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  • 26 September 2013
  • Posted By Mina Jafari
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Congress races to distort facts and kill Iran opening

From IranFact.org

At the UN this week, the world saw a very different exchange between the U.S. and Iran than in the past years. Iranian President Rouhani declared that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons and seeks to remove “mutual uncertainties with full transparency,” saying Iran “does not seek to increase tensions with the United States.” President Obama welcomed recent positive signals from Iran and said, “We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.”

Yet some in Congress are saying something much different. Since Rouhani and Obama’s speeches, those who are not interested in peace with Iran have been warning against any change in relations, and have often resorted to many false arguments  to maintain that Iran is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” to use President Netanyahu’s description of the newly elected President.

Shortly after Rouhani’s speech, during an interview with CNN, Mike Rogers (R-MI) expressed his skepticism towards further nuclear talks and demanded that Iran first end its production of “over 20% enriched uranium.” The demand was odd given that Iran is not enriching above 20%. As is well documented by the IAEA, Iran has produced only low-enriched uranium (between 3.5%-19.75% concentration). Anything beyond 20% would be news indeed, and Rogers should present his evidence to the IAEA, ASAP.

But I suspect that Rogers, as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has more than sufficient understanding of what levels Iran is enriching to, and merely misspoke on this point. Yet, in the same sentence, Rogers also demanded that –before any talks continue–Iran must open the Fordow plant for inspection. This again is odd. While Fordow facility may be deeply fortified against potential military strikes, there are indeed UN inspections there. The IAEA visits the Fordow plant almost weekly and knows well what is going on in there. A quick glance at any of the IAEA’s quarterly reports on Iran’s nuclear program will tell you as much. Shouldn’t the head of the House Intelligence committee be aware of these simple and well documented facts?

Meanwhile, the heads of the House Foreign Affairs Committee–Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Elliot Engel (D-NY)–responded to Rouhani’s speech by setting an arbitrary deadline of 100 days for Iran to fix the nuclear issue. To put this in perspective, even Royce and Engel were unable to get sanctions legislation marked up in a committee very amendable to such bills in their first 100 days as its chairs. Yet they want Rouhani to fix all of the problems with Iran’s nuclear program in 100 days.

Then there is Senator Bennett of Colorado, who in a letter to a constituent stated, “Iran recently installed 180 advanced centrifuges at its production-scale uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz… [which] could be used to produce enriched uranium suitable for nuclear reactors.” Yes, that is in fact what centrifuges do. That’s what we want to make sure Iran is doing–instead of potentially using enriched uranium for weapons. The level of confusion on this fundamental point is embarrassing.

And then you have Ted Cruz (R-TX). Further complicating potential peace negotiations between Presidents Obama and Rouhani, the Senate’s new maverick introduced a  resolution which sets pre-conditions for such a meeting. In the text, Cruz misquotes Rouhani, claiming the Iranian President referred to Israel as a “a wound…on the body of the Muslim World.” This well documented false translation came from Iranian news sources that embellished a segment of Rouhani’s speech in which he said “Quds day […] is a day that people present the unity of Islam against any type of oppression or aggression. And in any case, in our region, it is an old wound that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world, in the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds.” He made no direct mention of Israel or Zionism–in fact, even Obama has referred to the lack of Israel-Palestine peace as a wound in the region. The misquote, however, has been exploited by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who does not want the U.S. to fall for Rouhani’s “charm offensive” and is desperate to get back to the days when he could claim Iran wants to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Then we have legislators who are just plain freaking out. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are pushing for a bill which declares war on Iran. Franks even claims Iran has enough low enriched uranium that (if Iran kicked out IAEA inspectors and rapidly enriched it to weapons grade) could produce 20 nuclear bombs. I have no idea where he gets this number. The IAEA’s accounting of Iran’s total enriched uranium, according to the latest Arms Control Association brief, is that Iran has enough low enriched uranium for four bombs–though building a bomb would require many, many more steps. Franks made the exact same exaggerated claim in 2010. So by his estimate, Iran has not enriched any uranium since 2010.

These Congressional hawks apparently have no qualms taking extreme liberty with the facts, all in an unabashed effort to drag the country into another unwanted, unnecessary war.

