By Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh Ph.D.
Chairman of Urosevic Research Foundation -
A Look at Some of the more recently propagated UAE arguments
Territorial claims for nation-building exercise
In my previous works I introduced
masses of documents and evidence about
The United Arab Emirates has been
experiencing difficulties in creating real and true national cohesion in that
federation of the seven political entities of Arab tribal identity (Arab
Emirates). Lack of any real challenge of political geography nature to this
identity seems to have deprived the notion of nation-building process of the
necessary stimulant that would bear the fruit of national cohesion.
Failing to achieve any real results
from the above strategy seems to have lead Abu Dhabi to adopt a more fundamental
undertaking of a massive cultural project aimed at creating a new historical
identity for the region by trying to re-write regional history. The ultimate aim
in this cultural venture seems to be complete denial of all aspects of the
history of the region that would one way or another relate to Iran and her
traditional sovereignty of the southern coasts of the Persian Gulf. Supported by
more radical nationalists (pan-Arabist) quarters in places like
The concept of territorial
sovereignty in the Western sense did not exist in
These words were echoes of what many
Western scholars and diplomats like Professor John Wilkinson of
This ludicrous partitioning of territory is of recent origin and stems in large measure from the imposing of European notion of territorialism on a society to which they were foreign......Britain sought to develop an exclusive influence in the Gulf and, later still, to favour the claims of particular companies to act as concessionaries for oil exploration, she was forced first into defending the protégé coastal rulers from attack from the hinterland and then of proclaiming their authority over the population and resources of greater Oman.... (5).
Sir Rupert Hay states:
Before the advent of oil the desert was in many ways similar to the high seas. Nomads and their camels roamed across it at will... (6).
In its endeavor to establish a new
historical identity for the UAE in addition to their pan-Arabist tendencies, the
UAE Government seems to have opted for the adoption of the same strategy of
political ideology devised in 1950s and 1960s, and implemented by the former
Baath Party of
Since its emergence in 1968 the
second Baath regime in
A major feature of this endeavor was
attempts to change the name of the Persian Gulf to Arabian Gulf, changing the
ancient name of Iran's Khuzestan province into "Arabistan" and trying to sever
that province from Iran by creating a terrorist group of a few elements related
to the Iranian Arab tribes living in Khuzestan who occupied Iranian Embassy in
London in 1980 in a terrorist action and even now is heavily involved in
terrorist activities in Khuzestan and Tehran (7). Other features of this
anti-Iranian racially inclined ideology include changing the name of the islands
The Baath party and its political philosophy, which symbolized their peculiar way of shaping a national identity, had aimed at proving the argument that not only is Iraq an Arab state, but a leading one. But this whole argument was to materialize on the strength of the geographical fact that Baath party and Iraq's ruling class were from the Sunni Arab population of that country which has always been in minority there, and it was because of this weak geographical foundation of the argument that drove the Baath regime to dictatorship of most severe kind vis-à-vis the people of Iraq and a belligerent approach in their relations with Iran.
The Baath policy of nation-Building
was not to follow the path of a normal process of settling the crisis of
identity. All philosophers and thinkers of political, geographical and social
sciences, including famous Arab thinker Edward Said, in his famous book
Orientalism (8) concede that one normally constructs one's identity by
comparing the notion of 'us' with the notion of 'them'. But in the case of the
Baath party of
It was on the basis of this peculiar way of reading history that a mind-boggling anti-Iranian (anti-Persian) campaign began which lasted for 35 years, causing the eight-year war of attrition with more than one million people dead, and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of destruction to both countries.
The cultural aspects of this
incessant campaign involved a furiously anti-Iranian propaganda throughout the
Arab world. Even in their school books
Verily the Iranians are always the same low-down racist Persians who have, since the time of Rashedin Caliphate until the glorious Qadesiyah (the last of the wars of Islamic Caliphate against Iran) of noble Saddam Hussein been against the Arab nation and its unity, against its Arabic-Islamic civilization and against its language.... All problems of the Arabs and the Muslims, and all conflicts and agitations, and ethnic wars, and all efforts for the destruction of its (Arab's) civilization are the result of Persian conspiracies.
