Iran and Iraq have decided to restore the 1975 Algiers Agreement as part of a drive to improve relations and deal with border disputes along Shatt al Arab waterway. On March 12, Tehran and Baghdad announced in a joint statement on Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s visit to Iraq that “the close relations between the two countries represent a turning point in the building of a strategic partnership,” and stressed the development of relations between the two countries in all fields on the basis of deep cooperation and non-interference in the internal affairs of the two countries”. The joint statement promised joint action to tackle the financing of terrorism and dredging of the Shatt Al Arab.
The statement stressed , published by the website of the Iranian presidency and the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq, and described by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, “historical”, confirmed that the two sides, Iran and Iraq, agreed during a visit of Rouhani on the implementation of the border accord and good-neighborliness signed between the two countries in Algeria in 1975, which was ousted by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in September 1980, three days before the Iran-Iraq war.
In the same context, the statement stated that “for Shatt al-Arab, the two countries declared their serious intention to implement the border and Good-neighborly agreement between them, of 13 June 1975, and the protocols and agreements thereto, in good faith and with precision.”
The statement added that “the two parties decided to start joint operations to clean up the Shatt al-Arab Basin in order to restore the main navigation channel (Taluk), in accordance with the 1975 Convention and the relevant protocol as soon as possible.”
The statement also said that “the platform of Amaya ” Khawar al-AL-Amaya terminal” is Iraqi platform as it was, without affecting the talks of the parties in determining the maritime border between the two countries.”
The question arises here , why the joint final statement did not refer to the two states’ declaration of their serious intention to implement the agreement on the use of the border water resources between Iraq and Iran dated December 26, concerning the sharing of water which is in the interest of the Iraqi side in good faith and accuracy ?! Just as it has pointed out their serious determination to implement the agreement of June 13, 1975, which is in the interest of the Iranian side in good faith and accuracy? Was this ignorance just another fall for the Iraqi negotiator, just as in his acceptance of the word “Al-Amaya” instead of the “Khawr Al-Amaya” port that proves sovereignty over the land and not just the ownership of the platform, or the imbalance of power relations was the reason for that? Finally, why is it not noted that good-neighborliness, as well as the signed agreements, requires Iran not to change the normal flow levels of trans boundary rivers which are not named in the December 1975 agreement, namely the small Zab river and its tributaries, the Diyala River and its tributaries in which Iran intentionally attempted to stop their flow to Iraq, or the Karon River in which the change of its course was the reason of creation the problem of the move of the line of Taluk in the Shatt al-Arab towards the Iraqi coast?
This is the first time in the past 40 years that Iran has declared in a joint statement with the State of Iraq: “The cooperation of the two countries’ in clearing the watercourse on the border of the two countries quickly”, the official name for this watercourse in all official documents is “Shatt al-Arab” “but is known in Iran, especially after the war with” Iraq “as” Arvand Rud. “The date of the last purges of this river, limited between” Iran “and” Iraq “, dated back to 40 years ago, according to the website of Iran Wire ( Iran news Wire ) ,the Iranian opposition, and after a Rouhani ‘s l visit to Iraq, the Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani came to declare that «the visit of President Hassan Rouhani to Iraq resulted in great achievements on all economic , political and security levels ” , he reveals in a speech in the parliament that important, good and very valuable decisions were taken regarding the 1975 Algiers agreement during Rouhani’s visit l to Iraq. “Larijani thanked the religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for his “constructive and fruitful meeting with the Iranian president” and for “the friendly and sister Iraqi government for its hospitality during the visit.”