  • 22 April 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

Nuclear fishing boats and further proof that Congress is losing it on Iran

It is no secret that some of the most hawkish U.S. policies and positions towards Iran over its disputed nuclear program have come not from the Executive branch, but from Congress. Spurred on by AIPAC and other powerful pro-war lobbies and organizations, Congress has become a cesspool for blatant and often bizarre war-mongering Iran resolutions. Indeed, bills currently in circulation in congressional committees seek to do everything from removing waiver authority for sanctions on Iran; requiring that nuclear sanctions can’t be lifted until Iran becomes a democracy; goading Israel to start war with Iran and promising U.S. money and troops to do it; sanctioning anybody who engages in ANY form of trade with Iran (including humanitarian trade); and even  removing Iran from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (a treaty that obligates Iran to not build nuclear weapons).

Now, if you are wondering why Congress has been pursuing such counterproductive and overly aggressive policies towards Iran, you have to look no further than some of the people Congress is getting their Iran related information from.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing a few weeks ago that in large part dealt with Iran, the several so-called experts called upon to inform our congressional representatives bordered on flat out deception in their testimonies to members of Congress.

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey, one of the panelists at the hearing, stated that Iran could assemble something that “passed for a nuclear weapon within a matter of very few months.” Now, Woolsey is certainly in a position to know the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Namely, that Iran is not currently developing a nuclear weapon, does not have any uranium enriched to weapons grade levels (that producing a bomb would require a significant quantity of), and that even if it did decide to suddenly break out towards building the bomb, this would become immediately evident to both IAEA inspectors and to Western intelligence agencies. All of this has been corroborated numerous times by US and Israeli intelligence, and even in the latest testimonies of the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Needless to say, Woolsey is evidently not concerned with portraying a realistic and grounded picture of Iran’s nuclear program to Congress. He goes on to play the fear card by making several outlandish comments about how Iran’s putting of a satellite into space presents a risk to U.S. national security in terms of Iran eventually being able to explode a bomb in sub-orbit. Woolsey stated that such an explosion would have an “extremely strong decisive impact on the eclectic grid.”  He then recommended that the U.S. “get busy shielding [its] electric grid.”

Woolsey went onto to make his most brazen claim–that Iran could nuke the U.S. from a fishing boat. He acknowledged that  Iran does not currently possess a delivery system for a nuclear weapon, nothing would stop an Iranian “scud in freighter” coming within a few hundred miles of the east coast and shooting a nuclear missile towards the United States. “We need a missile system that can catch it,” Woolsey said, “If an Iranian fishing boat did this, we can do nothing unless we have these systems.” So, the lesson he is giving Congress here is to spend billions of dollars on some sort of defense system that guards again Iranian missiles being launched from fishing boats of the east coast.

Unfortunately, hyping up fictitious threats was not where this hearing ended. In his questioning of the panelists, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, stressed to the panel that the U.S. has not done enough to support the people in Iran. He specifically highlighted the Azeri, Baluch, and Turkmen ethnic groups within the country. Woolsey took up the honor of answering Rohrabacher’s plea for essentially supporting ethnic separatism inside Iran.

“We need to show people and let people know what side we are on in respect to Iran,” he said. “But in terms using economic power, using embargoes, using sanctions, taking gloves off completely in respect to those, doing everything we can to bring down their economy. I think that’s something we can at least make a very good effort at, and could use as part of the rallying cry for the American people and the people who have oppressed by Iran.”

Simply stated, the logic here is outstanding: Woolsey  thinks that by effectively destroying the financial livelihoods of people in Iran, the Iranian people will come to understand that we are on their side. This is when all the reporting and polling coming out of Iran is increasingly suggesting that the once friendly to America sentiment in the nation is eroding as a result of our policies towards the country.

Henry D. Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, topped off this committee hearing by telling members of Congress to avoid “conceding per-say rights to these and other states.”

“I believe our government and most our allies have gotten into the lazy habit of portraying the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) as a deal, that demands and supplies 3 things equally, nonproliferation safeguards, disarmaments, and the sharing of peaceful nuclear technology. This breezy three point NPT pitch, although popular, I think lacks historical or legal substance, it also I think, defies common sense,” Sokolski said.

The NPT is essentially the only legal document that Iran is signed onto that obligates it to not develop a nuclear weapon. Thus far, Iran’s nuclear program has operated under the framework of the NPT. Efforts to remove or provoke Iran to remove itself from the NPT will surely results in exactly what the West does not want, Iran actively going after a nuclear bomb. It is important to note that other states which have developed nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan, India, and Israel, are not signatories of the NPT.

The situation in Congress has certainly reached a fever pitch in regards to Iran. There is little reason to doubt that if many members of Congress could have had their way, a disastrous war with Iran would have begun a long time ago. Now, just as negotiations are showing signs of hope, Congress is seemingly doing all it can to derail them. While they are clearly heavily influenced by agenda-driven lobbies and individuals, it is important that they hear the voice of the majority of the American people, which have long been against war with Iran and for negotiations.

  • 15 March 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • US-Iran War

10 years later, is Iran replacing Iraq?

“There is no question whatsoever that [blank] is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons — no question whatsoever. And there is no question that once he acquires it, history shifts immediately.”

If you automatically substituted in Iran for the blank here, you certainly cannot be blamed. The “no question about it” confidence and overly alarmist tone that underpins this quote embodies much of the rhetoric proliferated today in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. Furthermore, this quote even comes from perhaps the biggest purveyor of portraying the Iranian nuclear program in such terms, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. However, this is not from a speech Netanyahu made in 2013, but from one in 2002, and the blank here is not Iran, but Saddam Hussein.

On this tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, it is apt to review the frighteningly numerous parallels between the run up to that war and the current standoff with Iran. As the above quote demonstrates, many of the same people who warned so insistently about the “threat” from Iraq ten years ago are now warning just as insistently about the “threat” from Iran. In Netanyahu’s case, he has frequently been caught repeating verbatim the same things he said about Iraq over a decade ago about Iran today.

  • 11 March 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, US-Iran War

NYT Slams AIPAC Resolutions

Two recent measures introduced in Congress received some pretty harsh criticism from the New York Times this past weekend.  The first resolution, introduced in the Senate by Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, would essentially open a backdoor to war with Iran by pushing Israel to start it. The other bill will sharply ratchet up already tough sanctions imposed on Iran.

In a significant move, the New York Times ran an editorial article slamming the bills as harmful to ongoing negotiations and as making war more likely. “Last week, just as Iran and the major powers made some small progress in talks and agreed to meet again, two measures were introduced in Congress that could harm negotiations,” said the New York Times. “It could also hamper negotiations by playing into Iranian fears that America’s true intention is to promote regime change. “

It remains to be seen if this unique criticism from the New York Times will have any effect on Congress. Especially since, as the editorial notes, these bills are being promoted by AIPAC. Regardless, by taking on Congress’ latest Iran hijinks, the NYT is saying to Congress what NIAC has been saying for years: that ratcheting up sanctions and upping the war rhetoric, our elected officials in Washington are closing off political space for the Obama Administration to conduct serious diplomacy, and thereby making war more likely. The NYT piece ended with a stark message,” The best way to avert military conflict is by negotiating a credible, verifiable agreement. It is a very long shot. But Congress needs to give the talks time to play out and not make diplomatic efforts even harder.”

Blocking Iran talks is rerun of Iraq failure

This past weekend, with news that the U.S. and Iran may be planning direct talks soon to address the nuclear standoff, there were swift reactions by some to try to kill the initiative.  Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren warned that Iran should not be “rewarded” with direct talks, and Senator Lindsey Graham–who has pledged the U.S. will join Israel if they choose to bomb Iran–ominously said “the time for talking is over.”

For some, it seems that negotiations with Iran that could resolve the nuclear impasse are a bigger danger than Iran’s nuclear program.

Rolf Ekéus, who headed the UN team charged with eliminating Iraqi WMD infrastructure from 1991 to 1997, makes a compelling case in Foreign Affairs that the international community is indeed headed down the same path with Iran that we took with Iraq.  The piece, co-written with Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, presents a timeline in which a U.S. policy aimed at regime change prevented sanctions from being removed and made war inevitable:

  • In 1991, after the Gulf War, the UN Security Council requires Iraq to destroy all WMD material and accept international inspections.  
  • From 1991 to 1997, Iraq procedes with disarmament in order to get the international community to honor its end of the deal: to lift UN financial and trade embargoes once Iraq has complied.
  • By 1997, Iraq completes disarmament and the UN has a monitoring system in place.  There are calls in the Security Council to begin lifting the sanctions.
  • But that spring, Secretary of State Madeline Albright announces the U.S. will not lift the sanctions until Saddam is removed.  
  • By the end of 1998, Congress passes the Iraq Liberation Act which makes regime change the official U.S. policy towards Iraq.  President Clinton signs the bill into law.
  • In 1998, with no chance of getting sanctions lifted through cooperation, Saddam obstructs and finally kicks out inspectors after a U.S.-British bombing campaign.
  • Citing the Iraq Liberation Act and allegations of Iraqi WMD programs and capabilities, Congress authorizes war with Iraq and the U.S. invades in 2003.
  • 16 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Israel, US-Iran War

Graham proposal pledges support for Israeli strike

Americans don’t want to be dragged into war with Iran by Israel.  According to recent polls:

  • 59% of Americans oppose the United States getting involved if Israel strikes Iran according to the 2012 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey.
  • 55% of Americans say an Israeli strike on Iran would worsen the U.S. military and strategic position in the Middle East according to an October 8 poll released by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).
  • 53% of Americans say Washington should maintain a neutral stance if Israel strikes Iran according tothe PIPA poll.  29% said the U.S. should discourage such action and only 12% said the U.S. should encourage Israel to strike Iran.

But in the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a different agenda.  This November he is planning to introduce a resolution providing unconditional backing for Israeli military actions against Iran.  As NIAC’s Jamal Abdi writes in the Huffington Post, “Graham’s planned measure would outsource the decision about whether the U.S. goes to war to the Israeli prime minister, pledging that if Bibi decides to act — regardless of the consequences and our own calculations — the U.S. will provide money, troops, and political leverage”

Graham, who already used a Congressional resolution to endorse Netanyahu’s redline for war over the President’s, is now attempting to undercut the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staffs, General Martin Dempsey, who has warned, “I don’t want to be complicit if [Israel] chooses to [bomb Iran.]”

But Graham’s not stopping there.  He has suggested that, in 2013, he is lining up plans to pass a formal authorization for the use of military force against Iran.  And the supporters of such action are already setting that plan in motion.  A September 27 Washington Post op-ed advocates that an “explicit congressional mandate authorizing the use of force unless Iran meets specified requirements would demonstrate to all our resolve to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.”  The twist? It was written by Jeffrey Smith and John Bellinger III, two lawyers who work for Arnold and Porter, a registered foreign agent serving as Israel’s largest and longest serving lobbying firm in United States. The firm received over $1.2 million from the Israeli government in 2010 alone.

Barely two weeks later, according to Philip Weiss, there is speculation that Israel’s U.S. embassy may have planted a false story suggesting that the U.S. and Israel had agreed on a plan for limited strikes on Iran.  In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, the magazine’s CEO David Rothkopf quotes an unnamed source describing collaborative discussions between the U.S. and Israeli governments regarding a possible joint strike on Iran. The source describes the discussed strike in detail, saying that it would last between “a couple of hours” and a “day or two,” and that it would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

But the “scoop” immediately triggered broad skepticism in Washington and accusations that it was planted by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.  According to the Philip Weiss, U.S. and Israeli military officials have denied the entire conversation about joint strikes.  Weiss notes that, following the publication of the story, Israel’s #2 diplomat in the U.S.–Baruch Bina, whom the White House preferred to deal with over Oren–was transferred to Denmark.  Weiss speculates that the “joint strikes” story was planted against Bina’s objections. Allegedly, Bina argued “that it was inappropriate of the ambassador to feed such a line to Rothkopf, because it could only damage U.S.-Israeli relations.”

Graham and Netanyahu pressure Obama to ratchet up war rhetoric

On Saturday, Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly “stunned” attendees at a Halifax International Security Conference when he called for a military strike that would “neuter” the Iranian regime “not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard.”

NIAC addressed the bellicose remarks with a statement warning that, “Graham’s confrontational war rhetoric sets back America’s opportunities to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully and prevent a third costly and destabilizing US war in the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, that same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in New Orleans advocating to Vice President Joe Biden that, in spite of all of the sanctions the US had put in place over the past year, the Obama Administration needed to start doing more saber rattling:

Israel’s media says the country’s prime minister has told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that Iran must be made to fear a military strike against its nuclear program.

They say in their Monday editions that Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden that although sanctions have hurt Iran, Tehran will be determined to produce nuclear weapons unless it thinks a military strike is a real option.

This all comes just a week before proposed nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 approach, and is just the type of toxic rhetoric, coming from both the US and Iranian sides, that poisons the environment for successful diplomacy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is apparently less willing to callously issue war threats and pledge American troops to a third Middle East war, took exception to the saber rattling on Monday:

“I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to, to end its nuclear weapons program. We are prepared to do what is necessary, but, at this point, we continue to believe that the political-economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact on Iran,” he said.

