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Posts Tagged ‘ Terrorism and Financial Intelligence ’

  • 20 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • Sanctions

Treasury’s Flawed Defense of Iran Aircraft Sanctions

Last week, the New York Times examined how sanctions that prevent Iran from purchasing Western aircraft and spare parts are hurting ordinary Iranians and have contributed to a record of over 1,700 plane crash deaths in Iran over the past decade.

David Cohen, the Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence–who is responsible for enforcing sanctions–disputed the article and defended the aircraft sanctions.  He wrote that Iran Air aids Iranian weapons proliferation and so is not a purely civilian airline.  He also asserted that the U.S. does allow for inspections and repairs of Iranian civilian aircraft as long as the services are performed outside of Iran.

But Cohen’s response leaves out some very important points.

Although his first point is true – Iran Air is not only a passenger airline, but also provides services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Cohen incorrectly cites June 2011 as the date these sanctions began. In reality, Iran has been unable to purchase Western planes or parts since 1979. Due to decades of sanctions, Iran’s aging fleet of airplanes has one of the worst air safety records in the world, suffering from at least one major plane accident a year. Iranian aircraft safety is so terrible that Iran Air was banned from flying over European airspace in 2010, due to safety concerns.

Cohen’s second point is also technically true: the U.S. has “issued licenses to allow for the inspection, and in previous years also the repair, of Iran’s civilian aircraft, so long as those services were performed outside Iran so the parts and services could not be misdirected to Iran’s military aircraft.”

However, he fails to mention that, if Iran were to send planes outside of the country, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the planes would be tampered with or bugged with espionage equipment. Given the recent barrage of espionage-related activities against Iran – ranging from assassinations to computer viruses – it is no surprise that Tehran would be unwilling to allow Iranian airplanes to be inspected or repaired under U.S. auspices in a third country. Thus, Iran will likely not risk sending any planes outside of the country for inspection.

Sign the Petition


7,350 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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