Kuwati History



Figure 1.--Here Kuwaitis in London are protesing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The press caption read, "Young Protestor: A young girl shouts during a protest in London, Monday, against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Protestors marched from the Kuwati Embassy in west London to the Egyptian embassy to ask for Egyptian help in the Kuwati crisis. The United Nations has called for sanctiins against Iraq and a diplomatic attempt to the occupation of Kuwait." The photograph was dated August 6, 1990.

Kuwait is an Arab shiekdom at the head of the Persian Gulf, wedged between Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south with Iran only a few miles to the east. Kuwait is located south of Mesopotamia, the cradel of civilization. And the reasch of that early civilization extended into surrounding areas, including Kuwait. What is now Kuwait and southern Iraq provided the ports that connected Mesopotamia with the rest of the world, including the Indus Valley civilization as well as Africa and even Egypt. There is evidence of trading with Mesopotamia (3rd mellinium BC). Archeological and historical traces for unknown reasons disappeared (1st millennium BC). Failka Island with fresh water offered an anchorage area for maritime traders connecting the ports lof the Persian Gulf and beyond, including Oman, India and East Africa. Modern Kuwait became known as Kadhima. Kadhima was an important trading station for caravans coming from Persia and Mesopotamia. It thus was a stratehic link in regional trade. For centuries it was the trade link with the Indian Ocean and beyond. It was part of the Arab outreach wich dominated the Indian Ocean until the Europeans rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1487). The European challenge to Arab sea power soon followed. The result was a decline in economies throughout the Middle East as the Arabs and Ottomans were cut out of world trde. The Anizah tribe of central Arabia founded Kuwait City (early 18th century). The ruling dynasty was founded Kuwait as an autonomus shiekdom (1756). 'Abd Rahim of the al-Sabah was the first Kuwait sheik. His descendants continue to be the Kuwaiti ruling family. Kuwait's autonomy was due to its location on the Arab fringe of the Ottoman Empire. Kuwait fearing that the Ottoman Empire was seeking to establish more direct control sought British protection (1896). Kuwait was for millenia a backward, very poor area, primarily because of the arid countryside. This changed after World War II when significant oil production began (1946). Britain ended the protectorate as part of a general decolonization effort (1961). Kuwait became independent, but continued a military relationship with Britain. Iraq upon independence immediately threatened occupy Kuwait, calling it the 16th Province. The British at Kuwait's request sent troops to defend the country. Soon after, the Arab League sent in troops to replace the British. Iraq dropped its claim when the Arab League recognized Kuwaiti independence (July 20, 1961). With independence, Kuwait pursued a neutral policy and attempted to mediate disputes between its larger regional neighbors. Iraqi dictator Sadam Husein bankupted by war with Iran that he launched, demanded increased payments from Kuwait. When the Kuwaitis refused to pay, Sadam renewed Iraq's claim and invded Kuwait (1990). When Sadam ignored President Bush's demands that he withdraw, the President organized an international coalition which liberated Kuwait (1991).

Geography

Kuwait is an Arab shiekdom at the head of the Persian Gulf. Gepography has played a huge role in Kuwati history. It is wedged between Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south with Iran only a few miles to the east.

Pre-history

Little is known about the pre-history of Kuwait. One account describes how, "Standing at the bottom of Mutla Ridge on the road to Bubiyan Island, and staring across the springtime grasslands at the estuary waters beyond, its easy enough to imagine why Stone Age man chose to inhabit the area around Ras Subiyah, on the northern shores of Kuwait Bay. Here the waters are rich in silt from the mighty river systems of southern Iraq, making for abundant marine life." There is no archeologicl evidence confirming the stone age presence of early man, but we know that the first migration east out of Africa followed the coast east toward India and beyond so almost surely must have passed through what is now Kuwait. .

Mesopotamia

Kuwait is located just south of Mesopotamia, the cradel of civilization. And the reasch of that early civilization extended into surrounding areas, eventually aver several millenia including what is modern Kuwait. There is archeological evidence of civiization in Kuwait extending back 4,500 years (2500 BC). And here there is archeological evidence. There are pottery shards, stone walls, and tools. One fascinating find is a drilled pearl for a necklace. And especually important is a a seafaring boat. possibly the earliest such find. The evidence suggests links with the Ubaid people who were part of the Aricultural Revolution that created the first river valley civilization in Mesopotamia. This is due to the unique geographical location of Kuwait, which enabled it to become a land and sea connecting link among the old parts of the world. Its strategic location controls the connecting passages between the different civilizations and markets in the world, making Kuwait the meeting center of these civilizations and developments.

Failaka Island

The Dilmun people from the west were attracted to the mouth of great Tigrus-Eurprates river system and built a substantial large town on Failaka Island. What is now Kuwait and southern Iraq provided the ports that connected Mesopotamia with the rest of the world, including the Indus Valley civilization as well as Africa and even Egypt. Kadima became a land-sea connection between the powers of the ancient world. Athough the overland route to Egypt wa relatively short, moving goods overland at the time was very difficult. There is evidence of trading with Mesopotamia (3rd mellinium BC). Archeological and historical traces for unknown reasons disappeared (1st millennium BC). Failka Island with fresh water offered an anchorage area for maritime traders connecting the ports of the Persian Gulf and beyond, including Oman, India and East Africa. Modern Kuwait became known as Kadhima. Kadhima was an important trading station for caravans coming from Persia and Mesopotamia. It thus was a strategic link in regional trade. For centuries it was the trade link with the Indian Ocean and beyond, part of one of the longest trade routes of history. There were ports closer to India and Africa, but ports like Oman faced a longer trip to Mesopotamia.

Political Control


Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar II bconquered the area sround the Bay of Kuwait. There is consuderable archeological evudence, including Cuneiform tablets uncovered on Kuwait's islands. Babylonian Kings were present in some of Kuwait's islands during the Neo-Babylonian Empire period. Nabonidus appointed a governor on Failaka. Nebuchadnezzar II had a palace and temple in Falaika. Temples dedicated to Shamash, the Mesopotamian sun god, have been fojund on Failaka. The Babylonians were conquered by the Persins, but the cultural imprint continued to be Babylonian.

Greece

Alexander's conquest of Persia brough Helenic culture to Mesopotmia (3rd century BC). The victorious Greeks colonized the Bay of Kuwait And there is evidence of a Greek trading colony on Filaka, fostering trade with India. The remains here are one the best early Bronze Age sites in the world. The Greks called the mainland Larissa and the island of Failaka was called Ikaros. Alexander callled Failaka Ikaros because it resembled the Aegean island. [Strabo and Arrian] Greek arceological remains include a Hellenistic fort and two temples.

Persians

The Persians (Sassanids) conquered the area (224 AD). Theycalled it Meshan. This was a name for the Characene. The Sassanid religion's tower of silence has been found at Shuwaikh Port in Kuwait City, Over centuries, the main settlements shifted from Falak to mainland. The main population center was was around Ras Khazimah, near Al-Jahra near modern Kuwait City (500 AD). At the time the settlement consisted of only a few Bedouin tents set up around a storehouse whoich also served as a kind of fort. It was alargely seasonal settlement. The bedouins moved toward the area as the summer drove them out of the arid interior and then declined as the winter months allowed pastures to develop in the interior. There were some permanent families tht stayed around the fort. Many became prosperous traders.

