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The House Gets Bad Advice

When it comes to crafting law, Congress seeks input from outside experts to help inform and guide their decisionmaking. The type of experts the body seeks out can say a lot about why Congress does what it does. Last Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee invited some particularly revealing “expert witnesses” that say a lot about the body’s priorities.

The Middle East Subcommittee held a hearing on the “Iran-Syria Nexus and its Implications for the Region,” featuring Mark Dubowitz, the Executive Director of the Foundation of Defense and Democracies (FDD), a major pro-sanctions lobby that has  been in the spotlight thanks financial filings that indicate it is primarily sponsored by far-right wing millionaires like Sheldon Adelson. Also testifying was John Bolton, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has called for the U.S. to bomb Iran for years now, going back to his days as UN Ambassador under the Bush Administration.

Dubowitz and Bolton, both representing the neo-conservative hawks in Washington, urged the Members of Congress in attendance to escalate sanctions, dismiss negotiations, and carry out preventative war on Iran.

Dubowitz called for “massively intensifying sanctions on Iran to bring it to the verge of economic collapse.” According to him, Washington was not doing enough to send the message to the Supreme Leader that the U.S. means business. He claimed that the U.S. has been granting sanctions relief to Iran through its “unwillingness to entertain new sanctions [and] non-enforcement of existing sanctions.”

Bolton sided with Dubowitz but added that negotiations with Iran are worthless and that the U.S. should ultimately aim for regime change within Iran. As predicted, Bolton argued yet again that the “only option is a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.”

  • 26 June 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Israel, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Clinton and Baker on Iran, Israeli strikes, and diplomacy

In an interview with Charlie Rose at the State Department  last Wednesday, June 20, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former Secretary of State James Baker discussed the role of diplomacy in resolving US- Iranian tensions [watch the interview here, read the transcript here].

Baker said the U.S. must pursue all non-military means to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, but if those efforts fail, the U.S. would have to “take them out.”   Clinton insisted that diplomatic options for dealing with Iran had not yet been exhausted, and warned that a foreign attack could unify and legitimize the regime. She said,  there are some hardliners in Iran who ” are saying the best thing that could happen to us is be attacked by somebody, just bring it on, because that would unify us, it would legitimize the regime.” Instead of giving the hardliners this credibility, Clinton said of the diplomatic process that the US should “take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can” in order to find a peaceful agreement.

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

Iran News Roundup: June 14, 2012

US-Russia Strain over Iran’s Role in Syria

Russia and Iran, strong allies of Syria, allege the US has sent weapons and troops into Syria to assist opposition forces (NYT 6/13). The claims were denied and countered by US accusations that Russia supplies Syrian opposition groups with helicopter gunships, an allegation denied by the Russian government (NYT). Secretary Clinton spoke to the deteriorating situation in Syria, saying, “’We believe that the situation is spiraling toward civil war’” (Philadelphia Inquirer 6/14). Alluding presumably to the US, Salehi criticized American policy saying, “’They say they want to prevent massacres but at the same time send weapons — these are double standards’” (NYT 6/13).

Lead -up to Talks

Saeed Jalili, Iranian negotiator to the P5+1 talks has announced Iran would not compromise on its right to enrich uranium in a speech to the Iranian parliament that was broadcast throughout the country (WSJ 6/13). The broadcast suggested a “hardening” of the Iranian stance going into negotiations in Moscow (WSJ). Dr. Charles G. Cogan of Harvard’s Kennedy School criticizes the high levels of distrust between the US and Iran approaching talks in a recent op-ed, saying that, “there is very little chance under present circumstances of the above solution being realized,” and that perhaps an intermediary would be necessary for productive discourse to take place (Huffington Post 6/13).

UK and Iranian foreign ministers met in Kabul for the first time since the storming of the UK embassy in Tehran last year to discuss the upcoming talks in Moscow (Reuters 6/14). The storming of the embassy and the disintegration of relations thereafter was acknowledged during the meeting (Reuters).

Coping with Sanctions

Japanese legislation set to pass the lower Japanese legislative house on Friday would provide government guarantees on insurance for Iranian crude cargoes (Reuters 6/14). Japan has lowered oil imports to comply with US sanctions, but it will be the first country to have endorsed insurance for Iranian crude cargoes, despite EU sanctions (Reuters).

