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Congressional zero-enrichment demand will “lead to either an Iranian nuclear weapon or a new war”

In an important piece in the LA Times, Daniel Kadishson explains how Congressional demands for “zero enrichment” as the only acceptable diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear impasse is obstructing legitimate chances to ensure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon and to prevent war.

“To prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon,” he writes, “verification is more important than zero centrifuges.”

Kadishson argues that “Members of Congress who demand only that Iran agree to a complete, permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and allow unfettered inspections in all facilities, and are trying to legislate that the U.S. can accept nothing less, are ignoring reality in a way that will likely lead to either an Iranian nuclear weapon or a new war.

Kadishson suggests that “it is better to let Iran openly have five centrifuges with international inspectors allowed unrestricted access throughout the country than to let Iran claim it has zero centrifuges and no nuclear military program without having the means to verify this.”  With this in mind, “U.S. negotiators should have bipartisan support from Congress to pursue any agreement that precludes Iran from building a nuclear weapon.”

  • 28 October 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Election 2010, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file, US-Iran War

The Danger of the “Nuclear Capable” Standard

How difficult would it be for a President to drag us into another war in the Middle East based on questionable justifications?  According to George Friedman of Stratfor, it would be quite easy:

The most obvious justification would be to claim that Iran is about to construct a nuclear device. Whether or not this is true would be immaterial. First, no one would be in a position to challenge the claim, and, second, Obama’s credibility in making the assertion would be much greater than George W. Bush’s, given that Obama does not have the 2003 weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle to deal with and has the advantage of not having made such a claim before. […] The Republicans could not easily attack him. Nor would the claim be a lie. Defining what it means to almost possess nuclear weapons is nearly a metaphysical discussion. It requires merely a shift in definitions and assumptions. This is cynical scenario, but it can be aligned with reasonable concerns.

Friedman is right on one thing: while many policymakers intone the need to keep “all options on the table”, there is no real standard for what the US considers “unacceptable” in terms of Iran’s nuclear progress.  Previously, President Bush warned that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons “knowledge” it would trigger World War III.  Now, the current standard being thrown around in Washington is that a “nuclear capable” Iran is unacceptable.  But it is unclear what “nuclear capable”, actually means.  In fact, it is a completely malleable term—a placeholder—for which the “definitions and assumptions” could be adjusted at will.  Thus, there is an enormous vacuum that could be exploited by a President—or, more likely, a Presidential candidate or an opposition Congress seeking to paint a President into a corner.

Ron Kampeas writes in JTA on how a new Congress may press Obama for military confrontation and undermine engagement efforts with Iran (via Lobelog):

[GOP House Minority Whip Eric] Cantor, in his interview with JTA, emphasized that Obama must make it clear that a military option is on the table.

Congress, however, cannot declare war by itself, and while a flurry of resolutions and amendments pressing for greater confrontation with Iran may be in the offing, they will not affect policy — except perhaps to sharpen Obama’s rhetoric ahead of 2012.

Should Obama, however, return to a posture of engagement — this depends on the less than likely prospect of the Iranian theocracy consistently embracing diplomacy — a GOP-led Congress could inhibit the process through adversarial hearings.

One problem with Kampeas’ piece, however, is that Congress is the very branch of government that can declare war.  But short of such a drastic step, the power of the gavel means Congress could have plenty of options to confront Obama on Iran and help define the terms of the debate as we enter the 2012 Presidential campaign. A Congress itching to portray the President as soft on national security could unilaterally declare, with the help of a few hearings, that Iran is imminently “nuclear capable”.  And in lieu of a real standard for what that means, we could start hearing familiar echoes that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”.

  • 26 October 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Persian Gulf

Fueling Ethnic Tensions in the Persian Gulf is Not a Strategy for Middle East Stability

Washington risks entering into a game of escalating provocations with Tehran even as continuing efforts to restart talks in November are underway. Iran’s announcement that the two US hikers being held Evin prison will now face trial just ahead of the talks is no coincidence. The move is particularly shameful considering that these US citizens have been held for over a year without formal charges and recently leaked military reports support the hiker’s assertion that they were captured in Iraq – not in Iran. Meanwhile, last week’s announcement of the largest US arms deal in history, a $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia that includes advanced aircraft and bunker busting bombs, was clearly aimed at Tehran.

But while the package was branded as an effort to “enhance regional stability” by reassuring Persian Gulf states of the United States’ commitment to their security, the State Department broke its own longstanding protocol and used provocative, ethnically divisive language when announcing the deal.

Instead of using the historically accepted term – and observing State Department protocol – “Persian Gulf”, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro referred to the “Arabian Gulf”, a politically charged phrase with a relatively recent but insidious history.

Tell Secretary Clinton: Referring to Persian Gulf as “Arabian Gulf” Only Fuels Ethnic Tensions ->

Read More on the Huffington Post ->

After Postponing Announcement, Bush to Open Interests Section After Election

According to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, the Bush administration is planning to announce the opening of a US diplomatic interests section in Iran following the November 4 election.

Plans for the announcement had been postponed in August out of fears that it would unduly influence the Presidential election. The issue of foreign policy on Iran has proven to be one of the most divisive of the entire election; Senator McCain and Obama disagree strongly on whether to engage in direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.

An interests section in Iran would house the first American diplomats since the hostage crisis in 1980, and would greatly facilitate Iranians’ requests for visas to the U.S.

  • 10 June 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • 2 Comments
  • Legislative Agenda

Congressman Ed Markey on the US double standard

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey makes an important point: the US has no business championing Saudi Arabia’s nuclear energy program in light of the country’s vast oil wealth. But he also overlooks an equally important one: in working with Saudi Arabia and signing nuclear agreements with the Arab states and Israel, the US is helping create the very nuclearized Middle East that experts warned would come as A RESULT of a nuclear Iran. Preemption anyone?

  • 24 March 2008
  • Posted By Daniel Robinson
  • 13 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

In the Holiday Season, No Room for Warmongering

President Bush’s interview on Radio Farda should leave no doubt that Iran is still in the crosshairs. At the beginning of the end of his presidency, President Bush leaves the legacy of a ruinous war in Iraq, a destabilizing situation in Afghanistan, and an inflammatory situation with Iran that his administration cannot (or perhaps, will not) solve.

In his address to the Iranian people for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, President Bush performed a feat of rhetorical gymnastics: he extended good wishes to the Iranian people, while simultaneously banging the drum of war. Bush pronounced the United States’ respect for the great Iranian history and culture, but blamed the Iranian government for isolating the Iranian people for the last 30 years.

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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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