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  • 19 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: July 19, 2012

Confusion Surrounds Identity of Suicide Bomber in Bulgaria

Swedish and Israeli officials are denying Bulgarian reports that the suicide bomber who carried out an attack on a bus full of Israeli tourists Thursday, killing five Israelis, was Swedish citizen connected to al Qaeda (The Atlantic 7/19).

In an interview with MSNBC, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren insisted, “our sources confirm that Hezbollah was behind this. Hezbollah takes its marching orders directly from Tehran,” (NBCNews 7/19).

President Barack Obama said the U.S. would “stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators.” President Obama called Mr. Netanyahu to extend his condolences (WSJ 7/18).

State Department Official Calls Congressional Letter “Pandering” to Terrorist Group

State Department official Dan Fried called a Congressional letter supporting the MEK’s refusal of the to abandon its paramilitary base in Iraq “pandering of the worst sort and completely undermines U.S. policy.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) are spearheading the letter to Secretary Clinton.   (Foreign Policy 7/18).

State Department Calls for Release of Iranian Activists

The State Department voiced “concern” in a press release yesterday for Kurdish activist Mohammed Seddigh Kaboudvand and human rights activist Nargess Mohammadi, who are serving prison sentences in Iran. Kaboudvand has been on hunger strike since May 26, after authorities precluded him from seeing his ill son, and Mohammadi has been denied proper medical attention. The press release says both “are suffering from rapidly deteriorating health” (State Department 7/18).

Yemen Warns Iran Against Meddling

Salamatian on society, state, and sanctions in Iran

The following is a transcription from an interview with Ahmad Salamatian on the French radio France Culture (on February 20, 2012). Mr. Salamatian, a political analyst who served in the Islamic Republic’s first government under Bani Sadr and cofounded the Committee for the Defense of Freedom and Human Rights, explains the evolution of  Iranian society and the fracture between the State and the society that led to the 2009 massive demonstrations. According to him, Iranian society suffers from the populist mismanagement of the economy, but he argues that Western sanctions reinforce the Iranian State while slowing down the internal fracture between “the societal Iran” and “the Iranian State”.

Ahmad Salamatian: Iranian Society, Power and the West

Two sides of Iran: “societal Iran” Vs. “the Iranian State”

What happened in 2009 was the revelation of a situation which has been brewing for three decades in Iran.

What we have today is an Iran split in two parts. On the one hand, there is what I call a “societal Iran”. On the other hand, there is an “Iran of power”. They are increasingly far apart and they are increasingly anachronistic to one another.

In 1979 – with regard to his mental and his imaginary– Ayatollah Khomeini was the most in-phase with the Iranian society of that time. It was among those who were familiar with Khomeini that his slogans, symbols and discourses were the most in-phase with people’s imaginary because Iran was transitioning from a rural society to an urban one. The Iranian cities were filled with villagers and other people who lived in the country. They started the process of becoming literate, of learning politics; and with such violence! With a revolution! A fundamental change of everything!

In 2009, you have a society where the city is constituted and advanced. People did not only become literate; they have made steps forward in the shaping of the individual. Iran has somewhat entered history in 1979, with acceleration toward modernity. Though this move is jerky and from time to time shut-off, there is an incontrovertible and irreversible move toward modernity.

The different transitions – demographic, geographic, urban, economic, related to family ties, and cultural – have been accumulated and we have reached the threshold of democratic and political transition.

Transitionally, 2009 was important.

  • 19 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: 19 June 2012

Moscow Talks Concludes

Talks concluded today with the parties agreeing to an “early follow-on technical-level meeting” in Istanbul on July 3rd, to be followed by a meeting at the deputy-level between the EU and Iran (Reuters 6/19). EU representative Catherine Ashton said the P5+1 remains “absolutely unified in seeking a swift diplomatic resolution to international concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program, based on the NPT and the full implementation by Iran of UNSC and IAEA Board of Governors Resolutions” (Consilium Europa 6/19). Iran’s representative, Saeed Jalili, added that the Moscow talks were, “more serious, more realistic and way beyond just expressing the viewpoints and positions” (NYT 6/19). Iran left the talks without any assurances of a delay or alleviation of sanctions (NYT 6/19). Oil prices rose on the news (Bloomberg 6/19).

