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  • 9 January 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Israel, US-Iran War

Hindsight is 20/20

Captain Hindsight on the new Senate sanctions bill

When the White House said that a new sanctions bill (S.1881) would “greatly increase the chances that the United States would have to take military action” against Iran, supporters of the bill bristled. Lead sponsor Robert Menendez (D-NJ) called the statement “over the top” and accused the White House of “fear mongering.”

But a quick read of his bill makes clear that not only would it torpedo diplomacy by violating the interim deal with new sanctions, it even expresses support for the U.S. joining Israel in bombing Iran! The exact clause in question says, “if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

If you didn’t want people saying your bill could lead to war with Iran, you probably shouldn’t have pushed a bill that sabotages diplomacy and expressly threatens military engagement with Iran.

>>Don’t let your Senators rely on hindsight, contact them TODAY and tell them to OPPOSE this disastrous bill

  • 9 January 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, US-Iran War

Cruz-ing Towards Failed Diplomacy

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has become the latest Iran hawk to introduce a measure placing preconditions on negotiations designed to end the Iran talks.

Originally, there were Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk, who introduced a Senate bill (S.1881) that has earned a veto threat from the President because it would invalidate the interim deal signed with Iran by passing new sanctions. That bill would also place unworkable demands on any final deal, including requiring full dismantlement of even a verifiable peaceful nuclear program.  And it would pledge U.S. support for Israeli strikes on Iran.

Now, Senator Cruz (R-TX) is joining forces with fellow hard-line conservative Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to introduce a Senate resolution with their own demands that must be met before any bilateral negotiations continue with Iran.

The first precondition that must be met in Cruz’s world before the U.S. is allowed to engage in talks with Iran? Iran must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Cruz wants to cut off the talks that can end the Iranian nuclear standoff, deliver a transparent and verifiable non-military nuclear program, and prevent a disastrous war in which Israel would surely play a major role, to demand Iran do something America’s staunchest allies in the region have yet to do. This is just another precondition specifically designed to block engagement. Something Cruz and his right wing colleagues are failing to understand is how the success of negotiations with Iran is actually in Israel’s interest.

  • 8 August 2013
  • Posted By Caroline Cohn
  • 2 Comments
  • discrimination, Sanctions

Want to book a flight to Iran on Kayak? Sorry. But North Korea’s nice this time of year.

When Iranian Americans started reaching out to us a few weeks ago asking why websites like Kayak and Priceline were no longer allowing users to book flights to Iran, NIAC contacted the top executives of seven online travel agencies currently engaging in the practice to attempt to fix the problem. We told these companies – Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, Tripadvisor, Cheaptickets, Hotwire, and Kayak – that, while sanctions are broad and confusing, they do not prohibit travel or the booking of travel to Iran. Since then, we’ve been contacted by Orbitz’s VP for Corporate Affairs who told us that the reason they block these sales is indeed sanctions. Or rather, the over-enforcement of sanctions that are so broad and ambiguous, private companies have been scared out of doing any business related to Iran even if it means booking flights for Iranian Americans to visit family.

Travel hurdles and restrictions aren’t a foreign concept in the U.S. You can’t simply book a flight to Cuba, either. In fact, all travel to Cuba by Americans traveling as individuals is expressly prohibited. Though, as of 2012, you can go to Cuba in a group – so long as you travel with an organization that has an official license from the U.S. State Department. In any case, given the stringent travel restrictions on Cuba, it makes sense that if you search for a flight to Havana on Tripadvisor, your attempt fails and the same error message – “we cannot complete your request…” – appears.

In the case of Iran, however, U.S. federal regulations explicitly do not restrict travel, and they certainly do not prohibit online travel agencies from facilitating Iran-related travel. And yet, as is the case with most other goods and services that are technically exempted from the sanctions, it appears that many companies are simply unaware of or unwilling to take advantage.

