Sadrist Movement: Iran Fears Iraq’s Rapprochement with Gulf
Thursday, 12 January, 2023 – 07:00
People walk in front of a building bearing flags of Arab nations on its facade, in the Al-Ashar district of Iraq’s southern city of Basra on January 5, 2023, ahead of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup football championship. (AFP)
Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat
The Iraqi government has continued to ignore Iran’s protests of Iraqi officials using the term “Arabian Gulf” as Basra hosts the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup football tournament.
Iran has protested the name, summoning the Iraqi ambassador in Tehran to demand that it be changed to “Persian” Gulf.
The term “Arabian Gulf” has been used by Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
Social media users in Iraq have continued to highlight Iran’s attempts to change the name of the tournament. They noted the cable of congratulations it sent to Iraq in wake of its national team’s victory against Saudi Arabia.
It used the term “Persian” Gulf, in what many users viewed as Iranian meddling in internal sovereign affairs. They slammed Baghdad’s silence over Tehran’s protests.
Observers and experts, however, said Iraq has so far ignored the complaints because it does not want to become embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with Iran, especially as Baghdad is playing a key role in achieving rapprochement between regional countries, most notably Saudi Arabia and Iran.
While Baghdad has not officially commented on the “Arabian Gulf” dispute, the Sadrist movement, led by influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, rejected Tehran’s summoning of the Iraqi envoy.
Leading member of the movement, Issam Hussein said on Wednesday that Tehran is not justified in summoning the envoy.
Moreover, he noted that the move gives Iran’s supporters in Iraq the “green light” to criticize the naming of the tournament.
He remarked that Iran is “greatly bothered” by the rapprochement between the Iraqi and Gulf people.
It fears that this rapprochement could develop into an increase in tourism and later development in economic and investment, he added.
It is therefore, seeking to hinder any progress in relations by objecting to the naming of the tournament, Hussein said.
“Iran has problems with the countries of the Gulf and it does not want any rapprochement between them and Iraq. Rather, it wants Iraq to remain subordinate to its foreign policy,” he went on to say.
“For 40 years, Iran has called itself the ‘Islamic Republic’ and now it objects to the term ‘Arabian’ instead of the ‘Persian’ Gulf, proving that it is a populist republic, not an Islamic one,” he said.
Meanwhile, editor-in-chief of the Aalem al-Jadeed Iraqi news website, Montather Nasser told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran’s complaint is a “dangerous precedent” because it is objecting to official Iraqi discourse.
“Countries are free to name their territories, regions, waters and landmarks as they wish. No country has the right to impose their names on others,” he explained.
Furthermore, he noted that seven Arab countries overlook the Gulf and combined, they boast a coast stretching 3,490 kms, while Iran – the only Persian nation – only boasts 2,440 kms.