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Posts Tagged ‘ IRGC ’

  • 30 April 2014
  • Posted By Kaveh Eslampour
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2013

International Response to Abuse in Evin Prison

On April 17th, over 30 inmates in the 350 Ward of Iran’s Evin Prison were subjected to physical abuse and forcible head shavings, according to human rights groups outside of Iran. Victims included political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, both of whom were imprisoned following the uprisings of the disputed 2009 presidential election. With no public response from President Rouhani, campaigns professing solidarity with the prisoners have led the international outcry to investigate the incident and improve human rights in Iran.

The crackdown was conducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Intelligence Ministry officers, and prison guards who claim to have been conducting a routine search for elicit items such as cell phones. Following the incident, 32 prisoners were put into solitary confinement with some yet to be released. Gholam Hossein Esmaili was removed from his post as head of Iran Prisons Organization following the incident. However, in a move to defy critics, he was elevated to director general of the Justice Department in Tehran Province. This assault is the latest in a series of egregious human rights violations committed by the conservative dominated judiciary and the IRGC, possibly aimed at undermining President Rouhani in the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West.

421 activists inside of Iran have written a public letter to President Rouhani calling for him to investigate the assault and protect citizen’s rights. Rouhani has not responded publically to the incident, although he has met privately with several prisoners’ family members. One day after protests outside of the President’s office, Rouhani administration spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said that a team had been put together to investigate the attack. No new details about the team or their findings have emerged since the announcement a week ago. The constitutional powers of the president of Iran do not grant the authority to free political prisoners, although during his campaign Rouhani pledged to “improve the situation” of many prominent prisoners.

Rather than trying to appeal to President Rouhani, others have focused on supporting the victims of the assault. Thousands have viewed a group on Facebook (which is technically blocked inside Iran) dedicated to supporting those kept in Ward 350, with hundreds posting pictures of themselves with shaved heads to symbolize solidarity with the prisoners. More than 30 prisoners from inside of Evin Prison and six from the Rajaa Shar Prison have launched a hunger strike to call attention to their unlawful imprisonment and brutal treatment, according to human rights groups outside of Iran. In his latest report, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed reported at least 895 ‘prisoners of conscience’ and ‘political prisoners’ inside of Iran. Shaheed has still not been granted access to the country.

There has been increasing frustration with Rouhani for not pursuing campaign promises to improve human rights in Iran. Rouhani’s administration has appeared to focus instead on first resolving the nuclear issue with the West, under the belief that doing so can empower moderates and generate momentum on improving human rights in Iran. Former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, has called for the release of political prisoners, including 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. On the opposite side, hardliners continue to criticize Rouhani for negotiating with the West. A new hour long documentary titled “I Am Rouhani”, reportedly funded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is critical of Rouhani’s dealing with Iran’s “enemies.”

  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Mohammad Esfahlani
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Israel

Iran VP Rahimi’s Hard Times and Anti-Semitism

While anti-Zionist rhetoric from Tehran has become all too common, a recent speech by Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi seems to have hit a new low.  Going far beyond traditional anti-Zionist rhetoric, Rahimi’s anti-Semitic speech actually accused the holy text of Judaism of being responsible for the spread of illicit drugs around the globe. Beyond being deplorable (see NIAC’s statement condemning it here), it’s also truly bizarre.  Which begs the question: what is the calculus, if any, behind such inflammatory rhetoric?

Mohammad Reza Rahimi became the Vice President in September 2009 after the Supreme Leader dismissed Ahmadinejad’s first choice with a rare published handwritten note. That pick, Esfandiar Mashaei, is controversial for many reasons, but it was statement that “Iranians are friends of Israelis” that created controversy amongst some of the most hard-line conservatives.

Rahimi and Mashaei—who is now Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff—have been under withering attack since they were accused of heading a group that embezzled about $3 billion dollars, the largest case of financial embezzlement in Iran’s history. This scandal has intensified their internal conflict with their conservative political rivals—parliament members and supporters of the supreme leader—to the extent that some hardliners have called for their execution. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has been severely weakened since he dismissed the Iranian Intelligence chief and challenged the supreme leader’s decision for his reassignment, a battle which he ultimately lost.

