Currently Browsing

Posts Tagged ‘ US-Iran ’

  • 27 February 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

Partisanship at Its Worst

Less than a month ago, Senator Menendez [D-NJ] conceded in a floor speech that his new Iran sanctions bill, S. 1881, should not be brought to the floor after 42 Republican Senators demanded a vote. “I hope that we will not find ourselves in a partisan process trying to force a vote on this national security matter before its appropriate time,” said Menendez at the time.

This is a good thing considering that we now know that one of the key claims of AIPAC and other supporters was not true. They said that the bill would  require sanctions be imposed, in violation of the preliminary nuclear deal with Iran, only if Iran first violated the deal. But in reality, the bill would have imposed sanctions for a variety of actions beyond what was required in that deal. And Republican staffer  recently admitted as much, telling Wall Street Journal, “Had our bill been in law, the latest [Iranian ballistic missile] tests would have triggered a re-imposition of sanctions.” So Republicans are beginning to acknowledge that the mantra of “the sanctions will be imposed only if the talks fail” was thoroughly misleading.

One would think that the discussion was finally put to rest, that sanctions were not the answer, and that we could now focus our attention to achieving a pragmatic, realistic, and concrete deal with Iran.

However, just this past Monday, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) blocked a bid to vote on bills to combat sexual assault in the military, demanding a vote on S. 1881 in return for allowing the Senate to debate an issue which affects about 26,000 men and women in the military per year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated it most diplomatically when he said, “I’m terribly disappointed that my Republican friends are trying to turn this vital national security concern into a partisan issue by trying to inject [it] into a setting where it’s clearly not relevant.”

  • 9 January 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, US-Iran War

Cruz-ing Towards Failed Diplomacy

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has become the latest Iran hawk to introduce a measure placing preconditions on negotiations designed to end the Iran talks.

Originally, there were Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk, who introduced a Senate bill (S.1881) that has earned a veto threat from the President because it would invalidate the interim deal signed with Iran by passing new sanctions. That bill would also place unworkable demands on any final deal, including requiring full dismantlement of even a verifiable peaceful nuclear program.  And it would pledge U.S. support for Israeli strikes on Iran.

Now, Senator Cruz (R-TX) is joining forces with fellow hard-line conservative Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to introduce a Senate resolution with their own demands that must be met before any bilateral negotiations continue with Iran.

The first precondition that must be met in Cruz’s world before the U.S. is allowed to engage in talks with Iran? Iran must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Cruz wants to cut off the talks that can end the Iranian nuclear standoff, deliver a transparent and verifiable non-military nuclear program, and prevent a disastrous war in which Israel would surely play a major role, to demand Iran do something America’s staunchest allies in the region have yet to do. This is just another precondition specifically designed to block engagement. Something Cruz and his right wing colleagues are failing to understand is how the success of negotiations with Iran is actually in Israel’s interest.

Stop talking war, start talking…

We’re slowly reaching a critical point in the nuclear impasse with Iran.

If you listen to Iran hawks on the right, Iran is hell bent on getting a nuclear weapon.  They just know that’s what Iran wants, despite, as Roger Cohen suggests, no evidence or logical basis supporting their conclusion.

Unfortunately, there’s been little to no push back against what sounds eerily familiar to the rhetoric coming out of neo-cons in 2002, pre-Iraq invasion.

Keeping quiet could lead us beyond the point of no return, where no matter what we do or say or what calculus we use, the end result is a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.  Of course, many Iran-hawks will portray this as a “limited strike” sortie, where only nuclear facilities are attacked.  But if “limited strike” doesn’t sound a whole lot like “slam dunk” or “cake walk,” you might not be listening closely enough.

For us to assume Iran would not respond to “limited strikes”, that Iran would slow or end its enrichment of uranium, that Iran would somehow become more pliant in its reporting, and that the rest of the Middle East would remain quiet, is recklessly naive at best.

I want to be clear before I go forward.  I don’t support an Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.  But the fact is Iran has not decided to actually begin a nuclear weapons program.  The only conclusion we can draw from a new IAEA report is that they are still in the investigations phase, despite attempts to suggest otherwise. And Iran still hasn’t decided if they actually want a program, and, if they do, what will it look like.  As I’ve written previously, all major intelligence analysis points to this conclusion as well.

