Studies

Why Ahwaz is the crucial issue in the future of Arab national security

Introduction:

The Ahwazi cause is still lacking Arab support, and the Arab states continue to be hesitant in supporting this cause and lifting the injustice and oppression the Ahwazi people are suffering from the Iranian regime. The Ahwazi cause is as important to the peoples and the Arab states as it is to its people. Ahwazis are people proud of their identity and have a great history in protecting and supporting Arab national security.

There is an important fact that deserves attention which is that the factors of the strategic power of the Arabs in their conflict with Iran are too many, and most prominent among them in Iran is the Ahwazi depth. But unfortunately, Arabs did not invest these factors and did not employ them with a sound political vision. Arab states lacked a strategic vision enabling them to limit the Iranian threat to the region after the Persian occupation of the Ahwaz and dominating vital parts of it.

Since the occupation of Ahwaz, the security of the Arab states in the Arabian Gulf is constantly threatened from the east, and the economy of the region is constantly threatened due to the existence of the Ahwaz region at the heart of the Arab national security system. This must be a reason to support the Ahwazi people in their right to self-determination and freedom from occupation Iran.

Historical hint:

3000 years BC, the Gulf water was flooding the land until the water receded and the region of Arabstan appeared. That is the first point at which life began. Some of the Elamite tribes began to flock to the region and established their civilisation, then the kingdoms followed, Assyrians, Achaemenids and the Seleucids until it was invaded by the Sassanians in 221, and was conquered by Arabs in 637 led by Abu Musa al-Ashaari. Ahwaz is a part of the eastern section of the Arab world, located between latitudes 30 and 33 north and longitudes 48 and 51, extending from east to west almost the same distance as extending from north to south (1).

It is bordered on the north by the Kurdistan mountain range (Lorestan) and Poshtkuh, and to the east is the extension of the Bakhtiari Mountains, which are part of the Zagros Mountains separating the Iranian plateau from Ahwaz to be a natural extension of the alluvial plain of Iraq (2).

The area of Ahwaz – the area referred to in this study includes only the northern part of the Ahwaz – is 210,000 square kilometres, but the Persian occupation seized large parts of this area and annexed them to the Persian provinces, so today it became 65,000 square kilometres.

The figures on the area of Ahwaz converge in most of the Arab references that tackled the history and geography of Ahwaz. Al-Sera` al-`Arabi al-Faresi (Arab-Persian Conflict) book published by Manshurat al-`Alam al-`Arabi “Arab World Publications” (EMA) shows that the area of Ahwaz is 185,000 square kilometres. In 1925, under the pretext of administrative organisation, the Iranian authorities expropriated an area of 40025 square kilometres, and annexed them to its provinces; Fars in the south, Isfahan in the west, Lorestan in the north, so its (Ahwaz) area now is 159,600 square kilometres, 420 kilometres long and 380 kilometres wide. Ali Neama al-Helw, author of the book Ahwaz-Arabstan confirmed that the area of Ahwaz is 159,600 square kilometres at present (meaning 1969), the length of 420 kilometres and 380 kilometres. (3)

Author Abdul-Majeed Ismail Haqqi said in his book al-Wad` al-Qanooni Le-Iqlim `Arabistan fi Dhel al-Qawa`ed ad-Dawliyah (The legal Status of Arabstan Region Under the International Rules) that the real area of the region is 185,000 square kilometres, but it became now 159,000 square kilometres after Iran cut off swathes of the region’s territory and annexed them to the Iranian provinces neighbouring the region, namely Fars, Isfahan and Kermanshah.”(4) It is noteworthy here that the researcher had issued his book in 1974, but nowadays the area of the region appears to be much less than it was.

Iranian Persian writers have conflicting figures on the area of Ahwaz, and writer al-Helw states in page 24 of his book al-Ahwaz – Arabstan, that Mr. Mohammad-Ali Emam-Shooshtari mentions in his book Tarikh Goghraphya’i Khuzestan (The Geographical History of Khuzestan) shows that the area of Ahwaz is 35,000 square miles”. And Mr. Iraj Afshar Sistani, author of Khuzestan Wetmeden Dirineh An (Khuzestan and its Ancient Civilisation) says: “Khuzestan, which lies in the southwest of Iran, covers an area of 66,532 square kilometers”. This contraction and shrinkage suffered by Ahwaz is due to the policy of fragmentation and division practised by Iran in order to Persianise the Ahwazi people and ethnic cleansing them (4).

Ahwaz remained a unified Arab state between 637 and the first quarter of the last century, except in moments of temporary weakness, such as the occupation of the region by Mongols, and this fall ended by the establishment of the Arab Musha’sha’iyyah state under the leadership of Muhammad ibn Falah in 436, and continued as a unified Arab state for about three centuries between two great powers, the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire. It was then called the Emirate of al-Muhammarah (5). The Persians occupied this emirate, tore it apart and annexed many of its regions to the neighbouring counties and provinces, and called it Khuzestan, Bushehr and Bandar Abbas. The Persian official institutions stopped using the term Arabstan, which was commonly used as well as the Arab name of Ahwaz for more than five centuries. (6)

Ahwaz Dur Untash
Map of Historical Ahwaz – Elam Studies Centre

 

In 1907, a treaty was signed between the UK and the Russian Federation to share influence over Iran. This treaty did not include the region of Arabstan (Ahwaz) because it was an independent Arab emirate and did not belong to Iran in any way.

 

Economic importance of the region

In 1908, the first oil well was discovered in the city of Masjed Soleyman and it was the first oil well in the Middle East, and since then the fate of the region has been closely linked to oil. Many other discoveries followed in the region and the first and largest oil refinery in the Middle East was established in Abadan in 1913. Till today, the oil of Ahwaz is the main and most important lifeline for Iran as the region exports are about 80% of Iran’s oil and gas, and oil reserves in Ahwaz make up 10% of the world’s oil reserves, and 18% of the world’s gas reserves (7).

It is noteworthy that Britain tried to monopolise this huge wealth through its control of the entire region, and then the conflict developed and other parties joined to try to have a share of oil. Iran was not absent from this conflict and was and still is one of the key players in it, so it offered its services to those who want to control the region provided for allowing it to participate and get its share. During the Shah’s reign, Iran shared the oil wealth of Ahwaz with the British occupation, and helped the Americans in the occupation of Iraq in 2003 and then participated in the looting of Iraq’s wealth (8).

After Iran occupied the last Ahwazi emirate in 1925 and eliminated the Arab sovereignty in the eastern coast of the Arabian Gulf, Iran controlled all oil and gas fields in Ahwaz, and this was handled by the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). The company was established in March 1951, and supervises all fields, facilities, factories and all sources of production, refining and transportation to local refineries and crude oil export terminals (9).

The land of Ahwaz contains more than 88% of oil and 95% of gas and its derivatives in Iran. The NIOC built and operated two refineries in 1968 and 1975 near the capital, Tehran, by pumping crude oil through pipelines from Ahwaz to these two refineries. Through the oil fields in Ahwaz, Shiraz refinery was built in 1973 with a capacity of 40,000 barrels per day to provide petroleum products to the southern and eastern parts of Iran.

The latest information tells that Iran now has 9 refineries with a capacity of about 1.5 million oil barrels per day. Abadan is the largest of these refineries with a production capacity of 420,000 barrels per day, or one third of the refined products in Iran. Iran is expanding the Abadan refinery to add 50,000 barrels a day to its production capacity. Iran plans to build a new refinery on the Ahwazi island of Qeshm (Kishm) with a production capacity of 120,000 barrels per day. Iran’s exports of oil derivatives are exported through the terminals of Abadan, Maashur (Mahshahr) port and Kharg island, all of which are in the Ahwazi lands (10).

