Register for our free newsletter

Latest News

More wrangling over the Arabian/Persian Gulf

More wrangling over the Arabian/Persian Gulf

Disagreement between Iran and the Arab states over the waterway that divides them could have a serious impact on the aviation business.

February 22, 2010 5:28 by

So, which side are you on – the ‘Arabian’, or the ‘Persian’? Because when it comes to the Gulf, it’s got to be one or the other, it seems.

Iran and the Arab states have for a long time disagreed over the name of the Gulf that divides them. Despite having renamed itself ‘Iran’ in 1935 as a statement against colonial interference, the northern neighbor insists on calling it the ‘Persian Gulf’ – the name recognized internationally. (‘Persia’ is still used widely in a cultural context, it has to be pointed out.)

‘Controversially’ – according to that great authority Wikipedia, that is, not us – the Arab states insist on the term ‘Arabian Gulf’.

The disagreement has led to some minor diplomatic incidents in the past. This year’s ironically-titled Islamic Solidarity Games, for instance, was cancelled because of the Arab states’ insistence on calling the waterway ‘Arabian’, which met with “unilateral measures” from Iran.

But the issue has never seemed a genuine threat to business – until now.

According to a report by Reuters, Iran has threatened to ban airlines from using its airspace if they refer to the Gulf as ‘Arabian’ rather than ‘Persian’.

“The airlines of the southern Persian Gulf countries flying to Iran are warned to use the term Persian Gulf on their electronic display boards,” Road and Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani said in comments in a daily Iran newspaper, quoted by Reuters. “Otherwise they will be banned from Iranian airspace for a month the first time and upon repetition their aircraft will be grounded in Iran and flight permits to Iran will be revoked,” he added.

Of course, there is more than just a name at stake here. The Arab states, given their ties to the US, have uneasy relations with Tehran – all the more so due to the growing pressure from the US over Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities.

And while, as Kipp reported yesterday, Dubai has always had strong business links with Iran, other emirates and states, including Abu Dhabi, are more wary of their northern neighbor.

But why must tensions between Iran and the Gulf states be played out in such terms? Would it be offensive to drop both the ‘Arabian’ and the ‘Persian’ when referring to ‘The Gulf’? Or would that ignite the wrath of Mexico?

Tags: , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. George on February 23, 2010 7:34 am

    facts are facts, it’s persian gulf and i’m arabic!

    With the rise of Arab nationalism (Pan-Arabism) in the 1960s, most Arab states started adopting the term “Arabian Gulf” (in Arabic: الخلیج العربي al-ḫalīǧ al-ʻarabi) to refer to the waterway.[2][33],[34],[35]. However, this naming has not found much acceptance outside of the Arab world, and is not recognized by the United Nations[2][36][37][38] or any other international organization.[2][39] The United Nations Secretariat on many occasions has requested that only “Persian Gulf” be used as the official and standard geographical designation for the body of water.[40] Historically, “Arabian Gulf” has been a term used to indicate the Red Sea.[1][41][42][43][44] At the same time, the historical veracity of the usage of “Persian Gulf” can be established from the works of many medieval historians.[1][45][46][47][48] Most Arabs refer to the waterway as simply “al-Khaleej” or “the Gulf”.
    At the Twenty-third session of the United Nations in March-April 2006, the name “Persian Gulf” was confirmed again as the legitimate and official term to be used by members of the United Nations.[49]



Leave a Comment