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Strange Maps

173 – The Hungry Gulf Crocodile


When historians look back on the current conflict in Iraq, they might very well call it the Third Gulf War. The first one would have been the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), considered by many to be the longest conventional war of the 20th century. The second one, then, would be the reconquest of Kuwait by the US and its allies following Kuwait’s invasion and annexation by Iraq (1990-1991). The third one, started in 2003 by the US-led invasion of Iraq proper, is still ongoing.

Some commentators, however, only refer to the second conflict as the First Gulf War, making the present one the Second. Naming stuff is an explosive subject in the Gulf region. In fact, whether it should be called the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Gulf or the Arabo-Persian Gulf is a hotly contested matter, leading most commentators to refer to it simply as ‘the Gulf’.

This cartoon map, nicely morphing the shape of the Gulf into the threatening mouth of a crocodile, is the work of John Wagner, who sent it to me, explaining that it was “created for a newspaper story regarding the perils of US intervention in the Persian Gulf before the First Persian Gulf War. The story, and hence, the art exhibit considerable prescience in the light of current events, although the scope of those under threat in the years since includes many, many others besides a US missile frigate and an oil tanker.”

Because of the confusion explained here, I’m not sure whether Mr Wagner refers to the (1980-1988) or the (1990-1991) conflict. In any case, the cartoon nicely depicts the dangers of navigating and policing a body of water that at the same time was and remains crucial for oil transports and had been mined, and could have been closed off quite easily by blocking the Strait of Hormuz.


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