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Feinstein Delivers Strong Defense of Diplomacy on Senate Floor

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) added to her credentials as a champion of diplomacy with Iran with a remarkable speech on the floor of the Senate last night. Sen. Feinstein warned that S.1881, a sanctions bill from Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that has garnered 59 cosponsors, would “collapse negotiations” and be a “march toward war.”

Her speech came at a critical time. On Sunday, the P5+1 and Iran announced an agreement to implement the first phase nuclear deal struck in November. Further, a number of Senators are voicing their strong opposition to the new Iran sanctions, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Despite the growing opposition, the bill still retains the support of a majority of U.S. Senators.

Feinstein began her speech by noting that countries can change direction, citing the examples of post-war Germany and Japan, Spain, Yugoslavia, Vietnam and South Africa. Further, she noted that several nations have abandoned the pursuit of nuclear weapons, including Sweden, Argentina and South Korea. Citing robust diplomatic engagement and steps to curb Iran’s nuclear program, Feinstein suggested that Iran could be on the cusp of a similar change “and that it is the job of diplomay to push for that change.”

Feinstein highlighted the strong security benefits of the first phase nuclear deal, including that it will require Iran to cap its enrichment at 5% and eliminate its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%, all while instituting “the most intrusive international inspection regime ever” to verify compliance.

According to Feinstein, Senate passage of S.1881 would kill the deal and ongoing talks with Iran, “and, with it, the best opportunity in more than 30 years to make a major change in Iranian behavior—a change that could not only open all kinds of economic opportunities for the Iranian people, but help change the course of a nation. Its destiny in fact could be changed. “ Further, Senate passage would “play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see diplomacy fail.”  Those Iranian hardliners would argue that Rouhani and Zarif “exchanged a freeze of its nuclear program for additional and harsh punitive sanctions.”

“Above all,” Feinstein added, “they will argue that the United States is not interested in nuclear diplomacy–we are interested in regime change. “ Nuclear negotiations would collapse, Iran’s nuclear program would be unconstrained, and the U.S. would only be left with military options.

Feinstein, citing Secretary of State John Kerry’s formal request that the Senate hold off on new sanctions to allow the negotiators time and space to do their jobs, argued that the Menendez-Kirk bill “is an egregious imposition on the Executive’s authority to conduct foreign affairs.”

Citing the fact that new sanctions would collapse the agreement, Feinstein asked, “How does that (passing new sanctions) make any kind of common sense? It defies logic, it threatens instant reverse, and it ends what has been unprecedented diplomacy. Do we want to take that on our shoulders? Candidly, in my view, it is a march toward war.”

Sen. Feinstein concluded by stating that the first phase nuclear deal with Iran “is strong, it is tough, and it is realistic. It represents the first significant opportunity to change a three-decade course in Iran and an opening to improve one of our most poisonous bilateral relationships. It could open the door to a new future which not only considers Israel’s national security, but protects our own. To preserve diplomacy, I strongly oppose the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act (S.1881).”

Sen. Feinstein’s strong speech could weaken support for the sanctions bill at a critical time, encouraging other Senators to make their opposition to the bill public. Currently, two dozen Senators have yet to take a formal public position on the bill.

  • 4 May 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Senators Take on Obama over Iran Sanctions

The Cable reports that a bipartisan group of Senators have sent a letter to the Chairmen of the Iran sanctions conference, laying down the gauntlet regarding changes sought by the Obama Administration for the final bill, as well as multilateral efforts being pursued by the Administration.

The letter highlights the infamous Gates memo, in which Defense Secretary Gates stated that Iran could potentially assemble all the parts needed for a nuclear weapon “but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.”  The Senators write that this is a reminder “that there is little time left to wait for tough new multilateral sanctions – from the United Nations or otherwise.”

However, Gates was warning that Iran may pursue the Japan model instead of seeking to become a full blown nuclear power; if anything he was calling for a serious evaluation of U.S. policy options should sanctions fail to dissuade Iran from pursuing this model, not supporting the letter’s argument that we should all panic and abandon other tools so we can rush forward with unilateral sanctions.  If there is an argument for how much time we have available to develop and pursue better options, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright assessed that Iran could not have a nuclear weapon for at least two to five years.

  • 20 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 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.

  • 24 July 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda

Senate Adopts Measure to Counter Censorship in Iran

Cross Posted from

Washington DC – Last night, the Senate voted unanimously to adopt legislation that aims to aid the ability of the Iranian people to access news and information by overcoming the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian government.

The Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Robert Casey (D-PA) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Here’s the dish on the new committee leadership

Trusted sources have confirmed that Senator John Rockefeller will step down from his chairmanship of the Select Intelligence Committee to assume the all powerful post of Commerce Committee chair. The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is the counterpart of Energy and Commerce in the House and deals with issues pertaining to interstate commerce, transportation, science and technology, and consumer products regulation among others.

California Senator Diane Feinstein will take over as chair of Select Intelligence, which is charged with overseeing US intelligence agencies and assuring that they provide the executive and the legislative branch the accurate and timely information it needs to make critical national security decisions. The fifteen member committee receives regular intelligence briefings that other members are not privy to and holds closed hearings on sensitive national security issues.

  • 25 September 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Breaking: Last-Minute Push for Iran Sanctions in Congress

Last night, a number of frantic emails from colleagues and Hill staffers revealed that, despite previous signs that proposed Iran sanctions were dead in the water, a bill will be considered either today or tomorrow to impose further sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program.

In a last-minute maneuver, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced draft legislation to approve of a sanctions package similar to S.3445, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). (See: NIAC’s analysis of the Dodd sanctions package)

  • 23 September 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Congress set to adjourn without passing new Iran sanctions

Members of the House and Senate conference committee finished their work today to finalize the language on the defense authorization bill.  They did not include any new sanctions on Iran in the versions passed by either house of Congress, effectively ending (for this legislative session) the chance of another round of Iran sanctions being passed.

The conference report is posted at

  • 18 September 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Update: Defense Authorization Passes without Iran Amendments, More to Come…

Last night at 6:30pm, the Senate voted 88-8 to approve the Defense Authorization Act of 2009 (S. 3001)  without taking up nearly 100 pending amendments, including new Iran sanctions proposed by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

The Senate spent the last two weeks debating these proposed amendments, but in the end failed to approve of any of them — though it could still be possible that the final version will contain most or all of them.  But Congress will certainly have to work hard to finalize an agreement in time to adjourn next week.

The bill now moves to a conference committee made up of select Representatives and Senators who will work out a compromise over differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.  Aides are predicting that the nearly 100 proposed amendments could still be approved by the conference committee and attached to the final version that President Bush signs into law. 

The Iranian American vote

I have often been asked, “There are so many Iranian Americans in California, how come the Presidential candidates are not asking for our votes?”

This is a good place to start our discussions about the Iranian-American voter and our potential impact on electoral politics. There are so many factors that help determine the relative impact of any community on the political process, and certainly the number of potential voters is one important variable.

(Below the fold I’m going to start our discussion about the potential impact of our community on the political debate, and begin a series on the 2008 election cycle…)

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.



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