Responding during his press briefing Tuesday to a question over the Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani’s insistence on calling the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian” Gulf, Naser Kanaani said the foreign ministry has sent a letter of protest to the government of Iraq.
The name Persian Gulf is “a historical, permanent, documented and undeniable fact,” he said and added that “repeating the fake name does not change facts and brings no legitimacy to it.” He also alleged that Iraq was using the controversial term to appeal to “others”, presumably Iran’s Arab rival Saudi Arabia.
Iran’s foreign ministry usually protests if foreign officials use alternative names to refer to the Persian Gulf in view of strong feelings among Iranians over the matter who have launched petitions on various occasions to protest to the use of “Gulf” instead of “Persian Gulf” by foreign officials and media such as former US President Barack Obama and the BBC.
“Despite having strategic, fraternal, and deep relations with Iraq, we have openly conveyed our protest with regards to the issue, summoned the Iraqi ambassador and reminded the Iraqi side of the great Iranian nation’s sensitivities about the use of the precise and full term, the Persian Gulf,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said January 11 but also claimed that Al-Sudani had “corrected the matter on social media.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian
Tehran summoned the Iraqi ambassador Nasir Abdul Mohsen Abdullah to the foreign ministry on January 11 to voice its strong protest over the use of the misnomer.
At the opening ceremony of a regional football tournament, the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup, in Basra on January 6, Al-Sudani referred to the body of water separating Iran from its several Arab neighbors as the “Arabian Gulf” and despite Iran’s protest, in an interview with Deutsche Welle Saturday defended his use of the controversial term and said he would not apologize to Iran for using what Kanaani referred to as a “misnomer” and “fake title”.
The historic waterway has been referred to as the Persian Gulf since ancient times including in historical Greek sources and is still referred to as such in official documents of the United Nations. Since 1960s, Arab governments have increasingly been using The Gulf or Arabian Gulf and officials of other countries and some international organizations have followed suit.
“Using the fake label for the Persian Gulf is seen in Iran as a futile attempt by the Arab neighbors to distort the region’s ancient history,” the IRGC-linked Fars news agency wrote Tuesday.
For Iraq’s prime minister using the term “Arabian Gulf” is seen by many Iranians as another sign of the Iranian regime’s costly efforts to gain influence in its neighboring country, relying on Shia proxy forces and clerics.
Some Iranian media and pundits say Al-Sudani’s insistence on using a name that he knew would irritate Iranians may be a sign that the Shia-majority Iraq is increasingly restoring its ‘Arab’ identity and getting closer to other Arab nations which are Sunnis, despite their seemingly better relations with Shia Iran over much of the past two decades.
Abdolreza Farajirad, diplomatic relations analyst, told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) Tuesday that all Iraqi premiers after Nouri al-Maleki have tried to mend their relations with the Arab world and go back to their Arab identity and culture. “For them the Arabic identity has priority and the [Shia] religious identity comes second,” he said.