Seizure of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs

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Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs Dispute
Strait of Hormuz.jpg
Map of the Strait of Hormuz
Date November 30, 1971
Location Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs in the Persian Gulf
Result Decisive Iranian victory
Iran takes over Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs
Iran Iran  Sharjah
Commanders and leaders
Iran Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Sharjah (emirate) Sheikh Khalid III ibn Muhammad al-Qasimi
Casualties and losses
None reported

The Seizure of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs occurred on 30 November 1971 when British forces withdrew from the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb. Immediately following British withdrawal from these islands, Iranian marines laid siege to and gained territorial control of the islands for the first time since 1921, when the islands were first captured by Britain from Iran.[1]


The Tunbs were in the dominions of the kings of Hormuz from 1330 until 1507 when they were invaded by Portugal. The Portuguese occupied the island until 1622, when they were expelled by Shah Abbas. The islands were occupied by the British Empire on 7 June 1921, and they were put under administration of the Emirate of Sharjah. In 1971, shortly before the end of the British protectorate and the formation of the UAE, Iran assumed partial control of Abu Musa under an agreement of joint administration together with Sharjah. A day later on 30 November 1971, Iran seized the Islands and took control over them.[1][2][3]

The Memorandum Of Understanding[edit]

The Operation[edit]

Sheik Saghar (the brother of the Ruler of Sharjah) welcoming Iranian troops to Abu Musa and visiting Iran's Artemis navy ship, 1971

On 30 November 1971 the Imperial Iranian Navy seized the islands under small resistance of the tiny Arab police force stationed in there.[5] Despite the agreement between Sharjah and Iran, Ras Khaima ruler resisted the Iranian troops that were sent to the Tunbs.[6] The Iranians were instructed not to open fire, and the first (and according to some sources only) shots came from the Arab resistance which killed three Iranian marines and injured one. According to some sources, the Arab civilian population of Greater Tunb was then deported, but according to others the island had already been uninhabited for some time earlier.[5]


In the following decades, the issue remained a source of friction between the Arab states and Iran. Negotiations between the UAE and Iran in 1992 failed. The UAE have attempted to bring the dispute before the International Court of Justice,[7] but Iran refused. Tehran says the islands always belonged to it as it had never renounced possession of the islands, and that they are part of Iranian territory.[8] The United Arab Emirates argue that the islands were under the control of Qasimi sheikhs throughout the 19th century, whose rights were then inherited by the UAE after 1971. Iran counters by stating that the local Qasimi rulers during a crucial part of the 19th century were actually based on the Iranian, not the Arab, coast, and had thus become Persian subjects.[9] In 1980, the UAE took its claim to the United Nations.[10] But it was rejected by the UN Security Council, and the case was closed.[1][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mojtahedzadeh, Pirouz (1993). Countries and boundaries in the geopolitical region of the Persian Gulf. The Institute for Political and International Studies. ISBN 964-361-103-5. 
  2. ^ Mojtahedzadeh, Pirouz (1999). Security and territoriality in the Persian Gulf. RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-7007-1098-1. 
  3. ^ a b Mojtahedzadeh, Pirouz (2006). Boundary Politics and International Boundaries of Iran. Florida, USA: Universal Publishers Boca Raton. ISBN 1-58112-933-5. 
  4. ^ Mojtahedzadeh, Pirouz (July 1995). THE ISLANDS OF TUNB AND ABU MUSA. UNIVERSITY OF LONDON. 
  5. ^ a b Schofield, Richard. Borders and territoriality in the Gulf and the Arabian peninsula during the twentieth century. In: Schofield (ed.) Territorial foundations of the Gulf states. London: UCL Press, 1994. 1-77. References on p. 38.
  6. ^ Rubin, Barry M. (2002). Crises in the Contemporary Persian Gulf. Routledge. pp. 44–45. ISBN 9780714652672. 
  7. ^ Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK)
  8. ^ Safa Haeri, [4]
  9. ^ Schofield: 35-37.
  10. ^ Article about Abu Musa in the Trade & Environment Database of the American University, Massachusetts[dead link]

External links[edit]