Arab Islamic Explosion: Kadima

The area of modern Kuwait is part of the Arab outreach wich dominated the Indian Ocean.The expanding Rashidun Caliphate attacked the Sassanid Empire. One of the battles was foughtnear Kazma in modern Kuwait--the Battle of Chains (636). This was the first important Rashidun Muslim battle seeking to expandits boundaries. The Rashidun victory was the beginning of the Aeab outburst from the Arabin Peninsula. Kuwait became the first Islamic city outside of Arabia--Kazima or Kadhima. Kuwait was thus known as Kadima for many centuries and was controlled by Al-Hirah Kingdom, apart of the Caliphate. Kadima became known as a fertile area. Muslim armies were stationed in Kadima because of its strategic location. It was a well-known trading station (9th century). Kadima was a stop for caravans moving from from Persia and Mesopotamia en route to the Arabian Peninsula. In additions tp products from both ensof the caravan rours, producrs were picked up from the sea trade.

Europeans Enter the Indian Ocean

The Portuguse rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1487). The European challenge to Arab sea power soon followed. The result was a decline in economies throughout the Middle East as the Arabs and Ottomans could no longer dominate the sea trade with the It was part of the Arab outreach wich dominated the Indian Ocean.East. This undermined the ecomomy of Kadima

Autonomus Shiekdom (17th-19th Century)

Kuwait began to take its modern shape (early-17th century), although historical documents are limited. Arabs tribesmen, mostly clans of the Anaiza tribe, from the austere Najd (central Arabia) migrated to the areaa of modern Kuwait (early-17th century). This was about a century fter the Ottomn Empire had established control over Arab Lands. Najd is the same area from which Wahabism would eventually emerge. The migrants appear to have seen greater economic prospects in areas closer to the sea, especially at the head of the Persian Gulf. The migrants were called the Utob (menning travelers) , they were families from several Arab tribes. Some of the important families were the Sabah, Khalifa, and Jalahma. There ius evidence of migration from Hadar (Aflaj province in the southern Najd) to Ehsaa, Qatar, and finally to Kuwait. Modern Kuwaitis report tht the land was largely abandoned when they arrived (1613). [Al-Sabah] British reports indicate that Sabah family was ruling the area (1716). The settlement becomes a growing trading port. The Utob and Sabah family began to reshape Kadhima which since the Europeans entered the Indian Ocean had declined severly. They settled along the southern coast of what is now Kuwait arond Jon (1613). The Anizah Tribe led by the Al-Sabah family, emerged as the dominant force. They assumed responsibility for law and order. The area was nominally a province of the Ottoman Empire, but was in reality largely autonomous. The Anizah Tribe founded Kuwait City (early-18th century). The ruling dynasty was founded Kuwait as an autonomus shiekdom (1756). 'Abd Rahim of the al-Sabah was the first Kuwait sheik. His descendants continue to be the Kuwaiti ruling family. Kuwait's autonomy was due to its location on the Arab fringe of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomn had trouble controlling the more distant outposts of their empire. The towns first wall was built (1760). The growing town was comprised of merchant traders who built a dhow and ocean-going fleet. This grew to about 800 boats. Innaddition to the seafaring trade, a cradt industry developed for the local market. Kuwait also became part of a camel caravan route from Baghdad and Damascus to Arabian interior.

British Protectorate (1896)

Sheikh 'Mubarak the Great' (r.1896-1915) fearing that the Ottoman Empire interested in the Berlin to Baghdad Railway project was seeking to establish more direct control over Kuwait. He sought an arrangement with Britain (1896). He negotiated an agreement with Britain. This essentially formalized Kuwait's long tradition as an autonomous sheikdon. Britain was primarily interested in Kuwaiti foreign affairs and safeguarding trade routes through Suez to India. There was no real interfernece in domestic affairs except efforts to prohibit slave trading. Kuwait was for millenia a backward, very poor area, primarily because of the arid countryside. This changed as important oil reserves were discovered by the U.S.-British Kuwait Oil Company. Exploitation was delayed by World War II, but after the War financed the country's development into a modern commercial center. Significant oil production began (1946). Major public-works programme begun (1951). Kuwait's prmitive infrastructure was transformed. In a short period of time, Kuwatis went from abject poverty to a a prosperous existence.