But what about North Korea, the country threatening war with the U.S. and our allies, and with a much more extensive nuclear war capability than Iran? Interestingly, we noticed yesterday that you actually can book flight tickets to Pyongyang, North Korea, through one of the websites, Kayak.com. Type in “Pyongyang” as your destination on Kayak, and you can find flights with no problem; although, some of the other online travel sites won’t process your request.

So why can’t you book flights to Iran? De jure technicalities aside, the de facto consequences of broad sanctions on Iran is clear. The Iran sanctions are the harshest sanctions regime ever imposed on a country during peacetime, according to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Many businesses, like many of these online travel agencies, have been convinced that zero association with Iran is a better business decision than the potential costs associated with any sort of business association. This has actually been the unofficial U.S. policy with regard to Iran sanctions for some time, to convince private actors that any business involving Iran, even if it’s perfectly legal, is simply not worth the risk. And this has also been the mission of organizations like United Against Nuclear Iran who name and shame any company doing any business with Iran, even if its legitimate.

  • 10 August 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: August 10, 2012

Sanctions on Iran: ‘ordinary people are the target’
U.S. still believes Iran not on verge of nuclear weapon
White House says it has ‘eyes’ inside Iranian nuclear program
Israel media talk of imminent Iran war push
Asian oil buyers help Iran stave off the worst, for now
Iran playing ‘nefarious’ role in Syria: Rice
Fiery Erdogan Slams Assad, Iran
Iran Oil Embargo Has Ripple Effect for Europe
Analysis: False records issue is key to Standard Chartered case
Iran’s Navy Says Has No Plan for Naval Reactors
Iran urges Syrians to talk after Tehran meeting
Indian PM Likely to Visit Iran

Notable Opinion: Stop the Shadow War Talk

  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Internet Censorship, Sanctions

How Google, Yahoo, and Go Daddy are Helping to Silence Iranians

Given the public attention surrounding Apple’s over-enforcement of sanctions, now is a good opportunity to look at the broader issue of how sanctions policies negatively impact access to communications technology for people inside Iran. Today, NIAC called on Internet service companies to lift the “electronic curtain” over Iran and other sanctioned countries in a letter signed by a coalition of Iranian, Cuban, and Syrian diaspora organizations, and human rights and Internet freedom organizations.

The fact is, even as the White House takes efforts to lift the “electronic curtain” imposed by Iran’s government, U.S. sanctions are part of the fabric of that curtain.

As of now, many companies that offer basic Internet communication services and websites–like Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, or Go Daddy hosted sites–do not allow their services to be accessed by Iran, even though they are technically exempt from sanctions. NIAC is targeting these companies in today’s letter and demanded that the public of sanctioned countries have access to the basic tools and platforms necessary for communicating safely and securely online

Before 2009, Iran was subject to extremely strict and broad sanctions at the hands of the United States, completely blocking communication technology such as computers, phones, modems, etc. These communication tools are increasingly essential in embargoed countries as a means of communicating freely and supporting operations that are pushing for social and political change. With these tools cut off, activists struggle to find the means necessary to communicate freely–relying on a sort of cyber black market involving Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or thumb drives to access software, services, and websites.

Especially after seeing the effect that social media had during the 2009 Green Movement, the Obama administration has made some adjustments to U.S. sanction policy. In 2010, the Obama Administration exempted basic, free Internet communication tools from sanctions and issued special licenses for other Internet communication software and hardware. In addition, this past Norooz, Obama pushed Internet communication companies to make their services available in Iran and to help lift the “electronic curtain” that is helping to silence the Iranian people.

However, despite these efforts, many companies are still not providing their services to the public of embargoed countries. This is unacceptable.

