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The Gulf Naming Game, the Inverted Reality & the 'Global Balkans'

By K. Darbandi


“ In some parts of the world, the nation state, on which the existing international system was based, is either giving up its traditional aspects, like in Europe, or as in the Middle East, where it was never really fully established, it is no longer the defining element.” (H., Kissinger, June 2007)


The Naming Game


Various branches of the U.S. armed forces have issued directives to their members to use the "Arabian Gulf" when operating in the area. This is claimed to be due to increased cooperation with Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but also to follow local laws that ban the use of "Persian Gulf". In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), consisting of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain, public usage of the name “Persian Gulf” is illegal. The nationalistic sensibilities of the ruling Families does not go much beyond waging this nominal jihad.  The name of the body of water is most important to Arab nationalism, but what is porting by the water apparently is not a matter of national concern: UAE ports host more US Navy ships than anywhere else outside of US[1][1].


In this federation of hereditary Sheikdoms, referred to by US government as a “constitutional republic”, only 15-20 percent of the population are considered locals and enjoy some form of social security and public services, and there is no electoral system to express the ‘national’ will of the privileged citizens.  The Nation is practically absent in the Nationalism of the Sheiks. The military branch of US government, however, does not have any operational directives on how to deal with the total absence of even a Saudi style electoral process in this Arab host nation. Instead, the Air Warfare Center, the leading fighter training center in the Middle East is also hosted by UAE


American universities in the region have also dropped references to "Persian Gulf" in their teaching materials.[2][2] While these institutes of higher education have shown immeasurable flexibility to adapt to the sensibilities of the ‘host’ countries, they are totally silent to the plight of the majority living in UAE: the other 80 or so percent that make the economic wheels turn in UAE, are considered so alien to the identity of this Arab ‘nation’ that can not stay in the country passed retirement age without a job; they are officially labeled ‘deportable aliens’ by UAE government. Once there is nothing left to extract of these migrant slaves, their immaturely-aged and worn out bodies will be shipped back to India, Pakistan and Srilanka to be secured by the non-existent safety nets of the country of origin.  While UAE, thanks to the land carvings of prewar British has the second highest GDP per capita in the world, its million-plus guest-slaves are grossly underpaid as they are kept hostage, for their passports are held by Arab employers.[3][3] American universities in the region, affiliated with major universities in the patron-state, do graduate engineers and managers for the biggest construction boom in the world currently underway in UAE, but  have not said or done much for the labor force that is employed in UAE’s construction industry.[4][4]


By law, teachers in the UAE public school systems are prohibited to utter the phrase “Persian Gulf” in classrooms, to keep the mind of the Arab children in line with a ‘national’ identity that can trace its roots to 1971; historical maps of the Gulf are desecrated to erase the ‘Persian’ word, and children in school trips are deprived of original depictions and educational documents (see map below).


click here to see high resolution


UAE, posing as a leader in Arab National identity, was a British protectorate since 1850s, and was previously called the “Pirate Coast” by the protector, for it was the den of pirates attacking trade ships of the East India Company passing through the Hormoz! It never went through any war of independence, but through back door dealings, was granted independence by the British in 1971, along with an army of British educated officer corps. Its many ports facilities and shoreline dwarf Iraq’s Um-UlQasr, the sole port of the country of Iraq, the country of 20-plus million of Arab peoples. They fought a war of independence against the British in the 1920s, and they were rewarded with Um-UlQasr.


This unhistorical Meta-bazaar is also an unnatural society from a gender perspective: has a trait non-existent in other human societies: there exists a peculiar, abnormal disparity between the male and female population. There are less than one female for every two men in this recently formed multi-city-state. The US State department refers to UAE as a “modern, developed country”.


While playing the Naming Game, this artificial construct, a demographic paradise and a -true NDC model for Kissinger’s “Population growth & economic development”[5][5], is an exceptional example of gender-inequality, barbaric economic exploitation, one of the last states in the world devoid of an electoral system, and a vivid point of entry for US military expansion in the Gulf. The US policy towards this super-wealthy stain of inequality & inhumanity is partially summarized in the manner in which its regional institutions, from its military to its universities play the Naming Game.


Since the Gulf War of 1991, Jebel Ali port in Dubai has become crucial to the U.S. naval operations in the Persian Gulf; it is the safest liberty port in the region and the only harbor in the Gulf deep enough to berth an aircraft carrier.[6][6] And the show-case UAE army, originated by the British-educated top brass, is a major financial lubricator of the Military Industry in the United States.[7][7]  The Air Warfare Center, the leading fighter training center in the Middle East is also hosted by UAE.


The Department of State describes UAE as a “a federation of seven independent emirates, each with its own ruler.  The federal government is a constitutional republic, headed by a president and council of ministers.  … The UAE is a modern, developed country, and tourist facilities are widely available.