Yesterday, Iran emphasized on Monday that sanctions relief must be provided if Iran is expected to curb its nuclear activities (Salon 6/18). Using a PowerPoint presentation, Jalili laid out a detailed account of Iran’s five point proposal (The Guardian 6/18). NIAC’s statement on the talks can be found here.

Ahmadinejad Sends Message to the West

On his presidential website, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has posted: “’From the beginning the Islamic Republic has stated that if European countries provided 20 percent enriched fuel for Iran, it would not enrich to this level’” (Reuters 6/18).

U.S. Fed Up with MEK Intransigence on Camp Ashraf

The U.S. urged the Mujehedin-e Khalq (MEK) to abandon the paramilitary base it set up under Saddam Hussein, Camp Ashraf, warning that failure to do so would diminish the likelihood that it would succeed in its lobbying campaign to be removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphasized that the paramilitary’s base’s closure “is a key factor in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind”  (State Dept. 6/18).  An unnamed US official additional said, “We believe that they are gravely mistaken to think that any conceivable Iraqi government would in fact allow them to remain as a paramilitary organization in Iraq” (Reuters 6/18).

Romney: U.S. cannot survive a nuclear Iran

As conservatives in Congress press for confrontation with Iran, presidential candidate Mitt Romney argued, “We cannot survive a- a course of action which would include a nuclear Iran.”  Romney further stated that an attack on Iran would not require Congressional approval (The Washington Post 6/18).

Escalating Sanctions

Iranian banks Pasargad and Bank Tejerat have applied to the Turkish banking watchdog for licenses to operate in Turkey to avoid sanctions on bank transactions with Iran, demonstrating the strain on Iranian banks as a result of political pressure (Reuters 6/18). Turkey has cut its oil imports from Iran from 210,000 bpd to 140,000 bpd in the first four months of this year (Reuters 6/18).

Germany’s Germanischer Lloyd has stopped verifying safety and environmental standards for Iranian companies, making it more difficult for Iranian ships to call at international ports (Reuters 6/18).

An American citizen was turned away from an Apple store after she spoke Farsi with her uncle (WSBTV Atlanta 6/18). The store manager justified the action by explaining the store’s policy was merely complying with US sanctions against Iran, which make the sale of Apple goods to Iran illegal (WSBTV Atlanta 6/18).

Analysis: “MEK Working Through Senate to Sabotage Iran Diplomacy”

Affiliates of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, are claiming to be behind a major letter from the Senate aimed at curtailing U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute.

The letter, sent last week by forty-four Senators, calls for President Obama to abandon any further diplomatic efforts with Iran unless stringent preconditions are immediately met.   While many assumed that the prominent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby was behind the letter, MEK-affiliates are now taking some of the public credit.

The lead author of the letter, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), enjoys ties to the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, an MEK-affiliate that released a statement supporting the letter. (NIAC 6/19)

  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: 18 June 2012

Talks Resume in Moscow

In what Reuters calls a “nervous atmosphere,” talks between the P5+1 and Iran resumed today in Moscow. A western diplomat said, “Ashton is willing to stay in Moscow as long as it takes,” although the climate inside the meetings was “tense and tough,” according to another unnamed Western source (Al-Monitor 6/18Reuters 6/17).

Talks are set to resume Tuesday (Al-Monitor 6/18Reuters 6/17). Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, has said Iran’s right to enrichment should be “’recognized and respected,’” while Western concerns for Iran’s nuclear program have remained high (Reuters 6/17). According to an Iranian diplomat, Iranians had three priorities going into this morning’s meetings: to criticize western negotiators for refusing Iranian requests for a preparatory meeting before the Moscow talks, to give a detailed response to all the points in a confidence building proposal put forward by the P5+1 in Baghdad, and to give the P5+1 a more detailed run-through of its five-pont plan (Al-Monitor 6/18).

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview ahead of talks in Moscow by saying: “’The problem is the following: If we would say only economic sanctions [will be imposed], then the Iranians will say OK, we will wait until it will be over. Now what the Americans and Europeans and Israelis are saying is if you won’t answer the economic challenge, all other options are on the table. It will not end there. Without that, there is no chance that the sanctions will [work]’” (Slate Magazine 6/15). When asked about his opinion of using military action against Iran, Peres emphasized the Iranians must see the threat of US military intervention as credible (Slate Magazine 6/15).

