A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Iran/UAE: Is a Deal on the Islands Possible?

Can this be true? "Iran, UAE Close to Deal on Hormuz Islands"

The Gulf balance of power is changing in almost kaleidoscopic ways, but this would be astonishing indeed.  The dispute over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb Islands dates from the British retreat from East of Suez  in  1972, also the moment of the UAE's independence.  For the 42 years since, Iran and the UAE (Abu Musa is claimed by Sharja, the Tunbs by Ras al-Khaimah); I gave some brief background here).

Defense News is also reporting that Iran has withdrawn a squadron of fighters from Abu Musa.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said publicly that he is prepared to negotiate with the UAE on the basis of the 1971 agreement under which Iran and Sharja were to share Abu Musa. Is it possible that the deal reported above could be struck in which Iran keeps the seabed and the UAE gets the islands.

For four decades both sides have funded white papers, articles, and books defending their respective cases (including a recent one by a member of a ruling family), as well as occasional threats and saber-rattling. Could a breakthrough be possible?

I think this story needs to be taken with a reasonable dose of skepticism.

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