The Gulf of “Little-Big Sheiks” or ‘Filthy Pool of Toxins’


The 19th century German dialectician-Philosopher, F. W. Hegel, was familiar with Rumi’s grapplings and spiritual struggles: the infinite struggles of the mind to settle the tension of Contradictions in the resolution of the Unity[8][8]. In one of his essays, he showed how erroneous thinking is abstract thinking, and it is indeed the way most people are driven to think. [9][9]


The prevalent utterances on both sides of the Gulf Naming Game, to some racist, to others nationalistic, are manifestations of this common, demagogic, abstract thinking:  to distract people of the region from thinking in real and concrete terms. So let’s raise the question again: is this an “Arabian” or a “Persian” Gulf?   To get real, let’s ask what is the real character of this Gulf?  Let’s turn the Naming Game from abstraction to concreteness, flip it on its head and then play:


Why don’t we call it the “Hindu Gulf”, or the “Gulf of The Unknown Worker”? Let’s pay respects to the millions of South Asian illicitly-slaved workers in UAE and other members of Gulf Cooperative Council[10][10]; who’s going to recognize them when their drained corpses are vomited back to the subcontinent? 


Let’s call it “Gulf of Central Command”, or simply the “Gulf of America”.  Let’s recognize the reality of the complete occupation of this invaded body of water by the 100-plus warships and the missiles-bound nuclear submarines, the bases and Air Warface School of the US Military?  But then, the old Anglo name of UAE was Pirate Coastline, so how’s about “Gulf of Captain Hook”? In this way, America’s children culture is memorialized as well.


Playing the inverted naming game, thinking of the raped Filipino domestic workers by the Arab desert princes, and evoking Khomeini’s suggestion:” Islamic Gulf” and using a Qhoran term, let’s call it:  “Gulf of Thousand and One Kaniz [11][11]”! It is exotic, real and Islamic.


Ok, give me back my ‘deported aliens’ and I will bury my unknown and numerous dead in the Indian subcontinent; I promise I won’t ship my little children to ride in your camel races no more; I am sorry to have sent my daughters to work in this wretched cheap whorehouse,- call it what you want,- I will heal her wounds in my village back in Philippines if she ever makes it. I did not know…but I now figured it out: you are Big for us and Little for the Americans: let’s Call it “Gulf of Little-Big Sheiks”!


But who inverted the reality and invented this Naming Game? Is the Persian Chauvinist playing the artificial game too? Be warned that if you don’t, you are faced with Reality: and then you just might scream in rage from the bottom of your guts, and like the Gulf itself throw up dead dolphins and whale corpses to the shores, or you might, for a rare realistic glimpse, see this “Filthy Pool of Toxins”:


” Iranian officials and Iranians in general are very sensitive about the term "Persian Gulf" as the official and recognized name for the waterway separating Iran and the Arabian peninsula. They are upset when Arab states or journals do not cite it as such -- particularly when the term "Arab Gulf" is used. And yet a far smaller number of Iranians appear concerned that human activities could turn that object of national pride and diplomatic contention into a filthy pool of toxins.”[12][12]


Play the Naming Game and you are playing the Global Balkans game; stuck at “the turn of an alley”, or let go and travel the “Seven Cities of Love”.


From Balkh to Rum, & the Identity of the ‘Global Balkans’


Mo’ollana Jallaleddin-e-Balkhi, or Jallaleddin-e-Rumi, of Tajik origins, born in Balkh in today’s Afghanistan died a Persian immigrant in Konia, in today’s Turkey. He adored a man called Shams, from Tabriz, in Iranian province of Azerbaijan; he founded and followed a distinct interpretation of Islamic theology, the religion originated in the Arabian Peninsula. His appraisal of the Arab contribution was unprejudiced by teachings of Indian and Greek thinkers. His philosophical articulations were heavily influenced by Attar from Neishapour, from Khorosan province; he studied in Baghdad and taught in Damascus, and settled and died in Eastern Ruman territories, in western Turkey.

Transcript of the Charlie Rose show of June 15, 2007, with guests Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft.

HENRY KISSINGER: We're at a moment when the international system is in a period of change like we haven't seen for several hundred years. In some parts of the world, the nation state, on which the existing international system was based, is either giving up its traditional aspects, like in Europe, or as in the Middle East, where it was never really fully established, it is no longer the defining element. So in those two parts of the world, there is tremendous adjustment in traditional concepts.

BRENT SCOWCROFT[13][13]: Just to add what Henry said in historical terms. Perhaps the most troubling area in the world goes from the Balkans through the Middle East and in Central Asia.[14][14]

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I call that the global Balkans, because in some ways, it's similar to the European Balkans, which were internally conflicted …

BRENT SCOWCROFT: Because national borders are eroding, because of the growth of non-state actors. It's a different kind of a world. …It's a -- it's a world where most of the big problems spill over national boundaries, and there are new kinds of actors and we're feeling our way as to how to deal with them. I think it is less policy oriented than Zbig indicated. I think it's more systemic.