  • 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) 

  • 19 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/19

U.S. proposes a direct line of communication with Iran 

A  a conservative Iranian lawmaker, Ali Motahari, claims that the U.S. has sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader proposing direct talks. The Obama administration has denied the claim. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast claims that the proposal for direct talks was embedded in the U.S. letter warning Iran against closing the Strait of Hormuz (ABC 01/18).  

CNN reports that the United States has suggested creating a direct line of communication with Iran in order to prevent any escalating miscalculations between the two countries (CNN 01/18).

Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, at a joint news conference with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Turkey is prepared to host nuclear talks between Iran and Western countries. He urged for negotiations to begin immediately (Washington Post 01/19).

U.S. crafting new “confidence building measure” with Iran

The U.S. is crafting a new diplomatic proposal that would require Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20% and to give up its existing stockpile of 20% uranium  (Yahoo News 01/18).

EU set to approve central bank and oil sanctions

EU foreign ministers are expected to agree on an oil embargo against Iran and a freeze on the assets of its central bank at a meeting scheduled for Monday, according to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (Reuters 01/19). 

The director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said that the U.N. would press for full Iranian cooperation in meetings with Iranian officials. An IAEA delegation is set to seek explanations about allegations regarding Iran’s nuclear program (Reuters 01/19).

Meanwhile, Deputy House Whip Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), returning from a trip to the U.S.’s Gulf allies, said there is widespread concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and support for sanctions, but great reservation and worry about a possible military attack against Iran (Think Progress 01/18).

Japan, China statements on Iran oil

China’s premier Wen Jiabao, at a press conference in Qatar, defended their oil trade with Iran while warning against Iran developing and acquiring a nuclear weapon (The Guardian 01/19). Meanwhile, Japan has said that it is likely to reduce Iranian crude purchases over the next three months (Reuters 01/19).

Former Revolutionary Guard commander criticizes Iranian government

A high-ranking former Iranian commander, Retired Rear Adm. Hossein Alaei, has sparked protest and anger in Iran for publishing a letter perceived to be critical of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In the letter, Alaei implicitly compared the recent government crackdowns on the opposition to the repression during the time of the shah. Alaei publicly expressed regret for having written the letter after angry mobs, supporters of Khamenei, attacked his home (Washington Post 01/18).

Notable opinion: 

In a Politico op-ed, author and journalist Hooman Majd discusses the 5 main U.S. misconceptions about Iran:

Top five, 10 or 100 lists are standard at the end of the year. Though the Iranian year doesn’t end for roughly two months, given the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, with threats and counter threats over the Strait of Hormuz — to say nothing of most GOP presidential candidates’ views on what to do about Iran — it might be useful to compile one on the growing Iran crisis, early 2012 here and late 1390 there.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Three prominent journalists have been arrested in Iran ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections.

The New York Times reports that Iran’s currency fell to its lowest level ever against the dollar on Wednesday.

Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has urged Iran to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar, during a trip to Turkey, warned Arab states against aligning themselves too closely with the United States.

  • 15 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Israel, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 11/15

Details and questions about explosion near Tehran that killed IRGC general

Skepticism is emerging about Tehran’s claims that the recent explosion in Iran was an accident and not an Israeli attack.  The NY times reported one of the casualties in the explosion was a Revolutionary Guard general who was a key figure in developing Iran’s shahab missile program (NY Times 11/14).  Time’s Tony Karon writes that, if Israel was behind the explosion, it could create an escalatory cycle of military retaliations that could lead to war.  However, Tehran may view this as a trap to provide casus belli for war against it and hence is denying Israeli involvement. (Time 11/14)

Current Iran legislation is “dangerous”

The ‘Iran Threat Reduction Act’, which recently passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is expected to come up for a vote in the House before the end of the year, could actually increase the threat of war with Iran says Steven Zunes. The act “appears designed to pave way for war” by setting “a dangerous precedent” of setting legal constraints against diplomatic contact between American and Iranian officials. (Zunes Huffington Post 11/14)

Additional Notable News:

Reuters reports that EU foreign ministers voiced support for additional sanctions but will wait until their next Dec. 1 meeting before deciding on whether to take further action.