After the revolution of 1979 in Iran, all oil activities in Ahwaz were transferred to the National Iranian South Oil Company, a subsidiary of NIOC. Then in 2004, a new oil company was established in Ahwaz called Arvandan Oil & Gas Company and was granted the right to invest in the new oil fields discovered after 2004 (11).

The land of the region is rich in its many minerals, and although no complete geological survey has been conducted, it is certain that copper and mercury exist in the eastern parts of Ahwaz region. This is in addition to quantities of iron, red stone, lead, manganese, sulfur, limestone, black and white cement, gold, salt and others (12).

The region has eight rivers, making 65 percent of arable land in Iran concentrated in that region. The existence of these rivers in Ahwaz makes the region the most important center for building nuclear reactors in Iran, the most famous of which is the Bushehr reactor.

More than half of the Iranian coast is located on the Arabian Gulf in the provinces of Ahwaz, giving it economic, commercial and geopolitical privileges. The successive Iranian regimes have made Ahwazis suffer from discrimination in job opportunities and grades and prevented them from working in oil facilities in their areas. Using the weapon of economic pressure on the inhabitants of the region, Tehran seeks to displace the Ahwazis from their regions in order to change its demographics, a plan revealed by an official document leaked from the office of the presidency in 2005, revealing a systematic settlement of the ethnic groups in Ahwaz, notably the Persians, Lurs and Bakhtiaris. These practices are the tip of the iceberg of the oppression, systematic marginalisation and racism suffered by Arabs in Iran (13).

 

Ahwaz’s geographical location and Arab national security

Ahwaz played an important role in trade because of its strategic location at the entrance of the Arabian Gulf. It occupies its northern coasts and has full control over its ports, particularly in the Abbasid period, because the Suez Canal had not been opened then. As for the military position of Ahwaz, it is not less important than its economic status, described by military staff as extremely important because it lies within the land bridge connecting the 3 continents of Asia, Africa and Europe (14).

(map Showing The Important Geographical, Economic And Military Location Of Arab Region Of Ahwaz)
(Map Showing The Important Geographical, Economic And Military Location Of Arab Region Of Ahwaz)

A quick look at the map of Iran shows the Zagros mountain range, which separates Iran with clear natural boundaries from the Arab world, and therefore Iran’s occupation of Ahwaz meant separating it from its Arab environment, which means that this is a threat to Arab national security, as Ahwaz is the border and eastern gate of the Arab nation, and Arab security can’t be achieved and its gate is penetrated and occupied.

Ahwaz’s historical role in supporting Arab national security

Throughout the long history, Zagros Mountains have remained an impenetrable natural barrier against any breakthrough from the east, and the Iranian threat was trapped behind the Zagros mountain range.

This Arab emirate on the east and north of the Arabian Gulf played the role of the leading and dominant state and the influential political entity in the surrounding and neighbouring states. In the era of the Portuguese invasion of the region, Ahwaz was the steadfast fortress and the Arab fighting force in repelling enemies out of the region of Iraq and Arabian Gulf.

For more than two centuries, Banu Kaab has led political entities that have contributed to the protection of the Arab identity of the Gulf in the northern regions. Also, the Arabs of al-Qawasem have also contributed to the project of protecting the Arab identity on both banks of the Arabian Gulf in the southern regions. In 1924, Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, visited Ahwaz and met Prince Khazaal, and asked him for help and assistance to the Palestinian people. Prince Khazaal responded by providing financial assistance to the people. The famous Lebanese traveller Amin al-Rihani, described his meeting with Sheikh Khazaal, prince of the largest emirate of Ahwaz region in the city of al-Muhamamrah in the 1920s, after visiting the Arab emirate on the northern coast of the Arabian Gulf, and described him as a “proud Arab”. He added that “this prince embodied the image of the Arab pride and honour and was steadfast in his relentless war against the invading greedy Persians. And his firm resolve was not affected by the huge number of enemies and their armies, even he became winner and victorious after his military battles against the attacking Persians armies and drove them to beyond the Zagros Mountains (15).

