Use of Misleading Terminology for “Convenience”?

Below is a recent article of Dr. Sheda Vasseghi (April 29, 2018) posted in Evakdat in which she discusses a document written by a well-informed CIA official (whose name has now been redacted from the original document). As cited by Vasseghi in her article below:

In the CIA Memo, the author claimed that the CIA tends to be “alert and responsive to official changes in the names of individual political entities.”  However, when it comes to geographic terms, the CIA adheres “to usages that are imprecise, egocentric, and anachronistic“. … According to the CIA Memo, terms such as “the Middle East” are, and always were, imprecise and egocentric given they reflect “the world as viewed from London and western Europe.”  The [CIA] author is alarmed at how widespread the usage of these imprecise terms among the intellectual circles were, including as part of titles for respected publications such as The Middle East Journal

Kindly note that readers are also referred to the article by Dr. Mohammad Ala (Recipient of the 2013 Grand Prix Film Italia Award) entitled:

The “Middle East”: A 20th Century Neologism Or Malapropisms?

======================================================================================

In connection with below-linked article Farrokh & Vasseghi (2017) on the 20th century “invented term”—the Middle East—one may refer to a declassified, internal memo by the CIA’s Office of Basic and Geographic Intelligence (OBGI) to Deputy Director for Intelligence dated February 26, 1973 (the “CIA Memo”), in which the author, whose identity is redacted, noted his “strong aversion” to the use of the term “the Middle East.”

In the CIA Memo, the author claimed that the CIA tends to be “alert and responsive to official changes in the names of individual political entities.”  However, when it comes to geographic terms, the CIA adheres “to usages that are imprecise, egocentric, and anachronistic.”  One of the common ways in which the CIA ignores precise geographical names is by “the use of longitudinal compass directions as nouns” (emphasis in original).

The term “Middle East” was first invented by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914). Mahan’s invention first appeared in the September 1902 issue of London’s monthly “National review” in an article entitled “The Persian Gulf and International Relations”. Specifically, Mahan wrote: “The Middle East, if I may adopt the term which I have not seen…”.  The term – “Middle East” – when examined in cultural, anthropological and cultural terms makes very little sense. Iran and Turkey for example are not Arab countries and in fact share a long-standing Turco-Iranian or Persianate civilization distinct from the Arabo-Islamic dynamic. Instead, the Turks and Iranians have strong ties to the Caucasus and Central Asia (Image: Encyclopedia Brittanica).

 

 

According to the CIA Memo, terms such as “the Middle East” are, and always were, imprecise and egocentric given they reflect “the world as viewed from London and western Europe.”  The author is alarmed at how widespread the usage of these imprecise terms among the intellectual circles were, including as part of titles for respected publications such as The Middle East Journal.

The author of the CIA Memo is concerned with how those in the field of intelligence defend the use of imprecise geographic terms by arguing that everyone knows to what location one is referring when, for example, one says, “the Middle East,” so why worry about it.  Further, correcting such terms may cause confusion and inconvenience!  The author responded to these officers by reminding them that as responsible leaders in the intelligence community, they “should always strive to be practitioners of precision” in written materials.

Mahan’s invented term “Middle East” was popularized by Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852-1929), a journalist designated as “a special correspondent from Tehran” by The Times newspaper. Chirol’s seminal article “The Middle Eastern Question” expanded Mahan’s version of the “Middle East” to now include “Persia, Iraq, the east coast of Arabia, Afghanistan, and Tibet”. Surprised? Yes, you read correctly -Tibet! The term Middle East was (and is) a colonial construct used to delineate British (and now West European and US) geopolitical and economic interests. These same interests help promote the usage of terminology such as “Islamic arts and architecture”  (Image: Ria Press).

 

 

As examples of changing how these officers think and write, the author of the CIA Memo encouraged them to substitute imprecise terms for accurate ones as listed in the chart below:

           Imprecise and Improper Terms       Accurate and Refined Terms

            the Far East                                                   East Asia

            the Middle East deadlock                           the Arab-Israeli deadlock

            the industrial West                                      the non-Communist industrial nations

            the Near East                                                the Eastern Mediterranean

            the Middle East                                            the Persian Gulf states

Mahan and Chirol’s invention (Middle East) provided the geopolitical terminology required to rationally organize the expansion of British political, military and economic interests into the Persian Gulf region. After the First World War, Winston Churchill (1874-1965) became the head of the newly established “Middle East Department”.  Churchill’s department redefined Mahan’s original “The Middle East” invention to now include the Suez Canal, the Sinai, the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the newly created states of Iraq, Palestine, and Trans-Jordan. Tibet and Afghanistan were now excluded from London’s Middle East grouping. The decision to include non-Arab Iran as a member of the “Middle East” in 1942 was to rationalize the role of British political and Petroleum interests in the country (Image: Wikipedia).