Brigadier General John H. Johns (ret.) writes in the New York Times: Calls for military strikes on Iran may provide “applause lines” in GOP debates, but they “flatly ignore or reject outright best advice of America’s national security leadership.”

CBS poll found that 55% of Americans think Iran can be effectively dealt with through diplomacy instead of military action, while 15% said they see Iran as a threat that requires military action now.

Video: Former inspector Robert Kelly calls recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program “misleading” and says it “recycles old information and is meant to bolster hardliners.”

The Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization issued a letter, signed by 175 people, rejecting the regimes “stubborn” stance on their nuclear program.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Iran is holding meetings with Syrian opposition groups as it continues to hedge its bets regarding Assad’s future.

Ahmadinejad Accuses Opposition of Supporting Sanctions

Earlier this week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to the latest round of international sanctions by lashing out at his political arch nemeses, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hossein Mousavi, during a televised conference with the heads of Iran’s propaganda machine, the IRIB.  Ahmadinejad didn’t call them out by name, instead referring to them as those “who were responsible for forcing the Imam [Khomeini] to drink the poisonous chalice” — referring to UN Security Council resolution that brought an end of the Iran-Iraq War.  These individuals – Rafsanjani and Mousavi — “were complicit with the West” in imposing sanctions against Tehran and trying to “put an end to our government,” Ahmadinejad claimed.

Of course the leaders of the Green Movement have repeatedly spoken out against international sanctions.  Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad pretended as if the opposite were true – not unlike much of official Washington – in order to attack the Green Movement as treasonous.

This being Ahmadinejad, he went even further. He declared “we wanted this from God –we were waiting for them [the Green Movement] to come,” alluding to the brutal crackdown on protests that ensued after his disputed re-election.

Despite Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric, his standing is not nearly as firm as he would have the world believe.

Ahmainejad’s allegations come a week after the head of the IRGC, Ali Jafari, admitted for the first time in public that some IRGC officials are supportive of the Green Movement.  According to Rahe Sabz, top officials, such as the Supreme Leader and top IRGC officers decided to forcibly retire 250 members of the Guards who had sided with Mousavi after last year’s disputed presidential election.

These two events together show the depths of the rifts that continue to grow by the day within the Iranian government.  Ahmadinejad’s striking accusations are surprising, even for someone as strident as Ahmadinejad. He is, after all, accusing the head of one of the most powerful institutions in the Islamic establishment of colluding with the U.S against his government.  Moreover, while there was always some speculation that certain members of the IRGC were at odds with the government’s brutal reaction to the demonstrations, Jafari’s announcement further demonstrates that the IRGC is not a monolithic institution with unwavering allegiance is to the Supreme Leader.

Although the green movement may seem to be on hiatus, people in the U.S should not make the mistake of believing that the movement has been crushed by the government. While protestors have grown weary of taking to the streets to be beaten, the political schisms in Iran show no signs of healing, and only time can tell what will happen next.


  • 29 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Majlis of the IRGC, by the IRGC, and for the IRGC



The recent battle over Azad University and its assets is not only a sign of a growing division in Iran’s hardliners. If one looks more closely, the growing importance of the IRGC in Iranian politics is also becoming clearer.

Originally created by Ayatollah Khomeini to be the Supreme Leader’s personal militia, the IRGC acts independently from the official armed forces. While it already controls a large segment of the Iranian economy, in the last decade the IRGC has also been increasingly acting like an independent branch in the government.

In recent decades, the IRGC has been used to suppress Iran’s rapidly developing civil society and student movement. Over the last two years, though, it has reached a boiling point: Hillary Clinton said Iran is becomming a “military dictatorship,” and the disputed electoral victory for Ahmadinejad last June was labeled a military coup.

