Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Arabian Gulf, My Foot

By Paul Iddon

The term 'Arabian Gulf' is a superficial and historically devoid name for the body of water that has been for millennia unequivocally accepted as the 'Persian Gulf'.

The Persian Gulf from space.
 “Why you call it Gulf, you've been to school haven't you?” the last Shah of Iran asked the late interviewer Mike Wallace when Wallace simply referred to the Persian Gulf as 'the Gulf'. The late Shah quickly followed up by asking Mr. Wallace what the name he learned in school was, Wallace quickly confirmed the obvious, that it was of course the Persian Gulf. The name of the body of water has deep historical relevance and was accordingly for that reason referred to as the Persian Gulf by the peoples of the world. Even the Arabs -- until the rise of pan-Arabism in the 1960's -- referred to the gulf by its historically relevant and rightful name.

Today with tensions rising between the Islamic Republic and the Arab Gulf states the name is being hotly contested. The current Iranian regime isn't necessarily a very credible representative and protector of the Persian identity (if the coinage of the name “Islamic Gulf” – which is said to be one of the alternative names proposed for the Persian Gulf – did in fact originate from Khomeini's regime then that essentially proves that point) that is deeply rooted in ancient history which predates Islam itself.

The National Persian Gulf day in Iran commemorates the expulsion of the Portuguese from the island of Bahrain by Shah Abbas, which saw the town of Bandar Abbas which he named after himself become a highly significant trade post for the empires of the day. This was about 40 years after that begun a lengthy period in which the British Empire controlled many of the Arab Gulf states, states which didn't become independent until 1971, after about two centuries. The United Arab Emirates is a state derived from the older Trucial Coast State -- other Arab Gulf states like Kuwait were also only formed as independent political entities following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the decline of British political influence and control within the region.  

This doesn't necessarily disqualify them from having a say in the dispute, which they started. But it does show the underlying superficiality to their claim that Arabian Gulf should be the rightful name of the Gulf. To put it mildly, history isn't on their side.

Whilst the present Iranian regime has taken a lot of measures such as the prevention of civil airliners who don't refer to the Gulf as the 'Persian Gulf' from entering Iranian airspace real heartfelt grievances are felt by a very wide and broad spectrum in Iranian society, as was saliently demonstrated by the recent anger over Google Maps not labeling the Gulf at all. Google's stated reason for not doing so was because it didn't want to get involved in the ever more growing and increasingly more heated dispute between Iran and the Arabs.

The Arab Gulf Emirate Kingdoms and Sheikdoms have since the early 1970's grown to be economic as well as political powers in the region (say what he did about his policy of separating oil from politics we've learned since retrospectively looking at the Shah's reign that the two are to a very large extent inseparable). This development coupled with economic sanctions being leveled against Iran for over 30 years now has seen a large decline in trade between Iran and the west and have made Arab nationalists more aggressive in their marginalization of Iran in its own neighbourhood.

And on the topic of marginalization just look at the sordid exploits of the Bahraini ruling oligarchy which they have levelled against the majority of the Bahraini people – the Shia – whom have been economically marginalized, on sectarian grounds, and are directly and brutally suppressed and prevented from organizing and participating in peaceful demonstrations.

This dispute in a broader sense represents the continued plight of the Iranian people whose heritage has seen both domestic and foreign elements attempting to undermine the national traditions which are derived from Ancient Persian civilization. Granted, Persians in Iran are a very narrow majority and there are indeed some fringe elements in this debate who harbour deep chauvinistic and bigoted attitudes and undertones towards the Arabs. Nevertheless, Persian culture has and will always have a profound cultural influence and will continue to define a large part of the identity of the Iranian nation and her inhabitants as a whole.

If the current US administration stated stance and its rhetoric regarding its declaration of support for the democratic and secular movements in Iran is to be believed it must reflect a clear understanding of that basic elementary fact and in doing so salute and commend the various Iranian nationalists and patriots in their struggle against opportunist obscurantists both foreign and domestic. They also shouldn't be expected to exhibit the slightest degree of compunction in confronting these said malevolent entities as by doing so they are defending a fundamental part of their national identity.


Anonymous said...

