Territorial disputes: The Persian Gulf (Part 26) [Post 186]

Natural resources and the Persian Gulf

The previous post introduced the way in which natural resources may be distributed, and the fact that there are other elements for consideration (for example, exploration and exploitation). How can this work here?

In the case of the Persian Gulf, the many parties (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates) could be co-owners of the natural resources located in the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone.

Undoubtedly, there are several differences amongst Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates. Therein, some of these differences show how the EGALITARIAN SHARED SOVEREIGNTY could work.

The first difference is given by the fact the inhabitants possess the total of natural resources at stake (100%). By applying the egalitarian shared sovereignty, each party receives the rights to the same ideal portion (an equal percentage of the ownership of natural resources, minus original ownership of the inhabitants of the islands in question). 

It would be either over simplistic or naïve to imagine Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates be able to explore and exploit to the same level their shares of natural resources (second difference). However, each of them individually have some elements that put them in a better position in relation to the rest, for example local work force, geographical proximity (third difference).

With all these differences in mind, the party most developed technically and economically could explore and exploit natural resources (as they are in the best position to do it), and both the inhabitants adjacent to areas rich in natural resources could offer the work force for the joint venture and grant privileges in terms of location to companies that take the exploration and exploitation. Thus, less advantaged parties in terms of means for exploration and exploitation could also offer the most advantaged party certain exclusive rights in the sea-zone that overlaps with their jurisdictions.

Continuous assistance from, for example, Saudi Arabia or Iran, to other parties might become a permanent feature (it may lead to domination or an unbalanced relationship).  To avoid this, in the example, Saudi Arabia or Iran, respectively, would have to help the others in developing their means of exploration and exploitation to relatively the same level they have.

At the beginning of the agreement Saudi Arabia or Iran would be contributing more towards the exploration and exploitation and hence have a larger return. However, these uneven distributions of burdens and benefits amongst the parties would only be in the short term. Natural resources and all that they imply in terms of rights and obligations are part of a wider agreement that has a target: the Persian Gulf.

Finally, the way in which each party redistributes the benefits of this shared model within each population is entirely a matter of national or local distribution and hence may have various forms. That is to say, the egalitarian shared sovereignty gives the basic structure of the solution; the details are subject to actual rather than hypothetical negotiation. As an example, the resultant revenues of some or all the joint activities could be destined to a distribution fund benefiting all the inhabitants.


This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (Routledge 2020).Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.


Natural resources and the Persian Gulf and the historical account.

Monday 25th January 2021
Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez
Twitter: @DrJorge_World

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