The Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu-Musa


by Diba

By: Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD International Law of The Sea

The Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu-Musa Islands are situated near the Straight of Hurmuz in the Persian Gulf, south of Iran. The Lesser Tunb is 22 miles from the mainland of Iran. The Lesser Tunb is 17 miles from the Iranian land. Both of them are not able to sustain living and they had never inhabitants. Abu- Musa is the home for a limited number of people (less than 50 households). The Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu-Musa Islands have been part of Iran since the times immemorial. In the Nineteenth Century, they were parts of the "Lengheh Territory" that was itself an administrative section of the Fars Province of Iran.

Sovereignty of Iran over these Islands have been recorded in many books, historical documents, almanacs, maritime journals, geographical maps (that show the three concerned islands in the color of the Iranian mainland), official documents, administrative reports, the officials notes of the British authorities in India and so on. The British authorities created some difficulties for the Iranian governments in the case of the Iranian control of these Islands during the early Twentieth Century. The actions of the British officials were always facing protests by the Iranian local and state authorities.

In 1968 the British decided to withdraw from the East of Sues by 1971. The British made a package deal with Iran according to which Iran stopped its demand for restoration of its sovereignty over Bahrain, and take back its three islands of The Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu-Musa Islands. Only in the case of Abu-Musa, Iran accepted to give some advantages to the Sheikdom of Sharejeh. The Iranian government accepted this formula only in the hope of supporting the small states of the Persian Gulf and giving them a chance of getting independence. The British authorities were the only officials that Iran made the arrangements with them because at that time the states like the UAE were not established yet. The Shah of Iran faced a great difficulty in making the people of Iran ready for such arrangement and some political groups never accepted that.

It is interesting that following the restoration of the Iranian sovereignty over the three islands, three Arab countries complained against Iran in the United Nations Security Council. The United Arab Emirates (which had been formed of several Sheikhdoms with the support of Iran) was not one of them. Egypt, Iraq and Libya were the parties to the dispute. They claimed that Iran has occupied part of the Arab lands. The reason was that Egypt under the control of Jamal Abdul-Nasser (the fabricator of the name of the Arabian Gulf), and Iraq, and Libya were thinking that they were the main leaders of the Arab world and they were pretending that they acted as the representative of the Arabs. However, the UNSC heard the explanations of the parties and after hearing the report of the British representative that implicitly referred to the "package deal", the UNSC deleted the issue from its agenda.

It is also interesting that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, after attacking Iran in 1980 and capturing a part of the Iranian territory in the border of Iran-and Iraq declared that if Iran wanted peace, it must accept several conditions, including the withdrawal of Iranian forces from the three islands of the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu-Musa. (The most important part of the other conditions was abrogation of the 1975 treaty between Iran and Iraq which designated the Thalweg line or the most navigable canal in the Arvandrood as the border of the two countries).

Saddam dropped the condition when the Iranian forces pushed the Iraqis back and entered the Iraqi territory. Since then the Arab States at Persian Gulf has repeatedly claimed that Iran should hand over the three islands to them. They have succeeded to get the backing of the Arab League. Also, during the last several years they have recruited some of the top research institutes and legal experts in Western world for finding grounds for their claims in the international law and politics.

The British have already cast doubt on one of the most important sources of Iran's claim by saying that the old map of the British Authorities in India (the map that was formally presented to Iranian officials as the expression of the maritime situation in the region and it showed the three concerned islands in the color of mainland Iran) was not official. Also, they are not ready to give clear explanations about the "package deal" that resulted in Iran's withdrawal of claims over Bahrain and get its sovereignty back in the three islands.

In fact the story of Bahrain's independence was a clear indication of the package deal. For the same reason the UAE's advocates have always tried to deny the existence of the package deal between Iran and the British authorities that led to the independence of Bahrain, UAE and restoration of Iranian rights in the Persian Gulf over the Tunbs and Abu-Musa.

Following the package deal in 1968, the case of Bahrain was put in the agenda of the United Nations. The United Nations chose a representative on the issue of Bahrain. He traveled to Bahrain and talked to several people in streets and later reported to the UN that the people of Bahrain wanted inexpedience. There was no referendum, public inquiry, research work or even a simple random sampling in the standard model. It was not clear that how the UN representative had reached such a conviction that the people of Bahrain wanted independence, while more than half of the people of Bahrain were Iranians and they wished to remain Iranian. However, due to the fact that the "package deal" was there, the UN did not go through such questions and accepted that Bahrain should be independent. Following this development the representatives of the Western states, especially the British officials, thanked Iran for the peace loving actions and understanding the international situation.

The Arab countries never accepted the rights of the Iranians in any field. The Arabs, including the Palestinians, have never staged a rally or even uttered a word in support of Iranian rights. These are the Arabs that have difficulties for agreeing on the smallest political issue in the world. But they have unity in one point: Iran is like Israel occupier of the Arab lands and she must hand over the concerned territory to the "Arab brothers". It is very misfortunate and embarrassing for the people of Iran to see that their so-called Islamic government keeps defending the rights of Arabs, tries to expand Arabization in Iran, and tries to persuade the cult of disgusting Arab figures (even in the cost of setting aside the Iranian historical figures that have fought against the Arab control on Iran and have succeeded to stop Iran becoming consumed by the Arab invaders, as it has happened in Egypt and Syria and many other places). At the same time, no Arab country, group, company, sect, or individual has ever taken any action or said a word in defense of the Iranian side.


1- Iran has gone through enough troubles to take its islands back.

