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  • 8 November 2012
  • Posted By Brett Cox
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

Iranian Public Opinion Sheds Light on How to Avoid War

What do pollsters who just finished surveying Iranian public opinion and the former Deputy Assistant of Defense for the Middle East have in common? They both agreed on what a diplomatic solution with Iran would look like at a recent Stimson Center panel.

Two thirds of Iranians want their government to establish a diplomatic relationship with the United States, according to Steven Kull of Yet, polls from RAND, World Public Opinion and elsewhere have consistently shown over 90% of the Iranian public support a civilian nuclear program over the last 7 years.

Dr. Colin Kahl, a former senior Defense Department official and Georgetown professor, highlighted Iranians’ support for domestic enrichment as a “really important factor for U.S. policy makers to keep in mind.”

Kahl touted the Obama administration’s current approach as pushing Iran towards a deal, and argued that the U.S. must offer Iran a face-saving way out of its impasse to avoid war:

“The regime fears unrest. The regime fears a war. And to get out of that, they sign a face saving deal that gives them a lot of nuclear activities, a lot of nuclear cooperation, but caps their enrichment at 5% under extraordinarily intrusive inspections. That’s the only deal that is politically viable in Iran.”

The panelists agreed that such a proposal offered the best chance for a peaceful resolution to the U.S.-Iran conflict. But Ebrahim Mohseni, PhD candidate at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and lecturer at University of Tehran, argued that the focus on pressure risked having the opposite of the intended effect:

“When you are dealing with an outside enemy, usually what has happened in the course of human history and in the case of Iran, is the exact opposite, is the ‘rally around the flag’ syndrome… because people want to protect the government in the face of international pressure.”

But that was not the most risky aspect of the focus on pressure, according to Mohseni. He said the polling data led him to conclude “there is a strong positive correlation between fear of military action against Iran and support for an Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

In other words, the push by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some in Congress to get the President to threaten war against Iran even more explicitly will only make war more likely.

  • 23 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, UN

Changing Course on Iran Sanctions

This post appeared in today’s The Hill newspaper.

New sanctions on Iran are about the surest bet in Washington these days.

Both the House and the Senate have passed a “crippling” gasoline embargo, and the administration has all but given up talk of negotiations in favor of pressing for UN Security Council sanctions “that bite.” In fact, the only thing left that the administration and Congress disagree on is whether the new sanctions should target all of Iranian society or just the hardliners in power — not an insignificant disagreement by any measure, but one that underscores the broader acceptance of the argument that new sanctions are the only game in town.

But given the fact that the U.S. has sanctioned Iran for decades with little to show for it, the debate over U.S.-Iran policy should not be boiled down to a question of how much more damage we can do. Rather, smart power dictates that the U.S. use every tool available, including those that have been taken off the table, such as lifting certain sanctions.

No one expects the U.S. to unilaterally lift its embargo on Iran. But certain sanctions have unambiguously failed to achieve their objective, contributing instead to the suffering of ordinary Iranians. These should be reexamined, and where appropriate, lifted.

  • 19 June 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Live-blogging Friday’s Events in Iran

[polldaddy poll=1721241]

12:23 am: A NIAC member points to propaganda like this video playing up fears of foreign conspiracies against Iran as indicative of why Obama’s approach has been the right one thus far. He notes Iran has stepped up airing videos similar to this.

11:39 pm: With many concerned a major crackdown against the demonstrators may be about to happen, the Obama administration is signaling they will toughen their stance toward Iran if a crackdown occurs.
9:48 pm:


This translation was posted to the youtube video. It has not be verified.
Today Friday 18 June 1388
Tomorrow Saturday is very important; Day of destiny.
Tonight the screams of “God is great” [Allah-o Akbar]
is louder than on any other night.

Where is this place?
Where is this place that all paths are closed? All doors are shut?
Where is this place that no one helps us?

Where is this place that we shout out our words with only silence?
Where is this place?
Where is this place that its people’s only call is to God?
Where is this place that its cry of Allah-o Akbar [“God is Great”]
Grows louder and louder every minute?

Every day I wait to see if at night
The cries of “God is Great” grows louder or not.
I tremble as I hear them getting louder and louder.
I do not know if God trembles too or not.