Independence (1961)

Britain ended the Kuwaiti protectorate as part of a general decolonization effort (1961). Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah became the Emir. Kuwait became independent, but continued a military relationship with Britain. Iraq upon independence immediately threatened occupy Kuwait, calling it the 16th Province. The British at Kuwait's request sent troops to defend the country. Soon after, the Arab League sent in troops to replace the British. Iraq dropped its claim when the Arab League recognized Kuwaiti independence (July 20, 1961). The newly drafted constitution provided for the first parliamentary elections in 1963. Kuwait became a full mmber of the United Nations (1963). With independence, Kuwait pursued a neutral policy and attempted to mediate disputes between its larger regional neighbors. Kuwait with its oil wealth it became an important foreign aid donor. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development provides aid throughout the Arab world and non-Arab countries as well. Emir Abdullah died (1965). He was so respected that his aesscension date was made the national day. The new Emir suspended the National Assembly (parliament), mintaining it was not acting in the country's interests (1976). Kuwait helped form the Gulf Cooperation Council through which the member states cooperate on regional security, stability, and progress. With the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war (1980), Sunni Kuwait supports Sunni controlled Iraq strategically and financially against Shi'ia Iran (1980). Saddam bankrupts Iraq and conplains that Kuwait and tthe Saudis are not ptoviding adequate support.

Persian Gulf War (1990-91)

Kuwait's sovereignty was again critically threatened in the aftermath of the Iraq-Iran War (1980-88). Iraqi dictator Sadam Husein bankupted by war with Iran that he launched, demanded increased payments from Kuwait. He also claimed that Kuwait was harming Iraq economically by refusing to reduce its oil production and drive up international prices. When the Kuwaitis refused to meet Sadam's demands, he renewed Iraq's claim and invaded and occpied Kuwait, launching what is now known as the Persian Gulf War (August 1990). The small Kuwati Army was unable to effectively resist. Many Kuwaitis fled to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Meanwhile Sadam and the Iraqi occupation force began a reign of terror in Kuwait. The Iraqi occupying firces plundered the possessions of Kuwatis. When Sadam ignored President Bush's demands that he withdraw, the President organized an international coalition of 30 countries, including many Arab states. Some of Sadam's few supporters in Kuwait were the Palistinisns. After assembling a massive military force, the international coalition led by the United States launched an intense aerial campaign (January 1991). The campsign was cristened Desert Storm. Iraq built up a sophisticatd missle defense of Soviet equipment. This was disabled by the new stealth fighters. Desert Storm became a television event. CNN broadcast round-the-clock coverage of conflict as the figting unfolded. The world saw televised footage from cameras placed on smart bombs as descended toward Iraqi targets. General Norman Schwarzkopf supported by General Colin Powell in the Pentagon became the public faces of Desert Storm. Sadam as part of his efforts to hold Kuwait did his best to destroy the countrty's oil industry, setting oil fields ablaze and pumping oil into the Persian Gulf, creating an ecological disaster. The international coalition launched a ground assault liberated Kuwait in 4 days (February 1991). The Iraqi forces in Kuwait collapsed. The numberof Iraqi deaths are unknown, but are believed to be in the hundreds of thousands of men. Kuwait had to spend more than $5 billion to repair the damage caused by the Iraqis to their battered oil industry.

Liberation

The Emir recalls the National Assembly (1981). Domestic security concerns arise, particularly about Iran's perceived influence over the Shi'ite minority (1985-86). The Governmnt deports thousands of expatriates, many of them Iranian. The Ntional Assembly is dissolved again (1986).

Sources

Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, the ruler of Kuwait, in a letter (March 11, 1913) to the British commissioner at Abu Shaher. He wrote that, "Kuwait was a deserted land, inhabited by our grandfather; Sabah, in 1022 AH, i.e. 1612 AD "






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Created: 1:41 PM 6/12/2014
Last updated: 1:41 PM 6/12/2014