi
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Throwing Ahmadinejad a Lifeline

The following is an op-ed published in Friday’s edition of the New York Times by NIAC President Trita Parsi and GWU professor Hossein Askari:

In an effort to squeeze Iran into submission over its nuclear policy, Congress and the White House are edging toward a gasoline embargo. This would do nothing to force Iran into submission. In fact, it would be a blessing for the hard-line government to once again be able to point to a foreign threat to justify domestic repression and consolidate its base at a time when opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is increasing among conservatives.

An effective gasoline embargo can only be implemented through a naval blockade. This would require U.N. Security Council approval — a tortuous process with no certain outcome. An embargo without U.N. approval is an act of war according to international law, and Iran has declared that it would be met with force.

  • 23 April 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Persian Gulf, US-Iran War

Congress weighing options on Iran

As President Obama’s plan for diplomacy with Iran takes shape, members of Congress are considering whether to move beyond the previous strategy of sanctions and coercion in favor of more constructive dialogue.

The bipartisan resolution calling for an “incidents-at-sea agreement” with Iran is steadily gaining support among lawmakers, many of whom see it as a way to contribute positively to the administration’s efforts for engagement.  According to a letter circulating around Capitol Hill, H.Con.Res. 94 will serve as “an important first step towards improving the security situation in the Persian Gulf and keeping our men and women in uniform safe.”

Have you contacted your member of Congress yet to support this important resolution? Your representative needs to hear from you today!

Despite meaningful progress so far, there are still a number of lawmakers committed to pursuing the same failed policies of the past: sanctions, threats, and isolation.  For thirty years, the United States has tried to squeeze Iran, with little or nothing to show for it.  But that isn’t stopping a group of lawmakers from introducing H.R. 1985, the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act.

This new sanctions bill rehashes the same argument that failed last summer, when Congress tried to impose a blockade of Iran’s gasoline imports.  The new measure would impose penalties on any person or company that assists Iran’s refined petroleum industry, and would encourage foreign governments and foreign companies to boycott Iran’s energy sector.

With the backing of some of the most powerful interest groups in the country, this new sanctions bill has already gained 24 cosponsors.  Your members need to hear from you: Should Congress keep trying the same old measures that have failed for thirty years?  Or should they work for a real diplomatic solution to the Iran issue?

Tell Congress today to support effective engagement with Iran, not the same failed policies of yesteryear.  Encourage your representative to cosponsor the Incidents-at-Sea Resolution today!

  • 7 April 2009
  • Posted By Trita Parsi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, US-Iran War

Netanyahu and threat of bombing Iran – the bluff that never stops giving?

cross posted from HuffingtonPost.com:

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to have told President Barack Obama that either America stops Iran or Israel will. Not surprisingly, the interview sparked quite a controversy and only a day later, General David Petreus told the Senate Arms Services Committee that “the Israeli government may ultimately see itself so threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon that it would take preemptive military action to derail or delay it.”

So once again, in spite of President Obama’s best efforts, the military option was put back on the table and the atmosphere for dealing with Iran was turned into “Do as we say – or else…” Even if the President wants to give diplomacy a chance, disbelievers have been quick to limit Obama’s options by seeking to set arbitrary deadlines for negotiations – or by threatening Israeli military action if America doesn’t act with its military might.

Reality is, however, that talk of an Israeli military option is more of a bluff than a threat – but it is a bluff that never seems to stop giving.

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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