Great Eurasian Maritime Zone, Persian Gulf as Iranian Sea and the struggle for Sea power and the World Oceans

Great Eurasian Maritime Zone, Persian Gulf as Iranian Sea and the struggle for Sea power and the World Oceans

The Jerusalem Post reports interesting news about Iran’s Greater Eurasian naval plans:

“Iran wants to use the SCO to increase defense and military cooperation, and they want India to play a part in this as well.


Published: APRIL 29, 2023 15:24

Updated: APRIL 30, 2023 16:59

 Iran's Army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi and Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani visit a drone site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. (photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)


Iran’s Army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi and Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani visit a drone site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023.


Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani suggested that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasian geopolitical organization, increase its role as a maritime organization, with the goal of projecting its power against the West.

Iran recently joined the SCO, which serves as one of several organizations that China and Russia seek to use to push the international system towards being multi-polar, designed to supplant the US. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia) are also used as conduits to this end.

The SCO, which works on economic and defense issues, is considered the world’s largest regional organization in terms of both geography and population. It includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan, as well as India and Pakistan, with Iran being the most recent addition in 2022.

Last year, an article at Brussels-based think tank Centre for Youth and International Studies (CYIS) noted that “maritime security cooperation is a viable area of activity between the SCO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Within the SCO, Iran, Pakistan, India, China and Russia are coastal states, while Southeast Asia is at the junction of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.”

This important article noted that “the combined maritime space of these organizations comprises the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. This shared maritime space presents several non-traditional security challenges to both organizations, such as piracy, terrorism at sea, illegal migration, illegal fishing, smuggling and man-made or natural disasters to name a few.

“Thus, the SCO and ASEAN are well-positioned to collaborate to address these shared security challenges as a larger Greater Eurasian Security Community,” it added.

Pushing for increased maritime security

Yet, so far the SCO does not have a maritime security mechanism. Now, the pro-Iran, pro-Syria Al-Mayadeen news channel reported that Ashtiani is pushing for more muscular defense initiatives by SCO. This move is part of Iran’s new tactics in Oman, and also in Beirut, which was recently visited by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

“Shanghai has become an influential organization in global developments and equations, whose expansion and strengthening can be an effective measure in promoting and advancing multilateralism in the international arena,” Ashtiani said. “We can deal with common security challenges and threats in the region and the world.”

Now the Iranians want to use the SCO to increase defense and military cooperation, they want India to play a part in this as well. But India is close to the West and is also a strategic partner of Israel, so that might prove a challenge.

India also works with the I2U2 group and the Quad, a group that includes Australia, India, Japan and the US. But Iran has a different mission, as well as a defense minister that says that the world is no longer run by the West, it is no longer unipolar and is dominated by the US.

Ashtiani wants the SCO to promote global pluralism and what he sees as a balance of power, and hopes to influence the creation of a Shanghai ‘maritime security belt,’ as a large part of global trade is linked to the SCO.

According to Ashtiani, “It is time for global multilateralism and balance of power.”

The question is also, what is Iran’s aim. There was just a SCO meeting in India. Does Iran hope to break  India from I2U2 and the quad? Or that India has two tracks in the SCO and Shanghai Great Eurasian Maritime Zone/Organization (will this also be institutionalized within the SCO as the SCO-Maritime Organization) and in I2U2 and Quad? Is it just non-military? Does Iran expect a push back against the USA and Israel and now wants to use an offensive in the whole area to attack US troops in Iraq or even an attack on the CENTCOM in Al Udeid in Qatar based on the Hezbolla attack on the US embassy in Lebanon in in the 1980s, especially since Iran has announced that it no longer wants to tolerate US troops in Iraq and the region in view of the SA Iran deal. Ckaims that the Abraham Accord was  dead, while Iran with SA and other Arab countries apparently want to bring Syria back into the Arab League, escalating agitation against Israel, Iran declaring “the Zionist regime” „facing collapse“ because of the mass protests in Israel, also threatening nuclear annihilation and speading up its nuclear program , heat up the Palestinians and Jerusalem/Al Quds issue, while Hamas leader are now traveling to Tehran and Iranian politicians now supporting the pro-Syrian candidate in the upcoming Lebanon elections with Hezbollah as well as climbing a hill in southern Lebanon bordering to Israel and from there proclaiming that the “Zionist Entity“ will soon be history, weaken Israel and the US enough that they withdraw further? But in such a Great Eurasian Zone  encompassing Iran, India, ASEAN, how does this reconcile with the Indo-Pacific and Indo-Chinese conflict without India leaving the Quad? Or does Iran think that Quad and GEMZ could exist in peaceful coexistence or be able to get India out from Quad and I2U2, also because of its Chabahr port in Iran? Or should the GEMZ also include China? Or should the Oceans b3 divided in spheres of maritime influence, the South China Sea and the Pacific as China’s, the Indian Ocean as the Indian Sea? Or should the entire GEMZ be declared non-military, which is not a challenge to the USA and not directed against a third parties?

