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IRAN: Row over Persian vs. Arabian Gulf at China games ruffles Tehran's feathers

Picture 1Iran views China as its key strategic partner and shield against harsh international scrutiny when it comes to its nuclear program. 

But it didn't take long for Iranians to raise hackles of protest after organizers of the 16th Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China, referred to the Persian Gulf, the stretch of water separating Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, as the "Arabian Gulf."

Irked Iranian officials began to send letters of protest to the offices of their Chinese counterparts over the weekend condemning what they called name "distortion."

Iran's ambassador to China, Mehdi Safari, told Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that a number of notes protesting the incident had been sent to the Chinese Foreign Ministry as well as to the organizers of the sports event, prompting an apology from both agencies to Iran.

The run-in began during a showing of world maps at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games on Friday. According to Safari, the Persian Gulf had been dubbed the Arabian Gulf, as many Arabs call it, on the map of the Middle East which appeared on the big screens for a few seconds.

The ambassador played down the incident, saying it was only a mistake by the sports event organizers and didn't reflect China's foreign policy and its view of Iran. And the Chinese Foreign Ministry instructed organizations to not repeat Friday's incident and make sure that the term "Persian Gulf" and nothing else is used in the future, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported .

Iran has long insisted that the stretch of water should be called the Persian Gulf, a name many of its Arab neighbors reject in favor of the Arabian Gulf.  To avoid trouble, everyone including those from news agencies, military strategists and oil firms have begun to term it simply the Gulf.

But the Persian appellation is the most consistently used term throughout history.

The Chinese episode is one in a series of similar incidents over the years in the long-running naming dispute. Earlier this year, the Iranian authorities said that airlines will not be allowed to enter Iranian airspace unless they use the term "Persian Gulf" on their in-flight television monitors. The transport minister threatened that planes that did not comply with the order could be impounded. 

Troubles also arose when Iran insisted that the term Persian Gulf be used on medals and promotion materials for the Islamic Solidarity Games, scheduled to have been held in Tehran last April.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries due to partake in the sports event refused to comply and the games were cancelled altogether.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Illustration: A map showing the strech of water between Iran and its southern neighbors that is the subject of a longstanding naming dispute. Iran insists that it should be known as the Persian Gulf while many Arab countries say it's called the Arabian Gulf. Credit: Google maps.



Comments () | Archives (22)

The group of experts on Geographical Names was set up by the secretary-general of the United Nations in pursuance of economic and Social council resolution 715A(XXVII) on April 23, 1959 and has endorsed 'Persian Gulf' as the official name for this body of water.[1]

The group discussed the naming issue during its 23rd session, held in Vienna from March 28 to April 4, 2006. According to the report of the meeting, the Convenor "noted that countries could not be prohibited from using or creating exonyms."[2]

The use of the name 'Arabian Gulf' was described to be 'faulty' by the Eighth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, Berlin, 27 August September 2002.[3

And finally I am gonna start calling "Arabic countries south of Persian gulf" as "Arabic colonies of persian empire oversees" and "Los Angeles times" as "Los Angeles Sun". Does it make a difference? not really..
No one should really care what Arabic countries do on this matter because it does not change a thing although they are spending too much.



2- Report of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names on the work of its twenty-third session. Document E/2006/57, Economic and Social Council, United Nations. New York, 2006.[2]


Well, it is like Pakistanis calling the Indian Ocean, the 'Pakistani Ocean!!'

Persian Gulf will remain Persian Gulf.

Why not shift the name from a geograpic reference to a religious one; i.e., call it the "Islamic Gulf" since all countries (Arabian or Persian) directly adjacent to the gulf are Islamic ... that should end the polemic!

Arabs have played both sides of the game. They support Arab Nationalism against their none Arab neighbors but all their kings and sheiks are Western puppets. Starting from Mubarak, Abbdullah, all the sheiks from the kingdoms and even the Palestinian leadership for the most part. They no more care about helping Arabs than they care to help their Palestinian brothers. They are also backstabber. When it came to fighting in Iraq, by supporting terrorists and Sunni insurgency that killed thousands of Americans and Shia, they had no problem going against the West. Unreliable and selfish is the best you can describe Arab monarchs propped up all over the ME by the British and supported by US!

such a childish game. The way LA Times explains the issue is another try to make it less strange. Just look at the excellent, profound comments and then judge the piece by LA times.

