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Salamatian on society, state, and sanctions in Iran

The following is a transcription from an interview with Ahmad Salamatian on the French radio France Culture (on February 20, 2012). Mr. Salamatian, a political analyst who served in the Islamic Republic’s first government under Bani Sadr and cofounded the Committee for the Defense of Freedom and Human Rights, explains the evolution of  Iranian society and the fracture between the State and the society that led to the 2009 massive demonstrations. According to him, Iranian society suffers from the populist mismanagement of the economy, but he argues that Western sanctions reinforce the Iranian State while slowing down the internal fracture between “the societal Iran” and “the Iranian State”.

Ahmad Salamatian: Iranian Society, Power and the West

Two sides of Iran: “societal Iran” Vs. “the Iranian State”

What happened in 2009 was the revelation of a situation which has been brewing for three decades in Iran.

What we have today is an Iran split in two parts. On the one hand, there is what I call a “societal Iran”. On the other hand, there is an “Iran of power”. They are increasingly far apart and they are increasingly anachronistic to one another.

In 1979 – with regard to his mental and his imaginary– Ayatollah Khomeini was the most in-phase with the Iranian society of that time. It was among those who were familiar with Khomeini that his slogans, symbols and discourses were the most in-phase with people’s imaginary because Iran was transitioning from a rural society to an urban one. The Iranian cities were filled with villagers and other people who lived in the country. They started the process of becoming literate, of learning politics; and with such violence! With a revolution! A fundamental change of everything!

In 2009, you have a society where the city is constituted and advanced. People did not only become literate; they have made steps forward in the shaping of the individual. Iran has somewhat entered history in 1979, with acceleration toward modernity. Though this move is jerky and from time to time shut-off, there is an incontrovertible and irreversible move toward modernity.

The different transitions – demographic, geographic, urban, economic, related to family ties, and cultural – have been accumulated and we have reached the threshold of democratic and political transition.

Transitionally, 2009 was important.

  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 28, 2012

Bush Advisor Calls for Naval Blockade of Iran

President Bush’s former National Security Council director of international energy, Robert McNally, advocates for a U.S. naval blockade against Iran in today’s Financial Times.  McNally acknowledges his recommendation would be an act of war under international law (Financial Times 6/27).

China and Singapore Receive Sanctions Waivers

The Obama administration has extended waivers to China and Singapore, allowing them to importing Iranian oil without penalty for the next 180 days. All countries importing Iranian oil have now received cooperating country waivers from the Secretary of State (U.S. State Department 6/28).

Analysts: Oil Prices Set to Top $110 Again

The median estimate of 32 analysts tracked by Bloomberg expect the price of Brent crude to reach an average $114.50 a barrel in the third quarter, as compared to prices last week in London that dipped as low as $88.49 (Bloomberg 6/28).

Iran Experiencing Grain Shortages Due to Sanctions

Iranian attempts to secure grain via barter deals with India and Pakistan are failing, forcing Iran to pay high premiums for the food staple (Reuters 6/28).

UN Experts Condemn Executions of Ahwazi Arab Minority in Iran

After an allegedly unfair trial, four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority group in Iran were sentenced to death by public executions. Independent human rights experts cited by the UN emphasized, “Defendants in death penalty cases should also receive fair trial guarantees stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Iran in 1975.” Despite the technical illegality of public executions in Iran, since January 2008, the practice continues with the UN reporting at least 25 public executions have taken place this year in Iran (UN Human Rights 6/28).

Apple Facing Accusations of Civil Rights Violations

Following multiple recent instances of alleged racial profiling and discrimination at Apple stores, the National Iranian American Council and a coalition of groups Iranian-American and civil rights groups sent a letter to Apple warning that its actions appear to violate civil rights law.  (International Business Times 6/27).

  • 20 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Update: June 20, 2012

Israeli Action Led to Virus’s Detection

A joint product of U.S. and Israeli intelligence, the Flame computer virus was discovered last month after Israel unilaterally launched a cyberattack on Iran’s oil industry that caught the U.S. “off guard,” according to several US and Western officials (Washington Post 6/19).

Reflecting on Moscow Talks

A senior U.S. official describes Iran’s willingness to engage in the details of a potential agreement as a major outcome of the talks. “We came to Moscow to see if we could get a detailed response to our proposal,” a senior American official told journalists in Moscow after the conclusion of talks Tuesday. “All of that occurred here… Iran for [the] first time responded quite directly to every element of the proposal we put down on the table — quite thoroughly (Al Monitor 6/19).”

  • 23 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Election 2012, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 11/23

Iran highlighted at Republican debate

At last night’s Republican primary debate the candidates discussed Iran at some length. Here are some of the notable positions they talked about:

Herman Cain suggested he would support an Israeli attack, and if their plan was strong enough he would “join with Israel” for the strike.