“It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and co-author of an exhaustive study of the IRGC. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

Now, the IRGC’s ascendancy is playing out in a battle over Azad University, its board, its 1.5 million students, and its billions of dollars worth of assets.

On June 19, Azad University’s board secured a temporary injunction preventing the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) from enforcing its revision of the university’s charter. In support of Azad University, on June 20 a bill was rushed through the 270-member Majlis that allowed universities to endow their properties to the public, thus circumventing the government takeover of the University.

As all political moves in Iran are protested by one group or another, shortly thereafter Basijis and Ahmadinejad loyalists protested outside Majlis, claiming the bill was against Khamenei’s will. Protesters threatened to place the Majlis “under fire” unless it backed away from its bill.

What is interesting to note is that the Basij and Ahmadinejad loyalists were not actually acting in the name of the Supreme Leader as they claimed. In fact, Khamenei came out and called for unity, saying “I object to any comment, move, action, or written text that leads to division and rift…We need to promote consolidation.” It thus seems that the Basij have actually developed a position of their own, independent of the Supreme Leader.

As a result of the heated protests, 100 legislators voted for emergency discussion of legislation that would support the SCCR’s authority in the matter. In other words, this discussion could overturn the endowment bill passed earlier on June 20.

The fact that protest by the Basij led many Majlis members to change their mind is a sign of their growing power.  According to U.S.-based political analyst Reza Fani Yazdi:

“It seems that from now on any bill that is due to be ratified by the parliament [must] be approved by the security military forces, otherwise the same thing will happen and they will bring their pressure groups to the streets and force the parliament not to make any independent decisions— even the current parliament, which includes many former members of the [Revolutionary Guard] and close aides of Ahmadinejad’s government.

As NIAC Advisory Board Member Reza Aslan said shortly after the June elections, “There is a genuine fear… that Iran is beginning to resemble Egypt or Pakistan, countries in which the military controls the apparatus of government.” If the IRGC begins to control the Majlis as well, Aslan will have proven to be right.

It is important to note, of course, that the IRGC is far from a monolithic organization. Members voted for various political candidates in the elections and of course do not all support Ahmadinejad. In fact, many former members denounced the regime’s brutal crackdown following the June 2009 elections. The effects of this great diversity on the battle over Azad University remains to be seen.

For now,  if the Ahmadinejad camp wins this political battle, they will control the billions of dollars of assets belonging to the university. The university’s campuses will be controlled by the government’s security and military apparatus. But most important, and perhaps most frightening, their victory will also serve as a precedent for the IRGC to effectively control the Majlis in the future through intimidation and violence, thus permanently overshadowing the most representative branch of the Iranian government. And with such a diverse IRGC, who knows what will happen next?

Photo Credit: Radio Farda

  • 14 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran

IRI’s Helping Hand

Hardline backers attacked and vandalized Grand Ayatollah Saanei's office on Sunday.

While some Iranians came out to protest on the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential elections this weekend, others came out to attack Mehdi Karroubi and the offices of Grand Ayatollah Saanei and late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Karroubi, who traveled to Qom on Sunday for a mourning ceremony, planned on visiting Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, and the family of late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Shortly after arriving at the house of Saanei, a group of pro-regime backers encircled Saanei’s house, chanting slogans against Karroubi and Saanei. They also attacked Karroubi’s car, which despite being bulletproof, was still heavily damaged due to the severity of the attacks.

While these attacks were not particularly surprising — just another statistic added to the many other attacks this past year — what was surprising was the IRGC’s aid to Karroubi. The IRGC not only urged the violent crowds to disperse, but Karroubi also took refuge in a building owned by the Revolutionary Guards per their request until 4 in the morning on Monday when he finally left for Tehran. He escaped through a corridor made by the anti-riot police to ensure safe passing of Karroubi’s car.

