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Iran Threatens to Sue Google

Erin Dwyer

Iran has threatened to take legal action against Google for its decision to leave the body of water separating Iran from the Arab Peninsula nameless on its online Google Maps service. Aggravations sparked two weeks ago when Iran’s deputy minister for Islamic guidance accused the search engine of stripping the Persian Gulf title from the waterway in a ‘mischievous act’ that Google fervently denies. Despite Google’s insistence that the waterway has remained nameless for several years, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast threatened the company with “serious damages” if the name is not restored.

While the mapping service brings users searching for the Persian Gulf to the correct geographical location, Tehran is interpreting the waterway’s anonymity as an act of soft war. As a hub of regional tensions in the Middle East, the Gulf waterway is labeled the Persian Gulf by Iranians and the Arab Gulf by bordering Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait. Still, Iran shirks compromise by opposing solutions to label the waterway simply the Gulf, and rejects the application of both Arab and Persian titles to the map.

Google’s online mapping service that leaves the Persian Gulf nameless and has Iran threatening to take legal action.

Iran has a history of fighting for its perceived historical claim to the waterway. In 2004 Tehran launched an Internet offensive against the National Geographic Society for featuring both Gulf names in its world atlas. As a result, Google users searching for the Arab Gulf were directed to a website stating no such body of water existed. Furthermore, in 2010 Iran banned airlines using the words Arab Gulf on in-flight monitors from flying through Iranian airspace. Also in 2010, the second Islamic Solidarity Games were canceled after organizers failed to reach a compromise on whether to inscribe the medals with the words Persian or Arab Gulf.

As a key waterway for global oil and gas supplies and a source of national pride for Iranians, the Gulf dispute is largely symbolic of rising Persian-Arab tensions in the Middle East.