  • 15 February 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 02/14

Injured Iranian held responsible for Thailand bombings

 A man believed to be Iranian had both legs blown off after attempting to throw a bomb at Thai police in Bangkok.  Two other nearby explosions, which resulted in several people being injured, accompanied this attack.  These explosions occurred a day after bombing attacks against Israeli diplomatic staff in India and Georgia. Although the bombing targets remain unclear, Israeli officials have accused Iran’s complicity in these attacks and believe that this is part of a greater campaign being perpetrated by Iran and Hezbollah amidst rising tensions. Responding to this incident, Israeli defense minster Ehud Barak released a statement, saying that this “proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror.”  (BBC 02/14)

In addition, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole notes that Indian investigators do not believe Iran was involved in the embassy bombing, instead assuming culpability on “Indian Mujahidin,” a pro-Palestinian Sunni group responsible for staging a very similar attack against Taiwanese tourists in 2010.  Cole says that this sort of operation is unlikely to have been undertaken by Iran, since India is a crucial trading partner and one of the few remaining nations that continue Iranian oil purchases.  (Juan Cole 02/14)

Meanwhile, former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel warns that the “spy versus spy” game played by Israel against Iran and Hezbollah has the potential to cause disaster if it is not contained.  Riedel cites the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the 1982 IDF invasion of Lebanon as examples of crisis brought about by terrorist attacks and efforts of retaliation.  (Al-Monitor 02/13)

 Iran to install domestically produced fuel rods in nuclear reactor

Iranian officials have announced that tomorrow they will insert their first-domestically produced fuel rods into a nuclear research reactor in Tehran, marking significant advances in Iran’s nuclear program.  President Ahmadinejad, who previously indicated an “important” announcement would be made regarding Iran’s nuclear program, is expected to be in attendance at this event.  “Because Western countries were unwilling to help us, we began enriching uranium to 20% to make nuclear fuel rods,” stated Ali Bagheri, deputy chief of Iran’s national security council.  (RIA Novosti 02/14)

U.S. groups call upon China to support Iran sanctions

 Various American advocacy groups aiming to further isolate Iran are planning to use Vice President Xi Jinping’s upcoming U.S. trip to criticize China’s continued purchases of Iranian oil as well as call upon the next Chinese leader to work more closely with Obama on the prevention of Iranian enrichment.  One such group, the Partnership for a Secure America, submitted a letter to Jinping, urging him “to make clear that China will significantly reduce its imports of oil from Iran, uphold the applicable resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and use its economic influence with Tehran, coupled with robust diplomacy, to help resolve this issue peacefully.”  China is currently the largest single importer of Iranian oil.   (NY Times 02/13)

Tensions emerging between Iran and Azerbaijan

Azeri officials have contested Iranian claims that Azerbaijan has been assisting Israeli Mossad’s activities against Iran by allowing MEK members to travel through Azerbaijan and onto Israel to receive training related to the recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.  An Azeri foreign ministry spokesman said the Iranian complaint was likely in response to Azeri diplomatic protests over last month’s alleged Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan maintains friendly ties with the U.S. and Israel, while it long has had shaky relations with Iran over the ethnic Azeri minority in northern Iran.  (BBC 02/13)

Turkey to continue import of Iranian oil

Turkey has announced that it will not reduce imports of Iranian oil despite the U.S. and the EU’s robust sanctions, which have made financial transactions with Iran increasingly difficult.  Recently Turkish delegates met with Saudi officials in Riyadh to discuss the possibility of importing additional Saudi oil as a substitute for Iranian oil, but ended up ruling against the decision.  Many industry analysts believed the Riyadh talks were simply a ploy to attempt to negotiate lower prices for Iranian oil.   Turkey imports about 200,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, consisting of 30% of daily domestic consumption.  (Reuters 02/14)

U.S. Navy: Iran prepares suicide bomb boats in Gulf

Amidst escalating tensions, Iran has built up its naval forces in the Gulf, including small submarines and fast-attack craft intended to swarm and overwhelm superior U.S. naval forces.  According to Vice Admiral Mark Fox,  “some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used a suicide explosive device.”  This tactic is of particular concern to Washington, and is reminiscent of Al-Qaeda’s suicide boat attack in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen that resulted in the death of 17 sailors.  (Reuters 02/13)

Authorities crackdown as Iranians protest detention of opposition

Supporters of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi organized several protests throughout Tehran to mark the anniversary of the two former politician’s arrest and call for their immediate release. Mousavi and Karoubi were arrested following an event showing support for the “Arab Spring” protests.   (BBC 02/14)

Among those advocating for their release is Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, who released a statement saying, “I support the call [of political prisoners] and invite all freedom-loving people across the globe to do all they can for the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran.”  (ICHRI 01/ 26)

EA Worldview has reported that security forces have turned out in great numbers, and have already arrested several protestors.  Also, Iranian security forces turned off virtual private networks (VPNs), making Twitter and other social networking sites impossible to access using typical methods.  (EA Worldview 02/14)

Notable Opinon:

 In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt reviews the tensions between U.S./Israel and Iran from an outsider’s perspective, and questions American and Israeli fears over Iran’s intentions and capabilities:

 “If a sensible Martian came down to Earth and looked at the saber rattling about Iran, I suspect he/she/it would be completely flummoxed. For our Martian visitor would observe two very capable states — the United States and Israel — threatening to attack a country that hardly seems worth the effort. The U.S. and Israel together spend more than $700 billion each year on their national security establishments; Iran spends about $10 billion. The U.S. and Israel have the most advanced military hardware in the world; Iran’s weapons are mostly outdated and lack spare parts. The U.S. and Israeli militaries are well-educated and very well trained; not true of Iran. The United States has thousands of nuclear weapons and Israel has several hundred, while Iran has a vast arsenal of … zero. Iran does have a nuclear enrichment program (which is the reason for all the war talk), but the most recent National Intelligence Estimates have concluded that Iran does not presently have an active nuclear weapons program. The United States has several dozen military bases in Iran’s immediate vicinity; Iran has exactly none in the Western hemisphere. The United States has powerful allies in every corner of the world; Iran’s friends include a handful of minor non-state actors like Hezbollah or minor-league potentates like Bashar al Assad (who’s not looking like an asset these days) or Hugo Chávez.”

To read the full article click here.

Additional Notable News:

China has sent an assistant foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, to Iran to attend two days of talks related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Khabar Online reports that a Special Currency Control Committee has decided to replace the US dollar with the Turkish lira, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Indian rupee, Russian ruble, and Euro for importers.

Iranian media are reporting that the President’s media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, will receive a six-month prison sentence for “insulting the Supreme Leader” on his personal blog.

Today, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued guidance concerning the implementation of sanctions relating to Iran’s Central Bank and other Iran-affiliated institutions.


  • 27 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 01/27

NYTimes: Israel doubtful that military strike would result in Iranian retaliation

The New York times reports that Israeli academics and intelligence officials are skeptical of the ferocity of Iranian retaliation tactics in the case of an Israeli strike and believe that possible measures, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, would cause Iran to harm itself.  This belief is based on an analysis of Iran’s interests and previous actions, as well as the many over exaggerated threats presented in the past by Iraq and Hezbollah.  “A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” (NY Times 01/27)

Oil industry see Iran sanctions benefitting China, hurting West

Despite sanctions, Iran will continue to sell oil at a similar volume, although the majority of exported oil will go to China.  Being one of Iran’s only remaining customers, the Chinese will be able to bargain for a significantly reduced price on oil.  The West is relying heavily on an increased output from Saudi Arabia to avoid a spike in oil prices, which would hurt an already deteriorating global economy.  (Chicago Tribune 01/27)

U.S.-Israel joint missile defense drill now slated for October 2012

The largest-ever joint missile defense drill between the U.S. and Israel has been rescheduled for this Fall after news leaked that it had been suspended.  The drill, in which several thousand U.S. military personnel will be stationed in Israel, has been perceived as a signal to the region of the U.S. and Israel’s unity and resolve regarding Iran.  Auster Challenge’s abrupt cancellation two weeks ago fueled suspicions of a rift between the two countries in their approach to Iran, though U.S. and Israeli officials insisted it was due only to technical issues.  (Business Insider 01/27) 