With an open English conspiracy with the Persians, the armies of the Shah Reza Khan Pahlavi in 1925 entered the city of al-Muhammarah, the capital of this Arab emirate, and captured its last prince from Banu Kaab, Sheikh Khazaal al-Kaabi, and imprisoned him until he died of poison in 1936. This Arab prince was a candidate for the ascension of the throne of Iraq and Ahwaz with Prince Faisal ibn al-Sharif Hussein, who became the king of Iraq after the French occupied Syria, and the government of Faisal overthrew the king of the Syrian country and he was exiled from there to Iraq. Prince Khazaal was viewed by the Persians as a title and a symbol of Arab nationalist movements emerging after the First World War. The city of al-Muhammarah became the destination of the figures of Arab nationalist movements in that period (16).

Western conspiracy with the new governor of Tehran, Reza Khan Pahlavi, and allowing him to occupy the eastern coast of the Arabian Gulf and the emirate of al-Muhammarah in the north of the Gulf aimed primarily at (17):

  • Denying the Arabs the advantage of full control over the Arabian Gulf from all sides and coasts, whose cities, villages, oases, ports and islands extending along the eastern, northern and western coasts of the Gulf are inhabited by Arab citizens of Arab tribes linked to each other by blood, cultural and ethnic ties.
  • Reinforcing British influence within the Persian state against the increasing Russian influence in the northern Iranian regions after the victory of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s.
  • And because of the anger of the British from Prince Khazaal for not preventing the Arab tribes in Ahwaz and the Basra area in southern Iraq from participating in the 1920 Iraqi Revolt against the English presence on the Iraqi land, on the one hand; and on the other hand their success in installing their man, Reza Khan, in the rule of Persia and the possibility of Britain dispensing with the services provided by the emir of al-Muhammarah region.

Strategically, Ahwaz is the key to weakness and strength for the Iranian entity. At the same time, for the Arabian Gulf states and Iraq, it represents the impenetrable barrier in the face of Iran’s aggressive ambitions in those states. Supporting and adoption of the Ahwazi cause have a common Arab national interest. This is because the magnitude of the Iranian threat is dozens of times greater than the size of the other regional state’s threat to the Arab region. And confronting Iran and thwarting its expansionist projects begin by working to restore the land and people of Ahwaz to the motherland and to the natural Arab environment of that people (18).

The weakening of Iran by returning Ahwaz to the Arab region will be a key factor in preventing Iranian threats, curbing the aggressiveness of Tehran’s rulers an stopping Iran’s blatant interference in the affairs of more than one Arab country and its destabilising of security and stability in the Arab world. The widespread Arab national awareness among the Ahwazis constituted a major challenge to the ruling religious forces in Tehran, which rule in the name of the Islamic religion and in the name of the Shiite sect stipulated in the constitution of the Iranian state (19).

With Iran’s occupation of the Arab Ahwaz, the eastern gate of Arabs became under the control of Iran, through which Iran has controlled the entire eastern side of the Arabian Gulf. Iran did not have access to the Arabian Gulf until after the occupation of Ahwaz and Iran started calling the Arabian Gulf as the “Persian Gulf”, and that was the first blow received by the Arab states because of the occupation of Ahwaz.

Ahwaz then became a starting point threatening the Arab states, through which the West succeeded in entering Iraq. Ahwaz represented the gap from which the Iranian threat entered the Arabian Gulf states.

After the occupation of Ahwaz, the east of the Arabian Gulf became under the Iranian hegemony and the economy of the Arab states in the Gulf became constantly threatened, which led many military experts to talk about the need to remove Iran from the political equation in the region and that the only way to that is to support the revolutionaries in the Arab Ahwaz as a very important step to combat the Iranian threat in the region and returning Iran to its historical borders.

