Where is the Border Between Iran and Iraq?
Here’s a question: what if both Iran and Britain are right regarding whether captured British sailors entered Iranian waters?
The thing about contested boundaries is that they’re not actually defined, there are differing opinions on where to draw the line. After a bit of investigation, this is what I’ve learned so far…
1917 – Britain captured Baghdad from the Ottoman Empire, and carved a large section of the Middle East between itself and France under what was at the time a secret agreement called the Skypes-Picot Agreement.
1920 – Iraq became recognized in the League of Nations as the state of Iraq, under British mandate. The borders of that time were imposed by Britain.
1937 – A treaty fixed the border on the Iranian bank of the Shatt al-Arab/Aravan River. Iran felt pressured by Britain into signing this treaty and never fully accepted it. Previously, Britain controlled Iran’s southern oil fields with near impunity, and threatened to sunder the country and turn the South into its dominion. Partly in reaction to this, a nationalist coup was led by Reza Khan, later known as Reza Shah. Britain had established Iraq’s client monarchy, then in 1941 Britain and Russia invaded Iran with stated goal of keeping it from allying with Germany during the Second World War. I think this explains why Iran could claim to have felt threatened into signing the 1937 treaty.
1969 – Iran discards the 1937 border treaty without reaching a new accord with Iraq.
1975 – A new agreement is reached, drawing the border in the middle of the river’s most navigable channel.
1980 – Saddam Hussein now discards the treaty, then declares war on Iran.
A new treaty has not been reached since and both neighbours do have contesting opinions on where to draw the line.
I think the obvious follow-up question is, do Iran and Britain have the same understanding of where lies the border?
Even though a couple of days out of date, I found a concise analysis of how we might define the border at wtop.com. The article is called: Iran’s Border Muddles Captivity Issue.