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  • 3 July 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy

Hot Dog Diplomacy, Take 2

Last year, just before July 4th and only a few months after Obama took office with his pledge to engage Iran, the State Department sent a cable to every US Embassy around the world.  The message: for the first time in decades, Iranian diplomats could attend fourth of July parties.

The idea was met with some hostility in Congress, but overall it was considered a sensible move.  The Dobbins Plan, as it was known, was so popular mostly because the conventional wisdom in Washington agreed that barring American diplomats from interacting with Iranian diplomats abroad was such a self-evidently counterproductive thing to do.  Seriously, for thirty years it hurt Iran not one iota, but deprived us of an entire generation of diplomats who are familiar with Iranians and Iranian officials.

And this prohibition wasn’t a small thing.  When I interned in the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman, the first thing my supervisors told me was that I wasn’t to speak with any Iranian diplomats under any circumstances. I was allowed to shake the hand of an Iranian, but only if I couldn’t avoid it.  (I ended up doing exactly that once, having introduced myself to the guy standing next to me in a receiving line at a reception who happened to be from the Iranian Embassy.  He laughed just as soon as I said I am American, and gave me a knowing nod.)

Among  all the recommendations given to the entering Obama administration, this seemed to everyone like the first change they would enact.

But strangely, the administration has said absolutely nothing about it.  No change to the policy.  Not even a mention.  The prohibition continues.

Friends tell me that it’s only a matter of time before they finally allow low-level diplomatic contact, but by then it will have been more than a year and a half.  I say: it was a good idea last year, and it’s still a good idea this year.  What better way to put our best foot forward than to show Iranians how we celebrate the founding of our democracy?  The message of our founding fathers that imbues every Embassy’s July Fourth celebration is sure to be an appropriate model for Iran during this time of political tumult there.

  • 30 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Of extended hands and slaps to the face

Now that Congress and the UN Security Council have approved “the toughest Iran sanctions ever written,” the Obama administration has some breathing room to go back to its plan for diplomacy.  But did the engagement strategy ever really start?

If you remember, Obama’s “extended hand” got pretty well chopped off at the wrist on June 12 when Iran’s hardliners declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the victor in an election widely believed to have been fraudulent.  After that came calls for a “tactical pause,” followed by the revelation of the undisclosed enrichment facility at Qom and the abortive attempt to negotiate a fuel swap deal in October.  Taken as a whole, US engagement with Iran under Obama has consisted of two Nowruz messages to the Iranian people, a half hour face-to-face meeting on Oct. 1, the lower level follow-up meeting three weeks later, a letter or two to the Supreme Leader, and that dinner with Mottaki just before the UN sanctions vote that no one thought would accomplish anything.  That’s it.

The sad fact is that Obama’s Iran strategy has focused a lot more on US allies and countries like Russia and China than on Iran.  The bulk of our diplomacy has consisted of Stuart Levey lobbying allied countries to withhold business ties from Iran, and convincing UN Security Council members to impose another round of sanctions.  Even the sanctions themselves target European, Russian, Indian, and Chinese companies — everyone except Iran.

Thus — Republican talking points notwithstanding — Obama has not “wasted a year on diplomacy.”  He’s hardly wasted 24 hours on diplomacy.

That’s why it’s particularly sad to see (former NIAC advisory board member) Amb. John Limbert planning to resign from his position as Undersecretary of State for Iran.  Limbert, a former US hostage in Tehran and the best Farsi-speaker in government, was brought into the administration to negotiate with the Iranians, having literally written the book on negotiating with Iran.  Now, one year later, he’s leaving government to go back to the US Naval Academy after participating in less than a couple of hours of actual talks.  That’s too bad.

And the prospects for starting up talks again don’t look too bright either.  Ahmadinejad announced this week that Iran will be willing to sit back down at the negotiating table in late August, saying the lull is necessary to “punish” the West for imposing more sanctions.  He also laid out his own demands for talks — though don’t expect Iran’s envoys to cling to these preconditions with the same fervor that the Bush administration did to zero enrichment.  To sum them up: there’s only one country’s nuclear program that Ahmadinejad wants to focus on — and it’s not Iran’s.

