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Shatt al-Arab
Arabic: shattu l-¢arabi
Persian: arvand-rood

Shatt al- Arab, here in Iraq. Photo: Dean Conger/Corbis.
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Tigris Euphrates Baghdad Turkey Iran Iraq Syria Persian Gulf

River in Iran and Iraq (defines the border for the last 74 km), of about 170 km length, ending in the Persian Gulf. In Iran the river is called Arvand-Rood.
Shatt al-Arab is the continuation of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, which joins at Qurna, but has other tributary rivers further downstream, like the important Iranian Karun. The landscape to the south of the Shatt al-Arab is marshy, and has hosted the development of a distinct Arab culture, where isolation and the natural conditions have been the basic factors.
The water of Shatt al-Arab carries so large amounts of silt that the river has to be frequently dredged to remain navigable. This problem has been reduced with the barrage of Samarra.
Among the most important economic activities along the Shatt al-Arab are shipping of oil from Iraq and Iran, and large-scale date production. The two major cities of the river are Abadan in Iran and Basra in Iraq.

1639: Treaty of Zohab, between the Persian and the Ottoman Empires, where the rights of Shatt al-Arab were disputed. This agreement did not manage to close the disagreements on the border issue between the two empires.
1847: Agreement of Ezerum, which was understood so that the Shatt al-Arab was to remain under the Ottomans, while the Persians had navigation rights. At this point Russia and Britain were involved in the conflict, Russia on Persian side and the British on Ottoman side.
1914: New agreements, establishing the border at some points along the middle of the river, but most of the time the border ran along the shores on Persian side, leaving the Ottomans as the strongest party.
1971-75: Iranian- Iraqi disagreements on the border, where Iran occupies a small group of Iraqi islands just at the outlet of Shatt al-Arab.
1980: With old disagreements on the border line in mind, Iraq attacks Iran, and the eight years of war between the two countries start.
1988: Peace between Iran and Iraq, without changes in the borders between the two countries.
1991: After the defeat in the Gulf War, Iraq starts planning for a canal system that will drain out the marshes on the Iraqi side of the Shatt al-Arab. While this is a measure that will bring southern Iraq back to the natural conditions that dominated in earlier and more prosperous times of the region's history, this is all planned without consideration of the interests of the Marsh Arabs.

By Tore Kjeilen