The former  German NATO General Domroese Jr. takes a somewhat pessimistic view of this;

„Yes, this could be ONE result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: 100 states, say, do not like Russia’s war, but these states do NOT want the West to win either… The maritime security org could be conceived in this sense. Unfortunately“

Another former German NATO general thinks that the text was too abstract to be able to base a judgment on it. One would need an authorized Iranian text, which he doesn’t expect from the Jerusalem Post. I guess in the Iranian original it will also be kept in abstract terms and the Mullah regime will express concrete ideas more on the level of secret diplomacy instead of trumpeting them out to the whole world. Therefore, the only thing left to do is to consider the possible intentions, options and chances of realization and variables that can underlie the strategic concept and that of China , especially since the maritime BRI and the Asia-Africa Economic Corridor of India (-Japan) must also be taken into account as competing concepts, as well as Quad, I2U2, India’s relations with Iran, Russia and China including SCO and BRICS. Especially since the demands for a presence on the oceans are seemingly limitless. The US commands all the world’s  oceans, is the leading global sea power, but China wa nts to become it and already has joint naval military maneuvers with Russia in the Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Pakistan, Persian Gulf with Iran, Cape of Good Hope with South Africa, in the Indo-Pacific and both are now also active in the Arctic . Iran has also sent warships beyond the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and even the Baltic Sea for joint naval maneuvers with Russia and China, just as an Iranian warship visited Lula’s  Brazil. Now the capacities are different and limited and a Eurasian maritime zone is also dependent on what extent the nations and great powers involved would and will get along with each other, even if it was possible without China´s and India’s consent and to what extent these two great powers can settle their conflicts at all . Perhaps it will also be an initiative of the Global Security Initiative together with the Global Development Initiative including the maritime New Silk Road and the Global Civilization Initiative, which in the case of China is increasingly invoking its old sea power under Zheng He and performing a brisk fleet armament, although maybe then in the future, maritime spheres of interest could be defined depending on the expansion phase, which could eliminate such maritime conflicts for the time being and in the meantime and eliminate the need for the Quad. But that is highly speculative and also the question of whether that is realistic, because Eurasian pipe dream castles have often existed, as has Brzezinski’s meggeopoliticl visions of a Trans Eurasian Security Systems TESS and OSCEA on the western side, or the Sino-American G-2 and the ideas of Chimeria.

Consistent with Iran’s proposal to establish a Great Eurasian Maritime Zone with India and ASEAN, now also Iran’s celebration of the Persian Gulf and its history as an implicit and important element of such a Greater Maritime Zone.

“Iran celebrates Persian Gulf day with pride and joy

April 29, 2023 – 18:15

TEHRAN – Tomorrow, Iranians proudly celebrate the rich history of the Persian Gulf, an extension of the Indian Ocean sandwiched between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.

April 30th, known as the Persian Gulf National Day, signals a landmark cultural heritage of the ancient land and its unwavering commitment to protecting its territorial integrity.

It is a reminder that the country is steadfast in protecting its interests and will continue to stand firm against any threats to its sovereignty.

For millennia, the Persian Gulf has drawn the attention of governments and nations due to its strategic location and being endowed with giant natural and petroleum resources.

As mentioned by the Persian Gulf Studies Center, Darius the Great ordered the creation Suez Canal to develop commerce in Iran so that commercial vessels could pass the Persian and Red Seas and get to Egypt and the Mediterranean. In a remaining inscription from that era, it can be read: “King Darius says: I am Persian and conquered Egypt from Persia and ordered to drill this canal and people go from the Nile, which flows in Egypt, to a sea from Persia. This canal has been drilled, and vessels sail as I command. As it was at my will.”

As it’s been quoted in history, the Arsacid developed commerce and competed closely with Romans, and transformed the Fars Sea into a transit road.