As any Iranian who first points to an underlying conspiracy as the reason for an unnatural event taking place, I assumed it was the regime that set up the entire thing. Photos of Saanei’s office greatly resembled photos of university dormitories attacked by the Basij following the elections last year. Plain clothed thugs were hired by the regime, I thought, and then the IRGC came to the ‘rescue,’ showing the regime’s kindhearted nature, even to the opposition. It would serve for a brilliant propaganda campaign. But after fruitlessly searching on Press TV for any news of this event, I realized I was slightly off.

But only slightly. The place to look was Raja News, not Press TV. The state media was broadcasting the event, and of Karroubi’s flee from the people on domestic news sites, not international ones. The state-run media seemed to mock Karroubi for escaping a violent crowd — though I couldn’t imagine anyone in their right mind doing differently.

And all the while, the police did nothing. Shortly after Karroubi escaped, police and security forces stood by, watching while the mob attacked Saanei’s house and office and vandalized the late Montazeri’s office.  Said opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s son Hossein:

From the sudden gathering and the behavior of this group, it is obvious that they did not act by themselves and have orders.

This elaborate, and very organized plan, served the regime quite well. First of all, it allowed them to score some cheap points through the fear of violence.  Also, the IRGC very deliberately prevented the mob from going too far — because the last thing they want to do is create another martyr for the opposition movement.

Iran was shaken up after the death of Neda, and again, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri last year.  Another martyr would serve as the very flame needed to ignite the relatively smaller protests on the anniversary this year and turn them into something bigger, resembling the protests that followed the previous deaths. And so the IRGC prevented that from happening.

To be clear, this could have been a very major event — and it appears the senior leadership in the IRGC knew it.

For me, it wasn’t the violence that was surprising — thankfully, no one was hurt — it was its target: two grand ayatollahs, Montazeri and Saanei.  I was looking through the pictures of Saanei’s attacked office and saw a broken mohr.  A Mohr is a small clay tablet that Shi’a Muslims use to pray.

There’s no better illustration than this of what Montazeri meant when he said Iran is no longer Islamic nor a republic.

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions

March 8th, International Women’s Day, was celebrated with even more passion this year in Tehran.

Zahra Rahnavard – the outspoken wife of the presidential election challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi –  issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles during the past nine months.  She referred to the Green Movement as a very diverse network of ethnic groups, unions, students and of course women.

Rahnavard referred to the women’s movement in Iran as one of the most constructive approaches in shaping the future of freedom and democracy under the umbrella of the newly born Green Movement.  Representatives from Mothers for Peace – another organization formed after the disputed June 2009 elections that actively supports the Green Movement — joined Rahnavard in expressing alarm about the potential for the democratic movement to be derailed by punitive economic sanctions imposed by the west.

Non-violence in a civil disobedience struggle is a major principle for Mothers for Peace. Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.

  • 19 February 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 8 Comments
  • Diplomacy, US-Iran War

2+2=Regime Change

Many of us acknowledge that most major media outlets limit their reporting on Iran to one or two narratives, spinning the news to focus only on the nuclear weapons or regime change.  But today the Washington Post has gone one step further and has actually distorted the message in a letter from one of its own readers to fit into one of the status quo narratives.

The letter to the editor in question, which discusses Hillary Clinton’s recent comments that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship, is titled “Hillary Clinton conveys hope for regime change in Iran”.  What’s peculiar is that what the letter says is actually the EXACT OPPOSITE.

The letter states that Hillary Clinton’s comments “should be read as a clear indication, if it wasn’t clear before, that “regime change” is dead as a U.S. policy goal toward Iran”.  The writer explains that Clinton’s comments “implied that as much as the U.S. government disagrees with Iranian policies, it concedes the legitimacy of its civilian institutions, as opposed to the illegitimate exercise of power by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.”  Somehow to the Washington Post this reads as “Clinton conveys hope for regime change”.

It’s one thing when media outlets spin the news.  But the Washington Post spinning its own letters section, that’s something you don’t see everyday.

Hillary Clinton conveys hope for regime change in Iran

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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