It is neither Arabian Gulf nor Persian Gulf – It is the American Gulf: Kuwaiti lawmaker

February 21, 2010

MP Waleed Al Tabtabai

The body of water between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran should be called the American Gulf, and not the Arabian or Persian Gulf, a Kuwaiti lawmaker has said.

“The fact is that the Gulf today is not Arabian or Persian, but rather American thanks to the blessings of the rulers of Tehran and those of Saddam Hussein before them,” Waleed Al Tabtabai said. “Western ships and armies have today covered its waters and shores,” the MP said in a statement published by the Kuwaiti daily Al Watan on Sunday.

The Salafi lawmaker made the sarcastic remarks as he commented on a statement last week by Kuwait’s ambassador to Iran Majdi Al Dhufairi.

The envoy said that the name of the Gulf should not be an issue between Iran and the Arabs. “The name should not be a cause for sensitivities between us. We do not want to approach it with an excessive sensitivity, especially that several international conferences use both the Arabian Gulf and the Persian Gulf,” he said.

However, Al Tabtabai said that the issue goes beyond simple differences over what to call the body of water.

“It might be a matter of differences in names to us, but to the Iranians, it is not. In fact, to them, it is a matter of a national issue and regional aspirations,” Al Tabtabai said. “We must be aware not to try to please the Iranians because that would be an unwise policy,” he said.

Iran and its Arab neighbours have been at odds over the name of the body of water that separates them. However, while the Arabs have shown flexibility in dealing with those who call it Persian, the Iranians have been adamant about it being historically and internationally recognized as Persian and have invariably taken position against anyone and any organisation that used a different name.

In June, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a vociferous supporter of the Persian appellation, came under heavy criticism for agreeing to sit at the Gaza Summit in Doha under a map that had the name “Arabian Gulf” on it.

“We have to appreciate the implications of the Iranians’ insistence on the name they chose. In 1965, when Tehran did not allow a Kuwaiti plane to offload its cargo because the cargo policy had the Arabian Gulf on it, Kuwait retaliated promptly by asking two Iranian planes to go back,” Al Tabtabai said. “Even though Kuwait was still emerging as an independent state, several MPs then condemned the Iranian behaviour and said that Tehran had big ambitions in the Arabian Gulf.”

The lawmaker said that Kuwait’s position at the time was not racially-motivated or under the influence of “Nasserite” Egypt, but a “rejection of policies promoting Iran’s hegemony under the Shah.”



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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