The visit was preceded by negotiations between Iraqi and Iranian technical delegations, and several rounds in Baghdad and Tehran, headed by the two foreign ministers of the two countries, focused on discussing many topics, especially the topics of drifts in the Shatt al-Arab. Concerning the drifts in the Shatt al-Arab , the Iraqi delegation called for the re-routing of the deep course line , which is good for navigation , Altaluk , to its location according to the coordinates annexed to the River Limits Protocol of 1987, considering it as the border line between the two countries in the Shatt al-Arab, but the Iranian side requested to keep the line in 1975, in addition to the current line of drift as lines of border between the two countries till the end and finishing the purge and cleansing the line of the year 1975, and requested that the period of cleansing twenty years, and during this period , the lines remain as border lines, which was rejected by the Iraqi delegation since the state can not have two lines of the boundaries of two states according to international law, and for the port of Amaya, the Iraqi side suggested that the next agreement stipulate that the port must be under the Iraqi sovereignty but the Iranian side rejected this proposal on the grounds that the port is Iranian and is located within the territorial waters of Iran, and demanded to be placed under the Iraqi administration until the settlement of the issue of the border line, and the following map shows the extent of change in the line Al-Taluk which is in the interest of Iran:
Historically, for the purpose of suppressing the armed conflict between the Kurdish movement and Iraqi government , the Algiers agreement was signed by the mediation of former Algerian President Houari Boumediene between the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Saddam Hussein, Vice-President of the Republic of Iraq at the time. The Iraqi-Iranian border was demarcated under the Constantinople Protocol of 1913, and the proceedings and records of boundary commission of the year 1914 , the delineation of the Talluk (A midline of main course which is good for navigation when the water level is low ) , a river border in the Shatt al-Arab, not the borders established by the 1937 Treaty signed between the two countries, which gave almost full sovereignty to Iraq on the Shatt al-Arab , with the exception of specific areas opposite the city of Muhammara and Abadan Port, which Iran announced unilaterally abolished in 1969. On June 13, 1975, the International Border Treaty and Good Neighborliness between Iraq and Iran were signed, as well as three annexed Protocols on the land and river border and security of border , signed by ministers of foreign affairs at that time –Iraq ( Saadoon Hamadi) , Iran (Abbas Ali Khalatbari) , and the Algerian (Abdelaziz Bouteflika). This treaty confirmed that the land and river border between Iraq and Iran agreed upon is “not to be violated” and that it is permanent and final “(Article 5).
From the review of the documents relating to the border disputes between Iraq and Iran in the 1930s, we find they have discussed the issue of the water dispute , and between March 1930 and September 1931 , there were correspondence between the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Iranian Foreign Ministry on ” The settlement of water issue in Mandali, as well as the sharing of water of the river «Kanjan Jm», which flows towards the Iraqi cities of Zurbatiya and Badra , in order to distribute water in a fair manner between the two sides, and these Iraqi messages indicate that the Iranian military ruler of Mansur Abad had dug a new channel, and build a dam along the course of the river, which affected the water supply on the Iraqi side of the border, and the Iraqi Foreign Ministry called on to form a committee of the two sides to conduct the investigation and the establishment of an agreement on the basis of the former custom in relation to the water ratios that must be obtained by the population on both sides of the border, and the Iranian response was to reject the formation of such a committee to settle the issue of water sharing! And it is impossible to determine the amount of excess water in this river in order to divide it between the two parties! , it is important to mention that the 2014 border demarcation agreement “has not been recognized as official!” And finally deny any change in the quantities of water entering the Iraqi side !Therefore, the Iraqi letters refer to the recurrence of the problem of water in the river “Kjang Jam” in 1932, 1933 and 1934, while continuing to submit complaints in this regard to the Iranian side without any use!
In the British documents, we find the secret of the Algiers agreement between Saddam Hussein and Shah Mohammad Pahlavi, as they created the idea of settling the Kurds in southern Iraq on the sidelines of the 1975 agreement. “London inquires … Algeria refers to restrictions on the Kurds, Saddam Hussein, Iran Shah, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah, in Document No. 80 – Date: 8 April 1975 * From: PK Williams – to: Mr. McClone , Foreign Affairs, highly confidential, Subject : Algerian memorandum on the agreement between Iran and Iraq.
1. Mr. M. Chitour phoned us , Minister in the Algerian Embassy , visited us to present the attached memorandum and the attached letter on the above-mentioned agreement, saying that the same step had been taken with other capitals.