Results:

– Ahwaz played an important role in keeping Arab national security, and had an important role in decolonisation in the region and supporting the liberation movements.

– After the Iranian occupation, Ahwaz became a starting point threatening Arab states, through which the West succeeded in entering Iraq. Ahwaz represented the gap from which the Iranian threat entered the Gulf countries.

– Arabs’ disregard for Iran’s occupation of Ahwaz resulted in Iran’s bravado and interference in the region to the extent that it demanded annexing Bahrain after occupying the Emirati islands and controlling Iraq.

– Ahwaz was the complementary part of the Arab Fertile Crescent, and its loss opened a gap through which Iranians infiltrated to the rest of the Arab countries, which hit the Arab national security theory at the core of its power.

– Since (the treaty of) 1963 until now, many Ahwazi politicians tried to spread revolutionary and liberation awareness to realise the self-determination of the Ahwazi people, but unfortunately, they lack Arab material and moral support for their cause. Also, the Ahwazi people lack the role of the Arab League, which did not support them throughout its history. That is why the Ahwazis remained alone in front of the Iranian state.

 

Sources and references:

1- Aladdin Nawras, Al-Siyasah al-Iraniyah fi al-Khalij al-Arabi (Iranian policy in the Arabian Gulf), Baghdad 1982.

2- Mostafa Abdul-Qader Al-Najjar, Al-Tarikh al-Siyasi Li-Emarat `Arabstan al-`Arabiyah (The Political History of the Arab Emirate of Arabistan) – Dar al-Maref, Egypt.

3- Qais Bani Tamim: Al-Ahwaz Qotr `Arabi Yamtalek Tharawat Kabeera (Ahwaz is an Arab country with Great Wealth), al-Basrah.net.

4- Dr. Abbas Asakerah Al-Qadiyyah al-Ahwaziyyah (The Ahwazi Cause), al-Kaabi, Doctoral dissertation / Thesis to obtain In-Depth Studies Diploma, DAR ALHEKMA Publishing and Distribution- London, 2003-2004.

5- – Ibrahim Bdaiwy: Al-Ahwaz – Qessat al-Dawla Allati Ihtallattha Iran (Ahvaz – Arabic state ruled by Iran), www.ida2at.com

6- Mostafa Abdul-Qader Al-Najjar, Al-Tarikh al-Siyasi Li-Emarat `Arabstan al-`Arabiyah (The Political History of the Arab Emirate of Arabistan) – Dar al-Maref, Egypt.

7- Iman Meteb Yahya: Al-Tanafos al-Ajnabi `ala Ard al-Ahwaz (Foreign Competition on the Land of Ahwaz) – University of Mustansiriyah.

8- Ibrahim Bdaiwy: Al-Ahwaz – Qessat al-Dawla Allati Ihtallattha Iran (Ahwaz – Arabic state ruled by Iran), www.ida2at.com.

9- Previous source.

10- Ahmed Shaaban: Al-Ahwaz Khaserat al-Khaleej (Ahwaz, Middle of (Arabian) Gulf) – al-Basrah.net – 22/6/2015.

11- گزارش رویدادهای شرکت نفت در سال, 1388, AlMezmaah Studies & Research Center, 14 November 2013.

12- Dr. Abbas Asakerah Al-Qadiyyah al-Ahwaziyyah (The Ahwazi Cause), al-Kaabi, Doctoral dissertation / Thesis to obtain In-Depth Studies Diploma, DAR ALHEKMA Publishing and Distribution- London, 2003-2004.

15- Dr. Khaled Al-Masalmeh: Al-Ahwaz al-Arad al-`Arabiyah al-Mohtallah (Ahwaz Occupied Arab Land), Bochum, Germany, 2003, 2nd Edition.

16- Previous source

17- – Ali Neama al-Helw, Al-Ahwaz – `Arabstan fi Adwaraha al-Tarikhiyah (Ahwaz – Arabstan in Its Historical Roles), Part 2, 1st edition, Dar al-Basri, Baghdad.

