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Arab Uproar over Ahmadinejad's Provincial Visit: Regime Factions Unite to Support National Sovereignty

Source: Rooz Online

Abu Musa island's residents welcoming President Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest visit to an Iranian Persian Gulf province, which comes at a time when the government is under the heaviest economic and political domestic and international barrage, has brought about a consensus among the political factions inside the Iranian regime, which appears to be precisely what the president’s office intended as a way to ease the pressure to impeach the minister of labor and the impact of the revelations over the secret and illegal withdrawings of funds by the government.

Iranian island of Abu Musa in Persian Gulf

In Iranian political circles it is said that even the supreme leader of the regime was not aware of the trip before it took place and coming on the eve of the international nuclear talks, it was suspected that this may have been the leader’s way of pushing Ahmadinejad to the sidelines to keep the helm of the nuclear talks to himself. Writing in Sharq, Mojtaba Fathhi presented a detailed picture of the event and wrote, “There were many peripheral issues with the provincial trip of the president but the last stop made all the difference. This latest provincial trip has been unusual because it is not criticized domestically and the outcry this time comes from abroad! His trip has opened old wounds which have hovered for years over the relations between Iran and the southern Persian Gulf states. This wound is rooted in the ambitions of Arabs and the territorial claims of the UAE of the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa, the Greater Tomb and the Lesser Tomb. During his trip to the southern province of Hormuzgan, Ahmadinejad also visited the island of Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf.”

President Ahmadinejad visiting Iranian island of Abu Musa in Persian Gulf

According to the report, this was the first time a senior member of the Islamic republic had visited one of the islands. Speaking to the people of the island, Ahmadinejad said, “The Iranian nation has no concerns over the distortion of names such as the Persian Gulf because such a worry comes from weakness and impotency, something that is not close to the Iranian nation.” The visit brought a quick response from the UAE and was followed by a response from the UAE and created diplomatic and media uproar against the Islamic republic. Forty years after the agreement between Iran and Sharjah in 1971 resolved the dispute over the sovereignty of the islands of Abu Musa and the Tombs, recently the government of the UAE has been demanding the return of Abu Musa to it. Because of this UAE claim has gained the support of regional governments and turned into threats against the territorial sovereignty of the Islamic republic. This claim comes after the British decision to withdraw its forces east of Suez and the Persian Gulf, after the end of World War II because of the exhaustions of the long war and public pressure. It then heeded to a three party agreement between Iran and the rulers of Sharjah which in November of 1971 returned the three islands to Iran so that just a day before Britain formally withdrew from the islands the Iranian forces entered the islands. Even though at the time the leftist regimes in the Arab world, such as Libya, Egypt, Iraq, etc protested the move and filed objections to the UN, Iran’s sovereignty over the islands continued well past the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the changes in international relations and the region without much objection. This was the picture until Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hossein justified his attack on the Islamic republic in 1980 which began the 8-year war between the two countries, who attempted through this to present himself a champion of the Arab cause against Iran. But between 1971 and 1992 the government of the UAE itself did not file any protests against the situation and only in 1992, along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia (both of whom wanted to improve their positions in the region) launched new claims. They argued that the Iranian action in November of 1971 to retake the three islands from Britain and aggressive and also that they were not aware of the specifics of the 1971 talks between Iran and Britain over Iran’s efforts to regain sovereignty over the islands. This claim has become the basis of the uproar between Iran and the UAE which may be the result of the changes in the region and the world in general. So the president’s visit to the only inhabited island has once again turned into visible differences between Iran and the UAE.

After Ahmadinejad’s trip to Abu Musa, the foreign minister of the UAE asserted that the president’s trip was “flagrant violation” and termed it an occupation. He also said this was a setback for UAE efforts in trying to find a peaceful way to end the occupation of the three islands by Iran. Following that, the UAE recalled its ambassador from Tehran for “consultations” and the country’s parliament condemned the trip as well and said that the event was a violation of the terms of the agreement between the two countries. The Iranian deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs responded by saying this was an internal affair but stressed the country’s seriousness in strengthening the bilateral relations to resolve “misunderstanding” over this issue. The UAE then cancelled a scheduled football (soccer) match between the two countries.

But the reactions to Ahmadinejad’s trip did not end there. The UAE succeeded in convincing the other Persian Gulf states to support it and the Gulf Cooperation Council issued a statement condemning the trip. Even the Arab League also called the trip unjustifiable supported the UAE and called for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

Gulf News reported that the prime minister of Bahrain too called Ahmadinejad’s trip a transgression into the territorial integrity of the UAE and declared its solidarity with the UAE. It called on Iran to refrain from engaging in destructive policies and actions.

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