In response to Israeli concerns that the Iranians are merely buying time, an unnamed western official told The Guardian, “’The notion that Iran is playing for time and we’re playing for time is wrong. We have a sense of urgency. We’ve communicated this to the Iranians, and what we’re hoping is that their calculus will be affected by the bite of these sanctions’” (Huffington Post 6/17; The Guardian 6/17).

  • 12 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 12, 2012

China Not Exempted from Sanctions

The Obama Administration announced yesterday that seven more countries that import Iranian oil, including India and Turkey, would be exempt from the oil sanctions going into effect in less than a month. (NYT 6/11/12Washington Post 6/11/12) Notably absent from the list of exempt nations is China, currently the largest importer of Iranian oil. (Bloomberg 6/12/12)

Meanwhile, one of the largest Chinese importers of oil, Sinopec, has reportedly turned down an offer to purchase discounted Iranian crude and will cut imports by up to a fifth this year, signaling a willingness to cooperate with the US sanctions regime. (Reuters 6/12/12)

“Moscow is a green light”

A call Monday night between Catherine Ashton and Dr. Saeed Jahlili seems to have confirmed negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran will continue in Moscow next week. (Al Monitor 6/11/12) Iranian negotiators agreed this morning ahead of talks to “discuss a proposal to curb production of high-grade uranium”. (The Moscow Times 6/12/12) This development follows statements by Iranian negotiators on Wednesday which raised the possibility of cancelling or delaying the Moscow talks. (NYT 6/6/12)

  • 18 April 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Washington and Tehran’s Vicious Spin Cycle

The crux of negotiations between the U.S. and Iran is that, at some point, in order to succeed, each side will have to take a deep breath and shake hands on a deal. But thirty years of mutual demonization and fear mongering, means it takes serious political courage to come to the table, and even more courage—and a major investment of political capital—to actually accept a deal and sell it at home.

One way each side builds such political capital is to spin the talks as favoring the home team. This zero-sum approach—building capital at the expense of the other side—is dangerous and can create a precarious back and forth.

After modest success in Istanbul this past weekend, we’re seeing this back and forth play out as the sides prepare for the next round of talks in five weeks in Baghdad. Tehran has portrayed Washington as having softened its position and backed down from previous demands—particularly on the issue of whether Iran has the right to enrichment.

As Robert Wright speculates in the Atlantic, “If Iran’s leadership thinks it may do a deal with a government it has long framed as the great Satan, it needs to tell the Iranian people that it’s bringing Satan to his knees.” He points out that, as Tehran spins one way to build domestic support and to perhaps insulate the negotiations from political backlash at home, the opposite happens among opportunists in the U.S.

The Washington Times, for instance, takes Fars News at its word that the U.S. is granting Iran concessions, seizing on Tehran’s domestic spin to attack the talks. The very same groups that dismiss positive news like Khamenei’s fatwah against nuclear weapons as religious dissembling are, ironically, the most eager to treat Iran’s anti-U.S. spin as gospel–so long as it can be used to attack the Obama Administration’s diplomacy.

For its part, the U.S. is doing the exact same kind of spinning. In Haaretz yesterday, an unnamed U.S. official pushed back against criticism from Bibi Netanyahu that the Istanbul talks were a “freebie” for Tehran. Such an attack from Netanyahu–delivered with Senator Joe Lieberman at the Prime Minister’s side–is politically damaging for the White House and for the talks. Bibi may not technically be a domestic political opponent of the President, but nobody has bothered telling that to Congress.