This progress continued in the Sassanid era when Siraf port became a big commercial center and even in historical documents of China everywhere the names Pars, Fars, Parsua, and Iran can explicitly and widely be seen and this shows the existence of commercial ties.

After Iran was conquered by Muslims, again Iranians were ahead of other neighboring governments in sailing. Later, profiteer colonizers struggled to obtain a high position in the Persian Gulf. One evident example was in the Safavid era when the Ottomans started their invasion of the Persian Gulf.

Portuguese, on the other side, completely dominated this region in the 16th century and clashed with Ottomans until finally in 1587 King Abbas, with the assistance of England, repelled the Portuguese.

However, England gained a foothold in the region. This matter led to conflicts with England. It should be reminded that, at the time of the Afsharid dynasty, King Nader managed to create a navy force in the Persian Gulf and bought several vessels from England and the Netherlands.

The Persian Gulf was invaded by colonizing countries more than ever before in the Qajar era; especially the English colonizer which deemed itself ruler of the Persian Gulf and the mindlessness of the Qajar kings paved the way for the illegal presence of England, France, and Russia.

Darius the Great noted this sea and he used the phrase “Dar aye tie hecha parsa abi” meaning Pars Sea, which is obvious in a rock-carved inscription.

In addition, the name Persian Gulf has been cited by reputable Arab geographers. Abelghasem Obeidollah Ebne Abdollah Mostowfi, known as Ebne Khardazabe, wrote in his book in 844-848 CE Persian Gulf: … Bahr Fars. Bahr Fars in Arabic means Persian sea.

Masoudi, another reputable Arab author in his valuable book, Moravvejozehb va Madan Jowhar, when talks of overall news of seas, has noted the Persian Gulf as the Persian Sea. Ebn Howghel, famous Arab explorer and reputable geographer quotes: “In 942 I left Baghdad intending to study about different countries and nations and to trade and traveled Islamic countries from east to west and I also studied works of precursors.” He notes the Persian Gulf as Bahr Fars (meaning Fars sea) in his famous book, Sorat Arz. Moreover, Estakhri, expert Arab geographer and author of “Almasaalek va Almamaalek” again notes Fars sea.

Abolfadaa, the author of Taghvimolbaladaan, who enjoys a special place, notes the Fars sea and when describing the boundaries of Fars, he writes: “East limit of Fars is Khuzestan. All the west through to north are limits of Isfahan and mountains and the southern limit of it is the Fars Sea.

In “Majamolbaladaan”, a famous book that all geographers deem valid as a geographic encyclopedia, the Persian Gulf has been noted as “Bahr Fars” (meaning Fars sea).

What is assumed from historical texts, and even the ones acknowledged by Arab geographers, suggests that the “Persian Gulf” has historically belonged to Persians and Iranians.


In short, just as Putin wants to make the Azov Sea and then the Black Sea the Russian Sea, China the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific the China Sea, so Iran wants the Persian Gulf to be the Iranian Sea. Perhaps the Indians will then be left with the Indian Ocean as the Indian Sea because the CCP is at the moment primarily interested in expanding towards Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Pacific and demarcate spheres of influence with India in order to destroy the strategic concept of the Indo-Pacific as a first step then be reconnected via a Great Eurasia Maritime Zone.

A former German NATO general added that the intention was clear: to oust the US from the Gulf and prevent India from working with the US. But the Indians would continue to do so, especially if their arms supplier Russia continues to develop and export weapons that do not perform as promised. In addition, India probably sees an opportunity, in cooperation with Indonesia, to deny China access to the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Strait, and thus the sea route to Africa and Europe, despite all the Muslim/Hindu tensions. He therefore considers cooperation between India and China to be unlikely, and India is unlikely to see a kowtow like that made by Russia in front of China. All in all, the Iranian initiative in his opinion has few chances.

It seems rather improbable that Modi is hoping to gain in prestige from the recognition of the Indian Ocean as the Indian Sea in the short term, because on the one hand he knows China’s expansion efforts, just as he does not want to limit the Indian Navy and its field of operations to them, and moreover sees China as a rival, which one must counter with options for maritime blockades and sanctions beyond the Indian Ocean. In addition, he still adheres to the freedom of shipping and navigation in international waters, as well as despite closer relations with Russia and all criticism of the West, membership in the SCO and BRICS still adheres to the rule-based international UN order, albeit he  is in favour of a a multipolar world order, but prefers to see this by the G20, a strong role for India in the UN and not under Chinese dominance.

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