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Iraq’s ‘Gulf 25’ Win Intensifies Need for Deeper Ties with Arab Neighbors

Iraq’s ‘Gulf 25’ Win Intensifies Need for Deeper Ties with Arab Neighbors

Saturday, 21 January, 2023 - 09:15
Iraqi player Ali Fayez during celebrations on the Shatt al-Arab Corniche in Basra, Iraq (Reuters)

Iraqi leaders and officials are avoiding to use the term “Arab Gulf” when congratulating their country’s football team for winning the “25th Arabian Gulf Cup,” but Muqtada al-Sadr has decided to continue challenging Tehran by calling the waterway dividing Iran from its Arab neighbors the “Arab Gulf.”

In a tweet, al-Sadr congratulated the Iraqi squad and used the term “Arabian Gulf.”

Most Iraqi leaders are choosing to placate Iran by referring to the tournament as “Basra Gulf 25.” Iran strongly objects to Iraqis, officials and citizens using the term “Arabian Gulf.”

The Iraqi national team prevailed in claiming its fourth Arab Gulf Cup after defeating Oman 3-2 in the thrilling 2023 final.

“The Arabian Gulf Cup in Basra, which was won by the Iraqi team, brought Iraq back to the Arab ranks,” tweeted al-Sadr.

“We also thank all the Arab teams that participated with us in this tournament,” he added.

“Welcome to the Arab Gulf countries in the Iraq of Arabism,” said al-Sadr.

Hassan Al Ethari, the head of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc, hinted at the possibility of his bloc returning to political action again.

The Sadrist bloc had previously resigned from parliament.

Ethari did not explain the details of the return of his bloc, which had won the highest number of seats in the parliamentary elections in late 2021. But a Friday sermon called for by al-Sadr and attended by thousands of supporters revealed a strong motive among Sadrists to rejoin parliament.

As for the football championship, Iraqi Culture Minister Ahmad Fakkak said it represented a quantum leap in Iraq’s political, economic, cultural and tourism tracks as well as community relations.

“The tournament opened the doors of Iraq and its airports to receive our Gulf and Arab brothers, and at the same time it delivered a message to the international community announcing that Iraq has become a safe area free from terrorism,” Fakkak told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“This championship presented the most wonderful picture of Iraq,” he highlighted, adding that the “Iraqi government has provided all means for the success of this tournament.”

President of the Federation of Journalists of Iraq Moaid Allami, for his part, praised the great success achieved through the tournament.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Arab and Gulf media had succeeded in conveying the true and positive image of Iraq in general and Basra in particular.

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