Iran Slams US Government Over Renaming The Persian Gulf: Now Officially "The Arabian Gulf"
December 15th, 2010
Yahoo news/The Lookout
Yahoo news/The Lookout
The U.S. military found this out the hard way after the Navy shifted its official policy and began referring to the Persian Gulf as the "Arabian Gulf." The name change provoked outrage from the easily provoked government of Iran -- which was known as Persia from around the sixth century BC until 1935. The move also drew fire from Iranian advocacy groups. Many outraged partisans of the old name took to the Navy's Facebook page to slam the American government.
The usage of "Arabian" rather than "Persian" fuels existing U.S.-Iran tensions, Jamal Abdi, policy director an Iranian-American advocacy group, told Fox News. "This is an ethnically divisive term. ... It's very troubling."
The Navy says it has used the term for many years and no one complained until officials recently posted the Navy's official style guide online. In a statement posted to its Facebook page, the Navy said that it continues to respect the "long and proud history of the Persian people" and reassures Iranian readers that Navy officials haven't done "anything out of malice or disrespect for your proud heritage that has existed long before we were even a navy." The Navy's flacks went on to explain:
"The use of the term 'Arabian Gulf' vice Persian Gulf is used by naval forces including our regional partners there for years. We use this term in press releases, news stories, and photos coming from the Navy in the region. The often cited Navy Style Guide that says to use the term 'Arabian Gulf' vice Persian Gulf is really only applicable to them since commands in their area would be the only naval forces publishing stories in the region. In most other respects (nautical charts and publications, for example) the historic name of Persian Gulf is used. We value and respect the partners with whom we serve around the globe, and mean no harm or insult to any people or country."
This isn't the first time that the U.S. government has agitated parts of the Arab world with a word choice. Before war planners christened the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan "Operation Enduring Freedom," they'd briefly tried calling it "Operation Infinite Justice." But Muslim believers objected since the translation of the name invoked God. So the Defense Department promptly changed it.
And in a belated shift aimed chiefly at managing the expectations of the U.S. home front in 2005, the Bush administration transitioned from using the "global war on terror" to designate the efforts to defeat militant jihadists to the more modest-sounding the "global struggle against violent extremism." Military officials explained that they wanted to downplay the limiting features of the word "war" -- which connoted a conflict waged strictly on the field of battle, with a clear beginning and end. This tended to downplay the longer-term, broader battle for the hearts and minds of citizens in the Islamic world, American military officials said. As for the "terror" part of the phrase, the same war planners explained that it placed undue emphasis on militants' method rather on the violent extremists themselves. There was no notable protest in the Arab world over the shift -- but neither did it affect most military and journalistic characterizations of the conflict. And since it was the Bush administration's second effort to retire the "war on terror" phrasing, the status quo more or less held.
Perhaps the U.S. military subscribes to the thinking of Mark Twain, who said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
(Photo of a mosque minaret on the Persian Gulf at sunset: AP/Vahid Salemi)
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