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Posts Tagged ‘ Iranian people ’

  • 1 July 2015
  • Posted By Behbod Negahban
  • Nuclear file, Sanctions

U.S. Companies Could Lose Out on Lucrative Business Opportunities in Iran, Report Finds

Iran stock exchange wsj

Photo via Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON, DC — In a recent piece for Politico, Chris Schroeder describes an exciting new generation of Iranian entrepreneurs who are ambitious, highly educated and already “see the world outside of Iran every day—often in the form of global news, TV shows, movies, music, blogs, and startups.” As the Iranian economy prepares to open up to the world as part of an anticipated nuclear agreement, US companies could profit tremendously from engaging with this staggering trove of human capital.

But in a report issued by the Center for a New American Security, former Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department, Elizabeth Rosenberg, suggests that U.S. companies may still miss out on these opportunities, even if nuclear-related sanctions are lifted with an agreement. They will remain bound by “a comprehensive trade and investment embargo, the architecture of which is not widely viewed as nuclear-related.”

Absent U.S. commercial competition, the report claims, European, Asian, and Middle-Eastern businesses, “less deterred by the prospect of violating sanctions,” will be poised to fill that void.

The report recommends that the Treasury department allow U.S. companies to bypass these non-nuclear restrictions, putting them “on an equal footing with global businesses” to compete for “lucrative business opportunities.”

It also notes that “creating opportunities for U.S. companies to engage in Iran” by easing these restrictions “would constitute a form of constructive, commercial diplomacy.” This, according to the report, would encourage “productive engagement between Iran and the United States on areas of continuing security concern.”

The report also emphasizes the need to keep “the incentives for Iran’s continued adherence in place” by intensifying the economic benefit Iran receives through compliance. Even without nuclear sanctions, the report explains, international businesses may avoid engagement with Iran to avoid unknowingly falling into the tangled nets of the U.S. sanctions regime. American and European officials should mitigate this confusion by offering “an unprecedented level of specific detail on the degree of continuing exposure to U.S. sanctions for non-U.S. banks and companies,” thereby minimizing confusion and maximizing clarity.

To address the “substantial new requirements associated with the removal of sanctions,” the report also recommends that the US Congress give both the State and Treasury Departments the resources they need to “create a robust group of officials” dedicated to “engaging the public and the private sector about the changes in Iran sanctions.” This work would also include enforcing remaining sanctions imposed on Iran and issuing license authorization for parties to trade with Iran when it fell within the U.S.’s foreign policy interest.

Preserving the deal is a matter of making the benefits of cooperation startlingly vivid, and the consequences of defiance even more so. With that in mind, the report concludes, “the lifting of sanctions may be the best insurance policy in nuclear diplomacy.”

  • 22 December 2010
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions

Engineering Economic Suffering

After hearing Ahmadinejad’s announcement on Sunday of the first phase of subsidy cuts, the world is watching and waiting to see what will come out of eliminating 30 year-old oil subsidies for Iranian citizens. With economic sanctions already taking a toll and the beginning of cuts on subsidies coming into effect, ordinary Iranians continue to bear the brunt of US pressure and Iran’s economic mismanagement.

Ahmadinejad claims that cutting oil subsidies will help the ailing Iranian economy. Given Iran’s already high rate of inflation – estimated to be around 20 percent – the Iranian government’s latest move could spark even more inflation and carries significant economic risk.

According to Tehran Bureau, the subsidy cuts are already causing a ripple effect on prices of goods and services:

“The price of electricity has tripled from 0.75 cents/KWh to 2.2 cents/KWh. The price of water has similarly increased by a factor of three. The price of natural gas for home heating and cooking has increased by a factor of four, and for vehicle fuel by a factor of ten. The price of flour has increased by a factor of 40.”

But before proponents of “crippling” Iran’s economy begin dancing in the streets, they should consider two factors.

First, while Ahmadinejad emphasizes that subsidy cuts are about distributing Iran’s economic wealth in a more equitable way, there is clearly another issue at hand: the subsidies have been a cancer in Iran’s budget for years.

As the USIP’s Iran Primer on “The Subsidies Conundrum” explains:

“Subsidies have been costly. They were estimated to eat up around 25 percent of Iran’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $335 billion in 2009. Subsidies for energy products alone accounted for 10 percent of Iran’s GDP in 2010, according to the World Bank.”

The Iranian government has attempted to cut the subsidies multiple times, but always been rebuffed by popular pressure.  But as GWU Professor Hossein Askari and NIAC President Trita Parsi warned in a New York Times op-ed from last year, the sanctions appear to be “throwing Ahmadinejad a lifeline” by providing him with the political cover to cut the subsidies and remove this cancer.  It is no accident that Ahmadinejad finally succeeded in cutting subsidies after the sanctions on refined petroleum were imposed.

Secondly, the response to the price shocks that have resulted from the subsidy cuts has been calm so far.  Jason Rezaian at the Global Post writes, “Despite steep price increases for everything from bread to gasoline, the Iranian public here has so far remained relatively calm,” though he cautions that “the impact of some of the price hikes, such as electricity and water, won’t be felt for weeks.”