Where is this place that we the innocents are stuck in [imprisoned]?
Where is this place that no one can help us?
where is this place that we are only shouting out our words with silence?
Where is this place that the youth are killed and people stand in the street and pray?
They stand in the blood and pray.
Where is this place that people are called [vagrants] trouble makers?
Where is this place?
Do you want me to tell you?

It is Iran.
It is my home land and your home land.
It is Iran.

9:46 pm: “The man Iranians want as their leader has been silenced. This is what he wants you to know” – Mohsen Makhmalbaf, The Guardian:

I have been given the ­responsibility of telling the world what is happening in Iran. The office of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who the Iranian people truly want as their leader, has asked me to do so. They have asked me to tell how Mousavi’s headquarters was wrecked by plainclothes police officers. To tell how the commanders of the revolutionary guard ordered him to stay silent. To urge people to take to the streets because Mousavi could not do so directly.

The people in the streets don’t want a recount of last week’s vote. They want it annulled. This is a crucial moment in our history. Since the 1979 revolution Iran has had 80% dictatorship and 20% democracy. We have dictatorship because one person is in charge, the supreme leader – first Khomeini, now Khamenei. He controls the army and the clergy, the justice system and the media, as well as our oil money.

So why do the Iranian people not want Ahmadinejad as their leader? Because he is nothing but a loudspeaker for Khamenei. … When Khatami was president of Iran, Bush was president of the US. Now the Americans have Obama and we have our version of Bush. We need an Obama who can find solutions for Iran’s problems. Although power would remain in the hands of Khamenei, a president like Mousavi could weaken the supreme leader.


Some suggest the protests will fade because nobody is leading them. All those close to Mousavi have been arrested, and his contact with the outside world has been restricted. People rely on word of mouth, because their mobile phones and the internet have been closed down. That they continue to gather shows they want something more than an election. They want freedom, and if they are not granted it we will be faced with another revolution.

Previously, he [Mousavi] was revolutionary, because everyone inside the system was a revolutionary. But now he’s a reformer. Now he knows Gandhi – before he knew only Che Guevara. If we gain power through aggression we would have to keep it through aggression. That is why we’re having a green revolution, defined by peace and democracy

These words carry tremendous significance.

8:39 pm: Reuters: Key decision yet to be made

Backers of beaten presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi will decide on Saturday whether to defy a stern warning by Iran’s top authority and stage mass protests over a disputed election.

Iran’s top legislative body holds an extraordinary session on Saturday morning to which it has invited Mousavi and the two other candidates who lost against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election, which Mousavi wants annulled.

6:27 pm: We posted part one of Mousavi’s campaign video yesterday, which was translated by NIAC member Arvin. After we posted it, Arvin’s excellent work even got picked up by the NY Times! Here are parts two and three. Part two focuses on Zahra Rahnavard and encouraging everyone to vote, while part three includes some fiery highlights from the debates.

6:22 pm: From a reader, Shabnam:

If anyone is on Twitter, set your location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut Iranians’ access to the internet down! We must help them! Cut & paste & pass it on! Go Humans!!!

5:26 pm: From the Atlantic’s cartoonist, Sage Stossel (h/t Andrew Sullivan): Sam-I-ran.

5:09 pm: Apologies for the confusion, but tomorrow’s 3pm demonstration in DC that we’ve been mentioning has been cancelled. There will be another rally outside the Iranian interests section at 11am, but it is not being organized by the “Where is my vote” campaign. Check facebook for more information.

4:23 pm: More translated news from:

  • “Evin prison’s phones have been disconnected for more than 72 hours.”
  • “Tonight, the sound of bullets being shot in the air was heard in Tehran, Karaj, Tabriz and some other cities to scare people. But the people responded more firmly than ever by chanting “God is Great.”

4:10 pm: Ghalam News: Mousavi’s supporters continued chanting “God is Great” for the seventh night:

Ghalm News reported that the sound of Mousavi supporters chanting “God is Great” echoed throughout “all districts and towns in Iran” for the seventh consecutive night. According to Ghalam news, supporters of Mousavi also chanted “Ya [Hail] Hossein, Mir Hossein” to make sure their participation is not attributed to Ahmadinejad supporters. “During reporting this news, the voices of Mousavi’s friends could still be heard in different locations in Tehran,” the report said.

