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The Gulf referenced over time in books 17, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Apologies for the clunky title, but I can’t think of a better one.

The ever wonderful google has made searchable 5.2 million books from 1800 to today. You can go and search for whatever you want.

I looked first – sorry my angry Iranian friends – for Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf. Though you easily irascible fellows ought to be pleased by the results:

Here is a search for a selection of Gulf countries.

It’s interesting and curious to see that Kuwait – in this selection of books at least – has far and away the most ‘hits’. Its advancement early on in comparison to other neighbouring countries clearly garnering it significantly more attention. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, despite their recent headline grabbing antics, still hasn’t remotely caught up.

And here is terrorism. Seems something happened in the late 70s…

Kuwait’s Ambassador in Iran 9, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Kuwait.
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The Kuwaiti Ambassador to Iran has invited President Ahmadinejad to Kuwait for the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s Independence. This is yet another example highlighting, firstly, just how fractured the ‘unity’ of the GCC against Iran is and, secondly, the impracticability of America’s notion of using the GCC as a block to isolate Iran.

This is the same Ambassador who, earlier this year and severely contrary to directives from home, stated that the term ‘Arabian Gulf’ is not accurate and that the term ‘Persian Gulf’ is correct and should be used. An example, perhaps, of a diplomacy ‘going native/bush’ if ever there was one.

While practically every week there is a story about the proper name of this body of water, I noticed that recently America purposefully directed its Navy to use the term Arabian Gulf, contrary to their own legal standards, just to annoy the Iranians. Very mature. While the US Navy, in deference to their Arab GCC allies usually uses this terms, officially demanding its use it another matter.



Iran: ‘Persian Gulf’ or we’ll impound your planes 23, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, The Gulf.
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(That’s not a coffee cup, by the way)

As if I haven’t covered this enough recently x x x x, Iran is having another hissy-fit over the Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf naming controversy. This time around it stems from a Greek steward on a Kish Airlines internal flight who started arguing with a passenger about the ‘real’ name of the Gulf.

The story started on Al Arabiyya but has [why I’m surprised, I just don’t know] ended up splashed across the media with the Iranian Government now *sigh* threatening to make all incoming flights display the phrase Persian Gulf on their in-flight maps, lest their planes are grounded. If you want to read more on this issue, please use the links in the first sentence, I don’t have the will to rewrite the same stuff again…

This kind of reaction is similar to that after the Chinese-Israeli orange importing incident last year, not to mention the Chinese jeans fiasco. If I were in an uncharitable mood, I’d say Iranian politicians were professional overactors.

Kuwaiti Ambassador: ‘it’s the Persian Gulf’ 20, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq, Kuwait, Middle East, The Gulf.
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Kuwait’s Ambassador to Iran recently told the Iranian news agency Mehr that the body of water between Arabs and Persians is and always will be called the ‘Persian Gulf’. This is quite an admission from an Arab Ambassador. Typically, Arabs call the body of water the Arabian Gulf whereas Iranians fall back on centuries of customary law and modern-day international law and call it the Persian Gulf. Recently an Iraqi politician suggested that the water ought to be called the Gulf of Basra, just to complicate things further. Angry spats frequently develop over the naming of this body of water. Indeed, ironically the Islamic Solidarity Games were recently cancelled because of arguments over just this issue. It is unlikely that this Ambassador’s comments will make him many friends on his side of the Gulf.

Hat tip: the ever reliable MEMRI

Islamic solidarity games cancelled for lack of solidarity 18, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Some time ago I wrote about the threat to the Islamic Solidarity Games being cancelled because of a disagreement between Arabs and Persians. The second Islamic Solidarity Games were due to be held in Iran in October 2009 but before issues of whether they were going to go ahead at all could be resolved, Swine Flu came to the rescue and forced planners to cancel the games. Iran was due to reprise (or prise?!) its role in April this year, but this time the Games have been canceled because of the dispute.

The key issue is over the medals and other promotional material being emblazoned with the phrase Persian Gulf. Despite the fact that Persian Gulf is the historical and contemporary legal name for the body of water, Arab states do not like it and prefer to call it the Arabian Gulf or just the Gulf.