Take a guess…

  • 21 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Congress, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Draft Iran Sanctions Conference Report

House and Senate conference co-chairs Rep. Howard Berman and Sen. Chris Dodd announced today they have formed an agreement on new Iran sanctions legislation, which they are circulating to other members of the conference committee today.

niacINsight has obtained a copy of the legislation, which is expected to be approved formally by the Congress and signed into law by the President in the coming days.


NIAC Deeply Concerned by Congressional Sanctions Agreement

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Elwood
Phone: 202-423-7957

The National Iranian American Council is deeply concerned by the Conference Agreement announced for H.R. 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. While the Agreement contains some positive measures called for by NIAC to punish Iranian human rights abusers and ease restrictions preventing Iranians from accessing the Internet, these measures do not negate the fact that the bill imposes further suffering upon the people of Iran at their greatest moment of need and perpetuates a failed US sanctions policy that has hindered the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.

“Congress had an opportunity to stand with the Iranian people by recalibrating US sanctions to target Iran’s government and ease pressures on innocent Iranians,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director. “Unfortunately, Congress missed that opportunity and is moving forward with another sanctions measure that imposes pain indiscriminately, making no distinction between the people and the government of Iran.”

H.R. 2194 imposes broad “crippling” sanctions targeting Iran’s economy. Congressional leaders have acknowledged that such measures will punish innocent Iranians.

NIAC has consistently urged that any Iran legislation passed by Congress take into account the massive protests and burgeoning democracy movement in Iran that became clear to the world following the disputed June 12, 2009 elections. NIAC advocated for Congress not to send the President legislation that would impose broad sanctions that would undermine and punish the Iranian people.

Instead, NIAC called for Congress to impose punitive measures against human rights abusers and companies that aid Iranian government repression while simultaneously easing pressure on innocent Iranians.

NIAC urged that the final Conference Agreement incorporate all three provisions of the Stand With the Iranian People Act (H.R.4303), including imposing travel restrictions on Iranian human rights abusers, barring federal contracts for companies that provide Iran’s government with repressive technology, and lifting the ban that prevents humanitarian relief and human rights organizations from working in Iran.

The Conference Agreement does include these first two punitive provisions, which NIAC strongly supports. But the Agreement fails to lift restrictions preventing US NGOs from working to promote human rights and humanitarian relief in Iran, instead only lifting restrictions for NGOs working on “promoting democracy.” It is unfortunate that Congress is willing to ease restrictions to promote democracy but not to promote human rights or provide humanitarian relief.

The Agreement acknowledges through non-binding language that “it is in the national interest of the United States” to allow American humanitarian and human right NGOs to work in Iran and to state that the US should ensure American NGOs are not “unnecessarily hindered from working in Iran to provide humanitarian, human rights, and people-to-people assistance” to the Iranian people. This is positive language, but unfortunately it does not carry the force of law and is therefore insufficient.

Additionally, NIAC called for the Conference Agreement to include the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (H.R.4301) to lift all restrictions that prevent Iranians from accessing software to bypass Internet filters and government surveillance. While NIAC is pleased that the Conference Agreement endorses a March 2010 Administration decision to allow certain communication software to be exported to Iranians, and that it includes exceptions from sanctions for certain hardware used to connect to the Internet, the Conference Agreement does not lift restrictions for all software, such as anti-filtering software, and therefore keeps in place restrictions that prevent Iranians from accessing and communicating the Internet freely. Congress should have ensured that all software and hardware that enables Iranians to communicate freely via the Internet be unrestricted.

“There are a number of unintended consequences under existing US sanctions that isolate the Iranian people and undermine their democratic aspirations,” said Abdi. “By addressing those mistakes and lifting restrictions on humanitarian NGOs and Internet anti-filtering software, Congress could have done something positive to support Iranians, support human rights, and ensure we do not stand in the way of the Iranian people. Unfortunately Congress declined to take this opportunity.”

  • 9 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

UN Sanctions Pass, US Rejects Fuel Swap Deal

The UN Security Council passed a new round of sanctions against Iran this morning, by a vote of 12 in favor, 2 opposed, and one abstention.

At the same time, American diplomats have reported that the US, along with Russia and France, has rejected the nuclear fuel swap deal recently negotiated by Brazil and Turkey.