  • 7 February 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 02/07

New sanctions continue to weaken Iran’s middle class

According to the New York Times, sanctions and Iran’s economic decline have primarily impacted the middle class, with many in Iran increasingly unable to afford living expenses or maintain businesses that are losing clients.  “We know they want to pressure us so we rise against our government, but we are not in a position to do that,” said Murad, a waiter at a tea shop.  “The rich don’t suffer, they are protected. The truth is, we’d like to have good relations with the West. What is the point of ‘Death to the U.S.A.’? But what can we do about this?”   This ordeal has also affected Iran’s medical sector, whose diminishing supply of medicine and inability to replace aging radiological equipment have left many Iranian cancer patients unable to afford or even have access to treatment.  (NY Times 02/07)

In a piece for the Boston Review, Natasha Bahrami and Trita Parsi discuss the historical ineffectiveness of sanctions to bring about democratic change and how this message is applicable to Iran.  Parsi and Bahrami cite data collected by the Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) database, which “identifies 365 cases of partial economic embargoes, 138 implemented by the United States. Surprisingly only four of the U.S.-imposed sanctions, less than 3 percent, are designated as having achieved full acquiescence to U.S. demands.” (Boston Review 02/06)

Ahmadinejad to testify before Parliament over economic concerns

Iranian MP’s called upon President Ahmadinejad to testify before Parliament to discuss “irregularities” in his management of Iran’s weakened economy, including a recent $2.6 billion banking scandal.  Opponents of Ahmadinejad have alleged that he retains close ties to those involved in the embezzlement scheme.  This would mark the first time since the 1979 revolution that Parliament successfully forced testimony from an Iranian president.  (NY Times 02/07)

Iranians detained for links to BBC Persian

Several individuals have been detained in Iran for allegedly gathering news and information for BBC’s Persian service, which is banned by Tehran.  The BBC released a statement saying that none of BBC Persian’s staff are currently operating inside Iran.  The statement went on to say that these recent events “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.”  These detentions as well as last week’s harassment of BBC Persian staff and family members are part of a greater move by Iran’s government to restrict the flow of information ahead of the March parliamentary elections.   (BBC 02/07)

House Intelligence Committee calls against pre-emptive strike on Iran

Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned today that a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran would have vast consequences for U.S. national security, which could be threatened considerably by any form of Iranian retaliation.  “If Israel does a unilateral strike, this could be a real problem for the security interests of the United States,” said Rogers in an interview on CNN.    (ABC 02/07)

Notable Opinion:

 In an op-ed in Foreign Policy, the State Department’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran, John Limbert, outlines new negotiating steps the U.S. can undertake to accomplish a meaningful diplomatic exchange with Iran:

 “A frustrated Iran is one that will lash out in all directions — at Israel, at the United States, at Britain (as in the recent attack on its embassy in Tehran), and at Saudi Arabia (as in the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States with the help of Mexican drug cartels). Nonetheless, U.S. negotiators should be careful not to overreact to every claim, every statement, and every bit of bluster coming from the harried leaders in Tehran. Iran would like Washington to dance to its tune, and it likes to show its power by provoking America into unwise reactions. In such cases, language matters, and U.S. diplomats should be measured, clear, and cautious. Let the other side rant and rave.”

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Iranian purchasers have defaulted on payment for about 200,000 tons of rice from India, which supplies about 70% of Iran’s annual supply.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, announced opposition to any intervention in Syria, proclaiming, “We are absolutely not interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, and we consider that the interference of other countries there to be a danger to the security and stability of Syria.”

According to Mesghal, the unofficial exchange rate for the Iranian Rial vs. the US dollar is now 18650:1, a drop in almost 3% in the Iranian currency’s value today.

The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose to a six-month high of more than $117 per barrel.

  • 30 January 2012
  • Posted By Sheyda Monshizadeh-Azar
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 01/30

Iran invites IAEA inspectors to extend visit

Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi told journalists that the three day inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency can be extended “if they desire”. Iranian officials have insisted that Iran’s quest for nuclear energy is for peaceful purposes and “the remarks appear to be part of a show of flexibility and transparency by Tehran”. (Time 01/30)

Panetta: It would take Iran 2-3 years to have deliverable nuke

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared on 60 minutes this past weekend and said, “the consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.”  Panetta has previously made it clear that Iran has not decided to go forward with building a nuclear weapon and that this is the U.S. redline. (The Hill 01/30)

  • 26 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/26

Iran unlikely to begin building nuclear weapon in 2012

 According to a report drafted by the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran is unlikely to take steps toward building a nuclear weapon in 2012 due to their inability to produce a sufficient amount of weapons-grade uranium.  According to the report, “Iran’s essential challenge remains developing a secure capability to make enough weapons-grade uranium, likely for at least several nuclear weapons.”  The effectiveness of airstrikes was also disputed by the report, which said strikes would be “unlikely to destroy Iran’s main capability,” and would allow Iran to rapidly rebuild their capabilities.  (Reuters 01/26)