2. As you see, the letter is congratulation on the conclusion of the agreement and expresses the hope that Her Majesty’s Government expresses its support for it. In this regard, it has attracted the attention of Mr. M. Chetour to the answer of the state minister in the House of Commons on 12 March as a general indicator of the support of Her Majesty’s Government, and presented him a copy of that position.
3. I asked Mr. M. Chetour about the role of the Algeria in the implementation of the agreement, he stressed that the Algerians would be represented in the meetings between the Iranians and the Iraqis, but he did not know, or he was not acquainted with any Algerian presence on the ground in the front. I explained to him the status of the popular and parliamentary interest in Britain on the fate of the Kurds. I wondered whether he saw any role for Algeria in this regard, Chetour said: The humanitarian issue in this matter is at the forefront of Algerian thinking, but with such a sensitive situation, there are many restrictions on what can be done.
It remains the agreement that was torn by Saddam Hussein in 1980 on public television and announced the start of the Iran-Iraq war, raising the slogan of defending the eastern gate against the Persians, and called the second (Qadissiya) on the war after the battle of the first Qadisiyah … can the agreement be amended ?
And the size of the concessions made by Iraq to Iran in this agreement , the famous American journalist Randall says : (Diplomats and politicians were shocked by the size of the concessions that Saddam had to make, especially with the most important concession that the shah wanted more than any other, that is, the re-delineation of the borders in the Shatt al-Arab at the midline in the deep border) ,” in exchange for the Shah’s suspension of his support for the Kurdish movement, and jump on the sequence of events, the Kurdish movement returned stronger than before after four years from the signing of this agreement, while Iraq lost its land forever, even if we add to this land what Iraq lost other land in the adventures of Saddam , Iraq has lost 3,000 km 2, more than five times of the size of the( Kingdom of Bahrain ) . The area of Iraq when the coup d’état of 17 July 1968 was 438466 km2, and under the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was 435072 km 2. It is worth to be mentioned that area of Kuwait before the Iraqi occupation was 16500 km 2, after which became 17820 km 2, and so Saddam Hussein lost the strings of the sun and earth together, as he was repeating before: we have grabbed the strings of the sun and will never miss it .
From the point of view of specialists in the Iraqi issue, the Algiers agreement has been a political and economic gain for Iran since its signing. Saddam Hussein may have regretted signing it because he entered a political and economic partner with him in the Shatt al-Arab, the Iranian ports and the free zone (Arvand Rud ) on Shatt al-Arab have been activated in previous and current years . Iran has planned to divert its ports in Muhammara to take advantage of commercial services for Iraqi traders and its work will be more active after after the rail link with Basra.
The fees that Iran paid to Iraq prior to the Algiers Convention for the passage of vessels in the Shatt al-Arab are a lot. On the other hand, the ports of Iraq on the Shatt al-Arab less productive and work because it depends on the land ports by trucks , thus increasing shipping costs while it is supposed to plan to increase the sidewalks on the Shatt al-Arab side of Iraq to compensate for the differences in financial fees paid by Iran before 1975 … And planning to the rail link or land link by truck with Turkey because our land more streamlined and smooth for the transport, and the question arises in this context why was the spirit returned to the Algiers Convention ?
Shatt al-Arab, the most important navigational river allows Iraq to connect with the hot water, and Iran shares about 80 km, of 170 km, the water border of the Shatt al-Arab. The “Algiers agreement” ended the old differences between the two countries on the demarcation of water borders and the division of sovereignty between the two countries.
