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Posts Tagged ‘ Iran-Afghanistan relations ’

  • 10 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Afghanistan

Iran Interested in Stable Afghanistan…For Now

The Sunday Times has recently claimed that Iran has been involved in training insurgents in Afghanistan to kill NATO troops. This claim has in turn been repeated by various other news sources like FOX News, The Australian, Global Times, Taipei Times, etc.

But the source of this allegation is two Taliban commanders. How kind of the Taliban to go and willingly volunteer this information to the media:

“Taliban commanders have revealed that hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The commanders said they had learnt to mount complex ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have been responsible for most of the deaths of British troops in Helmand province.

The accounts of two commanders, in interviews with The Sunday Times, are the first descriptions of training of the Taliban in Iran.

According to the commanders, Iranian officials paid them to attend three-month courses during the winter.”

I’m not saying that there is no possibility that Iran has provided some support for the Taliban in Afghanistan — it’s possible, and I’m not a CIA agent, so I don’t know for sure.  But I am saying that the Taliban isn’t exactly the most trustworthy source when it comes to Iran.

The Taliban and Iran have historically been enemies. In fact, after the Taliban came to power in 1996, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei denounced the group as an affront to Islam.

When in power, the Taliban backed Sunni Islamist militants who were launching attacks against the Iranian regime, which is based on Shi’a Islam. In addition to such attacks, the Taliban has also received strong backing from Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Wahhabi rulers, who are allies of the United States, and with whom Iran constantly competes for influence in the region.

It should also be noted that in 1998, the Taliban captured Mazare Sharif and massacred thousands of Hazara civilians, mainly Shi’a, as well as nine Iranian diplomats.  Following this attack, Afghanistan and Iran nearly went to war as both countries mobilized troops along their shared border.

Thus, not only is the Taliban an ideological threat to the Islamic Republic, but the Iranians also view them as a threat to Iranian security.

Which is why Iran has been heavily involved in rebuilding Afghanistan following the war to overthrow the Taliban in 2001 (which Iran assisted). Currently, Iran and Afghanistan’s engage in more than $1.3 billion in bilateral trade. Additionally, according to the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, four percent of Iran’s total exports in 2006 went to Afghanistan, accounting for more than $503 million. Tehran’s aid also has certified joint investment companies, sponsored food fairs, opened cement factories, extended purchase credits to traders, and trained commercial pilots.

An additional concern of Iran is the large number of Afghan refugees that have been in Iran since the Soviet Invasion in 1979. While the Afghan refugee population in Iran has decreased since the fall of the Taliban, the UNHCR still reported approximately 933,500 registered Afghan refugees in Iran in June 2009.

General public opinion in Iran is that the Afghan refugees pose a significant burden and it is time they return to Afghanistan. This is reflective of both high levels of unemployment in Iran and the general concern over increasing drug smuggling and violence on the border.

Obviously, then, Iran recognizes that it is in its interest to promote a stable Afghanistan. This is a huge opportunity for mutual cooperation between the US and Iran, and one that deserves to be pursued further.

According to most experts, there is in fact one thing that could cause Iran to fully and enthusiastically throw its support behind its enemy, the Taliban: a US attack.

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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