Dear Friends
it is to call your kind attention to the wrong term used in your article .
the fabricated name of" Arabian Gulf" instead of the historical ,official name of" the "Persian Gulf".!!!!
as it harm the accuracy and credit of your media, please act as fast as possible to
revise and correct the mistake.
as a fan of your media i really care about your prestigious works and i want it perfect with accurate names of historical places please.

China is just looking for money. Sometimes from Iran, sometimes from Arab states. But regarding Persian Gulf: some media mention "Iran insists that it should be called Persian Gulf" but it's not just Iran. According to historical/geographical documents, also United Nations' directives, the name of this waterway which separates Iran (Persia) from Arabian Peninsula is the PERSIAN GULF.
Even until 1960s in Arabic maps it has been called Persian Gulf as well. The name "Arabian Gulf" is in fact old name of present-day Red Sea. So it's quite strange that they have "decided" to change the historical facts.
Please imagine that all nations start to rename the historical and legal names of seas and oceans: African people try to change the name of Indian Ocean to African Ocean, American people rename Gulf of Mexico to Gulf of America or Pakistani people try to use Pakistani Sea instead of the Arabian Sea !... let's not involving in this childish game and do not try change the historical facts.

The hypocrisy of Iran never ceases to amaze me. They harp continuously about "Allah" and count China as their closest friend? Last I knew, you could still go to jail in China for espousing religious views of any kind! Persia vs. Arabian Gulf? You've got to be kidding!

Piran, well said, I agree 200% with your comments.

Since the Arabs are unable to acquire or keep land from being taken by force, they have gone to renaming geographic areas to make up for this. The Persian Gulf has, and will always be, The Persian Gulf. Makes me so mad I may want to jump in the French Channel, or the Pakistani Ocean!!!

Hey Piran - what sort of 'history' have you been reading - the sort that denies the holocaust?

The history shows that anglosaxons have been the worst kind of evil people on planet earth. Their atrocities against human beings are so large that they are almost never openly discussed. They have killed over a billion people since 14th century, instituted industrial level slavery of whole continents and perpetrated the largest theft of natural resources in the history of universe. A cowardly people that they are, they could not have achieved all this using their muscle power so they employed deception to use other people muscle against another people. To do such deceptions they needed to created lies and subversions, from Kashmir and land of Mayas to Iran and Tanzania. The controversy over naming of this sea is one of millions of those deceptions created by anglosaxons. While Persian Gulf has been in use since 2000BC, much before even there was england, now BBC omits to call the lake by its name. Infact it was the wicked british government when it was busy bringing down Ottoman Empire using a psuedo-Islamic sect co-created by britain by name of wahabism as their allies, under the final military command of Col. lawrence that this controversy was pushed into realism. At the time the ever wicked british government sent envoys to the region and telling arabs that her majesty's government is all in support of arabs to change the name of Persian Gulf to the new name of arabian gulf. This was being done to culturally pressure Iran to accept the Darcy's oil deal and Iran giving up Qatar, Bahrain and Khasab. That is not all,...

Dear Editor,

It is not just a matter of Iran "insisting" that this body of water should be called the Persian Gulf...
Let's look at some hard facts:
The U.S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN), the final authority on U.S. geographical nomenclature standardization, has officially recognized and adopted the Persian Gulf as the sole name for this body of water and has mandated the U.S. government to refer exclusively to it by this proper name. Accordingly, the policy of the U.S. Department of Defense is to refer to that waterway by its historically correct and legal name "Persian Gulf" ( The past U.S. presidents and administrations have consistently addressed the Persian Gulf by its valid name.

The following are links to the United Nations Geographical maps of the world and the Persian Gulf region. Please take time to view them and notice that the UN refers to this body of water as the Persian Gulf.

Most importantly, the United Nations with 22 Arab member states has on two occasions officially declared the name of the waterway to the south of Iran as the Persian Gulf. The first announcement was made through the document UNAD, 311/Qen on March 5, 1971, and the second was UNLA 45.8.2 section C, on August 10, 1984. Persian Gulf is also the recognized name by the British Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN).


I think the Iranian will have to live with the arabian gulf name

The name is Persian Gulf, period. This is an undiputable fact the history of which goes back to more than 2000(two thousand) years ago! Let's keep this one out of political games!!

that's always persian gulf , i don't know why some arabs trying to name this gulf with fake name of Arab

It is the Persian Gulf. period!

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