After the fall of
Writing and broadcasting
undocumented allegations against
It might, however, be understandable
that these newly formed states would concern themselves with the task of
nation-building within the framework of their desired Arab identity, but
construction of one's identity cannot always be achieved through destruction of
the identity of the others. In their identity seeking efforts when some of these
emirates face the reality that the lands on which they are building their new
nations formed the southern flanks of the Iranian federative system (the
so-called Persian Empire) for thousands of year and, therefore, like the former
Baathist regime in Iraq, they too see their options limited to destroying the
Persian (Iranian) identity. While, denying in many of their texts in history and
geography the existence of such a political entity as
evidence (notably by Walid al-Takriti in Buraimi area) is showing that the
Dawudi qanat go back well before the Achaemanid period and that on the contrary,
there is no firm evidence of an Achaemanid occupation of
Neither the author of
the above nor the source he refers to seem to have paused and asked the
question; considering that defining the existence of a real and actual
civilization is the pre-requisite condition for any academic claim of the
discovery of constructed infrastructure in any given area of the world, how
could qanat (underground water channel system) have been constructed in
Eastern Arabia and Oman before the Achaeminid period? They do not seem to be
concerned that before making that claim, they have to establish existence of a
civilization in that part before the advent of the Achaeminid Iranian
civilization. This is an old practice, and attempts to attribute some of better
known and well-established features and samples of ancient Iranian civilization
to modern countries like
A closer look at the
terminologies used in the above quoted letter is more revealing. In another part
the author refers to the lack of "firm evidence of an Achaemanid occupation of
All local historical evidence, all Arab texts of history like Tabari, Masudi, Yaqubi, Maqdasi, Ibn Huqal etc. confirm what Sir Arnold T. Wilson has asserted in his highly acclaimed publication in 1928 on the Persian Gulf that:
There are myths dating the origin of the people of the Persian Gulf to the meeting of three branches of mankind on the shores of the Gulf in about 10,000 BC: the Drividian of the Makran coasts (Iran) absorbed by their Baluchi conquerors (Iran); the Semites of the Arabian highlands who displaced or absorbed the original Hamitic Euro-African aborigines; and the proto-Elamites of southwestern Iran (12).
geography of Eastern Arabia (southern coasts of the
The main Shanu'a
groupings of Arab immigrants from the interior of Arabia were established in the
Re-Writing history to formulate national identity
In addition to the necessity of being familiar with the evolution of legally inclined concept of territoriality and territorial ownership in South East Arabia and southern shores of the Persian Gulf, and before speaking of "centuries of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah's history of ownership of territories in and around the Persian Gulf, Thomas R. Mattairs of our time aught to establish first; what is the history of statehood in that part of the world; second, how long these emirates have been in existence as political entities of legal and territorial dimension, and third; what was the role of the British in 19th and 20th century in allocating lands to various emirates at will. In this context, in order to avoid repetition of issues and instances of historical and legal arguments, I would refer these authors to carefully study chapters XVII, XVIII, IXX and XX in this book for matters related to history of statehood in The Persian Gulf, history of the existence of the Arab Emirates of the Persian Gulf, and the role the British played in allocating territories to various state or tribal entities at will in 19th and 20th century. The agents of British colonial rule in the region in 19th and early 20th century, who were the instruments of colonial interference in the political geography of the Persian Gulf and allocated various territories to different entities in the region, conveniently denied all aspects of Iran's traditional dominion and her sovereignty connections with the southern coasts of the Persian Gulf, but several British scholars and academics like Sir Arnold T. Wilson, Dr. John C. Wilkinson, Sir Rupert hay, Donald Hawley, J. B. Kelly etc have made reasonable references to these traditional realities of the region in their scholarly works.
Here, it suffice to briefly state
that even the name Ras al-Kheimah is reminder of Iran's age old sovereignty
presence in southern coasts of the Persian Gulf.
Articles 1, 2 and 4 of the statement of His Highness the Sheikh of all Sheikhs, His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqar (16)
Article 1; The first issue is that I am grateful to you, and like my ancestors from the oldest time, we have been your servant, companion, and subject, and today also I am your servant, companion and subject, and I am ready for your command and instructions so that whatever command you might have to be carry out with our lives, by myself, my children, my clan and my tribe, we are all your subjects and citizens and servants and abide by your instructions. And Ras al-Kheimah has been your (territorial) dominion since the oldest time and is now an Iranian territory.