Rostam Ghazemi, Iran’s oil minister, continues to deny sanctions are squeezing the Iranian economy, saying the “oil embargo will ‘not have any negative impact on Iran’”, even as Ghazemi meets with other OPEC leaders in Vienna today to argue for a tightening of OPEC’s production ceiling and higher oil prices (AP 6/14; Bloomberg 6/14).

  • 9 September 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 2 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Iran hedges its bets on Syria

How shocking it was this week to see statements by leading Iranian officials offering advice and criticism on Syria’s handling of its protests.  One must grimace at the utter hypocrisy of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi talking about the Syrian people’s “legitimate demands”, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying “a military solution is never a solution” to protests and voicing support for the implementation of reforms.

If only Iran had heeded its own advise with its protests over the disputed elections of 2009.  Did not the people of Iran have “legitimate demands” during their protests?  And did not the Iranian government use a “military solution” to end its own protests?  Where was Ahmadinejad with his support for democratic reforms then?  Oh yeah, he was benefiting from the very lack of such reforms in his highly suspicious and non-transparent reelection.

Meanwhile, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi remain under house arrest in isolation since they called for demonstrations in solidarity with Arab protestors in February.  Is this Ahmadinejad’s idea of “talks” with the opposition?

Yet this is just the beginning of the hypocrisy.  Not only does Iran’s recent advice and criticism on Syria not match how they have handled their own protests, but it is not even consistent with how Iran has acted with Syria’s current protests.  For it has been widely reported that Iran has been assisting Syria with their violent crackdown by sending them trainers, technology, and even snipers.

In fact what is now being called the “legitimate demands” of the Syrian people were up until last week being referred to as a foreign conspiracy that the Supreme Leader Khamenei said “the hand of America and Israel is evident.”  The Iranian ambassador to Syria even referred to the protestors as “foreign mercenaries.”  What a difference a week makes.

This newfound compassion from Iran towards the treatment of civilians is even more unbelievable given that Iran has still refused to let the United Nations human rights monitor into the country.

Additionally, Iran faces a credibility problem in the area that it has gone to great lengths to cultivate a positive image of its self—the ‘Arab street’.  A recent poll by the Arab American Institute found that the image among Arab populations of Iran has fallen rapidly since 2006-2008.  AAI’s Jim Zogby says that Iran owed its popularity to its “active defiance to the West,” but this has diminished amidst the “Arab spring,” the Iranian response to its own protest movement, and a reduction in “bellicose” rhetoric coming from a U.S. that is increasingly considered less relevant among Arab populations.

The extreme importance of Syria as an avenue for Iran to maintain influence in the Levant makes Iran’s recent statements appear less like change of heart regarding Syria’s uprising and more like a calculated hedging of their bets on the outcome of the protests.  If the uprising does succeed in the overthrow of Assad then Iran will need to be able to salvage some remnant of their former relationship.  So Iran’s crocodile tears over Syria’s harsh treatment of the protestors are likely a very transparent attempt to create a visible history of support for the protestors.

With Syria being so strategically important and as Iran places such a high value on its imagine in the Arab street, it is not a cynical suggestion to say that these recent statements by Iranian officials have nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with Iranian officials protecting their own power by hedging their bets.

  • 28 October 2008
  • Posted By Ali Hosseini
  • 0 Comments
  • US-Iran War

US expanding cross-border attacks; next up Iran?

After cross-border air and ground incursions into Pakistan earlier this year, which were reportedly authorised by an executive order signed in July, U.S. Special Forces/CIA raided a village compound 5 miles into Syrian territory late last week.  Ostensibly, they were in the search of high-value terrorists, but the daring cross-border operation killed several civilians including women and children, and it is still unclear if any al-Qai’da members are among the dead.

The assault might be an escalation of an announced strategy to widen the scope of operations in the region in search of “high-value al-Qai’da operatives previously beyond” the reach of U.S. forces. Similar to “pre-emptive strikes,” these cross-border operations undermine central concepts in international law, especially state sovereignty.

And this is particularly relevant to the Iranian-American community. Why? In the context of escalated ‘covert operations’ inside Iran (carried out by the CIA, in collaboration with radical Iranian militants), and Congress’ designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a ‘terrorist entity’, there’s a chance the Bush administration might see an opportunity to challenge Iranian sovereignty, too.

Let’s just hope that President Bush doesn’t try to salvage his legacy by initiating a third war in eight years; after all, the ‘third time’s a charm’.

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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