Ron Paul rejected aiding an Israeli attack, saying Israel can handle themselves and paraphrasing the former head of Mossad Meir Dagan said that an attack against Iran would be the stupidest thing to do in the world.”

Rick Perry advocated Central Bank of Iran sanctions, saying that they “will shut down that economy.”  He also tied the idea of a no-fly zone on Syria as a way to demonstrate U.S. resolve regarding Iran.

Newt Gingrich said that a strategy of energy independence could “break the Iranian regime” within a year, and that we should be “sabotaging the only refinery they have.”

Michelle Bachmann again repeated her false claim about Ahmadinejad, saying,  “he has said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel of the face of the earth.  He will use it against the United States of America.”

Mitt Romney acknowledged that sanctioning Iran will negatively impact the U.S. economy by increasing gas prices, but said it is a necessary cost cost to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

(Click here for the complete transcripts)

Responses to the latest round of sanctions

Following the announcement of new sanctions against Iran experts have begun questing their effectiveness.  Robert Dreyfuss writes in The Nation, the new untargeted sanctions are “dumb” and will not change Iran’s decision making process.  He says that they are only being introduced to “buy more time for the Obama administration” politically (Dreyfuss The Nation 11/22).  A Washington Post editorial argues that the sanctions are “half-measures” and will increase the likelihood that military action will be required later (Washington Post 11/22).  Iran responded to the sanctions claiming they will “be in vain” and will not affect their ability to do business with other countries (Reuters 11/22).  While many are questioning the impact that these latest sanctions will have on Iran, the Christian Science Monitor and others have reported that they already have increased the price of oil (Christian Science Monitor 11/22).

Iran News Roundup 11/10

Romney attacks Obama on Iran: If you want peace, prepare for war
Ahead of this weekend’s GOP foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney took to the Wall Street Journal to lay out his case against Obama on Iran.  Romney criticizes Obama for saying he would pursue engagement with Iran in the previous election cycle, for not speaking out enough for Iranian dissidents, and for recently rejecting Central Bank sanctions.  Romney says if he were president, the U.S. would escalate military preparations and signaling against Iran and impose further unilateral sanctions if multilateral sanctions are not possible.  (Romney Wall Street Journal 11/10)

Slaughter: Diplomacy is least damaging option with Iran In contrast, former U.S. state Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter argues that “continuing with a policy of sanctions and pressure that is not working is worse,” than negotiating a deal that would constrain Iran’s nuclear program.  But domestic politics stand in the way, she says.  If Obama returned to negotiations “he would be hammered by Republican opponents, in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, for negotiating from weakness, affirming US decline, and so on,” she writes.  “But if we are really as worried about an Iranian bomb as we claim to be, results should trump political perceptions.”  (Financial Times 11/10) 

Experts project record oil prices if military action is taken against Iran
Tensions with Iran have put oil prices at their highest levels since July, with the top worry among traders being an Israeli strike against Iran.  Financial Times reports that if war were to break out that oil prices would likely soar to record levels, surpassing the previous high of $175 per-barrel, and go as high as $290. AP says that a teetering global economy means oil sanctions on Iran are likely off the table.  (Financial Times – Iran worries spark fears of $200-a-barrel oil 11/8)(AP – Options for Iran oil sanctions face economic risks 11/9) (Bloomberg – Morgan Stanley Says Disruption in Iran Oil May Raise Prices 11/9)

  • 27 May 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • Sanctions

Bringing Iran sanctions home

As the summer travel season is right around the corner, recent sanctions on foreign energy companies dealing with Iran have raised the prospect of higher gas prices that could put those vacation plans on hold.

But even as Venezuela is likely bluffing about curbing oil supplies to the U.S., and the Administration takes pains to ensure they don’t sanction the U.S. out of foreign oil and gas markets, a new round of sanctions introduced in Congress threatens to bring the sanctions home.

New Iran  sanctions proposed (H.R. 1905 in the House, S. 1048 in the Senate)  would, for the first time, target the energy exports of Iran–which has the world’s third largest proven oil reserves–in what would effectively be an oil embargo.  This would cause a spike in oil and gas  prices as Iranian energy is prohibited from the world market.  That means increased transportation costs, higher prices for goods and services, a rise in unemployment, and a stalled economic recovery.

In an already fragile economic situation, why Congress is considering an oil embargo on the world’s third largest producer of oil is beyond me, though the fact that AIPAC just sent 10,000 of its members to the Hill to lobby for the new Iran sanctions may have something to do with it.  But the last thing the US needs right now is another setback in our economic recovery.

Unfortunately, Congress has so far glossed over the new sanctions as “merely closing loopholes in existing Iran sanctions,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi in an Inter Press Service dispatch, New Iran Sanctions Could Push Petrol Prices Even Higher.   “But if they read the bill, they’ll find out it actually imposes an oil embargo on Iran that could raise gas prices and threaten the U.S. economy, not to mention cause humanitarian suffering 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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