2- Iran was instrumental in independence of the UAE, which includes the Sharejeh.

3- The British have accepted the package deal tacitly.

4- There are many historical documents for proving the rights of Iran.

"Although the government of Iran succeeded to get two resolutions from the United Nations to officially recognize that the body of water in the south of Iran was " Persian Gulf" (UNAD 311/Qen dated March 5, 1971, and UNLA 45.8.2 (C) dated August 10, 1984,) no Arab country has accepted to use the correct name of the Persian Gulf. At the same time, the conditions of Iranian government at the moment are very much different from those years and the regime of the Islamic Republic is so isolated and disrespected in the international forums that one cannot expect to get a vote in favor of Iran, despite all existing documents and evidences." In fact, if the case goes to a court, in one side will be Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah of Lebanon (I doubt even these stand by Iran in such cases, as Syria did after getting free oil from the regime of Iran), and in the other side will be the UAE supported by all Arab countries (the Arab League and especially the GCC), the EU, the USA and many others. No country will be ashamed of standing against a regime that is known as an international thug in the world. The remarks of the president of Iran have especially added to the level of disgust towards the regime of Iran all over the world.


more from Diba
Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


You bring up very interesting points and I am interigued. But I do not discount China as you do. Right now most of American technology is being manufactured in China. Meaning that the factories are physically there.

Chinese managers and workers run them and that is very important. If US were to get China mad they could just turn around and nationalize the whole thing. That is the mistake US made and now is at mercy of China.

Not to mention the US national debt is greatly owned by China. If they stopped buying them US economy would be in trouble. Of course so would China. It is in the best interest of China to develop other markets like Iran; Russia; Africa and so on. Places which are not automatically going to follow American directions.  It is not going to take 30-40 years. It is much more like right now. Or at most a few years from now.


VPK the main goal of breaking up Iran at this point

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

is to prevent it being able to send resources by land to china and india, the military maps I have seen show it divided so that there are 3 different regions to cross before getting to china, also china needs land route for exports as china can be shut down at sea entirely with just 2 war ships.  That would make china unable to import or export. At a time of war Iran is highly strategic.

So on one hand we have USA needing to break up iran to controi its power/development and on the other hand we have China, who's entire destiny from a development standpoint hinges on iran land route and resources.

But for 30 to 40 years time China will be in no position to stop the USA breaking up Iran.  Its shift will be gradual.

p.s. I like your best defense is to be on the offense strategy, from a security standpoint it's actually a legitimate strategy.




Interesting reading, thx

by Rea on

As for Bahrain, an interesting piece by S. Sadeghi.


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Regarding Shrinking

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Is the plan West has for all of world. Break it up into little bits of prey for Multi Nationals. They broke up Russia; Yugoslavia; India whatever they get their hands on. We are not their only targets.

They tried it with China in "Tiananmen Square"; but China did not go for it. That is why China is so touchy about it and I do not blame them. China is trying to preserve its land. Thankfully for them they got both the military and economic power. 

Believe it or not China is one big ally Iran has in keeping her integrity. And to reunite. Because Chinese have had to go through the exact same *** themselves and won. They may be amoral regarding IRI but they are Iran's allies on this front. 

Maryam Hojjat

Dr. Diba, Great hitorical info

by Maryam Hojjat on

I agree with VPOK.  We need to take our case to international court and demand the lands taken from us.  Of course, not with IRR but with a free IRAN.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Actually Bahrain

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Was given up during Shah's times under British pressure. I am telling you Iran needs to go on offensive. Demand: Azarbayjan; Northern Afghanistan; Eastern Iraq; as well and Samarkand and Bukhara. The treaties with Russia are expired; null and void.

Russia or UN did not have the authority to give independence to Iranian land. Start with a claim on paper. Then go on from there. The Kurds desire to reunite. Fine Iraqi Kurds and Iranian Kurds could form a "Greater Kurdistan" as a part of Iran. With some autonomy. Iraqi Shia Arabs are closer to Iranian Shia: fine let them join. Afghans want to work in Iran fine make Northern Afghanistan part of Iran then the Afghans of Tajik and Hazara background may come work in Iran.


Giving up Bahrain , thats a true disaster.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Whats the deal with everyone wanting a part of Iran?  Baba we've been shrinking for a very long time, and having our provinces taken piece by piece.

Where is the Love????????? 



Uninhabitble Islands ? What about Bahrain?

by jasonrobardas on

     Bahrain was historically owned by Iran even in the pre-islamic times. It was part of the persian empire as far back as the 3rd century , controlled by Parthians and the sassanids. In fact the first governor of bahrain was shapoor who Ardeshir's son.

      bahrain has a tumultous history and is sure a land that persia should and must claim ownership. It was invaded after the Arab conquest and later on by the old colonialist country of "Portugal". Portugese ruled bahrain for 8 years . Shah Abbas allied with the British and regained controle of Bahrain .

      And here comes the tragic chapter :  Mohamad rezah Shah  ( a descendant of Kourosh !!!! who claimed to be the protector of Aryan lands and the ancient persian civilization ),   He  signed the independance of this pearl and oil rich country without any protest or hesitation , because his masters the British wanted so .......He put Bahrain on a silver platter and handed it over to the Arab shieks  

     Well, I am not a dinasour but I still remember the map of Iran in our school  text books on "geography'. Bahrain was part of the Iranian territory .


Bahman Aghai Diba

by iamfine on

Well written article. This shows when you are weak, everybody can kick you around. In this case the UAE is taking advantage of the situation and with the help of EU and USA is hoping to have the ownership of those islands