In the aftermath of the visit of the Iranian President to the Island of Abu Musa on 11 April 2012 and the uproar that followed, a fresh look at the issue is warranted. The concern of this paper is not to discuss the three Islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs, but to briefly review the context which gave rise to the issue of the three islands in the first place and influenced its development to date. The paper tries to place the current controversy surrounding the three islands in its historic perspective, explaining how it grew out of antagonism that marked the relationship between the prevailing global power, Great Britain, and the major regional power, Iran, for 170 years. It aims to address the general policy of Britain during its presence in the Persian Gulf, which aimed in part to control all islands of this waterway. It explains how for 170 years, Britain tried to erode Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf, both directly by asserting its colonial rule over Iranian islands and port districts, and indirectly by claiming Iranian islands for its protégés on the Arab littoral. It shows that this tactic applied to almost all other Iranian islands in one way or another and was not limited to the three islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs.

Keywords: Persian Gulf, islands, British control, Islands of Abu Musa and Tunbs, Hengam, Qeshm, Bahrain, Kharg