'Raising the flag': Iran claims to hold 'property rights' in Antarctica; plans South Pole base for 'military work but also scientific work'

TEHRAN - Rear Admiral Shahram Irani announced in a statement aired across the Arab world in September that the continent of Antarctica now belongs to the Islamic Republic of Iran and that the nation plans to "raise the flag there," for "not only military work but also scientific work that needs to be carried out."

Military activity other than research and territorial claims in Antarctica are forbidden under the multinational Antarctica Treaty System, which set up the continent as an international scientific preserve in 1961. Notably, Iran is not among the signatories.

As reported by MEMRI TV, Shahram, the Commander of Iran's Navy, told an interviewer for Channel 1 Iran that Iran possesses a territorial claim to Antarctica based upon its possession of Makran, a coastal city in the southern Iranian region of Balochistan on the Arabian Sea. 

He said, "With regard to the South Pole, as you know…The beautiful beaches of Makran connect us to the South Pole, we have property rights there, and they belong to the public. Our plan is to raise the flag there, inshallah (God willing). It is not only military work but also scientific work that needs to be carried out."

He added, "Our scientists are getting ready for a joint operation, encompassing the efforts of all our people, in keeping with the guidelines of our Leader, inshallah."

The interviewer asked him, "So we can declare that Admiral Irani promises that we will build a permanent base in the South Pole?" to which he affirmatively responded, "Inshallah, inshallah."

Shahram's statement seems to imply the notion that Makran's position approximately 6,407 nautical miles due north from the Antarctic coastline crossing the Antarctic and Indian Oceans plus the Arabian Sea entitles the nation to a territorial claim that would land about 40 miles from Mawson Station, an active Australian research station established in 1954.

The announcement came after the Iranian government celebrated its Navy's first circumnavigation of the globe by the domestically produced Mowj-class Destroyer IRIS Dena and the IRIS Makran, a 15-year-old converted oil tanker reclassed as a "forward base ship" on May 17, 2023. The vessels reportedly completed the journey in 236 days after departing from Bandar Abbas on September 20, 2022, per the Tehran Times.

According to the outlet, Shahram announced the country's "intention to establish a base in the South Pole, aligning with the current global trend of nations expanding their influence in this strategic region." During the address he said the recent naval expedition "emphasized that the 86th flotilla’s global deployment proudly showcased the sacred flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran across the world's oceans, underscoring Iran's global significance."

A U.S. State Department spokesman told Fox News that the recently unfrozen $6 billion in Iranian funds freed up by President Joe Biden may not be used to build a base in Antarctica. "No. Iran’s funds held in Qatar may not be used for any activities in Antarctica," the spokesman claimed. "Those funds can only be used to purchase humanitarian goods, meaning food, medicine, medical devices and agricultural products."

However, at the time, Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi openly mocked any restrictions on how the funds might be used claiming Iran would use the enormous cash reserve "wherever we need it."

Jennifer Dyer, a retired commander of U.S. Naval Intelligence, told the outlet, "In theory, Iran could claim an interest in Antarctica similar to India’s, Australia’s, New Zealand’s or Chile’s (or those of the U.K. and France, for that matter), with their island outposts in the southern hemisphere."


She added, "I can say that raising the flag at the South Pole doesn’t carry any implications in international law. The Antarctic Treaty (which became effective in 1961) has a specific provision that no action by any nation after 1961 can be the basis of a territorial claim on the continent."
 

"Iran isn’t a signatory to the treaty and might try to do frisky things in Antarctica," Dyer observed. "Those things wouldn’t be recognized by other nations, at least as matters stand now. The U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Japan, India, China and Russia are all signatories to the treaty, as are Brazil, and Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand, the ‘jumping off’ nations closest to the continent."
 

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Comments

Afshin

"God willing" this "God willing" that. It's either going to happen or it isn't, they either know what they are talking about or they don't, and nothing here has convinced me of either thing.

Terry

The Gulf War stopped too quickly.....

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