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Persian Gulf/bahrain tribune

Time to rise above trivialities

A top Iranian sports official has warned that Tehran would boycott the 2006 Asian Games if host Qatar kept using the term “Arabian Gulf” instead of the Persian Gulf in documents advertising the games. Iran has also celebrated a National Geographic map revision by naming a major highway after the Persian Gulf. “If Qatar keeps using the distorted name of ‘Arabian Gulf’ in documents advertising the games, we will boycott the games,” said Issa Eshaqi, spokesman of the Physical Training Organisation. Even Iran’s Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, put his weight behind Iran’s campaign forcing the National Geographic to change ‘Arabian Gulf’ to ‘Persian Gulf’ on its map, saying, “Retreat by National Geographic in correcting the distorted name it had used for the Persian Gulf is a victory for every Iranian.” At a time when the Gulf and the Middle East is witnessing campaigns against Arabs and Muslims, when the Islamic world is on the verge of permanently losing Al Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Arab East Jerusalem because of the new realities which are being created by the Jewish state and when Iraq is being destroyed by occupation and insurgency, logic dictates that the Muslim world should remove all obstacles in order to achieve a unified stand vis-a-vis all the challenges facing them in the region. This is not the time to create new divisions within the Muslim world ranks over trivial issues. What’s in a name after all. As William Shakespeare said, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It matters little at this time whether the Iranians call it “Persian Gulf” or Arabs call it “Arabian Gulf” or even the National Geographic decides to change the name on its map from “Arabian” to “Persian”. It is a well known fact that the countries of the Gulf only rule their territorial waters and have no jurisdiction on the whole Gulf. What matters at this time is the fact that the American Navy is the only power that rules over the whole of the Gulf waters. Neither Iran nor the Arab states have much say about this fact. The power of the countries in the Gulf is limited to giving it a name according to their emotionally-driven wishes. That power is not limited to Iran only or the National Geographic for that matter. Iran may have ruled over all of the Gulf waters many centuries ago but now it only controls less than half of the Gulf shoreline. Iran definitely has the right to call the Gulf ‘Persian’ and the rest of the countries have the right to call it ‘Arabian’. This does not change the fact that none of the Gulf countries control it for we all know which country actually does. Wisdom dictates that instead of fighting over the name we should come together and give it a name like the ‘Gulf of Peace and Harmony’ for a name like that might even give all of us the courage to rise above trivialities and guide us towards choosing the right way to live together.
Last update on: 7-1-2005

Persian Gulf
arm of the Arabian Sea, 90,000 sq mi (233,100 sq km), between the Arabian peninsula and Iran, extending c.600 mi (970 km) from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman.    1
Physical Geography
The Persian Gulf, called the Arabian Gulf by the Arabs, is mostly shallow and has many islands, of which Bahrain is the largest. The gulf is bordered by Oman and the United Arab Emirates to the south, to the west by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to the north by Kuwait and Iraq, and along the entire east coast by Iran. It was generally thought that the gulf had previously extended farther north and that sediment dropped by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun, and Karkheh rivers filled the northern part of the gulf to create a great delta. But geologic investigations now indicate that the coastline has not moved and that the marshlands of the delta represent a sinking of the earth’s crust as the Arabian land block pushes under Iran. The gulf waters have very slow currents and limited tidal range.    2
The Persian Gulf was an important transportation route in antiquity but declined with the fall of Mesopotamia. In succeeding centuries control of the region was contested by Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Western Europeans. In 1853, Britain and the Arab sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf signed the Perpetual Maritime Truce, formalizing the temporary truces of 1820 and 1835. The sheikhs agreed to stop harassing British shipping in the Arabian Sea and to recognize Britain as the dominant power in the gulf. These sheikhdoms thus became known as the Trucial States. An international agreement among the major powers in 1907 placed the gulf in the British sphere of influence.    3
Although oil was discovered in the gulf in 1908, it was not until the 1930s, when major finds were made, that keen international interest in the region revived. Since World War II the gulf oil fields, among the most productive in the world, have been extensively developed, and modern port facilities have been constructed. Nearly 50% of the world’s total oil reserves are estimated to be found in the Persian Gulf. It is also a large fishing source and was once the chief center of the pearling industry. In the late 1960s, following British military withdrawal from the area, the United States and the USSR sought to fill the vacuum. In 1971 the first U.S. military installation in the gulf was established at Bahrain.    4
The long-standing Arab–Persian conflict in the gulf, combined with the desire of neighboring states for control of large oil reserves, has led to international boundary disputes. Iraq and Iran argued over navigation rights on the Shatt al Arab, through which Iran’s main ports and most productive oil fields are reached. Iran and the sheikhdom of Ras al-Khaima contested ownership of the oil-rich islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb at the entrance to the gulf. Iranian forces occupied these islands in Dec., 1971, infuriating Iraq. The much-contested rights over the Shatt al Arab led Iran and Iraq into an 8-year war in the 1980s (see Iran-Iraq War). In 1984 American and other foreign oil tankers in the gulf were attacked by both Iran and Iraq. The security of Persian Gulf countries was threatened throughout this war.    5
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in Aug., 1990, the Persian Gulf was once again a background for conflict. International coalition ground forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia and neighboring gulf countries in the Persian Gulf War (1991). Before Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in Feb., 1991, Iraqi soldiers set fire to over 500 Kuwaiti oil wells and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf, causing an environmental crisis and threatening desalination plants throughout the area. The area again was the scene of warfare in 2003 when U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq. The Persian Gulf’s vast oil reserves make the area a continuing source of international tension.