Iraqis are backing those who call the waterway the Arabian Gulf
Its waters are beguilingly calm. But a tempest is brewing over their name. Iran insists that the waterway that divides the country from its Arab neighbours should be known as the Persian Gulf. Most Western cartographers agree. But across the sea, Arabs are angling for it to be called the Arabian Gulf. (Google Earth hedges its bets by using both names.) A natural barrier for centuries of Arab-Persian rivalry, the waters reflect increasingly troubled relations.
The latest catalyst is a football tournament. For the first time in decades Iraq has been hosting the Arabian Gulf Cup, which involves all the states bordering the waterway, bar Iran. It has been keen to show where its loyalties lie. “Today we’re part of the Arab system and we’re eager to maintain our relations with the states of the Arabian Gulf,” said Iraq’s prime minister, Muhammad al-Sudani, ahead of the opening ceremony in Basra, the host city, which is near the border with Iran. Other Iraqi politicians have chimed in. “Welcome to the states of the Arabian Gulf,” tweeted Muqtada al-Sadr, a cleric who heads Iraq’s biggest group in parliament.