British-Iranian dispute enmeshed in tangled history

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After nearly a week, Iran and Britain are no closer to resolving a territorial-waters dispute that led to the capture and arrest of 15 British navy personnel...

For all the possible political motives...the main cause of the showdown could be a centuries-old dispute over the water border between Iran and Iraq.

It began with the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab between the Persian and Ottoman empires, which divided the land without a careful survey.

Disagreements through the 1980s, and some of the fiercest fighting in the eight-year war between the two nations occurred along this border.

The Associated Press quotes Lawrence G. Potter, an associate professor of international affairs at Columbia University, who says that even to this day the exact demarcation has not been established.

"The problem is that nobody knows where the border is," Potter said."The British might have thought they were on their side, the Iranians might have thought they were on their side."

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