Kuwait History

HISTORY Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba section of the Anaiza tribe, who wandered north from Qatar. Its first definite contact with the West was between 1775 and 1779, when the British-operated Persian Gulf-Aleppo Mail Service was diverted through Kuwait from Persian-occupied Basra (in Iraq).

During the 19th century, Kuwait tried to obtain British support to maintain its independence from the Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups. In 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah--"the Great"--signed an agreement with the United Kingdom pledging himself and his successors neither to cede any territory nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent. Britain agreed to grant an annual subsidy to support the Sheikh and his heirs and to provide its protection. Kuwait enjoyed special treaty relations with the U.K., which handled Kuwait's foreign affairs and was responsible for its security.

Mubarak was followed as ruler by his son Jabir (1915-17) and another son Salim (1917-21). Subsequent amirs descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled from 1921 until his death in 1950, and Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah from 1950 to 1965. By early 1961, the British had withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new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 sq. km. (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." In August 1990, Iraq nevertheless invaded Kuwait, but was forced out seven months later by a UN coalition led by the United States. Following 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. Although the demarcation is final and reaffirmed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter by UNSCR 833, Iraq has refused to accept and continues to make claims to Kuwait.

source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1994

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