State of Kuwait
The State of Kuwait was originally referred to as 'Qurain' (or Grane) in the early seventeenth century.
This name is derived from the Arabic words 'Qarn' which means a high hill and 'Kout' meaning a fortress.
Some historians believe that Barrak, Sheikh of the Bani Khalid tribe built Kuwait.
Located at the upper northwestern corner of the Arabian Gulf, has an area of 17,818 square kilometres and is bounded on the west and north by Iraq, on the east by the Arabian Gulf, and on the south by Saudi Arabia.
Topographically, Kuwait is mainly flat desert land, the only relief areas being Muttla Ridge which fringes the north coast of the Kuwait Bay, and the Ahmadi Range, which runs between Burgan Oilfield and the sea.
A territory of 5675 square kilometres was shared by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as a neutral zone until 1969, when a political boundary was agreed upon. Each of the two countries administers one-half of the territory called the Divided Zone, but, as before, they share equally the revenues from oil production in the entire area. While the boundary with Saudi Arabia is defined, the border with Iraq remains disputed.
The capital city of Kuwait, a true desert metropolis, is located on the southern shore of Kuwait Bay. With almost all of its population concentrated in or near the capital, Kuwait is one of the world’s most highly urbanized states. Its origin is usually placed at about the beginning of the 18th century, when the Banu ‘Utub, a group of families of the ‘Anizah tribe in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, migrated to the area that is now Kuwait. The foundation of the autonomous sheikhdom of Kuwait is dated from 1756, when the settlers decided to appoint a Sheikh from the Sabah family. During the 19th century, Kuwait developed as a thriving, independent trading community. Towards the end of the century one ruler, ‘Abdallah II (reigned 1866-1892), began moving Kuwait closer to the Ottoman Empire, although never placing his country under Ottoman rule. This trend was reversed with the accession of Mubarak the Great, who came to power by assassinating his brother Abdallah, an act of uncustomary political violence in Kuwait. Mubarak cultivated a close relationship with Britain in order to keep other European powers and the Ottomans at bay. An 1899 treaty granted Britain, control of Kuwait’s foreign affairs. Following the outbreak of World War I, Kuwait became a British protectorate.
At the 1922 Conference of Al Uqayr, Britain negotiated the Kuwait-Saudi border, with substantial territorial loss to Kuwait. A 1923 memorandum set out the border with Iraq based on an unratified 1913 convention.
The first Iraqi claim to Kuwait surfaced in 1938, the year oil was discovered in the sheikhdom. Although neither Iraq nor the Ottoman Empire had ever actually ruled Kuwait, Iraq asserted a vague historical title. That year it also offered some rhetorical support to a merchant uprising against the Emir. Following the failure of the uprising called the Majlis Movement, Iraq continued to put forth a claim to at least part of Kuwait, notably the strategic islands of Bubiyan and
On June 19, 1961, Britain recognized Kuwait’s independence. Six days later, however, Iraq renewed its claim, which was now rebuffed by first British, then Arab League forces. It was not until 1963 that a new Iraqi regime formally recognized both Kuwait’s independence and, subsequently, its borders, while continuing to press for access to the islands.
The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-90 represented a serious threat to Kuwait’s security. Kuwait saw no alternative to providing Iraq substantial financial support and serving as a vital conduit for military supplies. Iran attacked a Kuwaiti refinery complex in 1981 and inspired terrorist acts of sabotage in 1983 and 1986. In September 1986 Iran began to concentrate its attacks on gulf shipping largely on Kuwaiti tankers. This led Kuwait to invite both the Soviet Union (with which it had established diplomatic relations in 1963) and the United States to provide protection for its tankers.
The effect of the war promoted closer relations with Kuwait’s conservative Gulf Arab neighbours - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. With them, in 1981, Kuwait had formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to develop closer cooperation on economic and security issues. With the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1990, Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations began to deteriorate. On August 2, 1990, Iraq unexpectedly invaded and conquered the country.
Although Iraq advanced several arguments in support of its actions, the basic causes of the invasion of Kuwait were the perennial ones that had led earlier Iraqi regimes to seek the same result: the desire to control Kuwait’s oil and wealth; the military benefits Iraq would gain from a greater frontage on the Arabian Gulf; the urge to Pan-Arabism, Iraq seeing the acquisition of Kuwait as the first step toward the union of all the Arabs under Iraqi leadership; the prestige such an adventure, if successful, could confer on the political leadership in Baghdad; and the feeling held by most Iraqis (despite its historical inaccuracy) that Kuwait was genuinely part of Iraq. On August 8, Iraq announced the annexation of Kuwait, in spite of condemnations from the United Nations, the major world powers, the Arab League, and the European Community.
On January 16-17, 1991, a coalition of nations, acting under the authority of the United Nations and led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, began an air war against Iraqi forces. Just before the ground war began on February 24, Iraqi troops set afire hundreds of Kuwait’s oil wells, creating an unprecedented ecological disaster. By February 27 Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi control. As hundreds of thousands of Kuwaitis returned from foreign refuges to their homes in May, the full extent of the damage created by the invasion, looting, and war became clear.
The invasion and occupation affected every aspect of Kuwaiti life. More than half the population fled during the war. Although most nationals returned during 1991, many non-nationals, notably the Palestinians, were not permitted to do so.
The survival of the Iraqi regime in Baghdad spawned an ambient fear among the people of Kuwait that the events of 1990-91 would someday be repeated.
In 1992 a United Nations commission formally delimited the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border in accordance with UN Security Council Ceasefire Resolution 687 (which had reaffirmed the inviolability of the Iraq-Kuwait border). The commission’s findings were generally favourable to Kuwait, moving the Iraqi border 0.035 mile northward in the area of Safwan and slightly north in the area of the contested Al-Rumaylah oil field, thereby giving Kuwait not only an additional six oil wells but also part of the Iraqi naval base of Umm Qasr. Kuwait accepted the UN’s border designation; however, Iraq rejected it and continued to voice its claim to Kuwaiti territory.