 

 

Sources

Central Intelligence Agency. (1973, February 26). Toward improved precision in regional terminology (Approved for Release 2003/03/28: CIA-RPD80T01497R000100080031-9). McLean, VA: CIA Library.

Farrokh, K., & Vasseghi, S. (2017). The “Middle East”: An Invented Term from the 20th Century. Persian Heritage, 88, 12-14.  Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/35445793/Farrokh_K._and_Vasseghi_Sh._2017_._The_Middle_East_An_Invented_Term_from_the_20th_Century._Persian_Heritage_88_pp.12-14

Footprints of Prehistoric Industry around Persian Gulf

The report below was originally posted in the Iran Daily News and Payvand News outlets on January 6, 2017. Kindly note that none of the images and accompanying captions inserted below appear in the original Iran Daily and Payvand News reports.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Objects unearthed in the historical site of Tom Maroon, in Hormuzgan Province on the Persian Gulf, indicate that the communities inhabiting the region during the Bronze Age were involved in industrial activities such as metalwork, glass-work and pottery.

Research Institute of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization quoted head of the excavation team Siamak Sarlak, as saying that that archaeologists came across two oval furnaces, welding parts, furnace slag iron and glass pieces during their excavations.

Remains of an ancient Kiln in southwest Iran [not Siamak Sarlak] (dated to the 5th millennium BCE), towards the northern shores of the Persian Gulf (Source: Pinterest). Kilns were essentially ovens or furnaces used for baking foods and also for non-food applications such as the baking of bricks, firing of pottery, limestone calcination, etc. As noted by David Voorhees who provided the above image in Pinterest: “The lake behind the newly constructed Sivand Dam in Fars province in South Iran will flood a section of the Polvar River where this and many other kiln sites have been located”.

He further noted that among the objects included a glass button-like seal which can be important in analyzing economic relations between Tom Maroon and other regions during that era.

He listed the aims of the current season of excavations as identifying the succeeding cultural eras of the region, drawing up a chronology of the area and defining the role and importance of the area in the shaping cultural relations of communities inhabiting the northern and southern shores of the Persian Gulf in the Bronze Age up to the Islamic era.

Sarlak cited other objectives of the excavations as understanding the instinctive features of the region in developing the cultural outlook of communities residing in the region, particularly in the Bronze Age, conducting research works in cultural-historical area of the Persian Gulf, and collecting fresh documents with the aim of clarifying the historical position and importance of the Persian Gulf.

Chlorite Stone Vase from southern Iran along the Persian Gulf region (dated to c. mid-late 3rd millennium BCE) (Source: Pinterest). Note the three bands of palm trees and the overlapping artwork pattern.

The third phase of the explorations were predicted to be launched by mid-March 2017 given the cultural features of the region and the coordination with the Archeology Institute and Hormuzgan Cultural Heritage Department, he added.

Sarlak pointed out that in the second season of the excavations approximately 7.5 meters of the accumulated layers and cultural objects of the area were surveyed. He added that nine main and two sub-phases of the architecture of the Parthian era were also identified.

Based on the documents obtained in the exploration of Tom Maroon, Sarlak noted that the most important construction material used in the architecture of the Parthian era is large-size adobes using clay mortar.

He said up to three decades ago, there were five satellite mounds around Tom Maroon which have now been completely leveled to the ground and transformed into citrus orchards and currently only a small portion of Tom Soltan Miran, 800 meters from Tom Maroon, remained intact.

Ancient bronze-age chlorite vase from southern Iran (Source: Fattaneh Wilcox in Pinterest).

The archaeologist stressed that based on the documents obtained in the excavations on the southern slopes of Tom Maroon, four cultural periods, including the ancient Bronze era, the Parthian era, the Sassanid era and the early centuries of the Islamic period have been identified.

He said the Persian Gulf is considered one of the important regions in archaeological studies of Iran and ancient Orient in view of its strategic location.

Archaeological studies conducted in Hormuzgan, the Old Stone Age, the ancient Bronze era, the Parthian, the Sassanid and the Islamic periods (especially the Safavid) show that thriving cultures and civilizations existed in the region.

Tom Maroon is located in Hormuzgan Province in a fertile alluvial plain, known as Komiz Plain, surrounded by low mountains.