The chant “ya Hossein” is said in respect to the third Shia Imam, Imam Hossein, who is the iconic tragic figure of the Shia religion. “Ya Hossein” is chanted in order to bring attention to injustice by Shias.

4:03 pm: Obama says the world is watching Iran (h/t Nico):

I’m very concerned based on some of the tenor — and tone of the statements that have been made — that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching. And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and — and is not.

3:52 pm:From the blogger Golrokh:


God is great.”

“Lies are evil. Guns are evil. Bullets are evil.”

3:46 pm: Another message from a friend of NIAC in Tehran:

According to him, tomorrow’s rally is scheduled for 4-6pm from Engelab Sq (Revolution Sq) to Azadi Sq (Freedom Sq). He believes that there will be casualties tomorrow on the count that people are angry with Khamenei’s sermon today and will voice their outrage tomorrow at the demonstration. He believes that “Khamenei has put the gun to his own mouth.”

3:09 pm: One of our readers requested that we translate the following blog post: “Tomorrow is a big day, maybe I’ll get killed tomorrow!” (

“I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…”

2:27 pm: Jami: “Khamenei will be remembered as a leader who split the people, ended his own leadership and became a tribal chief”

  • 11 June 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

Talking heads…

Trita has two pieces up on Huffington today, one with J Street Executive Director Jeremey Ben-Ami on why the President should reject arbitrary deadlines for diplomacy with Iran.

How Diplomacy with Iran Can Succeed

History argues strongly for President Obama to resist pressure to set arbitrary deadlines for diplomacy with Iran – as he did again on Monday. While we agree with the President that talks cannot be open-ended, the focus should be on how to make diplomacy succeed rather than debating when to declare it a failure. Successful diplomacy will require international cooperation — with Israel and with other actors — and an exquisite sense of timing as to when to push, when to listen and when to wait.

…With so much riding on this difficult challenge, America must realize that missing the opportunity to find a diplomatic solution is not an option. The elections result may help pave the way. Fortunately, even if the election results are not to Washington’s liking, there is nothing about the challenge posed by Iran that should preclude a diplomatic solution. The trick, we must realize, will be to avoid setting up roadblocks to our own success.

The second takes on Congress’ secret love-affair with Ahmadinejad, and why they want to meddle in the Iranian election despite that being the one thing everyone agrees we shouldn’t do…

Congress-Ahmadinejad Secret Love Affair Continues Well, this saga is just getting worse and worse. I reported earlier this week that H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 had been put on Congress’ suspension calendar (fast track voting) for Tuesday – a move that puzzled many since imposing new sanctions on Iran four days before Iran’s elections would likely help Ahmadinejad get re-elected.

Turned out that the item had been put on the agenda by the Republicans, and that the Democrats opposed it precisely because they didn’t want to do anything to help Ahmadinejad get re-elected. So it was pulled off of the agenda sometime on Monday.

But last night, Republican lawmakers moved to replace the State Authorization bill with another Iran sanctions act – the Iran Refine Petroleum Sanctions Act.

  • 23 April 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 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!

Okay, we’ll talk to Iran…. (now what?)

Everyone–literally everyone –who favors diplomacy with Iran is asking the same question right now: What do we do now that Barack Obama is President?

For the last eight years, the pro-engagement community honed its defensive skills.  For the duration of the Bush regime, this rag-tag band of progressives, trade groups, security organizations, and religious groups was in the opposition, with more than a few people even making a career out of stopping war with Iran.   But all that changed on November 4.

We now find ourselves in the unfamiliar position of having an ally in the White House.  War is off the table, at least for the foreseeable future.  US diplomats will attend face-to-face meetings with the Iranians on the nuclear issue “from now on.” Even new sanctions are on hold until talks get underway.  So for those of us still working to promote diplomacy with Iran, what else is there to do?

The short answer: a lot.

  • 17 March 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Culture, Legislative Agenda

Congress watches Colbert, will introduce Norooz resolution


Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA-15) has agreed to introduce a Congressional resolution recognizing Norooz, expressing appreciation for the contributions of Iranian Americans to American society, and wishing both Iranian Americans and the people of Iran a prosperous new year.

This is the first time Congress has ever issued such a message to our community. 

Take a minute to tell your Representative to support the Norooz resolution!

update: Full Text available here

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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