History of Kuwait:
Kuwait ‘s early beginnings go as far back as the early 17th century, known at the time as al-Qurain. It appeared in a Dutch map dated in the mid-17 th century, the earliest know map showing present-day Kuwait as al-Qurain. At the time, it was under the control of the house of Khaled, who dominated the eastern part of the Arabian peninsula. The name Kuwait, which is derived from Kout (fort), came about when the sheik of the house of Khaled, Barrak, built a fort in al-Qurain in the latter part of the 17 th century as a summer house In the early 18 th century, several clans from the Al Aniza tribe migrated to the northern shore of the Gulf from the Najd, their famine-stricken homeland in central Arabia, and settled in Kuwait, a small village at the time. With the rule of the house of Khaled weakening, the Al Sabah emerged as the dominant clan, and were formally established as rulers of Kuwait in 1752. These new settlers combined to create an oligarchic merchant principality, whose economic prosperity was based on fishing, pearling, and trade.
Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Al Sabah proved adept at the kind of maneuvering that was necessary for a small sheikdom to survive next to powerful Saudi, Rashidi, and Ottoman neighbors. By the late nineteenth century, however, fears of growing Ottoman influence led Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah or “Mubarak the Great” (r.1896-1915) to enter into an agreement with Great Britain, which effectively established Kuwait as an autonomous British protectorate.
Under the 1899 agreement, Kuwait maintained control over its internal affairs, while Great Britain assumed responsibility for the country’s security and foreign relations. The British also provided advisers to staff the country’s nascent modern bureaucracy. Another British legacy is Kuwait’s borders, which were established in agreements in 1913 and 1922. Iraq affirmed its border with Kuwait in its 1932 application to the League of Nations for membership as an independent state.
In the mid-1930s work began on the development of Kuwait’s petroleum industry, the basis of the country’s modern prosperity.
Oil was first struck in Kuwait in 1938, but the development of the industry was interrupted by World War II. By 1945, drilling had resumed on a large scale, and the commercial export of crude oil began in June 1946. Oil production and revenues grew rapidly, fueling a dramatic expansion of the entire economy. By the 1960s Kuwait enjoyed a level of economic development that made it one of the richest states in the world on a per capita basis.
On June 19, 1961 Kuwait gained full independence from Britain. Iraq initially refused to accept Kuwait’s independence and threatened to annex its neighbor, falsely alleging that Kuwait had once been part of Iraq. Iraq’s military threats resulted in a deployment of British troops, which were soon replaced by an Arab League force, and the crisis subsided. In 1963 Kuwait became a member of the United Nations, and later that year Iraq agreed to abandon its threats and recognize Kuwait’s independence and borders in a treaty signed by both governments (although there were border clashes in 1973).
In the 1980s Kuwait’s stability was shaken by the Iran-Iraq War, terrorist attacks in Kuwait City, and economic difficulties caused by a worldwide oil glut and the 1982 collapse of the country’s unofficial stock market, the Suq Al-Manakh. Kuwait’s sovereignty and continued existence were critically threatened when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait on August 2, 1990, claiming that Kuwait was harming Iraq economically by refusing to reduce its oil production. Many Kuwaitis were forced to flee to Saudi Arabia and other countries. In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait set up a government in exile. As an international coalition of 30 states, led by the United States, prepared to reverse the occupation, Iraq announced it had annexed Kuwait, claiming again that Kuwait had been historically part of Iraq. The Iraqis were forcibly ejected at the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm on February 26, 1991. Departing Iraqi troops looted homes and businesses, and inflicted serious damage on Kuwait’s oil industry and environment by setting ablaze 742 of its 1,080 oil wells and allowing crude oil to flow into the desert and the sea. They also took thousands of Kuwaiti prisoners with them.