William Yong at the New York Times echoes this point:

“Seemingly unaffected by a sharp increase in gasoline prices that went into effect at midnight on Sunday, drivers jammed the streets here on Monday after the government lifted traffic restrictions aimed at reducing severe air pollution.”

Compare this to one year ago when thousands of protesters turned out during Ashura to demonstrate against the injustices in the aftermath of the June elections – despite the massive presence of the riot police and basij.  US policymakers like freshman Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) who want Washington to engineer economic suffering so that ordinary Iranians revolt against their government should take notice. Iranians were on the streets protesting last year not because of economic hardship but to fight for their right to basic civil liberties.  Perhaps it is difficult for ordinary Iranian citizens to think about the prospects of improving civil liberties when they are being squeezed from all sides and can’t even provide a simple noon-o-panir (bread and cheese) for their families.

As Askari and Parsi pointed out last year, sanctions proponents who “believe that increased economic pressure would cause Iranians to revolt against their unpopular rulers,” were engaging in “a fundamental misreading of the psychology of an embargoed people.”

  • 7 December 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Sanctions

The (literally) suffocating sanctions against ordinary Iranians

The Washington Post today has a pretty shocking report about the effect of the US petroleum sanctions against Iran.  Because the US has been so successful in imposing “draconian” measures against Iran (the Obama Administration’s words, not mine), average Iranians have faced the prospect of not being able to get petroleum for such nefarious purposes as driving to work or keeping their homes heated.

So, in response, Iran has begun selling its own form of “locally produced gasoline”:

The product is the result of an emergency plan to prevent fuel shortages following a vote by the U.S. Congress in July that banned oil companies from selling gasoline to Iran.

The Islamic Republic’s leaders have lauded their oil industry for swiftly supplying the market with its own mixes of high-octane fuel, which is manufactured in petrochemical plants rather than refineries.

But the brew is now seen by many as the main reason for the unprecedented air pollution levels in Tehran, Isfahan, a city in central Iran, and other large population centers.

“This fuel is our political ace [against the sanctions],” the Ayandeh Web site, which is critical of the government, said Monday. “But it is of low quality and polluting.”

The article goes on to quote Mohammad-Reza Shababi, the father of a three-year old girl who is suffering from extreme windpipe infection due to the increasing pollution:

“The arrow of these sanctions is hitting my daughter’s windpipe,” said Shababi. “What has she done? Both our leaders and the U.S. should think of the consequences of their acts.”

In fact, just last week before Congress, Under Secretary of State Bill Burns highlighted the success of US sanctions in decreasing Iran’s gasoline imports by 85%.   He didn’t mention any concerns about what this might  mean for regular Iranians, but perhaps this was because he was testifying before a panel that included Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), each of whom have said that sanctions must punish ordinary Iranians in order to work.

Not surprisingly, we hear little these days from the Administration about sanctions being designed to “not hurt the Iranian people.” This includes  when Obama appeared on BBC Persia several months ago and  tried to convince Iranians that they should not blame the US for their suffering under sanctions (reports from Iran suggested that Iranians were left “seething” by the President’s logic). The Administration has calculated that if they can show how just how tough they are, perhaps they will buy some time to actually pursue engagement.

With Congress focused on ways to punish Iran by any means necessary, with the Administration committed to buying itself space by demonstrating how “draconian” its sanctions can be, and with an Iranian government far more committed to its own preservation rather than the wellbeing of it citizens, we once again find the Iranian people caught in the middle.  But I suppose that means the sanctions are working.

  • 1 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • discrimination

US Navy Sets an Example

With some in Congress openly advocating for the punishment of innocent Iranians and the drumbeat of war growing louder, it was especially refreshing to see the American sense of humanity still alive in a recent rescue operation by the US Navy.

On August 20, the US Navy rescued eight Iranian fishermen from a burning boat in the Arabian Sea.  The Iranians, who had abandoned their boat and were floating on a life raft in the middle of the sea, were picked up by two SH-60 helicopters from the Antisubmarine Squadron of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. They were then attended to by doctors and given food, water, fresh clothing, and temporary sleeping quarters until the Iranian authorities picked them up.

The New York Times article which reported on the US Navy rescue didn’t fail to note that “The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1980.” As if diplomatic relations mattered to the fishermen who were floating on a life raft in the middle of the sea.

Fortunately our lack of diplomatic relations with Iran did not prevent the Navy from rescuing the stranded fishermen.  But for one reason or another, many Americans often do forget about the Iranian people or associate them with a government they do not have control over.

This can be seen almost everywhere.  In response to news of the Iranian Kish Airliner air crash in the UAE in February 2004, MSNBC Don Imus remarked, “When I hear stories like that, I think who cares.” In November 2009, Fox sportscasters made racially discriminatory remarks against Iranian NBA player Hamed Haddadi. Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, claimed that Iranians “have terrorism in their DNA.” Even YouTube, usually a nonpolitical world community, got involved in politics and excluded Iranians from its recent experimental documentary Life in a Day.

This attitude is extremely disconcerting. Just as I would not want to be judged by US foreign policy, such as our handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither should Americans, and in particular policymakers, be so quick to associate the Iranian people with their government’s foreign policies. It is as if the 2009 post-election protests and crackdown, and the continuing government repression in Iran have already been forgotten.

As Sandy Tolan wrote, “If national interest comes before our common humanity, then there is no hope for redemption, there is no hope for healing, there is no hope for transformation, there is no hope for anything.” I hope Americans who have forgotten about this common humanity take cue from the US Navy rescue, and keep Tolan’s words in mind.

Some in Congress Get Smart on Iran

Cross-posted from the HuffingtonPost:

For more than two decades now, US policy on Iran has depended almost entirely on sanctions. Even now, Congress is set to pass the latest in a long line of “crippling” pressures: a gasoline embargo that both Republicans and Democrats believe is unlikely to alter Iran’s behavior in the slightest, but which some hope will cause enough pain for the Iranian people that they will protest a little harder than they already are.

But the yardstick for an effective Iran policy is not how much pain and suffering it will cause among innocent Iranians. Rather, changing the policies and behavior of Tehran’s repressive government should be our ultimate goal. This means that when it comes to sanctions, bigger is not always better. If Washington wants to do something on Iran, it should first stop helping the Ahmadinejad government repress its people.

Luckily, there is a chance that things are about to change. Just as most of Congress is stuck in the narrow mindset of draconian sanctions, two new bills have been introduced that offer a new way forward on Iran. The Stand with the Iranian People Act (SWIPA), led by Rep. Keith Ellison, and the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (IDEA), led by Rep. Jim Moran, both seek to redefine how Congress approaches the Iran issue, in favor of a smarter, more holistic strategy.

  • 9 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • About, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Abdo: “The Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship”

Geneive Abdo, Iran analyst at the Century Foundation, wrote an article in the October 7, 2009 edition of Foreign Policy about the expanding power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran.

Abdo writes:

“The secretive paramilitary group became a dominant institution in Iran — socially, politically, militarily, and economically — during Ahmadinejad’s first term. He appointed IRGC members to positions as ambassadors, mayors, cabinet ministers, and high-ranking officials at state-run economic institutions. The IRGC returned the favor during the electoral campaign. Before the election, the chief of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari, encouraged the guards to “participate” — a not-so-subtle directive to do whatever necessary to guarantee Ahmadinejad’s re-election. They did so, both by intimidating opposition members and even, some in Iran allege, single-handedly rigging the vote.”

The newly appointed commander of the Basij paramilitary group under IRGC control is Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a senior military officer who was sanctioned by the UN for links to Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Adbo highlights his role as “a key player in organizing and financing Ansar Hezbollah, a militia that orchestrated the 1999 attack on student dormitories at Tehran University” among his other involvements with severe crackdowns on dissidents in Iran in illustrating what she refers to as the titular “Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship”.

Abdo’s views ring true with other analysts and scholars on Iran, as well as some current developments. Rasool Nafisi, professor from Strayer University, recently discussed the increasing military stronghold on Iran socially, politically, economically at a NIAC briefing on Capitol Hill as part of its US-Iran Policy program. Recently a company affiliated with the IRGC purchased a majority share of Iran’s telecommunications monopoly for nearly $8 billion. Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center recently spoke of the silencing of more moderate opposition and reformist voices in Iran since the June election and the continuing rise of hardline elements in the Iranian government at a recent discussion on Middle East affairs.

Abdo also writes about how the militaristic expansion in Iran causing stirs on all sides of the political discourse:

“Khamenei’s appointments come amid a fierce debate inside Iran. Even conservatives are unnerved by the militarization of the state. They argue that the military’s intervention in Iranian politics is against the revolutionary ideals of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic in 1979. Khomeini established the IRGC to defend the revolution from internal threats after the fall of the shah. In 1988, he established the Basij forces on university campuses across Iran to ensure that students, long known for political dissent, would remain loyal to the republic.

Now, Khamenei has given the militias under his control unprecedented power. This will surely lead to a more restrictive society at the precise moment a broad-based opposition movement seemed to promise real change for the first time since the 1979 revolution.”

This trend has created fears of a descent into a Junta-like system in Iran.

  • 11 February 2009
  • Posted By Michelle Moghtader
  • Diplomacy

Americans Come Face-to-Face with Iranians


Tom Loughlin, an American-born lawyer-turned photographer visited Iran three times to capture Iranian life for his installation. In his artist’s statement he describes how he was inspired while taking pictures in the streets of Isfahan.

“I spotted a young Persian man wearing a Dixie Chicks t-shirt. I introduced myself, and I inquired whether his t-shirt was intended to signify his dislike for the American President Bush. He smiled, and replied that the shirt wasn’t just about President Bush. He explained that shortly after the Dixie Chicks criticized Bush on stage, bootleg Dixie Chicks shirts appeared in stores all over Iran’s major cities. He told me that the shirt represented the admiration that he and his compatriots had for Americans’ freedom of speech.”

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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