The body of water between Iran and its southern Arab neighbors will from now on be known as the Liberty Gulf, the United States has declared [see map]. Speaking at a White House press conference Wednesday, President Bush said he believed the new name reflects the democratic aspirations of the people of the region. The President began with the following statement:
Good evening. The United States considers the spread of democracy in the Middle East its most important foreign policy objective. Despite great strides in recent years, the war against terrorism cannot be won by military might alone. We recognize that extremism is a by-product of dictatorships and undemocratic regimes that have ruled this volatile strategic region for too long.
We have seen what democracy can do in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Within the past few months, the people of both these countries have taken part in the first free elections in their history. These budding democracies will mature in time and become models for other nations governed by unrepresentative regimes in the region.
Recently the world witnessed the Palestinian people taking part in free elections to choose a new leader; a leader who has taken promising steps towards a lasting peace with Israel. There are hopeful signs that after decades of war and bloodshed, the Israeli and Palestinian people will finally live in peace in their own independent states, perhaps sooner than we ever imagined.
Further north in Lebanon, pro-democratic forces are feeling bolder than ever, thanks to the firm stand taken by the United States and our European allies against Syria's intervention in the internal affairs of the Lebanese people.
We welcome Syria's decision to withdraw all its troops from Lebanon before the May elections. But that is not enough. Syria must also remove its intelligence agents which have intimidated moderate politicians and end support for Hizbollah terrorists.
Unprecedented pro-democracy demonstrations in Beirut have sent a clear message to Damascus that it must give in to their demands or face the consequences not only in Lebanon but at home as well. For nearly half a century, Syria has been ruled by a single-party dictatorship. In fact the Syrian Ba'th Party follows the same ideology as Iraq's Ba'thists under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.
The Syrian people have grown impatient. They too want the freedoms displayed by their brothers and sisters in Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, as well as in far away Afghanistan. We strongly advise President Assad and his ruling party to take heed and display lessons learned from democratic movements spreading the region.
The most significant of these democratic movements is taking shape in Iran. The United States believes that the key to a democratic Middle East is a democratic Iran. There is every indication that the youth of Iran, who make up more 70% of that country's population, have lost faith in a regime run by a few unelected mullahs.
The rise of a democratic government in Tehran by the will of the Iranian nation, and support of the free world, will join the missing link in the chain of democratic governments from Kabul to Tel Aviv. Furthermore, the fall of the so-called Islamic Republic will put an end to the false hope of establishing theocracies throughout the Islamic world.
To show our firm support of the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people and all other nations in the region, I have accepted the recommendation of the National Geography Society to rename the Persian Gulf, also known as the Arabian Gulf, to the Liberty Gulf >>> See opinion poll
We are confident that this decision will show our resolve in supporting all those working for freedom and liberty.
Thank you… I can now answer your questions… Patrick, go ahead.
PATRICK MELLOR, CHICAGO CHRONICLE: Mr. President, do you believe that a simple name change will really help bring about democracy in that part of the world?
PRESIDNET BUSH: As I said in my statement people there want democracy, just like every one else in the free world. They want to be a part of the free world. Look… the Statue of Liberty has been a great inspiration to the American people. I believe that having the Liberty Gulf on the map of the Middle East will serve as a constant reminder to dictators that liberty is on the march…. Next question, yes go ahead…
JENNIFER CONNELLY, REUTERS: Thank you Mr. President. Sir, have you consulted with any Iranians or Arabs to see how they feel about this name change?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I believe there have been consultations with prominent individuals from the region.
JENNIFER CONNELLY, REUTERS: And what has been their reaction, sir?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As far as I understand, there was no consensus. Heh, but they'll get used to the new name. The road to democracy is not always going to be straight and smooth. Next question… the gentleman there, go ahead…
FRANK BAKHTIAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Mr. President. As an Iranian-American I would like to sincerely thank you for this bold and historic move.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you … Do you have a question?
FRANK BAKHTIAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes sir. You mentioned in your statement that the Persian Gulf is also known as the so-called Arabian Gulf. That is incorrect, sir. The Persian Gulf has always been the Persian Gulf. The Arab sheikhs have spent billions of dollars to change the name of the Persian Gulf on various maps. But you cannot change history. This is against democracy, humanity and historic dignity of our people. It is a total lie, sir…
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, in the past some have called it the Persian Gulf and others said it's the Arabian Gulf…
FRANK BAKHTIAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: But Mr. President, excuse me, you are wrong, sir. It was never called the so-called Arabian Gulf. If you read the history correctly, the Persian Gulf has always been the Persian Gulf, since the time of Cyrus the Great more than 2,500 years ago.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well whatever it was before, it's now the Liberty Gulf.
FRANK BAKHTIAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes, Mr. President. But it was never the so-called… (the man's microphone is turned off)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Next question, yes Martha?
MARTHA SILVERMAN, WASHINGON TIMES: Thank you Mr. President. You mentioned that there were consultations with those from the region before deciding on changing the name of the gulf. Can you tell us who these individuals are?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well I think Condoleezza can answer this question. Condoleezza, could you please…?
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Yes Mr. President. We carried out extensive interviews with prominent persons and carefully considered their views on this matter.
MARTHA SILVERMAN, WASHINGON TIMES: Can you give us some names?
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well I'm sure you're familiar with one of them. Her name is Shohreh Aghdashloo. Most of us know her as the terrorist mom on the hit TV series “24”. She fully backed the name Liberty Gulf…
FRANK BAKHTIAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES (shouting from the back): But Ms. Rice. You are wrong. Aghdashloo is a traitor. Iranians are not terrorists. This is discrimination. This is against humanity… (the man is taken out of the press room by security agents)
HENRY MCKNIGHT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Secretary Rice, did any of the persons you consulted with express opposition to the name change?
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We also sought the advice of another prominent Iranian. She is a popular belly dancer known as Googoosh. Her view is that it would be wrong to change the name of the Persian Gulf.
FRANK BAKHTIAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES (running back into the press room, screaming): Madam Secretary! Googoosh is not a belly dancer! She is our Diva! She is our Goddess! She is our joy and hope and everything! Aghdashloo is a jealous bitch! Long live Googoosh and the Persian Gulf! We are not Arabs! Arabs eat lizards! We are Aryans… (security guards handcuff the man and take him away)
PRESIDENT BUSH: That should do it. Thank you and good-bye, or as Iranians say, Salam Alaikum… >>> See opinion poll