The Persian Gulf is a mediterranean sea in West Asia that separates the Arabian Peninsula from Iran. It is connected to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea by the Strait of Hormuz, which is about 35 miles wide at its narrowest point. The Persian Gulf has a total coastline of about 5,117 miles, shared by eight countries: Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq
Among these countries, Iraq has the smallest border along the Persian Gulf, with only 36 miles of coastline This is less than 1% of the total length of the gulf’s shoreline, and about the same as the distance from New York City to Newark, New Jersey Iraq’s short coastline is located in the northwest of the gulf, where the Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the boundary between Iraq and Iran. The Shatt al-Arab is the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which are the main sources of water and civilization in Mesopotamia, the ancient region that corresponds to most of modern-day Iraq
Why is Iraq’s coastline so small?
Iraq’s coastline is so small because of the historical and geopolitical factors that shaped the borders of the country and the region. Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I, when the British and French divided the Middle East into several mandates under the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 Iraq became a British mandate, and its borders were drawn by the British colonial authorities, who favored the interests of their allies, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, over those of Iraq.
One of the main reasons why Iraq’s coastline was reduced to a minimum was the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, which recognized Kuwait as an autonomous sheikhdom under British protection, and gave it a large portion of the coast that was previously claimed by the Ottomans. This agreement was opposed by the Iraqi nationalists, who considered Kuwait as part of their historical territory, and tried to annex it several times, most notably in 1961 and 1990. The latter attempt led to the Gulf War of 1990-1991, in which a US-led coalition intervened to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion.
Another reason why Iraq’s coastline was limited was the dispute with Iran over the control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which has strategic and economic importance for both countries. The border between Iraq and Iran along the river was established by the Treaty of Erzurum of 1847, which gave the Ottoman Empire (and later Iraq) the right bank, and Iran the left bank. However, this border was challenged by Iran in 1969, when it claimed the entire river as its territory, based on the thalweg principle, which defines the border as the deepest point of the river. This dispute led to several clashes and skirmishes between Iraq and Iran, and was one of the main causes of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties and no clear resolution of the conflict.
What are the challenges and opportunities of Iraq’s coastline?
Iraq’s coastline, despite being small, faces many challenges and opportunities for the development of the country and the region. One of the main challenges is the environmental degradation of the gulf’s ecosystem, which has been affected by industrialization, oil spills, overfishing, and climate change. The gulf is home to many fishing grounds, coral reefs, and pearl oysters, which provide livelihoods and food security for millions of people. However, these natural resources are threatened by pollution, habitat loss, and invasive species, such as the crown-of-thorns starfish, which feeds on coral polyps and causes massive damage to the reefs.
Another challenge is the security and stability of the gulf, which is a vital waterway for the global oil trade and a flashpoint for regional and international tensions. The gulf has witnessed several wars and conflicts, such as the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the ongoing rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are both vying for influence and dominance in the area. The gulf is also a potential target for terrorist attacks, piracy, and sabotage, which could disrupt the flow of oil and gas and endanger the lives of the people and the environment.
On the other hand, Iraq’s coastline also offers many opportunities for cooperation and development, both within the country and with its neighbors. One of the main opportunities is the reconstruction and diversification of Iraq’s economy, which has been heavily dependent on oil exports and has suffered from decades of war, sanctions, and corruption. Iraq has the potential to develop other sectors, such as agriculture, tourism, and renewable energy, which could create jobs, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of life for its people. Iraq could also benefit from the integration and cooperation with the other gulf countries, which share common interests and challenges, and could work together to promote peace, security, and prosperity in the region.
Iraq is the country with the smallest border along the Persian Gulf, with only 36 miles of coastline. This is the result of the historical and geopolitical factors that shaped the borders of the country and the region, and that have also caused many conflicts and disputes over the control and access to the gulf’s resources and waterways. Iraq’s coastline faces many challenges and opportunities for the development of the country and the region, and requires the cooperation and collaboration of all the stakeholders involved to ensure the protection and sustainability of the gulf’s ecosystem and the well-being of its people.