In 127 BC out of the ruins of the Seleucid Greek Empire, Characene was founded at the head of the Gulf in borders similar to present day Kuwait. Its capital was Charax Spasinou, "The Fort of Hyspaosines". The city was an important port in the trade from Mesopotamia to India and provided port facilities for the great city of Susa, further up the Tigris River. Trajan, the Roman emperor, visited Charax in 116 AD, during his invasion of Parthia, and watched the ships leaving for India. He reportedly lamented the fact that he was not younger so that he could, like Alexander, have gone there himself.
Many theories exist as to the source and origin of Sabah power. The Sabahs, because of their role in the caravan (as opposed to sea) trade, developed closer ties with the desert, and as a result became the tax collectors there, an important revenue source. Their rise has also been attributed to administrative functions; control of the harbor required administration and also increased the Shaikh's power by giving him access to resources independent of the desert, hence some independence from tribal alliances. The port also gave the Shaikh a territorial base just as Kuwait's entrepôt economy, oriented to fixed land and sea routes, caused the nomads to become sedentary and desert grazing for shipbuilding, pearling, and long-distance trade. As the people became more linked to the land, the settled became ascendent over the bedu, and the stakes of politics changed. As the political unit was slowly tied to the land, the idea of a people to a place emerged and enhanced the Shaikh's power.
In 1762 Sabah I died and was succeeded by his youngest son, Abdullah. Shortly after Sabah's death, in 1766, the al-Khalifa and, soon after, the al-Jalahima, left Kuwait en masse for Zubara in Qatar. Domestically, the al-Khalifa and al-Jalahima had been among the top contenders for power. Their emigration left the Sabahs in undisputed control, and by the end of Abdullah I's long rule (1762-1812), Sabah rule was secure, and the political hierarchy in Kuwait was well established, the merchants deferring to direct orders from the Shaikh. By the 19th century, not only was the ruling Sabah much stronger than a desert Shaikh but also capable of naming his son successor.
Also during this period, the British established a base in the region. The British became increasingly interested in Kuwait, and the Middle East in general, as the Germans made plans to extend their proposed Berlin-Baghdad railway into Kuwait, where they intended to locate a coaling station.
In January 1899, Mubarak signed an agreement with the British which pledged that Kuwait would never cede any territory nor receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent. In essence, this policy gave Britain control of Kuwait's foreign policy. The treaty also gave Britain responsibility for Kuwait's national security. In return, Britain agreed to grant an annual subsidy of 15,000 Indian rupees (£1,500) to the ruling family. In 1911 Mubarak raised the taxes; therefore, three of wealthy business men "Ibrahim Al-Mudhaf, Helal Al-Mutairi, and Shamlan bin Ali" led a protest against Mubarak and they made Bahrain the main trade point for them which negatively affected the Kuwaiti economy. However, Mubarak went to Bahrain and apologized for raising the taxes and the three business men returned to Kuwait. In 1915 Mubarak the Great died and was succeeded by his son Jaber II Al-Sabah for just over one year until on his death in early 1917 his brother Sheikh Salim Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah succeeded him.
The convention ruled that Shaikh Mubarak had authority over an area extending out to a radius of 80 km, from the capital. This region was marked by a red circle and included the islands of Auhah, Bubiyan, Failaka, Kubbar, Mashian, and Warba. A green circle designated an area extending out an additional 100 km, in radius, within which the qaimmaqam was authorized to collect tribute and taxes from the natives
In May 1920 ibn Saud's Wahhabi Bedouins of Nejd had attacked a Kuwaiti detachment in southern Kuwait, forcing its retreat. In October they raided Jahra, 40km from the capital battles occurred in which the Kuwaitis were mostly victorious. In response, the British deployed gunboats, armored cars and aircraft. The Bedouins withdrew.
In response to the various Bedouin raids, the British High Commissioner in Baghdad, Sir Percy Cox, imposed the Uqair Protocol of 1922 which defined the boundaries between Iraq and Nejd; and between Kuwait and Nejd.
On April 1, 1923, Shaikh Ahmad al-Sabah wrote the British Political Agent in Kuwait, Major John More, "I still do not know what the border between Iraq and Kuwait is, I shall be glad if you will kindly give me this information." More, upon learning that al-Sabah claimed the outer green line of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention (April 4), would relay the information to Sir Percy.
On April 19, Sir Percy stated that the British government recognized the outer line of the Convention as the border between Iraq and Kuwait. This decision limited Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf at 58 km of mostly marshy and swampy coastline. As this would make it difficult for Iraq to become a naval power (the territory did not include any deepwater harbours), the Iraqi King Faisal I (whom the British installed as a puppet king in Iraq) did not agree to the plan. However, as his country was under British mandate, he had little say in the matter. Iraq and Kuwait would formally ratify the border in August. The border was re-recognized in 1932.
In 1941 on the same day as the German invasion of Russia (22 June) the British took total control over Iraq and Kuwait. (The British and Russians would invade the neighboring Iran in September of that year).
By early 1961, the British had withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.
The boundary with Saudi Arabia was set in 1922 with the Treaty of Uqair following the Battle of Jahrah. This treaty also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 km². (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border. In December 1969, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore.
Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement made with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, under the pretense that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters."
Kuwait was then invaded and annexed by Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) in August 1990. Hussein's primary justifications included a charge that Kuwaiti territory was in fact an Iraqi province, and that annexation was retaliation for "economic warfare" Kuwait had waged through slant drilling into Iraq's oil supplies. The monarchy was deposed after annexation, and an Iraqi governor installed.
U.S. President George H.W. Bush condemned the invasion, and led efforts to drive out the Iraqi forces. Authorized by the United Nations Security Council, an American-led coalition of 34 nations fought the First Persian Gulf War to reinstate the Kuwaiti Emir. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a U.S.-led United Nations (UN) coalition began a ground assault on February 23, 1991 that completely removed Iraqi forces from Kuwait in four days. After liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.
Kuwait has spent more than five billion dollars to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990–1991 (see Kuwaiti oil fires).
In 2003, Kuwait served as the major staging base for the coalition forces in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; it was the only Arab nation to publicly support the invasion. Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah Became The Emir of Kuwait in January 18, 2006
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