13- Dr. Abbas Asakerah Al-Qadiyyah al-Ahwaziyyah (The Ahwazi Cause), al-Kaabi, Doctoral dissertation / Thesis to obtain In-Depth Studies Diploma, DAR ALHEKMA Publishing and Distribution- London, 2003-2004.

14- Mostafa Abdul-Qader Al-Najjar, Al-Tarikh al-Siyasi Li-Emarat `Arabstan al-`Arabiyah (The Political History of the Arab Emirate of Arabistan) – Dar al-Maref, Egypt.

18- Dr. Khaled Al-Masalmeh: Al-Ahwaz al-Arad al-`Arabiyah al-Mohtallah (Ahwaz Occupied Arab Land), Bochum, Germany, 2003, 2nd Edition.

19- Ahmed Shaaban: Al-Ahwaz Khaserat al-Khaleej (Ahwaz, Middle of (Arabian) Gulf) – al-Basrah.net – 22/6/2015.

 

 

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Full References:

– Ibrahim Bdaiwy: Al-Ahwaz – Qessat al-Dawla Allati Ihtallattha Iran (Ahwaz – Arabic state ruled by Iran), www.ida2at.com

– National Liberation Movement of Ahwaz http://www.al-ahwaz.com/

– Qais Bani Tamim: Al-Ahwaz Qotr `Arabi Yamtalek Tharawat Kabeera (Ahwaz is an Arab country with Great Wealth), al-Basrah.net.

– Mosleh Kheder al-Jobouri: Al-Dor al-Siyasi Lel-Aqliyyat fi al-Sharq al-Awsat (The Political Role of Minorities in the Middle East), The Dar Academic for Publishing & Distributing Co.

– Ibrahim Khalaf al-Obaidi: Al-Ahwaz Ard `Arabiyyah Saleebah (Ahwaz is a Stolen Arab Land), Elam studies Center, Iraq.

– Ahmed Shaaban: Al-Ahwaz Khaserat al-Khaleej (Ahwaz, Middle of (Arabian) Gulf) – al-Basrah.net – 22/6/2015.

– Iman Meteb Yahya: Al-Tanafos al-Ajnabi `ala Ard al-Ahwaz (Foreign Competition on the Land of Ahwaz) – University of Mustansiriyah.

– Dr. Khaled Al-Masalmeh: Al-Ahwaz al-Arad al-`Arabiyah al-Mohtallah (Ahwaz Occupied Arab Land), Bochum, Germany, 2003, 2nd Edition.

– Dr. Abbas Asakerah Al-Qadiyyah al-Ahwaziyyah (The Ahwazi Cause), al-Kaabi, Doctoral dissertation / Thesis to obtain In-Depth Studies Diploma, DAR ALHEKMA Publishing and Distribution- London, 2003-2004.

– Abdul-Majeed Ismail Haqqi, Al-Wad` Al-Qanooni Le-Iqlim `Arabistan fi Dhel Al-Qawaed Ad-Dawliyah (The legal Status of Arabstan Region Under the International Rules), Al-Madani Press, Cairo.

– Aladdin Nawras, Al-Siyasah al-Iraniyah fi al-Khalij al-Arabi (Iranian policy in the Arabian Gulf), Baghdad 1982.

– Ali Neama al-Helw, Al-Ahwaz – `Arabstan fi Adwaraha al-Tarikhiyah (Ahwaz – Arabstan in Its Historical Roles), Part 2, 1st edition, Dar al-Basri, Baghdad.

– Mostafa Abdul-Qader Al-Najjar, Al-Tarikh al-Siyasi Li-Emarat `Arabstan al-`Arabiyah (The Political History of the Arab Emirate of Arabistan) – Dar al-Maref, Egypt.

– گزارش رویدادهای شرکت نفت در سال, 1388, AlMezmaah Studies & Research Center, 14 November 2013.

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