Farrokh article in New Book by Palgrave-Macmillan: “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism”

Palgrave-Macmillan Publications in London and New York, which is a major international academic venue for scholarly works, has just published a seminal book entitled:

The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, London & New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015

The book has been edited by Edited by Dr. Immanuel Ness, Dr. Zak Cope with the Senior Editorial Advising having been provided by Dr. Saër Maty Bâ.

palgrave-Macmillan

Front cover of the 2015 text “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, London & New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015“. As noted in the Palgrave-Macmillan webpage: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism is a brand new, two-volume publication which presents theoretical explanations and historical accounts of imperialism and anti-imperialism from the 16th Century to the present day. […] this work contains over 170 entries written by an international team of experts and scholars in the field of imperialism and anti-imperialism. This exciting title is the most comprehensive scholarly work of its kind to provide in-depth studies on imperialism’s roots, goals, tactics, influence, and outcomes. It also covers anti-imperialism, including the rich and ongoing tradition of its theories and practices.”

The textbook has also published an article by Kaveh Farrokh:

Farrokh, K. (2015). Pan-Arabism and Iran. In “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism” (Immanuel Ness & Zak Cope, Eds., Saër Maty Bâ, Editorial Advisor), Palgrave-Macmillan, pp.915-923.

sir_charles_belgrave_khalifa

Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa (at left) and Sir Charles Belgrave (right) (Picture Source: Flicker) who was England’s Government Adviser to Bahrain. It was Belgrave who first pioneered the concept of changing the name of the Persian Gulf. The motives for such revisionist schemes are not clear, but it is possible that Belgrave was calculating that such actions would create frictions between the Iranians and the Arabs.

IbnKhaldun

A statue of Arabo-Islamic historian, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) in Tunisia. Ibn Khaldun emphasized the crucial role of the Iranians in promoting learning, sciences, arts, architecture, and medicine in Islamic civilization.  It was pan-Arabists such as Sami Shawkat who insisted that history books such as those by Ibn Khaldun be destroyed or re-written to remove all references of Iranian contributions to Islamic civilization. The former Baathist regime in Iraq promoted such policies and even worked alongside numerous lobbies to promote historical revisionism at the international level.

A direct quote from Ibn Khaldun’s work, The Muqaddimah, states the following:

“…It is a remarkable fact that, with few exceptions, most Muslim scholars…in the intellectual sciences have been non-Arabs…thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and after him, al-Farisi and Az-Zajjaj. All of them were of Persian descent…they invented rules of (Arabic) grammar…great jurists were Persians… only the Persians engaged in the task of preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the prophet becomes apparent, ‘If learning were suspended in the highest parts of heaven the Persians would attain it”…The intellectual sciences were also the preserve of the Persians, left alone by the Arabs, who did not cultivate them…as was the case with all crafts…This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and Persian countries, Iraq, Khorasan and Transoxiana (modern Central Asia), retained their sedentary culture.” [The Muqaddimah Translated by F. Rosenthal (III, pp. 311-15, 271-4 [Arabic]; R.N. Frye (p.91)].

Second Farrokh Book translated by Taghe Bostan Publishers into Persian

Kaveh Farrokh’s second text, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایههای صحرا (April 2007; 320 pages; ISBN: 9781846031083; Osprey Publishing) is the first text to specifically outline the military history of ancient Iran from the bronze age to the end of the Sassanian era. This book was recently translated for the second time into Persian by Taghe Bostan publishing which is affiliated with The University of Kermanshah:

Shadows in the Desert-Taghe Bostan Publishers-3

Farrokh’s second text translated into Persian for the second time. This version was translated by Bahram Khozai and published in Iran by the -طاق بستان- Taghe-Bastan company on January 21, 2012 (01 بهمن، 1390).

The second translation of the book into Persian cited above is independent of the first Persian translation by Shahrbanu Saremi (entitled -سایههایی در بیابان: ایران باستان در زمان جنگ-) which appeared through  Qoqnoos Publishers in 2011.

 Shadows-in-the-Desert-in-Persian-English-Russian

Shadows in the Desert Ancient Persia at War – The first Persian translation by Qoqnoos Publishers with the English to Persian translation having been done by Shahrbanu Saremi (LEFT),  The original publication by Osprey Publishing (CENTER) the Farrokh text  translated  into Russian (consult the Russian EXMO Publishers website) (RIGHT).

The Tehran Times on July 4, 2011 as well as The Times of Iran (July 4, 2011) announced the first translation of Farrokh’s book into Persian by Qoqnoos Publishers with the final report on this made by the official Mehr News Agency of Iran on September, 24, 2011 (see also earlier report by Mehr News in Persian –ناگفته‌هایی از قدرت سپاهیان ایران باستان در «سایه‌های صحرا» بازگو شد-). This has also been reported in Press TVKhabar Farsi,  Balatarin and the official Iran Book News Association (IBNA-سايه‌هاي صحرا؛ ايران باستان در جنگ منتشر شد -) on September 28, 2011.