IMF warns Iran sanctions could increase price of oil 20-30%

 The IMF has stated that Western financial sanctions on Iranian oil could result in a 20-30% hike in global pricing.  According to an IMF statement to the G20, “ A blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would constitute, and be perceived by markets to presage, sharply heightened global geopolitical tension involving a much larger and unprecedented disruption.”  The IMF says this shock could be significantly greater if Iran goes ahead with its threat to blockade the Straits of Hormuz.  (BBC 01/26)

U.S. Joint Chief Chairman: Talk of Military Options on Iran “Premature”

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with National Journal, discussed his recent trip to Israel and his current thinking regarding Iran.  “I do think the path we’re on—the economic sanctions and the diplomatic pressure—does seem to me to be having an effect,” he said. “I just think that its premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate.”

He also warned, “A conflict with Iran would be really destabilizing, and I’m not just talking from the security perspective.  It would be economically destabilizing.”  Dempsey explained the U.S. position on Iran as, “We are determined to prevent them from acquiring that weapon, but that doesn’t mean dropping bombs necessarily.  I personally believe that we should be in the business of deterring as the first priority.”  (National Journal 01/26)

  • 9 September 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 2 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Iran hedges its bets on Syria

How shocking it was this week to see statements by leading Iranian officials offering advice and criticism on Syria’s handling of its protests.  One must grimace at the utter hypocrisy of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi talking about the Syrian people’s “legitimate demands”, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying “a military solution is never a solution” to protests and voicing support for the implementation of reforms.

If only Iran had heeded its own advise with its protests over the disputed elections of 2009.  Did not the people of Iran have “legitimate demands” during their protests?  And did not the Iranian government use a “military solution” to end its own protests?  Where was Ahmadinejad with his support for democratic reforms then?  Oh yeah, he was benefiting from the very lack of such reforms in his highly suspicious and non-transparent reelection.

Meanwhile, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi remain under house arrest in isolation since they called for demonstrations in solidarity with Arab protestors in February.  Is this Ahmadinejad’s idea of “talks” with the opposition?

Yet this is just the beginning of the hypocrisy.  Not only does Iran’s recent advice and criticism on Syria not match how they have handled their own protests, but it is not even consistent with how Iran has acted with Syria’s current protests.  For it has been widely reported that Iran has been assisting Syria with their violent crackdown by sending them trainers, technology, and even snipers.

In fact what is now being called the “legitimate demands” of the Syrian people were up until last week being referred to as a foreign conspiracy that the Supreme Leader Khamenei said “the hand of America and Israel is evident.”  The Iranian ambassador to Syria even referred to the protestors as “foreign mercenaries.”  What a difference a week makes.

This newfound compassion from Iran towards the treatment of civilians is even more unbelievable given that Iran has still refused to let the United Nations human rights monitor into the country.

Additionally, Iran faces a credibility problem in the area that it has gone to great lengths to cultivate a positive image of its self—the ‘Arab street’.  A recent poll by the Arab American Institute found that the image among Arab populations of Iran has fallen rapidly since 2006-2008.  AAI’s Jim Zogby says that Iran owed its popularity to its “active defiance to the West,” but this has diminished amidst the “Arab spring,” the Iranian response to its own protest movement, and a reduction in “bellicose” rhetoric coming from a U.S. that is increasingly considered less relevant among Arab populations.

The extreme importance of Syria as an avenue for Iran to maintain influence in the Levant makes Iran’s recent statements appear less like change of heart regarding Syria’s uprising and more like a calculated hedging of their bets on the outcome of the protests.  If the uprising does succeed in the overthrow of Assad then Iran will need to be able to salvage some remnant of their former relationship.  So Iran’s crocodile tears over Syria’s harsh treatment of the protestors are likely a very transparent attempt to create a visible history of support for the protestors.

With Syria being so strategically important and as Iran places such a high value on its imagine in the Arab street, it is not a cynical suggestion to say that these recent statements by Iranian officials have nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with Iranian officials protecting their own power by hedging their bets.

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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