Arabian Gulf…Persian Gulf…Gulf of Basra? 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf.
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As you no doubt know there’s a remarkable amount of kerfuffle over whether the name for the body of water separating Iran from their Arab neighbors is called the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. Yet, as if this weren’t one too many choices already, the Iraqi Foreign Minister has decided to stick his oar into the subject and has “discovered” that it “in fact” used to be called the Gulf of Basra. This is really such a curious debate when international law and historical precedent are really rather unequivocal on the matter.

The Gulf between Arabs and Persians 12, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Middle East.
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Google this Gulf does not exist

Just for a change, history is repeating itself in the Middle East. In the run-up to the 2006 Asian Olympics in Qatar, a row erupted between the Emir of Qatar, Hamad Al Thani, and President Ahmadinejad of Iran over the name of the water separating the two countries. At a press conference, Al Thani called it the Arabian Gulf to which Ahmadinejad fired back that it is and always has been the Persian Gulf. Cue an international spat with the Iranian delegation threatening to withdraw their participation from the games. Whilst Iran did eventually attend the games, rancour remained.

Today, exactly the same incident is brewing, though this time between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the Islamic Solidarity Games to be held in cities across Iran in October this year. Radio Free Europe reports that Saudi authorities reacted predictably angrily when Iran’s promotional material referred to the body of water as the Persian Gulf. After Saudi’s threat to pull out unless it was changed to the Arabian Gulf or just the Gulf, Iran has “declared the games over.”

In this case, not only is there the depressing irony that the Islamic Solidarity Games are leading to yet more intra-Islamic division, but that, for once, Iran has international law and custom on its side. Not only does the UN officially sanction the term Persian Gulf but it has been in use for quite literally thousands of years, going back to Ancient Greece. The term Arabian Gulf only emerged from the 1960s with the growth of Arab nationalism and the relative decline of Persia/Iran as a power, not to mention that fact that historically the Arabian Gulf was often used to refer to the Red Sea.

One of the ways that Iran has tried to fight its corner is by monopolizing the first place on a Google search for ‘Arabian Gulf’ which will return a page with a mock ‘broken’ webpage titled ‘The Gulf you are looking for does not exist. Please try Persian Gulf.’ Despite this levity, this issue reflects far deeper and entrenched issues to do with the mantle of leadership in the Islamic world. In recent times, Nasser’s pan-Arabism and Egypt’s profound cultural influences claimed this title until the ignominious and catastrophic 1967 defeat to the Israelis. Since then Iran and Saudi Arabia have been the principle contenders. Saudi Arabia used its financial largess post-1967 to bail out Egypt, Syria and Jordan and firmly establish its place at the top. Since then it has used the soft power of Islam’s two holiest places (Mecca and Medina) to establish, augment and propagate itself as a leader of the Islamic community.

However, Iran’s 1979 Revolution endowed it with pious revolutionary zeal, directly challenging Saudi on an Islamic front. Saudi replied to this by further expanding its funding of Wahhabi schools and teaching throughout the Arab world and beyond, most notably on Iran’s doorstep in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Additionally, Saudi funded the Mujahedeen effort do ‘defend Islam’ against the Godless Soviets in Afghanistan after the invasion in 1979. These tactics offset their traditional, conservative reputation to some degree, by placing Saudi at the vanguard of Islam’s defences, whilst also inadvertently sowing the seeds for 9/11. Since this momentous day, Saudi has come under pressure to own-up to its more radical elements and reform its arcane structures and philosophies. Neither of these things is very chic. Therefore, the Iranians, with their anti-Western stance and pursuit of nuclear weapons – the ultimate symbol of a macho-leader country – are clearly currying more favour on the Arab street than Saudi. Add to this the implosion of Iraq, taking away one of Iran’s traditional enemies and bulwarks, and Iran finds itself less constricted and able to exert more influence regionally.

The naming of the water separating these two antagonistic rivals, therefore, is a question of pride, machismo and reputation. Neither can give in. Saudi’s somewhat conciliatory and practical suggestion of just calling it ‘the Gulf’ is as near to a resolution as can hoped to be achieved. Unless Iran acquiesce to this suggestion – which does not appear likely – there is no end in sight for this perennially divisive issue.