Article 2; The second issue is that if I were
to have a person in Bandar Abbas, I will see to all affairs of Bandar Abbas
perfectly and completely as might be asked of me. But if the forced of Sayyed
Saeed (Sultan of Oman) come and position themselves before Bandar Abbas, I could
not see it and keep silent, it would be inevitable that I challenged him and
chase him out of that place. If I were to challenge him at sea the
Article 4; the fourth issue is that as I
stayed in Bandar Abbas, the
Even as late as 1969 Arab scholars
verified that the issue of territorial sovereignty in the southern coasts of the
I redecul the efforts for changing
the name of the
The Iranian Government had as from
the year 1950 imposed visa requirement for the inhabitants of the lower Persian
Gulf traveling into
The Anglo-Iranian territorial
contention, which began in 1840s with Haji Mirza Aghasi's declaration of
opposition to the British annexation of ports and islands of lower Persian Gulf,
the most prominent of which in the twentieth century were the issues of Iran's
claim on Bahrain and Britain's claim on Tunbs and Abu Musa on behalf of its
client emirates, continued throughout the 19th and early
20th centuries until in 1965 when negotiations began between the two
for a north-south maritime divide in the Persian Gulf. Though these negotiations
did not produce conclusive agreements on the subject, it established in 1966 the
median line of the sea as a principle upon which the continental shelf between
Doubting validity of official British Government documents
Another issue of significance to be
noted by all observers is the fact that in addition to hundreds of British
government documents verifying
The Map of the Persian Gulf
as the 1886 map is called, was compiled by the Intelligence Division of the War
Office of the
Other British academic or diplomats
of note who have discussed the issue of the three islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa
and have made references to this map, have not even hinted to any possibility of
it being compiled by mistake. Sir Denis Wright, a veteran British diplomat who
studied the issue of Anglo-Iranian relations in details in two volumes has made
references to the 1886 War Office map and its presentation to Naser ad-Din Shah
without even making any suggestion or hinting any question about the validity of
the map being doubted. Rather he implies that presentation of this map to the
A War Office map, presented by the British Minister [in Tehran} to the Shah in 1888, showed all the islands [the two Tunbs, Abu Musa and Sirri] in Persian colour: the Persian case was further strengthened with the publication in 1992 of Curzon's two-volume Persia and Persian Question in which the map, prepared by the Royal geographical Society under Curzon's own supervision, also showed the islands as Persian territory (23).
When in the symposium on Iranian boundaries (9-10 October 2002) Mr. Schofield was reminded of the fact that the 1886 Map of the Persian Gulf was reprinted in 1891 by the British Government which is an official verification of the authenticity of the map, he argued that as it was too late to do anything about it being compiled by mistake, the British authority decided to compile all subsequent publication with the mistake. Certainly this cannot be but an unnecessary admission of wrong doing on the part of the British Government. Moreover, this could also cause doubt also about validity of other official maps of British Government, published subsequent to the publication in 1886 and 1891 of the Map of the Persian Gulf, including the Official Map of Persia (in six sheets): compiled in 1897 in the Simla Drawing office, Survey of India, Administration of topography of the Indian Foreign Office, in which the islands of Tunb and Abu Musa are shown in the colour of the Iranian mainland.
Moreover, in an unlikely situation should Mr. Schofield's far fetched insinuation be accepted that all official maps of Iran or Persia and/or the Persian Gulf, published by the British Government subsequent to the 1886 map, were compiled deliberately with mistake on the issue of verification in those maps of Iranian ownership of the three islands, then he will not be in any position to question authenticity and correctness of the official British Government maps compiled and published before publication of the 1886 map, which could not have been affected in any way by possible problems that might have occurred in the completion of the 1886 map. Here, at least six examples of such maps, compiled and published before 1886 can be introduced, and they are as follow:
1- Map of The Persian Empire;
compiled in 1813 by John Macdonald Kinner, Political Adviser to Sir John
Malcolm, British Envoy, in his mission to
2- Map of The Gulf of Persia; compiled in 1829 by Captain G. B. Brucks on the instructions of East India Company, in which the islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa are coloured as Iranian territories and named in the covering note as Iranian owned.
3- Map of Central Asia Comprising Cabool, Persia, the River Indus and countries eastward to it: compiled in 1834 by Lieutenant Alexander Burnes on the basis of 'Authentic Maps', printed by Arrowsmith in colour, showing the islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa in the colour of Iranian territories.
4- Map of Limits of the activities of the Tribes of Pearling Coasts, compiled in 1835 by Captain S. Hennell, showing the islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa within Iranian jurisdiction.