In the years after the war, Iraq refused to carry out any purges of the river claiming that the role on the “Iran” first, in return, Iran” required recognition of “Iraq” to the agreement between the two countries in return to accept the cleanse of the river, and although Iraqi officials describe the agreement as ” “The” historical “, but they ignore it by all the ways, Iraqi officials did not recognize , in the negotiations to resolve differences on the” Shatt al-Arab, “this border agreement, Iraq refused to accept the name of” the Committee to coordinate the implementation of the Shatt al-Arab agreement , “the Iraqi delegate of the negotiations with “Iran” on the “Shatt al-Arab” said : “This committee is concerned with how to decide on navigation and management of the river, and then can choose another name. ”
In contrast, Iran refuses to cleanse the river for 30 years ago with the aim of forcing Iraq to abide by the demarcation agreement, which has hindered the development and economic stagnation in the Shatt al-Arab area and the desire of Iraq to ignore the agreement without declaring the official withdrawal , made the “Shatt al-Arab” one of the most important differences between the two countries after the end of the war, but, as part of the visit of Iranian President, “Hassan Rouhani” to “Baghdad,” the Iraqi Prime Minister announced , in a joint statement with the Iranian President, the stress on the implementation of Algers treaty . “Now, after the agreement of the two countries to clear the course of the” Shatt al-Arab ” , It is necessary to return to the maps of 1975, to clarify the path and activate the Committee to coordinate the implementation of the Treaty of the Shatt al-Arab, and the organization of border guard posts, and impose a tax Tariff on the passage of ships, and restore the situation to what it was three years before the “Iranian revolution.”
The important thing that Iraq has benefited from the renewal of the Algiers Convention is the clearing of the navigational waterway , that is, the cooperation in the cleaning of the Shatt al-Arab from the gorges that have burdened the navigation towards Basra, because most of the sunken or damaged ships remained in the riverbed in the Iraqi side where the ports of Basra did not absorb the large trade movement when the war broke out , and most ships wait for weeks until they are unloaded and docked and most of these vessels wait for weeks and most vessels and because of the silt have turned to islands that expand annually and then plants grow over it .
Saving the Shatt al-Arab from environmental pollution and improving the depths will have a positive impact on navigation, but it will have a negative impact on irrigation unless Iran opens the Karun streams to the Shatt al-Arab and turns the streams of drains into the sea, unfortunately this is not being discussed , and similarly , Iraq did not demand the installation of the share of Shatt al-Arab water from the Karun.
Despite this, there are important observations on this agreement, if the Iraqi side overlooked them, and did not deal with the sense of responsibility, talk about any gains from that Convention become worthless, and the most important of these observations are the following:
• The borders were drawn in the Shatt al-Arab according to the River Boundary Protocol of 1975, in the middle of the deep navigable channel and they are marked on maps , existed in the United Nations with the 1975 Treaty.
• The Protocol provides that when natural changes occur in the course of a river, the boundary line follows these changes.
• If the changes are abnormal, the affected party must require , within two years of the occurrence of the drift, the return of the course to its previous place.
• Iraq was unable to submit an application during that period because of the majeure force of the outbreak of war between the two countries, which was followed by strained relations between them until 2003.
These conditions are considered a majeure force which prevents the application of the provisions of the Agreement in accordance with the rules of international law.
• Changes in the course of the river were the result of abnormal factors.
• So the cleansing of river (river dredging) must be in the old line of “Taluk” line, and what the parties agreed upon during the visit of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Iraq is contrary to the text of the River Border Protocol and the rules of international law and good neighborliness, which the Iraqi negotiator must reject and renegotiate or to resort to international arbitration or jurisdiction.
And if these observations are not taken in to consideration, Iran has given everything, and Iraq has lost everything, therefore, in order to preserve Iraq’s supreme interests, it is necessary to re-negotiate with the Iranians to find just solutions that respect the interests of the two countries. And the results of the negotiations should not be like the zero theory of International relations, meaning that there is a winning state and a lost state, but the two countries must profit.
If the negotiation fails to do so, international arbitration or arbitration must be sought so that the Algiers agreement does not turn into an Iraqi water disaster.
In sum, historically, countries hold agreements either in their bilateral or collective form to achieve the objectives of those countries under it. Therefore, Iraq’s interest in concluding bilateral or collective agreements with its neighboring countries must take into account the interests of Iraq and the interests of those countries equally and don’t surpass the rights of any State in that Convention, the agreements concluded in the light of the imbalance of power, is therefore in the interest of a State at the expense of another State, such agreements do not serve the interests of States in the long run, because they exploited the vulnerability of that state , and will not survive If conditions change for the benefit of the weak state.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies