High Noon on Arvand Rood!

The day Iranian military sent a commercial ship, ebn-Sina up Arvand Rood to claim its territorial rights.

Up until the spring of 1969, Iraq never recognized Iran’s territorial rights to the deeper parts of Arvand Rood where ships could sail back and forth between the Persian Gulf and Abadan and Khoramshahr. Based on a 1937 agreement and contrary to the international laws (Thalweg Principle) Iraqi military had imposed its will on Iran and any Iranian ship that navigated through Arvand Rood had to pay toll, sail with an Iraqi flag and be escorted by an Iraqi ship. This all changed on April 24th, 1969.

The late Shah informed Iraqi president Hassan-al-Bakr that the Iranian ships will no longer pay tolls and will sail under Iranian flags. Ebn-Sina commercial vessel became the test case for the encounter between the two militaries.

On a calm and beautiful spring day ebn-Sina began its slow journey towards Abadan. Iraqi ships took position facing the Iranian vessel. In a display of force 60 Iranian Air Force fighters began flying overhead, one group at a time. As the jets flew over, they would go inland, make a turn and come back and fly over and over again, giving the impression that there were hundreds of fighter jets and not just 60. Iranian and Iraqi armies took positions along the eastern and western banks of Arvand Rood. Iranian navy ships slowly followed ebn-Sina.

Back at Iranian Air Force headquarters in Dooshan Tappeh a command center was set up to monitor the event. A big room with plastic maps where the position of the ships and the forces were updated regularly became the focal point for the decision making. The late Shah sat on a chair in the front surrounded by his top military brass, including General Khatami, Azhari and many others. Prime Minister Hoveyda also joined the group. The squadron leader was Colonel Jahanbani (later 3-star General). A telephone line to Abadan control tower was established so that Colonel Jahanbani could provide real time status.

Iraqi ships warned ebn-Sina to stop. Ebn-Sina continued its slow movement. After many moments of silence, Colonel Jahanbani contacted Abadan control tower. His voice was patched through to Dooshan Tappeh. “I see Iraqi forces on the left and our forces on the right. But there is no sign of hostility.” He said in his brief message.

It looked more and more as if Hassan-al-Bakr, Saddam’s older cousin was going to back down, as he ultimately did. The late Shah turned around and told his military brass that he was not afraid of Hassan-al-Bakr or the Iraqi military. But rather he was afraid that a rogue military officer would take the matters into his own hands and start shelling Abadan, as it was sitting there completely exposed on the eastern banks of Arvand Rood. This was in reference to an Arab Major named Haddad who in 1967 war refused orders and continued to fight and caused many casualties.

The Iraqi ships turned around and left. Ebn-Sina arrived at its destination without any problems. People were jubilant in Abadan and Khoramshahr and from that day on, Iranian ships travelled freely up and down Arvand Rood, up until the Iran-Iraq war.

Long live the brave and capable Iranian soldiers that protected the Iranian borders, seas and skies without wars and inflicting casualties on the innocent people.

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