Iran FM says Iraq ambassador was summoned amid 'Arabian Gulf' controversy

Iran FM says Iraq ambassador was summoned amid 'Arabian Gulf' controversy
The Iraqi ambassador to Tehran has been summoned after senior Iraqi politicians made reference to the 'Arabian Gulf' while speaking about an ongoing football tournament.
2 min read
11 January, 2023
The 25th edition of the Gulf Cup runs in Basra from 6-19 January [Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty]

Iran summoned the Iraqi ambassador to Tehran after top Iraqi political figures made reference to the 'Arabian Gulf', foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Wednesday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr last week referred to the 'Arabian Gulf' when discussing the Gulf Cup, a regional football tournament currently taking place in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The tournament is officially known as the Arabian Gulf Cup. Iran insists that the body of water that borders Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE be referred to as the ‘Persian Gulf’.

"The Iraqi ambassador was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry after the Iraqi authorities used the term 'Arabian Gulf' instead of the Persian Gulf," Iranian foreign minister Amir Abdollahian said on Wednesday, according to multiple Iranian state-linked media outlets.

"We reflected to the Iraqi side the sensitivity of the Iranian people towards using the exact and complete term for the Persian Gulf."

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Fars news agency reported Abdollahian as saying that the summoning took place "three days ago".

Despite the tensions, Abdollahian said Iran shared "strategic, brotherly and deep relations" with Iraq.

He was reported as saying that the situation had been somewhat "corrected" by the Iraqi premier online, but he not specify how.

However, in a tweet congratulating the Iraqi team for their 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Monday, Sudani referred to the tournament simply as the Gulf Cup.

Some Iranian parliamentarians had expressed their anger over the use of the term Arabian Gulf, calling on Iraq to apologise. 

Iraq has not apologised publicly for the Arabian Gulf reference. The controversy over the name of the body of water has been going on for decades.

Iraq is hosting the football tournament for the first time since 1979 - the year dictator Saddam Hussein came to power, and one year before a brutal eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.

In recent years, Iran has interfered heavily in Iraqi affairs, sponsoring militias and deciding the make-up of governments. Current Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani is from the pro-Iran Coordination Framework coalition.

In 2021, Iraq helped broker dialogue between Iran and regional adversary Saudi Arabia, but talks stalled last year.

Iran does not take part in the Gulf Cup.