In a startling display of irony, Obama Administration officials touted the UN sanctions vote as a display of significant international unity.  This, despite the fact that today’s was the first sanctions vote that passed without the support of all 15 members of the Security Council.  The previous three rounds of sanctions — negotiated by Ambassador John Bolton — were all passed unanimously without a single no-vote.

The Administration’s rhetoric is now starting to sound hollow.  For over a year, Obama Administration officials have repeatedly said they are committed to a dual-track strategy on Iran — one that involves a careful balance of both sanctions and diplomacy. Yet the timing of today’s announced rejection of the fuel swap deal belies their previous promises about being committed to negotiations.

The US can’t send a clearer signal to Iran than they did today: the Obama Administration is committed to imposing greater amounts of sanctions and pressure on Iran, and it will not let diplomacy get in the way of those sanctions — not even when diplomacy leads to the biggest nuclear concession Iran has made since Obama took office.

UN Sanctions Vote Expected Wednesday

Via Laura Rozen, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on a new round of Iran sanctions Wednesday.

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on a new Iran sanctions resolution on Wednesday, two diplomatic sources have told POLITICO.

“The goal is Wednesday,” one European diplomat said of the anticipated vote date.

“Vote is likely Wednesday,” another diplomatic source in New York said.

The UN vote, which is likely to pass 12-3 with Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon voting nay, is expected to have two major impacts.  The first will be to take the pressure off of the Congressional sanctions push.

Congress, which has been finalizing legislation sanctions Iran’s petroleum imports for weeks, had up until recently written off the UN process as weak and ineffectual.  But recently, Democratic leaders have slowed things down to give the UN time to approve its own measure, which the Obama Administration insists will serve as a useful “legal platform” for further sanctions that individual countries agree to impose.

Now that the UN is planning to go ahead with its resolution, Congress might become more open to some of the Administration’s requests for changes in the final version of the bill (many of which echoed NIAC’s own suggested changes to the legislation).

The second thing that is sure to be effected by UN action is the proposed fuel swap deal negotiated by Brazil and Turkey. But it’s difficult to say what that impact will be: either the deal continues ahead, or (perhaps more likely) it could be blown to bits.

As a group of prominent nonproliferation and Iran experts have said, the nuclear fuel swap — while inadequate in the eyes of some — is a worthwhile diplomatic opening that the US would do well to exploit.  But it’s hard to tell at this moment whether Iran will live up to its promise of walking away from any deal following a new sanctions resolution.  Prominent lawmaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar said last week:

If (the West) issues a new resolution against Iran, we will not be committed to Tehran’s statement and dispatching fuel outside Iran will be canceled.

So there’s a lot at stake here, and it all hinges on how Iran reacts to the upcoming sanctions vote.  For the US, that will mean either Obama runs the table — passing new sanctions in the UN and Congress, removing one bomb’s worth of nuclear material from Iran, and possibly even kick-starting comprehensive negotiations over important issues like human rights and the nuclear issue; or new sanctions that no one thinks will actually change Iran’s behavior.

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Shifting on 20% enrichment?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Permanent Envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh relayed seemingly coordinated messages yesterday, hinting that Iran might consider giving up its 20% enrichment work, which is currently the biggest stumbling block for the fuel swap deal.

While reiterating the usual assertion that uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, Mottaki added: “if we do not need the 20 percent we won’t move into that direction.”

“We have to do it since we have been facing a lack of any legally-binding assurance of supply,” Soltanieh also told reporters yesterday, adding “when we don’t need 20 percent uranium, we will not produce it.”

These statements might represent a cautious foray into a shifting position by Iran on the 20% enrichment issue.  Iran realizes that with 20% enrichment serving only as a backup plan, and possibly being wholly eliminated in the future, the West’s excuses for rejecting the Brazilian/Turkish deal would evaporate.

For me, now seems like the time to commit to diplomacy, especially when Iran is finally showing some willingness to compromise.

