Iranian MPs excoriate Iraqi PM for using fake name for Persian Gulf

January 15, 2023 - 22:46

TEHRAN – A number of Iranian lawmakers has reacted to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad al-Sudani using a controversial name for the Persian Gulf. 

Alireza Salimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s presiding board, called on al-Sudani to make up for his mistake of using a fake name for the Persian Gulf. “The Iraqi officials should carefully study the historical discussion. The Persian Gulf has always been the Persian Gulf and they know that with unfriendly comments they are causing trouble in the relations between the two countries,” he told the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (ICANA).

Salimi added, “The enemies of the two nations of Iran and Iraq are seeking to create tension between the two countries. Iraqi politicians are expected to be careful in their comments. They should further their studies in historical issues and geographical information in the area of the Persian Gulf region.”

The lawmaker asserted, “Lack of study and insufficient information of the prime minister of Iraq is a defect for the official of one of the countries in the region, and he must compensate as soon as possible.”

Salimi was reacting to a recent interview al-Sudani gave to Germany’s DW channel in which he openly defended his earlier use of the word “Arabian” instead of Persian in describing the Persian Gulf.  

The prime minister sparked controversy in Iran after he used a different name for the Persian Gulf at the Persian Gulf Cup 25 currently being held in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where football teams from Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar are competing for the title. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian announced last week that Iran summoned the Iraqi ambassador to Tehran over Iraq’s use of a fake name for the Persian Gulf.

“In the wake of Iraqi authorities’ use of a fake name for the Persian Gulf, we summoned the ambassador of Iraq to the Foreign Ministry and informed the Iraqi side of the great Iranian nation’s sensitivity regarding the use of the accurate and complete phrase of Persian Gulf,” Amir Abdollahian said, according to Iran’s official news website IRNA.

He also said that Prime Minister al-Sudani has redressed his mistake of using another word for the Persian Gulf on social media platforms. 

“We communicated our protest in this regard despite having strategic, brotherly, and deep relations with Iraq,” the Iranian foreign minister said.

In addition, firebrand Iraqi cleric Muqtada Sadr fanned the flames of tensions over the name of the Persian Gulf. In a welcoming statement on the occasion of the start of the Basra event, Muqtada appeared to be consciously using “Arabian Gulf” instead of Persian Gulf as he put the phrase in two brackets. Furthermore, his supporters launched an online campaign to mark the Basra Persian Gulf Cup 25 using the name used by Muqtada. 

The controversy was in the process of fading away on Saturday when the al-Sudani interview re-ignited it again. He was asked whether he believed the Persian Gulf was Persian or Arabian. Although refraining from openly taking sides, he hinted that he believed the Persian Gulf was Arabian. “The Arabian Gulf countries are a reality,” he told the Arabic service of DW while on a trip to Germany. 

That infuriated Iranian public opinion again, prompting an outpouring of anger among Iranians. 

Shahriar Heidari, also a member of the parliamentary committee, called on the Foreign Ministry to summon the Iraqi ambassador again and follow up on the matter. 

“From political point of view, Iraq is not a stable country and the prime minister of this country made such a comment because of the lack of political stability in Iraq; he is under the influence of America and Westerners,” Heidari told ICANA. 

“If the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mohammad Shia al-Sudani, take a look at the maps of the Iraqi libraries, he will realize that throughout the history of the invention of the map in Iraq, the name of the Persian Gulf has been written on this region. Politically mature Arab countries, including Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have included the title of the Persian Gulf in their maps,” he stated. 

Heidari continued, “It is expected that the minister of foreign affairs will deal with this issue strongly and actively, and that NGOs and international organizations will follow up on the issue in order to defend the historical name of the Persian Gulf. It is necessary for the diplomatic apparatus to warn the Iraqi government by summoning the ambassador, the Persian Gulf countries want Iraq to use a fake name with the support of the United States. Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should continuously and repeatedly follow up on the matter and bring it to a conclusion, rather than thinking that the matter is over with a warning.”

The MP urged the Foreign Ministry to seek the help of international institutions to prevent repletion of fake name for the waterway.

“Over the past years, the use of the fake name for the Persian Gulf has happened many times, so the diplomatic apparatus should use the capacity of international institutions so that this issue does not happen again. Repeating a fake name does not work, but for a neighboring country that owes its security and economy to Iran, it is embarrassing to associate with an enemy like the United States, which has always sought tension and division. In fact, the Westerners take advantage of the weakness of the Iraqis.”

Jalil Rahimi Jahan Abadi, who also sits on the parliamentary committee, described al-Sudani’s use of a different name for the Persian Gulf as a “propaganda show.” 

Commenting of al-Sudani, Jahan Abadi said, “On the part of some Arab countries, a psychological war and a propaganda show have been formed in the region regarding the issue of the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, the bays have names, characteristics, certificates and history based on international documents. It has no effect if someone changes a gulf’s name according to his will and uses a new name.”

He added, “The name of the Persian Gulf is mentioned in the historical documents of England, which once controlled the affairs of the Arab countries, and in fact they were British colonies. Even a few thousand years before that, this Gulf was known as the ‘Persian Gulf’ in the historical documents.”

The lawmaker told ICANA that the Iraq’s use of a misnomer for the Persian Gulf will only strain relations with Iran. “Some Arab countries, including Iraq, have shown an unexpected behavior and have used the fake name of the Persian Gulf several times, which will only bring darkness and bad effects on the good relations we have with the Iraqis. I think that the new prime minister of Iraq wants to improve his relationship with conservative Arab countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates in this way, and he probably needs their economic relations and financial assistance.”

He pointed out that effect of these stances has nothing but bad effects on Iran-Iraq relations.

“The Persian Gulf has been mentioned in historical documents with a history of several decades, therefore, whether the prime minister of Iraq recognizes it or not, this issue has been recorded in history,” Jahan Abadi added. “The point is that Iran's diplomatic apparatus must show a serious and tough reaction. We must react in the United Nations so that this reaction is recorded in the historical records. We must talk to the Iraqi authorities about the actions of the Iraqi prime minister, and if necessary, summon the ambassador again and take a decisive action. All countries react to name changes and unfriendly behaviors."

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