If anybody is to blame for all this then it is the Islamic theocracy,why?
Because it was that subhuman khalkhali that said it should be called the Islamic gulf.And that basically explains the anti Iranian policies of the theocracy in a nutshell.
Don't blame the Arabs or Googol for this,blame the IRI for their anti Iranian policies since its inception.
The rest is propaganda used by the regime to keep the population busy from the real issue which is human rights and the legitimacy of the corrupt and barbarous Islamic dictatorial theocracy.

Now lets wait for some idiotic remarks from certain "Iranians"who claim this is written by a "ex Iranian anti Iranian"because since when has any mullah or their cretins claimed any allegiance to national Iranian identity except for Islam and their Arabian nomadic ways.

Thank you Paul for your factual article.

Anonymous said...

Sure , It was the persian it's the Gulf of Ill-Will

mat said...

Come what may or whatever it might be, PERSIAN GULF will always stay PERSIAN. That's the fact. Pretty sure!

Anonymous said...

So HAMAS won't fight on behalf of Iran yet they want the money and still this dirty Arab loving regime eats their crap!
With Assad the regime in a state of collapse and now HAMAS joining the Syrian people against Assad the days of the Islamic regime in Iran are numbered.
The name of the Persian gulf has remained for nearly 3000 years,so no lizard eating Arab oily head can change that now.Might as well call the Indian ocean the African ocean.It just won't happen.

reader said...

One of Paul's better contribution to this blog. A good read.


Cyrus said...

Well, since there is no country called "Persia" anymore, why not use "Arabian Gulf"? There is a country called Saudi Arabia, and it's located on the Arabian Peninsula. Also, there are hundreds of millions of people called Arabs. There are no such thing as Persians anymore. They are now called Iranians.

If Iranians want to have the Persian Gulf called "Persian," and for foreigners to think of them as the Persians with a connection to their ancient history, perhaps it is time for "Iranians" to grow up, and call their country Persia. Of course that would make sense.

The average Iranian hates Arabs, yet flails like a maniac anytime you bring up the Palestinians, Jews or Israel...So, I'd say this is a lost cause. Talk about people with serious identity issues.

Anonymous said...

Cyrus......The average Iranian couldn't give two hoots about the Palestinians or the Arabs.It's only the damn mullahs and their cretins who have made this the main issue, not the Iranian people.
As far as Iranians care Israel can remain,better than Saudi Arabia. As for the Persian gulf its an ancient and historical name in that region,just like English channel or North sea.You can't just change those names because some rich Arab nomads desire it.
Money can't buy that,only blood and history can and they haven't got the guts for that.

Unknown said...

Hi Paul.
Good article.
I would want to point out that this issue brings out other elements and problems endemic to this region. I'll try to list the few I can think of.


While all regimes in Iran have historically faught the re-naming of the "Persian gulf", they shamelessly re-named everything they could think of, within Iran, that had non-Persian names. This has created local minority resentment just as re-naming the Persian gulf is creating resentment among Iranians at large.
One example is "shatt al Arab" which the shah had re-named Arvand rood, or hamidiyeh in khoozestan re-named shoosangerd, or naseryieh re-named Ahwaz which then changed into the english spelling of Ahvaz to hide the local pronunciation of the name. Ironically naseryieh was orignially named after the Persian king Nasser aldin shah but the name sounded too Arabic for the shah's taste.
If we were to through all the name changes in khuzestan (old name arabistan, also a Persian word but clearly Arabic sounding), Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, and baloochetan, we would have enough material to write a book.
Iranians would have a more effective argument if they applied the principle of not changing historical names to themselves as well as others.

-Re-writing history in order to win present political battles:
Do I need to say more?!

-Having a region named after an ethnic group or a country doesn't necessarily mean that that country owns everything in it:

China may claim every island in the south china sea but that doesn't make it true.
The persian gulf islands issue, in a perfect world, would be determined by its inhabitants. Just as the Falklands, the Abu moosa island Residents should have the right of self determination.
The uninhabitable islands would stay with whomever has the best historical claim, as determined by a court of arbitration. Either way ownership of these islands is not as important as it seems, except for the symbolic value of course.

Again, good article, and good read.