  • 2 June 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

What the fuel swap means for a “new era in diplomacy”

As experts urge Western powers to consider the fuel swap proposal, here is an overview of what is at stake for some of the major powers involved, from special niacINsight correspondent Shawn A:

Brazilian ambitions to assert itself on the world stage — and its capacity to frustrate US efforts on Iran — took center stage last week in a nuclear deal sure to complicate the Obama administrations Iran policy. In an agreement hailed by the LA Times as possibly a “stunning” breakthrough, Iran agreed to send 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey to be stored and safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Although world powers have voiced skepticism about the value of this new deal, it is not at all clear that Obama’s efforts to pass a new round of sanctions will be successful. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, who mediated the agreement, has a significant vested interest in its success. Brazil has its own enrichment facility that it concealed for some time and wants to make sure that Iran’s nuclear rights aren’t inhibited and turned into a legally binding precedent that could be turned against them. President Lula, who was accompanied by 300 businesspeople to Tehran has increased trade with Iran under his term and is planning an even greater increase: from $1.2 billion to $10 billion.

With the Obama Administration committing its focus on the sanctions track of its “dual-track strategy” on Iran, Brazil stepped into the vacuum, seizing on the opportunity to gain prestige on the international stage. President Lula — the man who dropped out of the fourth grade to become a shoeshiner — has overcome a lifetime of obstacles and is even now being considered as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize next year. It is also believed that he seeks to be Secretary-General of the UN after his term expires after this year.

  • 1 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

Iran, Nonproliferation Experts Support Fuel Swap as Basis for Engagement

Contact: Phil Elwood, (917) 379-3787

Today, a group of Iran experts and non-proliferation experts are releasing a statement urging Western powers to use the recently-negotiated fuel swap deal as a first step towards a larger agreement on Iran’s nuclear issue and beyond.

The experts — which include Former Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq David Kay and Former US Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering — do not endorse or reject the deal outright; rather, the statement urges the Unites States and its allies to use the proposal as an opportunity for further engagement with Iran.

Full text of the statement:

June 1, 2010

On Monday, May 24, 2010, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran delivered a letter to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) outlining Iran’s commitments to export 1200 kg of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) to Turkey in exchange for fuel assemblies to power the Tehran Research Reactor. This marked a significant concession from Iran’s previous position, which demanded the exchange take place in small batches, inside Iran’s borders, and simultaneous to the delivery of reactor fuel.

The political paralysis inside Iran that scuttled the fuel exchange proposal when it was first offered in October seems now to have subsided. The proposal currently being considered has the backing of Iran’s Supreme Leader as well as centrists, reformists, and leaders of the Green Movement in Iran, making it more likely that Iran will abide by the terms of its commitments.

Left unresolved in the current proposal is the troubling matter of Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium up to levels approaching 20%. Additionally, even after a successful fuel exchange, the need for Iran to fully satisfy the IAEA and accept a more rigorous inspections regime will remain, as will concerns about the size of its LEU stockpile. Notwithstanding these issues, Iran’s agreement to export a large portion of its LEU outside of its borders for up to a year is worthy of consideration. If enacted, this proposal would begin the process of addressing a major — but not the only — aspect of the strained relationship between Iran and the international community, and would represent a first step in halting Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapons capability.

We urge the so-called Vienna Group (Russia, France, the United States, and the IAEA) to seriously pursue this proposal as an opening for further diplomatic engagement with Iran on outstanding issues of concern. The permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) should take advantage of this opportunity as the first step in a broader dialogue that could include further confidence building measures, such as halting enrichment of uranium above 5%, as well as resolving regional security issues, protecting human rights in Iran, and other issues of mutual interest.


  • Amb. Thomas Pickering, Former US Ambassador to the UN
  • Dr. David Kay, Former Chief Weapons Inspector, Iraq
  • Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, Director, Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative, New America Foundation
  • Gen. Robert Gard, Chairman, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
  • Dr. Jim Walsh, MIT
  • Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
  • Dr. Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii
  • Dr. Juan Cole, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council
  • 27 May 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Nuclear file, US-Iran War

Why Aren’t More Iran War Hawks Called Anti-Israel?

[vodpod id=Video.3715847&w=425&h=350&fv=]
John Podhoretz, the editor of the neoconservative Commentary Magazine, had this to say yesterday about Obama’s approach to Iran (via the Corner):

Nothing would both surprise me, please me, and make me revisit a great deal of my thinking over the last couple of years, than if Barack Obama chooses to strike the Iranian nuclear program. I would revisit most of what I think about his foreign policy and his approach to the world.  But that the United States would take military action against Iran – that seems almost science fictional to me at this point.

