Why Trump’s misnaming of the Persian Gulf has angered Iranians

By   /   October 16, 2017  /   6 Comments

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It was not the decision to decertify the Iran’s nuclear deal that has left most ordinary Iranians incensed but the US President’s misnaming of the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf. Many Iranians have taken to the social media to express their rage and disappointment at the President’s failure to refer to the Persian Gulf by its proper name.

It was not the decision to decertify the Iran’s nuclear deal that has left most ordinary Iranians incensed but the US President’s misnaming of the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf.

Many Iranians have taken to the social media to express their rage and disappointment at the President’s failure to refer to the Persian Gulf by its proper name.

Some, including the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, blamed the President’s poor understanding of history and geography while others thought it as a deliberate attempt to taunt Iran and please her nemesis in the region: the Saudis.

Historically and internationally, the body of water which is mostly bordered by Iran in the north and by the Saudi Arabia in the south, has been referred to as the Persian Gulf- but with the emergence of Arab nationalism since the 60s, there has been an attempt, on behalf of Arab nations bordering the Persian Gulf, to refer to it as the Arabian Gulf.   

With the renaming of Persia to Iran in 1935, by former Shah of Iran’s father Reza Shah, the Persian Gulf remains the only internationally recognized geographical location of significance that bears the name Persia.

The insistence on the name Persian Gulf harks back to Iranians’ yearning for their country’s glorious past as the name has a historic link to the Persian Empire, a period in history which remains as an immense source of confidence and pride to most Iranians.

This is why, in 1971, the former Shah of Iran decided to hold a grand celebration to mark the 2500th anniversary of Persian Empire and to showcase Iran’s old civilization and history to the world.

Ironically, the decadent nature of the festivities contributed to the downfall of the Shah and the monarchial system in Iran.

The name Persia also has an important association to Iran’s pre-Islamic history when the native religion of Persians was Zoroastrianism, not Islam.

The decline of Zoroastrianism in Iran came after the 7th Century Arab Conquest of Persia and coincided with significant decline in political, economic, social and military power of the country.

Many Iranians believe the 1979 triumph of the Islamic Republic of Iran has produced the same levels of political, social and economic decline as the Muslim conquest of Persia did back in the 7th Century.

For this reason, there is almost an anti-Islamic and anti-regime connotation to the word Persia that many Iranians would like to uphold as a reminder of their glorious pre-Islamic past and a beacon of hope for the future.  

If President Trump was more interested in history and less concerned in bending backwards for deep-pocketed Saudis, maybe he would have stuck with the correct name and called it the Persian Gulf- but that clearly would be asking too much from a delusional megalomaniac.

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About the author

Donna Miles

Donna Miles is a British-born, Iranian-bred, New Zealand citizen with a strong interest in human rights, justice and equality issues.

6 Comments

  1. simonm says:

    For Trump, this is just another step in astroturfing the path to the American invasion of Iran that he is planning for next year.

    Trump is beholden to his Republican Jewish mega-donors Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus and Paul Singer. In order to meet their their demands, Trump is pushing the US towards military confrontation with Iran against the advice of his top generals.

    The end result is going to be yet another disastrous American war in the Middle East, fought on behalf of Israel.

  2. esoteric pineapples says:

    Persia has a long history of fighting with the West. First it tried to conquer the Greece city states, then Alexander conquered it, and for all the time of the Roman Empire in the east it was fighting Persia. Then when that collapsed the eastern half remained and became the Byzantine Empire which continued to fight the Persians.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Ah yes. The first ever recorded financial crises. When the Byzantine Empire fell behind on its shipbuilding and couldn’t protect its minor kingdoms. Then no one wanted to pay the extortion fees for protection. Kind of what’s going on today only this time, the U.S being ground down by debts owed in military man power lost through constant war.

      “My logisticians are a humorless lot … they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.” – Alexander the Great

      The sad part is logisticians & accountants still tend to be a humorless lot even without the risk of being slain.

  3. Psycho Milt says:

    Meh. The Gulf Arabs are just as certain it should be called the Arabian Gulf – I learned very quickly not to call it Persian. Hardly surprising that Trump sides with the Arabs on this one, given his chummy relationship with the Sa’uds.

  4. countryboy says:

    donald trump needs to embrace his Gay side and get a meaningful man-hug and the Iranians need to get a fucking life. And is it possible to expect too much from a delusional megalomaniac? You’d think they’d have so much to give?
    The Saudis are going to look real silly soon when war goes out of fashion and electric cars are cheap-as Bro. Back to dates and camels aye boys? The look in that Saudi’s eyes as he indulges in mutual, glowing balls fiddling with trump. Priceless.

  5. HC says:

    Oh what a touchy topic: Persian Gulf, Arabian Gulf, what about the name New Zealand (named after the Dutch Zeeland):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand

    “Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt, supposing it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America.[11] In 1645, Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland.”

    Some Maori are calling it Aotearoa, so who should be offended about that for instance?

    This is the stuff nationalist pettiness tends to cover, in some cases in history it may even have led to wars.

    Trump sides with his Saudi friends, and annoys the Iranians with a bit of humiliation or insult.