News / Middle East

Tensions High on Anniversary of Iran-UAE Islands Row

An ongoing territorial dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over three strategic islands in the Persian Gulf is nearing the four-decade mark with both sides becoming increasingly vocal on the issue.  

Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb had been under British control when Iran seized the islands on November 30, 1971.

The military invasion, which reportedly left six people dead, took place just hours before the United Arab Emirates officially became a country, and it was not until 1980 that Abu Dhabi took the island dispute to the United Nations.

Fast-forward 30 years and the situation is more or less the same.

Speaking at the 65th U.N. General Assembly in September, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan demanded the return of the disputed territories and said Iran's occupation would remain illegal no matter how long it lasts.

The islands have been historically important for two reasons: oil reserves and their proximity to the Straight of Hormuz, through which roughly one-fifth of the world's oil supplies are shipped on a daily basis.

According to the director of security at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, Mustafa Alani, Iran has been building up a military presence on the islands and will use troops stationed there in an attempt to block the Straight if Tehran is attacked over its controversial nuclear program.  This would have a major impact on global oil markets.

"We think that they [Iran] maintain their occupation for strategic reasons," said Alani. "They have no legal right, absolutely not. There is a major issue here in the region because these islands are very close to the Straight of Hormuz, which is the lifeline for all the shipping in the region."

Director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, Theodore Karasik, believes the islands would be early targets in any armed conflict between Iran and Western powers.

"If there is a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear-weapons program, those islands will be taken out by the U.S. Air Force pretty quickly," said Karasik. "And in addition to that, at that point, I believe the UAE will move in its forces and reclaim the islands."

Earlier this week, the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks published 250,000 U.S. diplomatic documents that were said to be top secret.  They suggest that many Arab countries support a military attack on Iran to halt its nuclear activities and even imply that the United Arab Emirates has referred to Tehran as "evil."

Most nations believe Iran is attempting to assemble nuclear weapons although Tehran has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Brookings Doha Center Research Director Shadi Hamid says fear among the Gulf nations has been brewing for some time.

"These increasing fears have spread from GCC officials," said Hamid. "Of course we saw when the UAE ambassador to the United States said some very striking things about Iran a couple months ago where he actually urged the United States to use force against Iran.  So we are seeing intensification of anti-Iran rhetoric on the part of many Gulf officials."

Tehran insists the disputed islands in the Gulf are an indisputable part of Iranian territory.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs