Saturday, May 2, 2009

Persian Gulf: The Eternal Name

We have celebrated the national day for the Persian Gulf yesterday in Iran. During recent years there has been a deliberate attempt on behalf of Arab States in the Persian Gulf to change the historical name of this strategic body. This attempt has been encouraged by some Western governments recently.

Professor Muhammad Sahimi from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California has written the following letter to the Hillary Clinton. I thought it would be interesting for many.

The State Department statement was relatively brief: "The Secretary [of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton] is pleased to announce the appointment of
Dennis B. Ross to the position of Special Advisor to the Secretary of
State for The Gulf and Southeast Asia."

Which "Gulf?" Gulf of Mexico? Gulf of Aqaba? Gulf of Tonkin?
Gulf of Aden? Gulf of Carpenteria? There are so many of them!

We read on: "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and
facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to
energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of
law." Oh! "That Gulf"

Well, Madam Secretary, you need first and foremost an advisor on history
because, given his long history of bias toward Iran, in addition to be
totally unfit for the job, your advisor and "expert," Dennis Ross, does
not know the history of that region. The name of that Gulf is Persian
Gulf, nothing less, nothing more. It has been that way since at least 330
B.C., when the Achaemenid Empire established the first Persian Empire in
Pars (or Persis, the region which is called Fars in the present Iran) in
southwestern region of Iran. After that historical event, Greek - not
Iranian - sources started calling the body of water that bordered this
region the Persian Gulf. It has stayed that way ever since.

In his 1928 book, A Periplus of the Persian Gulf, Sir Arnold Talbot
Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Iraq from 1918-1920, stated

"No water channel has been so significant as Persian Gulf to the
geologists, archaeologists, geographer, merchants, politicians,
excursionists, and scholars whether in past or in present. This water
channel which separates the Iran Plateau from the Arabia Plate has
enjoyed an Iranian identity since at least 2200 years ago."

Madam Secretary, I know that the United States and its allies import
significant amount of oil from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. I
know that the U.S. supports the corrupt and dictatorial Arab regimes
there, because they protect what is perceived as the vital interests of
the U.S. (although those regimes are the main culprit in the rise of
al-Qaeda). I also know that these nations are spending tens of billions of
dollars to buy weapons from the U. S. - weapons that they neither need,
nor will they ever be able to use - and that the U.S. nuclear industry is
going to make billions more by selling nuclear reactors to Bahrain and
other Arab nations in that region (but not, of course, Iran). Therefore,
the new and changed State Department - just like the old ones - wants to
appease these regimes, and avoid doing anything that would offend their
rulers. I know all of that.

But, Madam Secretary, all such considerations do not, and cannot, change
the history of that region. The 990 km long body of water that starts
from Arvand Rud that carries the waters of Euphrates and Tigris rivers,
and ends at Strait of Hormuz - another Iranian name, recognized
internationally - that connects it to the Oman Sea, has always been, and
will always be, the Persian Gulf. This has been recognized
internationally. Nothing, and least of all the billions and trillions of
the corrupt Arab rulers, can change that. If your advisers do not know
that, or are not willing to tell you that, then, you need new advisers.
To be successful in your efforts that region, the first thing you need to
know is the region's history.

Madam Secretary, President Obama has said that the U.S. talks with Iran
must be built on mutual respect. One good place to start showing this
respect toward Iran and Iranians is calling that historical body of water
what it has always been called, the Persian Gulf.


Unknown said...

Isn't is a little semantic? Who cares? America's full name is The United States of America, yet it's called U.S., America, the States, etc. And when you refer to the States, no one mistakes them, for the United Arab States, or the United States of Stellaland, or the United States of Mexico, or the Federated States of Micronesia.

Why did they say "The Gulf"? Simple - that's what it's called. Sure, it's not the geographical name on the map, but if it's referred to and understood to be referred to as "The Gulf", it's "The Gulf." That is the simple rule of linguistics.

Now, you might not like it to be called that, and that's your right. And if you don't like it enough, the state department, I'm sure, would oblige you and change the name to "The Persian Gulf" in the title, but what difference would it make?

Shouldn't the actions of a state department official be more important than his title? Aren't there a myriad of far more pressing diplomatic issues between Iran and the United States?

I'm also sure that there are some who dislike the name Persian Gulf simply for the Persian part, and that's there right, as silly as it might be. Unless they have any pull with the International Cartographic Association, or whoever decides the names on the map, I don't see a problem.

But what if the name was changed?
"What's in a name?" in the words of Shakespeare. Certainly Persian and Iranian are interchangeable as concepts, would Iranian Gulf be acceptable? What about Arab Gulf, well, maybe not. What about Muslim Gulf? Or, maybe something neutral - Middle-Eastern Gulf? Gulf adjacent to the Indian Ocean?

Something tells me that the Indians wouldn't care that much if their ocean was renamed. I doubt if the English would protest over an "Anglo-French channel."

Call it what you want. It's a body of water, nothing but a collection of H20 molecules with some salt, flora and fauna. If the name is important to you, by all means, make a big deal out of it. But I just don't see how it is a big deal.

naza said...

sister- Persia , the real name of present iran, already changed- so what,s the problem-