5- Map of Limits of the
activities of the Tribes of Pearling Coasts, compiled in 1838 by Major
Morrison, British Political resident in the
6- Map of The Persian Gulf, compiled
by Captain C.B.S. St. John, under the auspices of the Indian Government,
There are those who describe the process
of actual transfer of sovereignty control of the islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa
to Iran by means of hoisting Iranian flags on them by an Iranian naval unit in
the morning of November 30, 1971, as "Iran's military occupation" of these
islands. What these individuals conveniently ignore is the fact that hoisting
the flags of the recipient state over the territory, the sovereignty control of
which is being transferred from one state to another, is a normal legal
practice. For instance the district of Alaska was ceded to the
The Iranian flag was unfurled on the
two Tunb islands and
Unlike the peaceful transfer of
sovereignty control of northern half of
On their arrival at Greater Tunb the Iranian naval representative noticed the absence of welcoming party but the small island seemed to them peaceful enough. On the approach to the island Iranian officials on board naval vessel Artmiss heard gun shots from the inside of Ras al-Kheimah's police station in the island. In an interview with this author on 21 June 2003, Iranian journalist Mr. Ali-Reza Taheri, who represented the daily Ettelaat of Tehran in the Iranian delegation on board Artmiss to the three islands, stated:
It had been arranged that like in Abu Musa, the Iranian delegation would be welcomed at Greater Tunb ceremonially..... The Iranian delegation would not even contemplate that peaceful process and their security would be threatened by the police force inside the police station (of Ras al-Kheimah at the Greater Tunb). Captain Suzanchi headed four navy personnel who attempted to investigate the source of disturbance, were so sure of their safety that none of them had a naked gun in their hands when they were killed. On his martyrdom Captain Suzanchi's gun was still in its case fastened on his vest. At the heat of the gun shots had only his walky-talky in his hand.
The Iranian delegation had no knowledge of the number of police officers in the station. The two individuals, who had come out of the station initially, had raised their guns over their heads indicating their intention to surrender. Thinking that these two were the only personnel there and that there would not be anyone else in the station Captain Suzanchi and his company approached the individuals surrendering themselves to the Iranian delegation. As soon as they reached the fire range of the station, they were showered with bullets coming from the inside of the station..... Captain Suzanchi and two of his fellow officers were killed on the spot the forth officer was wounded with only one of them survived unscathed.
Facing that unexpected situation which was later blamed on the British officer in command of Ras al-Kheimah's police station in Greater Tunb, the Iranian naval unit reacted in the defense of the lives of the rest of delegation and the safety of the local residents by brought the police station under fire. Three of the rebelled Ras al-Kheimah officers inside the building were killed and the rest were arrested and transferred to Ras al-Kheimeh.....
This incident that was not
anticipated at all and was blamed on the lack of competence on the part of the
British and Ras al-Kheimah authorities at Greater Tunb has apparently provided
those opposed to the Anglo-Iranian settlement of the case of these islands to
On the legality of
1- The islands of
Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa were returned to
2- The MoU of
November 1971, signed between
3- In the meeting
of 12 may 1992 of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates the Emir of
Sharjah who is Iran's original partner in the 1971 MoU, refused to pass his
Emirate's authority over the issue of Abu Musa island to the UAE leadership and
left the meeting. Hence,
4- In an insincere manner
At Greater Tunb a misunderstanding
between the English commander of the police station and some Iraqi elements
there resulted in shooting between them. In a swift response, the Iranian naval
vessel that had just arrived to hoist Iranian flag there arrested those involved
and sent them back to Ras al-Kheimah. Clearly the attempt by
5- Finally, the European Union aught to know that no country is under obligation to refer to international judicial arbitration a territorial claim by another country which is based on lack of awareness of and respect for international laws and regulations.
Letter of Clarification from Sharjah
In a letter to this author, completely unrelated to Abu Dhabi's efforts in re-writing the history and geographical description of the region in order to give some kind of legitimacy to their illegitimate claims, dated 8 May 2006, the Dewan Al-Amiri, the Court of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Al-Qasemi the Ruler of Sharjah clarified that the Sheikh Yusof of Bandar Lengeh mentioned in pages 69 and 70 of my book "The Islands of Tunb and Abu Musa (SOAS, University of London Publication 1995) and on pages 184 and 185 of my book "Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf (Curzon Press publication - London 1999), who ruled Bandar Lengeh since 1878, did not belong to the ruling Qassemi families of the emirates of Sharjah and Ras Al Kheimah. The letter adds:
We would like to inform you that Sheikh Youssuf does not belong to the Ruling Family neither in Sharjah Emirate nor in Ras Al-Khaimah Emirate; rather, he was descending from a humble tribe and was a follower and servant of Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al-Qassimi, who murdered the latter and became himself the ruler of Lingeh (25).