  • 20 June 2011
  • Posted By Sahar Fahimi
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, Sanctions, UN

Akbar Ganji: “The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look” (Part 2 of 2)

On June 15, 2011, Akbar Ganji published an article,”The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look,” on BBC Persian, examining the economy of Iran and the effects of the international sanctions on it. NIAC’s Ali Tayebi and Sahar Fahimi have translated this article from Ganji’s original pen, Persian, to English.  This is the second half of the article; the first half is here.

The worst possible situation

Ayatollah Khamenei will never accept to retreat in Iran nuclear project. His policy in the Middle East and North Africa to support the extremist activities and calling the ongoing changes across the region “Islamic Revolution” soured the anti-Iran atmosphere, and put Persian Gulf countries in an confrontational position with Iran.

In this situation, what option remains for the Western countries other than increasing political and economic sanctions?

Let us assume that the western countries succeed in sanctioning all Iranian banks. Let us assume that this sanction also includes Iran’s fuel, and Iran is put in a situation similar to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s era. In this case, the unemployment rate in Iran will increase by millions, poverty will be expanded all over the country and the middle class will merge into the lower class. Tens of thousands of children and the elderly will lose their lives.

Would this situation lead to protests or cause a revolution? Thousands of different issues could lead to the collapse of the totalitarian religious regime, however, no one can predict that increasing unemployment and poverty will cause protests or spark a revolution. Consider Iraq, the toughest economic sanctions in ten years destroyed the Iraqi society, but did not hurt Saddam’s regime and at the end he stepped down only by military attack and invasion.

In the same situation, as long as the regime has power and intention to systemically crackdown any protests and critique, it will continue to survive. Decline in any of these two factors is a prerequisite for regime change.

A regime that can and yearns to remain in power by a broad crackdown, will sustain until these factors have changed.

Akbar Ganji: “The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look”


On June 15, 2011, Akbar Ganji published an article,"The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look," on BBC Persian, examining the economy of Iran and the effects of the international sanctions on it. NIAC's Ali Tayebi and Sahar Fahimi have translated this article from Ganji's original pen, Persian, to English.  

“The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look”

Two factors could open a small breathing space and create opportunities for the opposition within the upcoming year; first- the dispute between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s team and the other conservatives; second- the creation of targeted subsidies and its consequences.

In mid-April, the dispute between the conservatives and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to escalate, and, in the past few weeks, the majority of political news has been dominated by this topic. In these circumstances, less attention was paid to the economic conditions; a circumstance that is due to structural issues, creation of targeted subsidies, and economic sanctions. This article discusses the second matter and its political outcomes.

The Quest for Nuclear Immensity

Manners and methods of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, has and continues to display that he is not willing to back down from his stance. His strategy in every situation is offensive. For example, in the case of the United Nations, he advises that instead of awaiting the feedback and criticism of Western governments and civil societies of human rights violations in Iran (the passive approach), Iran should be on the offense, because Western governments are the largest actors in human rights violations of people and governments (the active approach). Or, in the case of women, instead of the West condemning and questioning us for ‘restricting’ our women, we will condemn and question the Western world, for objectifying their women.

In the past 23 years, the supreme leader’s “quest for nuclear immensity” has been activelty persued. He has been firmly against retreating on this matter, and has always commanded the active persuit of this project. He instructed Mohammad Khatami, at the end of his presidential term, to abolish the uranium enrichment suspention agreement with European nations and begin production. Thus, he is not open to compromise and agreement on this matter.

What has been the reaction of Western governmnets? They have passed a few sanctions on Iran through the United Nations. Aside from the international boycotts, the United States and the European Union have independently put more sanctions on Iran. These sanctions have been followed by political ones, the latest of which was an American sanction on June 19,2011, against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Basij paramilitary, Iran’s national police and its chief, Esmael Ahmadi Moghadam due to major human rights violations.