He goes on with the usual bit about “Ahmadinejad is a nutty guy who wants to nuke Israel to bring about the Messiah, etc.”  But here’s what I find really interesting: he seems to be unfazed by the cognitive dissonance surrounding the idea that we should start a war with Iran that would generate a large-scale counterattack (likely aimed at Israel) in order to support Israel herself.

He says it explicitly: if Israel were to strike Iran, it would trigger a counterattack that could claim the lives of thousands of Israelis.  Given that Iran’s defense plans most certainly call for activating its Hezboallah proxies, and given that Hezboallah’s primary target is Israel — why does Podhoretz think Iran’s plans still wouldn’t call for that same counterattack if it’s the US instead of Israel that drops the bombs?

The fact is, a war with Iran would cause an enormous amount of hardship, instability, and loss of life for the state of Israel, regardless of whether it’s the US or Israel that starts it.  So why is Podhoretz in such a rush to bring that about?

I often wonder why commentators like Podhoretz aren’t more frequently labeled anti-military or anti-Israel.  Because nothing is more certain to take a disastrous toll on the lives of American troops and Israeli civilians than an unjustified military attack on Iran.

(To say nothing of the devastation to innocent Iranian civilians that comes with dropping a bomb on a facility that houses tons of radioactive material.  It’s not often said, but an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would be the second time in history a radiological attack was carried out against civilians — the first being Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

I assume there are those who would take issue with my premise by saying the US should take the initiative precisely because it could attack Iran in such a devastating fashion as to neutralize Iran’s retaliatory capabilities.  But that argument doesn’t hold up, since unconventional forces like Hezboallah are already in place in the Levant, and unless we’re prepared to open up two fronts in this war against Iran (on top of the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts that we’re already deeply committed to), then Iran’s proxies would be immune from an American preemptive strike.

So I ask again: if prominent commentators like John Podhoretz truly support the military and Israel, then why do they so zealously advocate for what could be the most costly decision of the 21st Century for both?

  • 12 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

Taking “Yes” for an Answer

Image: FAS

Reviving an issue that most observers have declared to be dead in the water, the Federation of American Scientists is calling on the US to accept Iran’s counter-proposal on the Tehran Research Reactor fuel-swap.  In sum, the P5+1 should agree to Iran’s proposal to place 1200kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) under IAEA seals inside Iran, later to be exchanged simultaneously for fuel assemblies that power Iran’s medical reactor.

We propose the perfect litmus test for Iranian nuclear intentions. The international community should simply say “yes” and accept the terms of Tehran’s exchange proposal…. Leaving the LEU in Iran is not a dangerous concession and would not be a change from the current state of affairs since all of the nuclear material would remain under IAEA safeguards. If the material is shipped to a location outside Natanz, such as Kish Island, this could further alleviate concerns about the possibility of a quick breakout.

The X-factor for the FAS analysts here is Iran’s recent decision to enrich up to 20% — a not insignificant change, since that will reduce by almost half the amount of time it would take Iran to develop weapons-grade uranium.  Reversing this decision, they argue, should be a top priority for the US negotiators.  Fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult, as Iran has no practical use for 20% enriched uranium, and it is most valuable to them as a bargaining chip.

Under our proposal, Iran would be required to suspend 20 percent enrichment as soon as a fuel deal is made and permanently stop enrichment to higher degrees when the fuel is actually delivered. If we act quickly and the deal is successful, we will set the nuclear clock back by both stopping 20 percent enrichment and perhaps even leave Iran with less than a weapon’s worth of LEU. We will build confidence – for the West, that Iran is willing to cooperate, and for Iran, that the West can provide credible fuel guarantees.

It should be noted that there’s no “perhaps” about it — Western negotiators are unlikely to accept any deal that does not bring Iran’s stockpile below the so-called “breakout capability” of one weapon’s worth of LEU.  Given Iran’s technical problems in its enrichment facilities, this should still be a feasible option.

But FAS’s point is still a valuable one — the P5+1 should not lose sight of its main objectives here: “Our main concern should be to make it more difficult – not easier – for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.” Insofar as Iran’s counter-proposal does that, we should be willing to consider it seriously.

But if our pride gets in the way — if saving face becomes more important to us than stopping nuclear proliferation, then we’re in for a long, tough fight.

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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