This author welcomes the above letter of clarification from the office of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah with due respect and implements it in its future research works, but finds it necessary to explain with humility that the nature of the said Sheikh Youssef's family connection with the Al-Qassemi families of Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah and/or the lack of it does not alter the facts described in the said pages of my above mentioned books.
Notes and References
Keith McLahlan, The boundaries of
modern Iran, The SOAS/GRC Geopolitics Series 2, UCL Press,
Thomas R. Mattair, The
J. G. Lorimer, Gazetteer of the
J. B. Kelly, Eastern Arabian
John C. Wilkinson, Water and
Tribal Settlement in South-East Arabia,
Rupert Hay, The
This terrorist group (Al-Ahwaz) has,
with the permission of British Government, placed its headquarters in
Edward Saeed, Orientalism,
Talal Adrisi, Sourat al-Iranian
fi al-kotob al-madresiyat al-Arabiyat (the image of Iranians in Arab school
books), in Khair ed-Din Hasseeb ed., Arab-Iranian Relations,
10- See for example the following instances:
Magdi Omar's interview in Al-Ahram
Abdul Monim Saeed in Al-Ahram of 23 December 2002.
Al-Anba' daily of
Mohammad Abu Ali in Al-Sharq
Abd or-Rahman Rashed in Al-Sharq al-Owsat on 1/1/2005
Sad Ibn Taflah former Kuwaiti Minister of Culture and Information in Sharq al-Owsat of 1/1/2005 and in 15/1/2005
Dr. Hesham Al-Asmar in Al-Ahram of
Dr. Yaseen Suwaid in An-Nahar of
Dr. Foad Haddad in The Qods al-Arabi
Sad Ibn Taflah former Kuwaiti Minister of Culture and Information in Sharq al-Awsat of 4/3/2006.
11- J. Wfirstname.lastname@example.org, 09 January 2006 20:03:42`+0100
12- Sir Arnold T. Wilson, The Persian Gulf, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 2nd publication, 1954, p. 22.
13- For details of
evidence and references on these developments see; Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh,
Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf, Curzon/ Routledge,
14- John C. Wilkinson,
The Julanda of
15- For a thorough account of the early developments of British colonial interference with the political geography of the Persian Gulf, see British references such as: Arnold T. Wilson, op. cit., Sir Rupert hay, op. cit., Donald Hawley, The Trucial States, George Allen & Unwin, London 1970, J. B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795-1880, classic and recent reprinted work, Oxford University Press 1968, etc.
16- Document 15 of Majmueh-e Asnad-e Farrokh Khan Amin ad-Doleh, The collection of the documents of Farrokh Khan Amin ad-Doleh, the documents of the year 1274 H. Q. (1867), edited by Karim Esfahanian, Tehran University Press, Tehran 1979, pp. 24-5.
17- It is noteworthy that
in a similar attempt for leasing Bandar Abbas from Iran's central authorities,
Saiyid Saeed bin Ahmad, Sultan of Muscat (Oman) wrote on 20 Shaban 1272 (26
April 1856) to the Shah declaring himself as a subject of the Government of
Iran. He renewed
18- Dr. Sayyed Mohammad Nufel, deputy
Secretary General of the Arab League and representative of the Egyptian
Government in the Human Rights Conference of 1969 in
19- For details of these
maps see; Appendix 1 of The Islands of Tunb and Abu Musa: An Iranian Argument
for Peace and Co-operation in the Persian Gulf, by Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh,
SOAS University of London publication, London 1995, pp. 86-88. This list is
reproduced in; Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, Security and territoriality in the
Persian Gulf: A Maritime Political geography, Curzon Press,
20- Confidential from National Iranian Oil Company to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated 21.7.1344 (13 October 1965): No. 7539/84, p.1.
Payvand Iran News,
10/015/02, Report of the International symposium on Modern Boundaries of
22- For more details see: Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, The Islands of Tunb and Abu Musa; An Iranian Argument in Search of Peace and Co-operation in The Persian Gulf, occasional paper No. 15, CNMES, SOAS, London University, London 1995, ch. III.
Denis Wright, The English Amongst the Persians, Heinemann,
24- Payvand News Network, http://www.payvand.com/news/04/jun/1102.html, Report of the author's letter to Javier Solana of the European Union, 06/16/2004.
25- Official letter of clarification received electronically from Mr. Rashid Ahmed Al-Sheikh, Director General of Sharjah Ruler's Court, Al-Dean Al-Amir, Government of Sharjah, addressed to Professor Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, dated 8 May 2006.
... Payvand News - 6/12/06 ... --