Frye and Farrokh
Meeting his mentors: Farrokh greets the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye of Harvard University in march 2008 (shaking hands with Farrokh) and world-renowned Iranologist, Dr. Farhang Mehr (at center), winner of the 2010 Merit and Scholarship award (photo from Persian American Society,March 1, 2008).  As noted by Mafie, Professor Frye of Harvard University wrote the foreword of Farrokh’s text stating that “…Dr. Kaveh Farrokh has given us the Persian side of the picture as opposed to the Greek and Roman viewpoint …it is refreshing to see the other perspective, and Dr. Farrokh sheds light on many Persian institutions in this history…” (consult Mafie, 2010, p.2).

Below are a number of reviews of the text:

The Persian translation has been very well-received in Iran as indicated by the November 2011 newspaper clip below:

Page 52 of hashahri javan vol 335-2011
 [CLICK TO ENLARGE] Page 52 of Hamshahri newspaper, volume 335, November 17, 2011. The article in Persian by Ehsan Rezai reads “History as narrated by the Sword”.
Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War has been awarded with the Persian Golden Lioness Award by the WAALM Society in London as the “Best History Book of 2008” on October 31st 2008. This was reported by major media outlets such as the BBC, Iran’s equivalent of the New York Times, The Kayhan Newspaper (the Iranian equivalent of the New York Times) and the widely Iranian.com. The Farrokh text was also nominated as one of three finalists for the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Awards by the Independent Book Publisher’s Association.

Christopher I. Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road

Readers are introduced to Professor Christopher I. Beckwith’s text: “Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present” (available on Amazon.com):

SR-Beckwith-1

  • Author: Christopher I. Beckwith
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Date: Reprinted in 2011
  • ISBN-10: 0691150346; ISBN-13: 978-0691150345

This book is recommended reading for Kaveh Farrokh’s Fall 2014 course “The Silk Route Origins and History“. Readers interested in the history of the Silk Route are also referred to the “Soghdian-Turkish Relations Symposium” (21-23 November, 2014) being held in Istanbul, Turkey (for brochure of conference, list of participants, etc., kindly click on images below to enlarge): Sogut_Program

Sogut_Program2

Christopher I. Beckwith’s text provides a comprehensive history of Central Eurasia from antiquity to the current era. This is an excellent text that provides a critical analysis of the Empires of the Silk Road by analyzing the true origins and history of this critical region of Eurasia.

ForeignerWithWineskin-Earthenware-TangDynasty-ROM-May8-08

Statue of a foreigner holding a wineskin, Tang Dynasty (618-907) (Photo source: Public Domain).

Beckwith examines the history of the great and forgotten Central Eurasian empires, notably those of the Iranic peoples such as the Scythians, the Hsiang-Nou peoples (e.g. Attila the Hun, Turks, Mongols, etc.) and their interaction with China, Tibet and Persia.

Pamir_Mountains,_Tajikistan,_06-04-2008

One of the critical land bridges of the Silk Route: the Pamir Mountains which as a 2-way gigantic connector between the civilizations of the east and West (Photo source: Public Domain).

Beckwith outlines the scientific, artistic and economic impacts of Central Asia upon world civilization. Beckwith also tabulates the history of the Indo-European migrations out of Central Eurasia, and their admixture with several settled peoples, resulting in the great (Indo-European) civilizations of India, Persia, Greece and Rome. The impact of these peoples upon China is also examined.

 Mid15thCenturyPotteryNorthernItaly

Italian pottery of the 1450s influenced by Chinese ceramic arts; housed at the Louvre Museum, Paris (Photo source: Public Domain).

This is a book that has been long overdue: Empires of the Silk Road places Central Eurasia within the major framework of world history and civilization. It is perhaps this quote by Beckwith which demonstrates his acumen on the subject:

The dynamic, restless Proto-Indo-Europeans whose culture was born there [Eurasia] migrated across and discovered the Old World, mixing with the local peoples and founding the Classical civilizations of the Greeks and Romans, Iranians, Indians, and ChineseCentral Eurasians – not the Egyptians, Sumerians, and so on– are our ancestors. Central Eurasia is our homeland, the place where our civilization started” (2009, p.319).

BegramGladiator

Second century CE Kushan ceramic vase from Begram with a “Western” motif: a Greco-Roman gladiator (Photo source: Public Domain). The Silk Route challenges the fallacy of a so-called “Clash of Civilizations” – to the contrary, East and West have had extensive adaptive contacts since the dawn of history.