Unfortunately, some have decided, despite the fact Iran is within boundaries of international law circumscribing uranium enrichment and despite the fact Iran remains operating within the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the US needs to threaten Iran for its transgressions—as Senator Lieberman’s questioning of Leon Panetta at his recent confirmation hearings would suggest.    What we have to understand is that, in many ways, the policy coming out of Tehran is in large part a response to such threats.  (Disclaimer, this doesn’t mean that Iran is helping its cause by being evasive regarding their program.)

This means that they could decide they are safer with nuclear weapons, or with people thinking they have nuclear weapons.  We have to refrain, however, from accelerating any decision by Iran to seek nuclear weapons.  Far worse, however, would be a self-fulfilling prophecy–an attack on Iran that drives them to decide to weaponize.   As my former professor Dr. Robert Farley, at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and Commerce says, “Angels weep when we mistake pre-emptive strikes with preventative strikes.”

  • 2 June 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Are Iran hawks pushing Tehran’s narrative?

Reading Seymour Hersh’s latest piece in the New Yorker, I can’t help but get déjà vu.

Hersh reports that the recent (classified) 2011 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program reaches the same conclusion as the 2007 NIE that Iran had a nuclear weapons program but halted it in 2003.  Despite the two conclusions, many politicians and other policymakers remain steadfast in their own public conclusions that contradict the last two NIEs.

All of this brings me back to the build-up to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Yes, Saddam was being “cagey” about his perceived weapons program, but he had a reason.  He didn’t want the world–Iran in particular–finding out that he really didn’t have one.  So, in defying the west and giving the weapons inspectors the run around, he kept the illusion alive.   He needed the idea of a weapons program to deter his neighbor and avowed enemy.

According to Hersh’s source, a retired senior intelligence official, Iran may have had a similar calculus.  Hersh reports, that the 2011 version initially included a finding that concluded Iran ended its program in 2003 because it was aimed at Saddam and since he had been toppled it was no longer necessary. That point was ultimately removed from the final draft, because, according to Hersh’s source, there wasn’t enough hard evidence to support that conclusion.

This is in direct contrast to the conclusions drawn by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and touted in his recent speech to a joint session of Congress last week.  He says that Iran stopped its weapons program because it feared military action.

“The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation,” Netanyahu said before Congress.  In reality, it is precisely these types of threats that may actually provide the rationale for Iran to pursue a nuclear deterrent.

So, these two contrasting conclusions bring Iran’s intentions into question.  As a European diplomat says in Hersh’s article, “is Iran behaving in a way that would be rational if they were not developing a nuclear weapon?”  The diplomat concludes, “Their behavior only makes sense if their goal is to have the bomb.”

Is it though? The case of Saddam demonstrates that sometimes states bluff or appear cagey to achieve strategic goals other than simply hiding a weapons program.  In Iran’s case, standing up to the United States and the perception that it may have an advancing nuclear weapons program gives it prestige, presents it as a top regional power

As Seymour Hersh points out in his article, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei discusses this very point in his recent memoir, “Tehran is determined to be recognized as a regional power….even if the intent is not to develop nuclear weapons” it “sends a signal of power to Iran’s neighbors and to the world.”

By ignoring this alternative reading of Iran’s behavior, or hyping perceived threats to advance more hawkish policies domestically, we run the risk of miscalculating Iran’s intentions or even reinforcing a narrative they seek to advance as a strategic interest unto itself.  And a policy that is based in the “popular” reading of Iran’s behavior could actually help push Iran to actually developing a nuclear weapon.  We still have time to prevent making this strategic error, but its unclear anyone in Washington has actually learned the lessons from Iraq.

  • 20 October 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Sanctions

Paying for the US-Iran Feud With Blood

In the summer of 2009, in the aftermath of the elections, there was obviously a lot going on in Iran. But one of the things that I remember made everyone hold their breaths in those months is probably not what you’re assuming right now.

On July 15 2009, an Iranian passenger jet – a Russian-made Tupolev – crashed, killing all 168 people on board. Nine days later, another plane – a Russian-made Ilyushin – crashed in a local airport, killing over 20 people. The close succession of crashes frightened us all, and made us realize how vulnerable Iranians really are to sanctions.

