Home World Iran and its Arab neighbors are divided over the name

Iran and its Arab neighbors are divided over the name


iTS VADY deceptively calm. But a storm is brewing over their name. Iran insists that the waterway that separates the country from its Arab neighbors should be known as the Persian Gulf. Most Western cartographers agree. But across the sea, the Arabs want to call it the Persian Gulf. (Google Earth hedges its bets by using both names.) A natural barrier for centuries of Arab-Persian rivalry, the waters reflect an increasingly uneasy relationship.

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The last catalyst is a football tournament. Iraq is hosting the Gulf Cup for the first time in decades, in which all countries bordering the waterway except Iran are taking part. He sought to show where his loyalty lay. “Today we are part of the Arab system and seek to maintain relations with the Gulf countries,” Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad al-Sudani said ahead of the opening ceremony in Basra, the host city near the border with Iran. Other Iraqi politicians joined in. “Welcome to the Gulf,” tweeted Muqtada al-Sadr, the cleric who heads Iraq’s largest group in parliament.

Iran is screaming. He showed treaties that purported to prove that the Persian Gulf had been Persian since the time of Darius the Great in the fifth century BC. He also summoned Iraq’s ambassador, denounced Iraq in Iran’s parliament and projected the words “Persian Gulf” onto a soccer stadium in the capital, Tehran. “It was and always will be Persian,” insists Alireza Salami, an exasperated Iranian deputywho says Iraq should apologize.

Iran’s resentment is all the more bitter because Mr Sudani’s government has been seen as the most pro-Iranian since Shah Abbas conquered Baghdad four centuries ago. One of Iran’s largest trading partners, Iraq is also the only Middle Eastern country ruled by Shiite Muslims. And these are 120,000 fighters who pledge allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is even larger than Hezbollah, Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Shiite militia.

Still, the oil-rich Gulf economies offer Iraq juicier investment opportunities than Iran, which is hampered by Western sanctions. And while the majority of Basra’s residents are Shia, like their Iranian neighbors across the border, many rely on the soccer cup to revive fond memories of Kuwaitis and Saudis who follow a Sunni version of Islam but still came to the city to have fun. .

This time, tens of thousands of fans jammed the Corniche of Basra to support their teams from all over the so-called Persian Gulf. “The Iranian occupation has been a disaster for the Iraqi economy and Arab culture,” says Talib Abdulaziz, a poet from Basra, referring to Iran’s political influence. Three decades after the invasion of Kuwait made Iraq an outcast among Arab nations, the country, he said, was “coming home.”

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