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  • 26 May 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Neo-Con Agenda, Sanctions

Toxic sanctions

On Tuesday, the Obama Administration announced a new round of sanctions against seven companies that were found in violation of Iran energy sanctions  passed into law last year.

One of the companies, PDVSA, was sanctioned for selling Iran a compound called reformate—which is used to make gasoline burn cleaner.

As reported in December by the Washington Post, U.S. sanctions have prevented Iran from importing gasoline, which has led Iran to turn out a lower quality, locally produced gas mixture.  The local gas is highly toxic and has caused a spike in air pollution that has been linked to a rise in repertory disorders and even cancer.

Now, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on a company for selling Iran reformate that can used to detoxify that gas.

Administration officials were asked about the move by a BBC Persian reporter yesterday:

“We’ve been getting lots of reports of medical experts in Iran saying what Iran is producing inside in haste is not clean and it’s causing cancer…Now, you’re targeting a company that is selling them an equipment to clean that up. How do you justify that, telling the Iranian people that we want to make sure the gasoline you’re driving on is not even clean?

The official response was that “the Administration is charged with implementing the law, and the law is very clear that refined products, including reformate, are subject to the sanctions.”

So that begs the question for lawmakers like Senator Mark Kirk, who presents himself as a champion of human rights in Iran while simultaneously calling for draconian nuclear sanctions:  how can you claim to support the Iranian people while at the same time working to poison the air they breathe?

  • 24 June 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Sanctions

Congress moves forward with “crippling sanctions” (and misses opportunity to support Iranians)

On Monday, the latest version of Congress’ sanctions bill was unveiled just in time to be passed and sent to the President’s desk by July 4. The new sanctions bill comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the Iranian elections that sparked a massive protest movement and brutal government reprisals. But while lawmakers have attempted to reconcile the pain that these new sanctions will impose on ordinary Iranians with Congress’ claims of support for the people of Iran, this bill remains a blunt instrument that perpetuates the sanctions-only framework that has dominated the United States’ Iran policy for decades.

The sanctions bill is officially titled the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (H.R.2194), but it is better known by its shorthand moniker–“crippling sanctions”. This was the term popularized by Senator Hillary Clinton when she was campaigning for President, but which fell out of vogue in Secretary Clinton’s State Department following the violence and suffering that occurred in Iran over the last year.

Congress, however, never abandoned the concept of “crippling” Iran through sanctions. Now that the Obama Administration has passed UN sanctions, and protests and government brutality in Iran no longer dominate the news, Congress has free reign to pass sanctions that would “cripple” Iran’s economy by cutting off gasoline to Iran that is used by ordinary Iranians for everything from heating their homes to producing food and transporting medicine.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy

  • 22 April 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Sanctions

What you need to know about Congress’ Iran sanctions

This morning, the House will vote to begin Conference with the Senate to finalize an Iran sanctions bill to be sent to the President.

Many questions remain about what happens from here–will concerns raised by the White House and other Members of Congress be fixed in conference?  Will Congress coordinate passage with the White House’s ongoing multilateral efforts or will it act unilaterally and risk undermining the President? Will the final package include anything to support the human rights of the Iranian people?

Here are some key resources regarding the sanctions bills and the conference process:

Conference Analysis

NIAC analysis and recommendations for final sanctions package: don’t neglect human rights

National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce study: sanctions will cost U.S. 210,000 jobs and $25 billion in exports

NGO Coalition Calls on U.S. to Lift Ban on Humanitarian Relief for Iranians

Fifteen organizations call for Iran sanctions legislation to support human rights

The Hill: Changing Course on Iran Sanctions

Obama Administration Statements

State Department Letter to Senator Kerry: Sanctions bills may undermine our efforts

White House, State Department: We oppose broad sanctions targeting the Iranian people

Bill Text

H.R.2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 (passed the House 12/15/09)

S.2799, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 (passed Senate 01/28/10)

H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 (passed House 10/14/09)

  • 3 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Congress, Nuclear file, Sanctions

House to vote on gas embargo before year’s end

From Politico:

House Democratic leaders are planning to move forward with a bill imposing tough new sanctions on Iran before the holiday recess, according to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the bill’s author.

The legislation seeks to cut supplies of refined petroleum products, especially gasoline, into Iran as a means of convincing that regime to end its nuclear weapons programs. Additional sanctions would be imposed on foreign exchange, banking, and property transactions, including any organization that does business with the Central Bank of Iran.

“I intend to pass the bill by the end of this year,” Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told POLITICO. His bill has 339 co-sponsors in the House, and it might be taken up under a parliamentary process that allows quick approval of widely supported legislation.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) told fellow Democrats on Thursday morning that the bill would be brought to the floor within two weeks, according to Democratic aides. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs passed similar legislation at the end of October, although it is unclear if and when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring that bill up for a vote.

  • 20 August 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Congress, Sanctions

Berman talks Iran sanctions with Chinese officials on CoDel

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), currently on a Congressional Delegation trip (CoDel) to China, discussed his concerns about Iran’s nuclear program with Chinese leaders.  Most likely, Berman is hoping to convince the Chinese to support another round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran, modeled off of his bill, H.R. 2194, that seeks to impose a gasoline embargo on Iran.

Berman and his colleagues pressed Chinese leaders to continue working closely with the international community to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

“A nuclear weapons-capable Iran would be a threat to security and stability in the Persian Gulf and beyond,” Berman said.  “By continuing to enrich uranium, Iran is flouting the will of the international community, as expressed in numerous UN Security Council resolutions supported by both the US and China.

“The clock is ticking on Iran to engage in serious dialogue regarding this matter,” Berman added.  “If it does not respond to our offer of engagement by early this fall, I believe the international community, including China, must move to impose tougher economic measures to change Iran’s policies. In my meetings, I have emphasized to leaders here that China and the United States share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and ensuring that peace and stability are maintained in the Middle East. I also urged the Chinese that we must continue to work in close cooperation with each other and our partners in the Security Council to convince Tehran to change direction before it’s too late.”

But Berman and his colleagues also expressed “deep disappointment” with recent multi-billion-dollar energy deals signed with Iran by Chinese state-owned companies. “This is exactly the wrong signal to send to Iran at a time when Tehran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of the international community,” Berman said.

In late April Berman introduced the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194), bipartisan legislation that would bar from the U.S. market companies that are involved in exporting refined petroleum products to Iran or in helping Iran increase or maintain its existing domestic refining capacity.  He has held off bringing the bill up for consideration before the Foreign Affairs Committee in order to give the Obama Administration and its international partners time to work on diplomacy with Iran.

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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