But the debate is symptomatic of a discussion going on in Washington, in both the White House and on Capitol Hill, as to whether the US should start raising the war rhetoric against Iran.  Returning to the Bush era of name calling and saber rattling would effectively guarantee that the Obama administration continues solely down the pressure track, rejects opportunities for a successful peaceful resolution to our issues with Iran, undermines Iranians fighting for the rule of law, and locks the US into a trajectory for war.

The Obama administration is reportedly mulling whether to ratchet up belligerent rhetoric towards Iran, according to the New York Times:

Two years into office, Mr. Obama has organized an impressive sanctions regime and managed to combine diplomacy and pressure better than many experts had predicted. But so far he has little to show for it, which has prompted a discussion inside the White House about whether it would be helpful, or counterproductive, to have him talk more openly about military options.

Further complicating this discussion is the November 2 midterm election “shellacking” that Obama and the Democrats received.  Some pundits believe the Democrat’s electoral defeat should cause Obama to tack right on Iran policy, either for purely politically reasons or, crazily enough, even to help jumpstart the economy.

Problem is, Obama has already tried this approach and received little credit from his opponents.  NIAC’s policy director writes in Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel:

Unfortunately, instead of fighting the Bush paradigm that rewards policymakers on the basis of bellicosity towards Iran, Obama has by and large perpetuated a political metric that defines success on Iran only in terms of pressure. Only if Obama raises the consequences of the dire alternative to a successful engagement strategy — war with Iran — and stakes out a new path to create his own political space for diplomacy, can the president effectively navigate the new reality in Congress and pursue a successful Iran agenda.

After coming into office promising to extend an open hand towards Iran, Obama gradually backed away from this position in favor of a tough sanctions regime.  Still, that wasn’t enough for many Republicans like Graham, because, simply put, Obama will never be able to out-hawk the hawks.  Repeating the mistakes of his first two years in office by further increasing bellicose rhetoric will only result in failure at the negotiating table and a crushing political defeat as Obama continually fails to live up to a standard of “toughness” that he himself set.

So far, it appears the administration is correctly distancing itself from Graham and Netanyahu’s comments.  But now the administration needs to go one step further and push back against provocative and counter-productive statements and generate the political space it needs for a major diplomatic effort.

War with Iran by Any Other Name

This week may be looked back on as the pivotal moment when war with Iran entered the mainstream of political thought in the Obama era. At a time when Iranians are standing up to an Iranian government that has been deprived of the Bush-era shadow of war, that shadow is again emerging.

“Bomb Bomb Iran” may be finally crossing over to the pop charts.

While Iran war rhetoric is nothing new in Washington, for the first time it has been given a vehicle. This week, a resolution in the House of Representatives is being circulated by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert that explicitly endorses an Israeli military strike on Iran if “no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time.” The resolution does not specify what peaceful solution its supporters are willing to endorse, what timeframe they would consider “reasonable”, or what kind of “support” the United States would provide to Israel if they bombed Iran. The resolution also does not specify what sort of Israeli military action the U.S. would support.

  • 20 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran

NIAC Welcomes Senate Passage of Iran Human Rights Resolution

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council applauds the Senate’s passage yesterday of S.Res.355, which condemned Iran’s deplorable human rights record, urged the restoration of meaningful human rights to all of Iran’s citizens, and called for an immediate release of those wrongfully imprisoned in violation of their rights.

NIAC President Trita Parsi called the resolution “a step forward” in bringing greater worldwide attention to Iran’s human rights abuses against innocent civilians.  “US policymakers have to bring a greater focus to the human rights problems in Iran; a strategy that focuses only on Iran’s nuclear program and ignores the suffering of the Iranian people will not be successful” Parsi said.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) addressed the Senate chamber yesterday about Iran’s human rights abuses, saying “recent events have made abundantly clear that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is failing, and failing badly, to live up to its own professed ideals and its international commitments to protect the human rights of its citizens and others.”  He, alongside Senators McCain (R-AZ), Casey (D-PA), Graham (R-SC), Nelson (R-NE), Corker (R-TN), and Lieberman (I-CT), submitted the resolution earlier this week and secured its passage in only two days.

Speaking of the resolution, Senator Levin, who chairs the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, said “It is proper and appropriate for the Senate to make clear its determination that these acts violate international human rights standards, Iran’s own professed commitments, and common decency.”

A similar but unrelated resolution supporting the Iranian people’s struggle for rights is pending in the House of Representatives, introduced last week by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) with Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).  So far, Representatives Wolf (R-VA), Shuler (D-NC), and Manzullo (R-IL) have signed on to that effort.

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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