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Some in Congress Get Smart on Iran

Cross-posted from the HuffingtonPost:

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

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

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

  • 13 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 8 Comments
  • MEK, Neo-Con Agenda

NIAC Stands by its Record of Pursuing Peace Through Diplomacy

The following statement was issued by NIAC in response to today’s article in the Washington Times:

Washington DC – NIAC is proud of its work to advance US national security through a smarter and more effective policy on Iran. NIAC rejects the insinuations made by Washington Times that its activities are in violation of tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

NIAC has provided tens of thousands of documents and all its financial records in order to prosecute a defamation case against Hassan Dai. Those documents prove the allegations made against NIAC are completely false. The judge denied Dai’s motion to dismiss the case on 18 out of 19 counts. Realizing this, the defendants have decided to maliciously leak those documents to a reporter at the Washington Times, Eli Lake, in an attempt to litigate the case in the media rather than in a court of law.

NIAC is a 501 (c)3 educational organization representing Americans of Iranian descent. It engages in educational, advocacy and limited lobbying activities in accordance with US laws and regulations. NIAC does not lobby on behalf of the Islamic Republic. NIAC advocates on behalf of the Iranian-American community, who overwhelmingly oppose the policies of the government of Iran.

Mr. Lake’s article does not present any evidence for any of its claims and stops short of making any direct accusations. Instead, it makes insinuations and engages in conspiratorial speculation, presumably with the aim of sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of the public about NIAC and fabricating a controversy around the organization.

This follows by now a familiar pattern in which neo-conservative activists have sought to smear and defame NIAC by making accusations, innuendos and speculation, without providing any evidence to back their claims.

In fact, evidence is to the contrary. Why would Ambassador John Limbert, a former hostage imprisoned for 444 days by the government in Iran, join the advisory board of an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the very same government that imprisoned him? This claim is illogical at best and ludicrous at worst.

Mr. Lake has selectively focused on emails and documents that fit with his pre-determined verdict against NIAC. Though the basis of Lake’s article is misinformation about NIAC provided by Hassan Dai, Lake did not ask a single question about our lawsuit, why it was filed, our understanding of Dai’s political motivations and Dai’s connections to the Iranian terrorist organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq.  NIAC encouraged Lake to investigate the evidence of Dai’s role in the Mujahedin-e Khalq. However, Lake declined to investigate his own sources.

It is clear that some neo-conservative elements wish to divide the Iranian Diaspora at a time when unity is needed more than ever for the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people to be achieved. While some prominent figures in the Iranian Diaspora have misunderstood NIAC’s activities, we are reaching out to them and we refuse to walk into this trap of pitting members of the community against each other.

NIAC has given the Iranian-American community a powerful voice in Washington DC that has effectively pushed for greater focus on human rights in Iran, opposed war between the US and Iran, opposed broad-based sanctions that hurt the Iranian people while strengthening its hard-line government, and supported diplomacy between the two countries to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner.

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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