Saturday, May 5, 2012
Post #258 - Islands in a Storm
The American Iranian Council (not to be confused with the National Iranian American Council, which is more critical of the Islamic Republic), published the following under the head "What is the message behind the Abu Musa visit?" on May first:
While the Iranian nuclear file has resulted in the country coming under increasing pressure from all sides, Ahmadinejad’s sudden visit to the island of Abu Musa has sparked speculation and debate surrounding the reasons behind his decision. One such reason pertains to the weakened position of Ahmadinejad in shaping Iran’s foreign policy, particularly the nuclear issue. Ahmadinejad’s visit to Abu Musa (while even during the time of Shah, no high-level Iranian official had visited the island) has brought about two major results: one, an outpouring of nationalism and, second, returning of Ahmadinejad to the spotlight.
The aim of this article is not to address the complex issue surrounding the sovereignty of Abu Musa island, rather to assess the motives and consequences of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit to the island (for insight on island politics, please refer to the book, “Small Islands, Big Politics: The Tonbs and Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf,” written and edited by Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi). [Amirahmadi is the head of the AIC, AP]
Ahmadinejad's visit to the island of Abu Musa in mid-April, created a wave of verbal confrontation between Iran on the one hand, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Arab countries on the other hand. On April 17, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising [sic] of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE issued a strong statement calling the visit a provocation and clear violation of the UAE sovereignty. In addition to harsh exchanges between the two sides that continue to date, the UAE has officially announced its intention to issue a complaint to the United Nations.
Iran gained control over the islands of Abu Musa, the Greater and Lesser Tonbs in 1971, after the withdrawal of British troops in the region. [Some accounts say that the United States encouraged the Shah to take this step, AP]. According to historical documents, during the Shah’s rule, claim over the ownership of the islands were negotiated and signed between Iran and the government of Sharjah, bringing the issue of ownership over Abu Musa to an end. Between the three islands, Abu Musa with 12 square kilometers is the biggest of the islands. The island has a population of 2000 and Iran in 1996 inaugurated its airport. Despite their small size, the islands’ importance is due to their strategic location at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, a water-crossing for one-fifth of the world’s oil consumption and a third of all oil traffic.
While the Iranian nuclear file has resulted in the country coming under increasing pressure from all sides, Ahmadinejad’s sudden visit to the island of Abu Musa has sparked speculation and debate surrounding the reasons behind his decision. One such reason pertains to the weakened position of Ahmadinejad in shaping Iran’s foreign policy, particularly the nuclear issue. Ahmadinejad’s visit to Abu Musa (while even during the time of Shah, no high-level Iranian official had visited the island) has brought about two major results: one, an outpouring of nationalism and, second, returning of Ahmadinejad to the spotlight. [paragraph repeated from the top of the piece in the original posting, AP]
Given the wide spectrum of opinions in Iranian society, in particular from the urban youth in local internet sites, who are the main supporters of the opposition movement, and the Iranian diaspora’s opposition media outlets, one can reach the conclusion that all segments of Iranian society have shown a unified front in this matter. The news site, Rooz Online who is staffed by exiled Iranian journalists made the following statement: “The interesting point is that some opponents of the Islamic Republic thanked Ahmadinejad for his trip to Abu Musa and beginning a movement to defend the territorial integrity of Iran. Epic statements in defense of Ahmadinejad, the need to preserve the territorial integrity of Iran, and standing side by side with Ahmadinejad to defend the homeland, have stirred up a movement on various virtual pages”.
The fact that Ahmadinejad has sensationalized the issue of sovereignty over Tunb [sic] and Abu Musa islands in the Persian Gulf as a national issue, show that other major Iranian disputes with foreign governments could also garner support from large segments of the community. By bringing up the issue of Abu Musa, Ahmadinejad, after a long absense [sic] from the foreign affairs, has once again been propelled into the spotlight. But the question is whether he also has the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.
In this regard, one can not comment with full certainty, yet the silence of Ayatollah Khamenei carries great meaning. First, his silence could be because he disagrees with Ahmadinejad's move and may not wish to open up a new front against Arab countries. Second, though he may disagree with Ahmadinejad’s action, the result has been positive as it has created a unified stance from a diverse political spectrum against foreign forces and intevention. This is precisely the kind of delicate political manuvouring [sic] that Washington should take heed of and include in its calculations in dealing with Iran.
The West, especially America, plus Israel and Arabic countries, should learn a great lesson from a seemingly simple episode that illustrates the importance Iranians place on their sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is contrary to the misconception planted in the minds of some American and Israeli politicians that Iranian people would welcome their intevention [sic] and revolt against the state. On the contrary, this episode has shown that Iranians would rally around the flag in the face of any foreign threat. The threat of military attack on Iran would unite all Iranians, both opponents and proponents of the government.
The Trade Environment Database gives this description: