A view of the Basra International Stadium braces to host the Persian Gulf Cup 25, in Basra, Iraq

Iran’s ‘Persian Gulf’ Row Surfaces With Iraq This Time

Tuesday, 01/10/2023

An old row between Iran and regional Arab countries over the name of the Persian Gulf has come to the fore again but this time between Tehran and Baghdad and in a sport event. 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Naser Kanaani said on Monday that Tehran has expressed its objection to Baghdad over the use of the name of the Persian Gulf incorrectly, using the “fake” misnomer of “Arabian Gulf.”

He made the remarks after many Iranians criticized the government over its inaction when Iraq did not use ‘Persian Gulf’ for an Asian football (soccer) event. The Iraqi southern city of Basra is hosting the return matches of a local competition, and Iraq set up billboards to welcome the foreign teams to the “25th Arabian Gulf Cup.” 

Many Iranians oppose the Islamic Republic’s policy of spending money in the region to buy support, including in Iraq where Tehran has been supporting an array of Shiite militias and pretends to have a lot of political influence in Baghdad.

The dispute started in early 1960s, when the Egyptian Arab nationalist president Gamal Abdul Nasser began calling the Persian Gulf the “Arabian Gulf.”

The football cup was kicked off on Friday, January 6, with an extravagant opening ceremony attended by local and regional officials as well as FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “It was great to have attended the opening ceremony and the opening game of the 2023 Arabian Gulf Cup in Basra between Iraq and Oman,” said the FIFA president.

Kanaani said that the country’s diplomatic service protested the action but did not announce it, noting that “a lack of notification does not mean lack of action." “The Persian Gulf is the Persian Gulf, and as soon as we learned about the issue, we announced our protest to the Iraqi government,” he said, adding that the issue was in relation to a sports event, and the Sports Ministry and the Football Federation followed up on the issue. 

The Iranian football federation announced on Saturday that it will be delivering a protest statement to FIFA over the naming of the tournament, saying “Persian Gulf is a noble and historical name, which has been applied in all languages and various atlases, including ancient and historical maps.”

The issue was discussed during a session of the Iranian parliament Sunday, when MP Alireza Salimi said, “I want those who use the fake name Arab Gulf in Arab countries to study history. The Persian Gulf is, has always been, and will always be Persian.” Similar remarks were echoed by other members accusing the Arabic countries of trying to “falsify history.”

A billboard for the cup

Bayati called on Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani and influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to apologize for the naming of the tournament. 

Sudani, who was himself present during the opening ceremony of the tournament at the Basra International Stadium, addressed the event and described it as a manifestation of the unity of the “Arab and Gulf brothers.” Iraqi local media said that Sadr and many other Iraqi figures have referred to the tournament as “the Arabian Gulf Cup” in their tweets and statements in the days leading up to the event’s launch. 

The tourney has been officially called “Arabian Gulf Cup” but often referred to simply as “the Gulf Cup,” neither of which satisfy Iran that insists on the use of Persian Gulf.”’ Iran’s national football team has never been part of the tournament. Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq are the participants. 

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