BRENT SCOWCROFT: Yeah. And now these -- these peoples are trying to discover who they are. Their boundaries are artificial. Their historical relationships are very different from what they are -- they're trying to discover who they are and to whom they belong.




This September, Jallaleddin’s 800 birthday anniversary was celebrated in several cultures and by peoples of various backgrounds and beliefs, separated by National boundaries across the ‘Global Balkans’, from Dushanbe to Damascus, and from Tehran to Tashkent.

He was neither Sunni, neither Shiite. He was not Iranian, Tajik, Turkish or Arab. He was All and None in one. Homeless & torn to shreds by the barbaric Mongol invasion, long before Nation States were ever conceived, he lived the dialectical negation of the future Nation State: he sketched a new Union, from Balkh to Basra, and from Hamadan to Heart by walking through the ocean of devastation and ruins, teaching the meaninglessness of names, and the eternal grace of Unity & Oneness.


Kissinger believes that the Nation State”was never established …and is no longer the defining element in the Middle East”.  Scowcroft thinks:” Their boundaries are artificial. Their historical relationships are very different from what they are -- they're trying to discover who they are and to whom they belong.”; and  Zbigniew thinks of Rumi country as ” global Balkans, because in some ways, it's similar to the European Balkans, which were internally conflicted …”

Let me ask you this: Who started the Naming Game? Do you want to play? Be a Whirling Dervish & turn it up-side-down!



I saw but One through all heaven’s starry gleaming:

I saw but One in all sea billows wildly streaming.

I looked into the heart, a waste of worlds, a sea, —

I saw a thousand dreams, —yet One amid all dreaming.

[1][1]  UAE Ports Host More U.S. Navy Ships Than Any Port Outside The United States. The UAE provides outstanding support for the U.S. Navy at the ports of Jebel Ali - which is managed by DP World - and Fujairah and for the U.S. Air Force at al Dhafra Air Base (tankers and surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft). The UAE also hosts the UAE Air Warfare Center, the leading fighter training center in the Middle East.” (US Government: Office of the Press Secretary, February 22, 2006)

[2][2]  American University of Sharjah, founded by a ruling Emir & Texas A&M, -among other American universities-,  is one example/.

[3][3] Discrimination in the workplace is common, prospective employers will specify religion, nationality (and even regional origin in some cases) and also specify the gender of required candidates within job advertisements. It is very common to have different pay scales depending on nationality and gender. There are positive discrimination policies in place also that require certain roles to be filled by U.A.E nationals

[4][4] Nearly 80 percent of the UAE’s population is foreigners, and foreigners account for 90 percent of the workforce in the private sector, including domestic workers. As of May 2006, according to the Ministry of Labor, there were 2,738,000 migrant workers in the country. The UAE’s economic growth has attracted large domestic and foreign investments and the current construction boom is one of the largest in the world. Exploitation of migrant construction workers by employers, especially low-skilled workers in small firms, is particularly severe. Immigration sponsorship laws that grant employers extraordinary power over the lives of migrant workers are in part responsible for the continuing problem.  (source:
Abuses against migrant workers include nonpayment of wages, extended working hours without overtime compensation, unsafe working environments resulting in deaths and injuries, squalid living conditions in labor camps, and withholding of passports and travel documents.

[5][5]  1974, National Security Council memorandum 200, by H. Kissinger.

[6][6]  Fujairah, which faces the Indian Ocean and is connected to the Gulf coast by a modern road, would be critical to American operations were the Strait of Hormuz closed off. In addition, U.S. warplanes fly out of UAE air bases on support missions for Operation Southern Watch over Iraq, and it has prepositioned materiel on UAE soil.


[7][7]  The Trucial Oman Scouts, long the symbol of public order on the coast and commanded by British officers, were turned over to the U.A.E. as its defense forces in 1971. The U.A.E. armed forces, consisting of 48,800 troops, are headquartered in Abu Dhabi and are primarily responsible for the defense of the seven emirates.

[8][8]  For an excellent article on Hegel’s opinion on rumi’s thought, refer to: Cyrus Bina, M. Vaziri:” On the Dialectic of Rumi’s Discourse”,:

[9][9]  Three Essays, 1793-1795, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1984

[10][10]  Formed in 1981, it includes all Gulf states having shores except Iran and Iraq.

[11][11]  An Arabic term for female slaves, sited in Quran. The male term for the Islamic slave is ‘Gholam’.

[12][12]  Vahid Sepehri: ‘Iran: Spill, Dolphin Deaths Spark Alarm At Persian Gulf Pollution (

[13][13]  National Security Advisor under Bush Sr., who oversaw the 1991 Gulf war.

[14][14]  Transcripts from Charlie Rose Show (July 2007). Hosts: Kissinger, Brzezinski, Scowcroft.

... Payvand News - 10/12/07 ... --

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