UAE 3 Occupied Islands Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2604 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Israel

UAE Islands

Throughout the world there are many different disputes related to state sovereignty. At the current time such a dispute exist between the United Arab Emirates and Iran as it pertains to the UAE islands of 'Tumb Al Kubra, Tumb Al Soghra and Abu Musa'. The purpose of this discussion is to explain the issue of Iran's occupation of the UAE islands and present an international law perspective on this issue while also presenting diplomatic ways of resolving the conflict.

The conflict between UAE and Iran

The current conflict between UAE and Iran has a long history. According to, United Arab Emirates: a new perspective, the origin of the conflict actually stemmed from Islamic conquest of the seventeenth century which involved the islands and coasts around the Arabian Gulf (Abed & Hellyen). For many years Oman was the center of power in the region before the presence of European colonial powers.

According to Matair in 1971, when Britain left the Persian Gulf after being a dominant power more than a century of being the dominant in the region. Those observing this transition believed that changes in the balance in power would create instability in the region. Eventually the seven Trucial States, which were once under British control, formed a completely independent federal state known as the United Arab Emirates (Matair). The author goes on to explain that

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"it was not absolutely clear during the months leading up to final British departure in November 1971 that Bahrain and Qatar would turn down Shaikh Zayid's invitation to join that federation. Nor was it clear that Ras al Khaimah would agree to join the union, since its ruler, the wily Shaikh Saqr, opted to stay out for the first few months. Most interesting to outside observers was what Iran might do as Britain left, since it was assumed that the shah might try to fill the anticipated "power vacuum," for example, by moving into Bahrain, where a large population of Shiite coreligionists were assumed to be sympathetic to association with Tehran (Mattair, 15)."

Term Paper on UAE 3 Occupied Islands Assignment

Eventually, Iran came to occupy the three UAE islands of 'Tumb Al Kubra, Tumb Al Soghra and Abu Musa'. The islands are located between UAE) and Iran. Once the UAE was formed this territory became a federal concern rather than one of individual emirates (Koch). Up until this time the smaller emirates had been protect from Iranian advances by Britain. Once Britain withdrew from the territories Iran grew more vocal in claiming the islands as their own and the Shah took over both Tunbs islands in November 1971 (Koch). In addition a questionable memorandum of understanding over the island of Abu Musa also gave Tehran direct control over parts of the island (Koch). In the years following this takeover the UAE has insisted that the islands are part of the territory (Koch). However, the government of Iran has held the position that the Islands are the territory of Iran.

International law perspective

From the perspective of international law the current conflict involving the UAE and Iran presents many different questions and obstacles. According to Rugh (1996) following 1971, UAE asserted that it had a claim over the sovereignty of the islands because of historical records that illustrated that the people who lived on all of the Islands were Arab and not Iranian. Indeed,

"The historical record confirms that these Islands belonged to the Qawasim of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah since at least 18th century. This was the situation when the British came to the region and concluded several agreements with the Rulers of the Emirates, including the first agreement of 1820. The advent of the British did not affect the sovereignty exercised by the Qawasim of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah over the Islands, since the two Emirates were at the time a single and united Qawasim Emirate. When Ras al-Khaimah was separated from Sharjah at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Island of Abu Musa reverted to the Qawasim of Sharjah, while that of Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb passed to the Qawasim of Ras al-Khaimah. The Qawasim possessed these Islands continuously, peacefully, and without interruption until November 1971 ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands").

The article also explains that over the years, the Qawasim exercised acts of sovereignty consistent with the size, physical features, and size of the population on the Islands ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands"). In addition there is no historical evidence to support the notion that the emirates ever surrendered sovereignty over the Islands ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands"). In addition there is no evidence to suggest that the Qawasim stopped having control over the Islands ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands"). On the contrary, Iran never had such authority over the territories prior to 1971 ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands").

In addition, the UAE argued that from a legal standpoint that the Tunbs had been occupied unilaterally by Iran which led to Arab protests. The UAE has also argued that in 971 the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Iran concerning Abu Musa addressed the question of sovereignty and Sharja had not given sovereignty to Iran ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands"). Additionally the UAE argued that the claims that Iran had on the Islands were in place when the British were in control of foreign policy of the emirates. As such, UAE analysts argued that Britain gave away the three islands to appease Iran ("UAE Sovereignty Over the Three Islands"). However, once the UAE was formed independently it was not beholden to the agreements made under British rule.

Furthermore, as it pertains more directly to international law the UAE has appealed to the United Nations as it pertains to Iran's occupation of the three islands. This appeal is based in the premise that Iranian occupation of the islands is in direct violation of international. That is international law asserts that sovereignty cannot be through military force, invasion, or coercion law ("Facts About the Three Occupied UAE Islands"). As it pertains to the Tunbs islands, the area was invasaded by Iran and this is confirmed by historic records ("Facts About the Three Occupied UAE Islands"). Additionally as it pertains to the island of Abu Musa, the Memorandum of Understanding Sharjah (UAE) clearly designates that its rights to sovereignty are not abandoned. In addition this memorandum was signed under coercion because there was a threat of invasion mounted by Iran ("Facts About the Three Occupied UAE Islands"). Notwithstanding the fact that the memorandum, "has subsequently been breached substantially and consistently in such a way as to indicate that the Government of Iran has no intention of abiding by its terms ("Facts About the Three Occupied UAE Islands")."

Indeed as it pertains to international law the sovereignty of the UAE over the islands is obvious and evident through historic records. Iran's coercive tactics, invasions and threats are in direct violation of international law which establishes the guidelines through which sovereignty can be and cannot be obtained. With these things understood, the UAE has tried to solve this dispute using arguments that have international law as a foundation. However, Iran has not been cooperative or willing to abide by these laws.

Iran's inability to adhere to these laws is problematic for the region and for the gains made from the establishment of international law in general. This is the case because international law is designed to assist in the maintenance of peace and stability throughout the world. That is, the goal of international law is to foster a global environment that is conducive to mutual cooperation, prosperity, the sharing of knowledge and information. Also, international law is designed to assist in the development of a world that is peaceful and cohesive. When nations such as Iran usurp the authority of international law real security issues arise and global security is compromised.

Overall the issue of the occupied islands of the UAE present international law issue related to sovereignty. If Iran can occupy a territory for more than thirty years even though it is violating international law by doing so, what does this say about the strength of international law and the ability to resolve conflict? One of the primary reasons why Iran is still occupying the territory is because there are no real consequences associated with doing so. The UAE is an extremely peaceful nation and even if it wasn't its military might is extremely limited and it poses no real military threat to Iran. As such Iran continues to act as a bully towards the UAE and the occupation of the islands.

Resolving the conflict

There have been many attempts to try and resolve the conflict existing between the UAE and Iran concerning the islands. In fact British authorities attempted to resolve the conflict before withdrawing for the region, but to no avail (Mobley, 2003). In the years since the British attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatic measure to find a solution to the issue have been abundant. For instance in 1992 as… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "UAE 3 Occupied Islands" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

UAE 3 Occupied Islands.  (2010, May 17).  Retrieved April 11, 2021, from

MLA Format

"UAE 3 Occupied Islands."  17 May 2010.  Web.  11 April 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"UAE 3 Occupied Islands."  May 17, 2010.  Accessed April 11, 2021.