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Rice: Interests section plan put on hold

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Secretary of State Rice announced that the plan to open a US diplomatic interests section in Iran has been shelved.  According to her statement, the option for a diplomatic outpost is still available, but that the decision should be made by the next administration.

Secretary Rice listed the short amount of time remaining in Bush’s term, along with developments such as the Russia’s incursion into Georgia, as reasons for the decision.

Obviously, we at NIAC and many Americans wishing for a brighter future of US-Iran relations are disappointed in the decision.  We had hoped that a decision to send US diplomats to Iran in the final days of the Bush administration would be the perfect stepping stone to a more ambitious diplomatic agenda under President-elect Obama.

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.

A Good Week for Diplomacy

It’s been a pretty good week for us here at NIAC

The Bush Administration is planning to install the first US diplomats in Iran since the hostage crisis.  The third-highest ranking official in the State Department sat down with Iran to negotiate over the nuclear issue, reversing years of stubborn and counterproductive policy.  For the first time, a presidential candidate has a special advisor for Iranian American issues.  And members of Congress and others in Washington are starting to realize–albeit slowly–that the time for isolating Iran in the hopes that all of our problems with them will just disappear is coming to an end.

That being said, there is still a long way to go.  The Senate is working on a new sanctions packageHConRes 362 is still picking up co-sponsors by the dozen (up to 247 now).  And most of the news now is talking about how the talks in Geneva on Saturday didn’t produce anything substantive

But I remain an optimist for a few reasons. 

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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