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Which Gulf is It?

The United States has been challenged on its stated policy of neutrality since the start of the Iran-Iraq War, but now Washington is being put to a new test– is it the Persian or Arabian Gulf? Historically, it has been called the Persian Gulf; Iran, as everybody knows, was formerly Persia.

But there are seven Arab countries bordering the Gulf, and the Arabs have long referred to the now troubled body of water as the Arabian Gulf.

Some officials in the Pentagon have been tilting toward the Arab feelings of late and referring to the Arabian Gulf, while others continue to use the historic name.

When State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley was asked about this Tuesday, she replied that “in keeping with our traditional stuffy image we stick with the Persian Gulf.”

She noted that on occasion, Department spokesmen simply say “the Gulf.” Oakley added that the Department has a geographer who decides on usage based on international custom.

Next question — is it the Gulf in the Near East or Middle East?

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