At the time, I, along with many other Iranian Americans, was in Iran, and to get between cities and provinces I had to fly. I remember praying that nothing would go wrong as I entered each plane, before takeoff, and before landing. And I remember holding on for dear life when I heard the plane rattle the slightest bit. And I’m not scared of flying.

I remember asking my family why the crashes had occurred. Were Iranian planes just not up to par to American ones? “Sanctions,” they responded, surprised at my ignorance.

  • 29 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Military Attack on Iran: A Combination of Ignorance and Naivety

As always, those who talk about what US policy towards Iran should look like, are already prepared for failure of current US policy.

Now Senator Joe Lieberman is preparing to “up the rhetorical ante” on Iran and endorse military actions if sanctions fail

In an excerpt of what his staff has labeled a “major policy address” to be delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations later today, Lieberman states:

It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. Our message to our friends and enemies in the region needs to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability — by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must.

This comes after  Senator Lindsey Graham last week called for direct military intervention for the purpose of regime change in Iran.  “From my point of view,” Graham said, “if we engage in military operations as a last resort, the United States should have in mind the goal of changing the regime…not by invading (Iran), but by launching a military strike by air and sea.”

Obviously, many things come to mind at their proposal: the question of whether or not Iran is even developing nuclear weapons, the mess we have created and left behind in Iraq, and the chaos we find ourselves in in Afghanistan. Even leaving all this aside, however, I am still left confused and bewildered by the increasing call for military action against Iran by some of our nation’s so-called leaders and experts.

Perhaps most dangerous is the effect military strikes would have inside Iran on the prospects for change. Those who advocate a military attack argue that it will lead to a revolution and possible regime change. These idealistic hopes could not be farther from the truth. As Shawn Amoei wrote, “To believe this is to seriously misunderstand nationalism, the Iranian people, and Iranian history.” See the Iran-Iraq War as the perfect example of how the Iranian people will come together, even under an undesirable regime, in the face of foreign invasion.

A military attack will have a detrimental effect on those within the opposition and civil rights movements within Iran, who already fear being tainted by the US. As insideIran.org researcher Shayan Ghajar eloquently explained:

“Foreign attack on Iran would lead to further marginalization of internal opposition movements by the central government, or would cause a surge of nationalism that temporarily erases domestic disputes. O’Hanlon and Riedel agree, saying, “Nor is a strike by an outside power likely to help the cause of Iranian reformists.” … Mir Hossein Moussavi, the most prominent politician in the Green Movement, has repeatedly argued against… “foreign domination.” …Human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, too, opposes any form of military action. Politician Ataollah Mohajerani, who has ties to numerous opposition leaders, said that any attack on Iran would serve only to strengthen the Iranian military and distract the public from their internal divisions.

In other words, rather than fomenting change, a military attack on Iran would do just the opposite.

In the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, Joe Lieberman said, “We have to do everything we can… to support the people of Iran.” Now, just a little over a year later, he is explicitly endorsing bombing Iran. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.  But  it sounds like Lieberman will be joining his friend Lindsey Graham and assert that they know what’s best for the Iranian people, that Iran’s opposition leaders and human rights defenders are wrong, and that the people of Iran will greet us as liberators.

  • 9 September 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Heffner
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Clinton’s Rhetoric on Iran: Does It Match the Administration’s Actions?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a wide-ranging speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations on the current and future United States role in the international community.  In addition to commenting on general trends and intentions, Secretary Clinton discussed many individual policy issues, one of which was Iran.  She described how the United States is engaged in diplomatic efforts to pull Iran into compliance with the global non-proliferation regime and to provide Iran  a route back “into the community of nations.”  She explained how this diplomatic posture allowed the administration to use “classic shoe-leather diplomacy” to put strong international sanctions in place.

“The choice for Iran’s leaders is clear”, Clinton said, ” and they have to decide whether they accept their obligations, or increasing isolation and the costs that come with it. And we will see how Iran decides. “

  • 14 July 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 4 Comments
  • Nuclear file

When is a Nuclear Program Not a Nuclear Program? (UPDATE)

It should come as no surprise that, when dealing with a topic like nuclear weapons and Iran, there’s just a lot of wrong information out there. For example: take this Council on Foreign Relations overview of the Feb 18, 2010 IAEA report on Iran’s safeguards. These IAEA reports are pretty routine, and CFR is a renowned organization — and yet, from the CFR Essential Documents series:

The February 18, 2010 update of this IAEA document on Iranian nuclear activities reports that Iran has completed uranium enrichment to 20 percent, and that the country continued nuclear weapons involvement beyond 2004, in contrast to U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran had halted weapons activity in 2003 and had not begun anew.