  • 13 June 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions

As Sanctions Ratchet Up, Iranian Americans Bear Increasing Burdens

With a new push for even more “crippling” Iran sanctions coming out of Congress, and renewed signs from the president that further sanctions may be in the offing, it is more important than ever for Americans, particularly Americans of Iranian descent, to evaluate the unintended impact these sanctions are having here in the U.S.

Yesterday, the civil rights organization Asian Law Caucus released its latest guide, The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You, which lays out some of the effects of sanctions on ordinary Iranian Americans and provides guidance for how to navigate the maze of new and existing restrictions.

Last year, when Iranian-American Mahmoud Reza Banki was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for facilitating remittances between families in the U.S. and Iran, shockwaves rippled through the Iranian-American community.

That’s because even under ramped up sanctions, Iranian Americans are still legally permitted to send family remittances to loved ones in Iran. However, because banking sanctions have closed off most of the legal channels for such transactions, many turn to workarounds that may seem innocuous, but are often illegal.

The ALC effort is important in ensuring that Iranian Americans understand their rights and don’t end up unintentionally violating the law. But even with this understanding, many Iranian Americans have been unable to avoid the chilling effect caused by the increasing breadth of sanctions.

Banks have frozen the accounts of Iranian Americans who simply checked their bank balance online from Iran. In at least one case, a bank closed an account when it determined its customer was a “resident” of Iran because she had been thrown in jail on frivolous espionage charges.

Website owners have found that certain web hosts refuse to allow Iranian IP addresses to access their sites. Iranian Americans who formerly worked and retired in Iran report that they are now unable to receive their pensions here in the U.S. due to banking restrictions. Charity and relief organizations have been shocked when, despite going through the long and arduous process of obtaining a U.S. license to work on humanitarian projects in Iran, they are suddenly and wrongly dropped by their financial institution. And researchers have been unable to conduct studies or obtain grants related to Iran because of concerns about sanctions.

None of these activities are illegal, but the broad, untargeted nature of Iran sanctions have convinced companies and banks that facilitating such activities is simply not worth the risk.

Even with these difficulties, many, if not most, Iranian Americans would be happy to make these sacrifices if doing so held the promise of helping improve the situation in Iran. But the results we have seen from broad sanctions have consistently been the opposite. Economic sanctions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not stopped or even stemmed the human rights abuses in Iran. They have failed to change the Iranian government’s behavior for over three decades and have hurt, not helped, the Iranian people.

For instance, restrictions on aircraft parts and repairs have helped leave Iran’s civilian aircraft fleet in disrepair, resulting in at least fifteen Iranian plane crashes in the past decade.

We also now know that, in June 2009, as Iranians took to the streets to demand accountability from their government in the face of brutal repression, U.S. sanctions were preventing Iranians from accessing even the most basic communication software and hardware.

Fast forward two years and many of these sanctions remain in place, new ones have been ratcheted up, and even more may be on the way. Meanwhile, Tehran continues to put thirty years of experience in leveraging the sanctions to use by enriching government officials and further consolidating their share of Iran’s economy by controlling the sale of sanctioned products.

Hopefully, efforts like those of the ALC to educate the Iranian-American community can help ensure that innocent people do not unknowingly get swept into the wake of the broad sanctions or have their rights violated.

But going forward, we will need to continue to press policymakers to pay more attention to the unintended consequences of these sanctions.

With Congress considering oil embargo measures that will make Iran policy look even more like the policies carried out on Iraq — which failed to depose Saddam, resulted in humanitarian disaster, and ultimately ended in war — elected officials must hear this message.

It is critical that Americans, and especially Iranian Americans, take action to oppose sanctions that invite dangerous outcomes for the U.S. and the Iranian people, and fail to discriminate between Iran’s government, the Iranian people, and Iranian Americans.

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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