In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted Kuwaiti sovereignty as well as a UN-demarcated border. Nevertheless, Iraq has provided only partial compensation for property and environmental damage sustained during the occupation and has refused to comply with U.N. resolutions stipulating that Iraq repatriate all prisoners of war. Eight years after Kuwait’s liberation, Iraq continues to hold 605 prisoners of war (of whom 570 are Kuwaiti citizens), many of whom were kidnapped from their homes or were arrested at random on the streets during the Iraqi occupation.
Ten percent of oil revenues are, by law, put into a trust, called Future Generations Fund, to prepare for the day that Kuwait’s massive oil reserves dry up. Also on the political agenda are women’s rights: in May 1999, the Emir decreed that women would for the first time be able to vote and run for office in the 2003 general elections, but the parliament rejected that law. That same year saw Kuwait hit the world’s center stage once again, when great numbers of mainly US and British troops gathered in the emirate in readiness for the invasion of Iraq. As a result, pro-Islamic groups gained ground in parliamentary elections later that same year.
Landmines In Kuwait:
Today many resources are being used to remove land mines and clean up environmental damage left over from the Iraqi retreat, subsidized by the UN to the tune of US$5.9 billion.
In Kuwait, the open desert areas remain contaminated by landmines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) mostly left over from the 1990-1991 Gulf War. In addition, parts of the desert and coastal islands used for military exercises contain UXO. The most important of these areas are in and around Al Ederah and on Bubiyan Island. In early 2003, landmines and UXO were discovered in the Sabiyah area in northeast Kuwait.
Kuwait collected and destroyed 28,262 pieces of ammunition of different types between January and December 2003, equating to 134.3 metric tons from an area of approximately 154.6 square kilometers. This included: 15 antipersonnel mines, five anti-vehicle mines, 133 cluster bomb submunitions (22 BLU/63, 60 Mk. 118 Rockeye, and 51 M42 DPICM), 6,788 grenades, 3,032 RPG, 6,810 small arms ammunition items, 57 40mm mortar bombs, 1,889 60mm mortar bombs, and 1,279 82mm mortar bombs. On 4 May 2004, a private demining company working in the western part of Bubiyan Island discovered Mk. 188 Rockeye submunitions.
Between 21 March and 20 December 2002, 39 landmines (32 antipersonnel mines and seven anti-vehicle mines) were detected and destroyed in situ in different parts of the country, including the oil fields of Wafra, Abdaliyah, Kabd, and Salmi.
Between 20 February 2001 to 20 February 2002, 25 antipersonnel mines and 11 anti-vehicle mines were cleared and destroyed.
An estimated 250 antipersonnel and anti-vehicle mines were cleared in the year 2000.
From the end of the conflict in 1991 until December 2002, 10.18 metric tons of antipersonnel mines and 6.57 metric tons of anti-vehicle mines were discovered and destroyed by mine clearance and explosive ordnance disposal teams in Kuwait.
Landmines and UXO of different types are concealed underneath a black cover of crude oil, tar mats, and oil droplets in Kuwaits oil field areas, which cover about seven percent of the surface area of the country. This contamination resulted from the oil well fires in January and February 1991. An unknown amount of mines and UXO are hidden under the sands in certain areas of the country, particularly along the natural sand corridors. Considerable numbers of antipersonnel mines also apparently remain hidden in the muddy inter-tidal flats of Kuwait Bay.
From July to August 2003, the Kuwait Ministry of Defense carried out a UXO clearance program in small strips along the oil lakes for scientific research projects (such as soil sampling). The program cleared approximately 66.6 hectares. Staff included the Kuwait Ministry of Defenses explosive ordnance clearance personnel, along with four to six Bangladeshi personnel equipped with FEREX 4.1 ordnance locators. The Environmental Chemical Corporation provided a senior explosive ordnance disposal technician project manager to perform quality assurance, and also aided in development and implementation of UXO clearance procedures and in identification of UXO. The clearance team found evidence of UXO including parts of rocket propelled grenade and expended rocket propelled grenade motor, as well as three large bomb fragments below the dry oil contamination.