The report simply doesn’t say that. From Section 43:

The Agency would also like to discuss with Iran: the project and management structure of alleged activities related to nuclear explosives; nuclear related safety arrangements for a number of the alleged projects; details relating to the manufacture of components for high explosives initiation systems; and experiments concerning the generation and detection of neutrons. Addressing these issues is important for clarifying the Agency’s concerns about these activities and those described above, which seem to have continued beyond 2004.

The Agency does not say Iran sought to build a weapon beyond 2004. It says that Iran’s lack of cooperation with inspectors makes them unable to verify that the ongoing activities are purely civilian in nature. Without greater cooperation, the Agency says, it is unable to declare the absence of a weapons program. (To say nothing of how hard it is to prove a negative).

One of the most fundamental yet often misunderstood facts about Iran’s nuclear program is this: developing nuclear technology is not the same as developing nuclear weapons. True, progress on a civilian nuclear program — up to a certain point — also brings you closer to a weapon. But CFR here makes the same mistake that policymakers continue to make day in and day out: the fact that Iran’s nuclear activities have continued does not negate the conclusions of the 2007 NIE.

The NIE judged with high confidence that in the Fall of 2003, Iran halted its active pursuit of nuclear weapons. Since that time, Iran’s nuclear program has continued, without an explicit decision to build a bomb. Does that mean that, since 2004, Iran has moved closer to a nuclear weapons capability? Yes. [I would argue, in fact, that Iran has had a nuclear weapons “capability” for some time, having mastered the process of enrichment, having the necessary materials available in large enough quantities, and having bomb designs readily available on the Internet. After that, all it takes is time and the decision to actually build the thing.]

To hear some policymakers talk about it, the 2007 NIE has been thoroughly discredited, yet that just proves how politics can so warp the conventional wisdom on an issue like this. In this case, politics prevailed in reinterpreting the written text of the NIE, which clearly defined “nuclear weapons program” as “Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.”

So there you have it. The NIE said Iran chose to stop pursuing a bomb in 2003, though not to stop its program entirely. The February IAEA report said Iran has not answered the Agency’s questions about certain activities, but it clearly stopped short of CFR’s overhyped conclusion.

Update: A reader writes to say that the IAEA report does in fact indicate an ongoing weapons program after 2004, pointing to the list of alleged activities that “seem to have continued beyond 2004.”  Apparently — as was my point in writing this post — two people can read the same document and draw widely divergent conclusions.

When the IAEA refers to “alleged activities,” it is talking about activities for which it has received some amount of evidence, but about which Iran has not provided enough information for the Agency to form a definitive conclusion.  Thus the use of the word “alleged.” And that, as I said originally, is the core problem with Iran’s nuclear program: there’s just not enough information.  Iran is not cooperating with the IAEA sufficiently to address all outstanding concerns, which breeds a never-ending amount of suspicion about their activities.

Does that mean the IAEA has some evidence to indicate weaponization work continued after 2004?  Yes.  But that evidence is not of sufficient quality, legitimacy or reliability to make an explicit declaration akin to the one CFR made.  (see here for further discussion of the “alleged studies,” and the man behind the intel, Olli Heinonen).  In fact, the US intelligence community  probably also has evidence of weaponization work after 2004, yet has judged that information not reliable or definitive enough to overturn the conclusions of the NIE — which again, was precisely my point.

These issues cannot be simplified based on a cursory reading of one paragraph of a report.  They’re much too complex for that.

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Shifting on 20% enrichment?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Permanent Envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh relayed seemingly coordinated messages yesterday, hinting that Iran might consider giving up its 20% enrichment work, which is currently the biggest stumbling block for the fuel swap deal.

While reiterating the usual assertion that uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, Mottaki added: “if we do not need the 20 percent we won’t move into that direction.”

“We have to do it since we have been facing a lack of any legally-binding assurance of supply,” Soltanieh also told reporters yesterday, adding “when we don’t need 20 percent uranium, we will not produce it.”

