Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Osama Naqli, Director of the Media Department at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian threat to ban airlines that use the term “Arabian Gulf” on board their flights from entering their airspace was “an internal Iranian affair.”
Commenting on the matter, Dr. Abdul Razzaq Abu Dawood, a professor of Political Geography at the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah described this Iranian threat as “an extension to an old controversy” surrounding the name of the stretch of water that separates the Arab Gulf countries from Iran, with the Arab countries calling this the “Arabian Gulf” and the Iranians calling it the “Persian Gulf.”
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Abu Dawood said that Iran’s latest threat and Tehran’s insistence that this region be called the “Persian Gulf” are inappropriate, especially as the name “Persia” is no longer in use and was replaced by the country’s current designation “Iran” by Shah Reza Shah Pahlavi. Al-Dawood said “he [Shah Reza Pahlavi] issued a decree on 27 December 1934 banning the use of the word Persia in formal correspondence, with this word being replaced by the word Iran.” The Political Geography professor said that if this is the case “why is the Iranian regime insistent on using the term the Persian Gulf?”
Dr. Abu Dawood told Asharq Al-Awsat that the facts on the ground reveal that the Arab coastline that borders the Gulf is longer than its Iranian counterpart, and that the Iranian territory that lies along the Gulf – regions such as Ahvaz and Banger Lengeh – were originally settled and established by Arab tribes.
Dr. Abu Dawood also stressed that “the name of something does not change the facts on the ground” and added that the Arab interests in the Gulf region far outweigh Iran’s interests, especially as seven Arab countries lie along the Gulf in comparison to just one Persian nation. He also said that Iran’s insistence on naming this region the Iranian Gulf “is more connected to the political direction of the Iranian regime than any other factor.”
The Political Geography professor also pointed out that many countries, including Arab and Islamic countries, call this region the “Arabian Gulf” while some other countries prefer to call it the “Persian Gulf.” Dr. Abu Dawood also cited an old proposal to reconcile these two names by instead calling this region the “Islamic Gulf.” However this is a proposal that received has received Iranian opposition. Abu Dawood condemned Iran’s refusal to compromise on this issue, especially as “it claims that its current regime is an Islamic regime.”
On Monday, the Iranian transport Minister Hamid Behbahani threatened to ban any airliner using the term the Arabian Gulf rather than the term the Persian Gulf from its airspace. In comments published by the “IRAN” daily newspaper, Behbahani said that he had alerted airliners that “”The airlines of the southern Persian gulf countries flying to Iran must use ‘Persian Gulf’ on their flight monitors” adding that “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.”