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Persian Gulf

Persian Gulf, arm of the Arabian Sea, 90,000 sq mi (233,100 sq km), between the Arabian peninsula and Iran, extending c.600 mi (970 km) from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman. It is called the Arabian Gulf in the Arab world.

Physical Geography

The Persian Gulf is mostly shallow and has many islands, of which Bahrain is the largest. The gulf is bordered by Oman and the United Arab Emirates to the south, to the west by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to the north by Kuwait and Iraq, and along the entire east coast by Iran. It was generally thought that the gulf had previously extended farther north and that sediment dropped by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun, and Karkheh rivers filled the northern part of the gulf to create a great delta. But geologic investigations now indicate that the coastline has not moved and that the marshlands of the delta represent a sinking of the earth's crust as the Arabian land block pushes under Iran. The gulf waters have very slow currents and limited tidal range.

History

The Persian Gulf was an important transportation route in antiquity but declined with the fall of Mesopotamia. In succeeding centuries control of the region was contested by Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Western Europeans. In 1853, Britain and the Arab sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf signed the Perpetual Maritime Truce, formalizing the temporary truces of 1820 and 1835. The sheikhs agreed to stop harassing British shipping in the Arabian Sea and to recognize Britain as the dominant power in the gulf. These sheikhdoms thus became known as the Trucial States. An international agreement among the major powers in 1907 placed the gulf in the British sphere of influence.

Although oil was discovered in the gulf in 1908, it was not until the 1930s, when major finds were made, that keen international interest in the region revived. Since World War II the gulf oil fields, among the most productive in the world, have been extensively developed, and modern port facilities have been constructed. Nearly 50% of the world's total oil reserves are estimated to be found in the Persian Gulf. It is also a large fishing source and was once the chief center of the pearling industry. In the late 1960s, following British military withdrawal from the area, the United States and the USSR sought to fill the vacuum. In 1971 the first U.S. military installation in the gulf was established at Bahrain.

The long-standing Arab–Persian conflict in the gulf, combined with the desire of neighboring states for control of large oil reserves, has led to international boundary disputes. Iraq and Iran argued over navigation rights on the Shatt al Arab, through which Iran's main ports and most productive oil fields are reached. Iran and the sheikhdoms of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah contested ownership of the oil-rich islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb at the entrance to the gulf. Iranian forces occupied these islands in Dec., 1971, infuriating Iraq. The much-contested rights over the Shatt al Arab led Iran and Iraq into an 8-year war in the 1980s (see Iran-Iraq War). In 1984 American and other foreign oil tankers in the gulf were attacked by both Iran and Iraq. The security of Persian Gulf countries was threatened throughout this war.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in Aug., 1990, the Persian Gulf was once again a background for conflict. International coalition ground forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia and neighboring gulf countries in the Persian Gulf War (1991). Before Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in Feb., 1991, Iraqi soldiers set fire to over 500 Kuwaiti oil wells and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf, causing an environmental crisis and threatening desalination plants throughout the area. The area again was the scene of warfare in 2003 when U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq. The Persian Gulf's vast oil reserves make the area a continuing source of international tension.

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Persian (Arabian) Gulf

PERSIAN (ARABIAN) GULF

arm of the gulf of oman and indian ocean.

The Persian Gulf is a shallow body of water between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran; it is more than 500 miles long and as wide as 200 miles. Fed on the northwestern end by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (called the Shatt al-Arab), the gulf drains to the southeast through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Its maximum depth is only 328 feet. There are numerous islands in the gulf, Bahrain and Qeshm being the largest ones.

Since antiquity the gulf has been a major trade and marine route between East Africa and South Asia. In the nineteenth century British commercial interests supported British military intervention in the gulf. Consequently, all the Arabian Peninsula coastal principalities were forced to conclude protectorate treaties with Britain, while British commercial and naval influence progressively increased in the ports along the Iranian coast of the gulf. In addition to the gulf's economic significance derived from trade and pearling, the British perceived the waterway as having strategic importance as a gateway to their imperial possessions in India. The early-twentieth-century discovery of petroleum deposits throughout the coastal region and even in the seabed of the gulf further enhanced its increasingly intertwined economic and strategic values. By the 1970s and into the twenty-first century, more than 80 percent of Middle East oil exports passed through the gulf. Inevitably, its waters became polluted by oil spills that harmed the local fishing industry and threatened rare sea mammals and other aquatic life.

see also bahrain; petroleum, oil, and natural gas; shatt al-arab.

Bibliography


Schofield, Richard, ed. Territorial Foundations of the Gulf States. London: UCL Press, 1994.

Sick, Gary, and Potter, Lawrence, eds. The Persian Gulf at the Millennium. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

elizabeth thompson
updated by eric hooglund

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Persian Gulf

Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf) Arm of the Arabian Sea between Arabia and the Asian mainland, and connected to it by the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. European powers began to move into the region in the 17th century. Britain had achieved supremacy in the Gulf by the mid-19th century. The discovery of oil in the 1930s increased its importance and, especially after the British withdrawal in the 1960s, both the USA and the Soviet Union sought to increase their influence in the region. Tension was heightened by the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and the Gulf War against Iraq in 1991. The Gulf remains a major shipping and oil supply route. Area: c.240,000sq km (93,000sq mi).

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"Persian Gulf." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Persian Gulf." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/persian-gulf