These statements might represent a cautious foray into a shifting position by Iran on the 20% enrichment issue.  Iran realizes that with 20% enrichment serving only as a backup plan, and possibly being wholly eliminated in the future, the West’s excuses for rejecting the Brazilian/Turkish deal would evaporate.

For me, now seems like the time to commit to diplomacy, especially when Iran is finally showing some willingness to compromise.

  • 20 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Hikers and Mothers in Emotional Reunion

[vodpod id=Video.3663241&w=425&h=350&fv=embedReferer%3D%26amp%3BembedPageUrl%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2F2%2Fhi%2Fmiddle_east%2F10129546.stm%26amp%3Bconfig_settings_language%3Ddefault%26amp%3BcompanionSize%3D300x60%26amp%3BcompanionType%3Dadi%26amp%3Bpreroll%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fad.doubleclick.net%2Fpfadx%2Fbbccom.live.site.news%2Fnews_middleeast_content%3Bsectn%3Dnews%3Bctype%3Dcontent%3Bnews%3Dmiddleeast%3Badsense_middle%3Dadsense_middle%3Badsense_mpu%3Dadsense_mpu%3Breferrer%3Dnonbbc%3Breferrer_domain%3D%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10126%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10128%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10139%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10153%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10170%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10172%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10173%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10180%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10189%3Brsi%3DJ08781_10191%3Bheadline%3Dmothersmeetushikersintehran%3Bslot%3Dcompanion%3Bsz%3D512x288%3Btile%3D6%26amp%3Bconfig%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2Fplayer%2Femp%2Fconfig%2Fdefault.xml%3F2.18.13034_14207_20100317162935%26amp%3BdomId%3Demp-8694174%26amp%3Bplaylist%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2Fmedia%2Femp%2F8690000%2F8694100%2F8694174.xml%26amp%3Bholding%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbcimg.co.uk%2Fmedia%2Fimages%2F47884000%2Fjpg%2F_47884119_jex_698791_de27-1.jpg%26amp%3Bconfig_settings_autoPlay%3Dfalse%26amp%3Bconfig_settings_showPopoutButton%3Dfalse%26amp%3Bconfig_plugin_fmtjLiveStats_pageType%3Deav2%26amp%3Bconfig_plugin_fmtjLiveStats_edition%3DInternational%26amp%3BfmtjDocURI%3D%2F2%2Fhi%2Fmiddle_east%2F10129546.stm%26amp%3BcompanionId%3Dbbccom_companion_8694174%26amp%3Bconfig_settings_showShareButton%3Dtrue%26amp%3Bconfig_settings_showUpdatedInFooter%3Dtrue]

The three American hikers who were detained by Iranian officials back in July were finally reunited with their mothers in Iran today.

Relatives of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal, say that the trio were hiking along northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region and accidently crossed the border into Iran. A simple mistake, no? Tehran does not think so. Tehran is paranoid at the thought of anyone trying to topple the Islamic Republic and will detain anyone who seems suspicious. On one hand, in the case of the hikers, it is understandable that Iran would worry about someone crossing into the border, especially from Iraq since the United States has such an overwhelming presence there. Look at the United States. We enforce a very strict border control with our neighbor Mexico.

However, to detain them for so long and only allow them to speak to their families once is not acceptable. Yes, they have allowed the mothers to visit for a week, but it is not enough. These individuals have not been given a trial even though the Iranian Foreign Minister stated in December that they would be given one, nor have the three been charged — which is a violation of Iranian law.

So is there any hope for these three Americans to be released soon? In the past, Iran and the United States have made backdoor agreements where detainees from both sides have been released in an exchange. For this particular case, some analysts do believe that Iran will release the hikers in a prisoner swap, similar to what was rumored to have been done with the Frenchwoman Clotilde Reiss. The Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told reporters that Iran has been treating the hikers according to their “religious principles”  and “on humanitarian grounds”, and that the United States should reciprocate with Iranian detainees in their custody.

It is true that human rights violations occur everywhere and that Iran is not the only judicial system which has its faults.  It is also true that Iran and the United States have poor diplomatic relations. If the hikers were Malaysian, for example, things may have been slightly different.  The hostility between Iran and the West is not helping the situation and politics is politics no matter what. However, when an individual has not even been told what they are charged with, it is no longer politics but a violation of rights.

Here’s hoping for a safe and speedy return.

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,

[signature]

Share this with your friends: