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House speaker should have written 'Persian' Gulf

The Washington Times
September 01, 1999, Wednesday,

In an exchange of letters between House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert and the Ambassador of Bahrain ("Bahrain by the Pound," Embassy Row, Aug. 17), the Persian Gulf's time-honored historical name has been distorted to "Arabian Gulf."

Such a distortion adversely affects the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of Americans of Iranian descent, not to mention the Iranian people as a whole. This would also trouble scholars, historians and researchers. In the interest of promoting better understanding, I wish to make a few remarks:

* The Persian Gulf nomenclature has been in use since time immemorial by all nations of the world, including Arab countries.

* All Arab textbooks and historical records have referred to the Persian Gulf by its proper name throughout history. The distorted name found currency among Arab countries only in recent times in the wake of the quest for Arab unity. Thus it was a political act born, not out of geographic necessity, but for its psychological impact.

* All non-Arab states to this day refer to the body of water whose entire length embraces the southern shores of Iran, as the Persian Gulf. It is true, however, that some officials in a few countries, on occasion, have resorted to the distorted name in the interest of appeasing their Arab clients.

* The United Nations has stood firm in the face of all political pressures (which have receded by now) and refers in its official records to the Persian Gulf by its proper name, as does the U.S. government. When the speaker of the House uses a wrong nomenclature, the impact becomes significant. The speaker of the House might consider having someone well-versed in international affairs among his staff.


Mohsen Esfandiary was Iranian ambassador to Thailand from 1972 to 1977.


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