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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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Iran and its Arab neighbors disagree over a name

ITS Waters It’s charming calm. But a storm is brewing with their names. Iran insists that the waterway separating the country from its Arab neighbors should be called the Persian Gulf. Most Western cartographers agree with this. But on the other side of the sea, the Arabs are trying to call it the Arabian Gulf. (Google Earth is hedging its bets by using both names.) A natural barrier to Arab-Persian rivalry for centuries, the waters reflect growing tensions.

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The latest catalyst is the football championship. For the first time in decades, Iraq is hosting the Arabian Gulf Cup, which includes participation from all countries bordering the waterway except Iran. It has been keen to show where its allegiances lie. “Today we are part of the Arab system and we are eager to maintain relations with the Arab Gulf states,” Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Sultani said ahead of the opening ceremony in the host city of Basra. This is close to the border with Iran. Other Iraqi politicians also joined in. “Welcome to the Arab Gulf states,” tweeted Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the largest group in Iraq’s parliament.

Iran is crying.It shows the treaties designed to prove that the Gulf has belonged to Persia since Darius the Great in the fifth century B.C.It also summoned the Iraqi ambassador, denounced Iraq in the Iranian parliament, and projected the words “Persian Gulf” onto a soccer field in the capital, Tehran. “It has always been and always will be Persian,” insists the grumpy Iranian Alireza Salami Congressmanwho said Iraq had to apologize.

Iran’s discontent is heightened because the Sultan’s government has been hailed as the most pro-Iranian government since Shah Abbas conquered Baghdad four centuries ago. Iraq is one of Iran’s largest trading partners and the only Middle Eastern country ruled by Shia Muslims. It has 120,000 fighters loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That surpasses even Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian Shia militia in Lebanon.

However, the economies of the oil-rich Gulf states offer Iraq more investment opportunities than Iran, which is hampered by Western sanctions. Although the majority of Basra’s residents are Shia, like their Iranian neighbors across the border, many hope the football cup will evoke happy memories of the Kuwaitis and Saudis, who practice Sunni Islam but still Get used to coming to this city for fun.

This time, tens of thousands of fans packed Basra’s corniche to cheer for the team from across the so-called Arabian Gulf. “The Iranian occupation has been a disaster for the Iraqi economy and Arab culture,” Basra poet Talib Abdulaziz said of Iran’s political influence. Thirty years after the invasion of Kuwait made Iraq a pariah among Arab states, he said the country was “coming home”.

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