Kuwait has been one of the most open political systems in the Gulf. It included a parliament with legislative powers. But the 83-year-old ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has the final say in state affairs and picks the prime minister who in turn selects a cabinet.
In Kuwait, like rest of the Gulf countries, ruling the country is a family business. Kuwait and all other Gulf countries were brought under the security umbrella of United States in the aftermath of 1991 US military strikes and Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait.
Since then Kuwait has been hosting bulk of US ground forces in the region and thus the Emir is not in a position to defy the US which has unleashed a global campaign against Islam and Muslims under its designs to ensure its global military design to control the world. One should also not forget that bulk of the ruling family wealth in the Gulf countries were invested in US and Europe.
Thus the showdown is likely to deepen with serious repercussion in the rest of the Gulf where absolute rulers’ control everything other than the air people breathe. The people remain suppressed despite economic prosperity and the rulers survive due to the protection of US and European masters. Kuwaitis have been a relatively educated and politically active people in the entire Gulf .In the parliament opposition legislators often directly challenge government officials over alleged corruption and power abuses.
Many now begin to ask whether the Arab Uprising which toppled oppressive dictators will spread to Kuwait. This is how political changes began in the other countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya and now in Syria. At the early stage people asked for political changes, but tyrants decided to silence these calls by oppressive means. In the case of Egypt people demanded a regime change from day one. The result was tyrants being overthrown in humiliation paving the way for new governments fast changing the political map of the Middle East.
Now the question is whether Kuwaiti ruling family will learn any lesson from recent history and opts for a dialogue or resort to oppressive measures which, perhaps, may trigger popular unrest and turn this oil rich country into another killing field. Kuwait is a Sunni Muslim country .Therefore there is no question of the rulers accusing Iran of using Shiites to foment trouble. On the other hand Kuwait has relatively stable relations with Iran despite regime’s dependency on US for its survival.
Rulers of Gulf in general were tribal leaders. People had free access to them. In fact often unassuming tribal rulers were one among the people before the oil wealth. However with the oil wealth things changed. European colonial masters played a crucial role in dividing the rulers and the people. In the aftermath of the oil wealth ruling families came to depend heavily on their western masters who managed to separate the rulers and the ruled.
Although people were provided with free housing, electricity, water, education, health and even marriage allowance to help raise the standard of the poverty stricken and illiterate masses the gap between the rulers and the ruled continued to widen. Unlike in the past today the present generation is educated .They see how people worldwide exercise freedom and ensure their rights. They also see how accountable the rulers have been in the other countries. In the midst came the Arab uprising which provides food for thought for people in the Gulf.
In private conversations people accuse their rulers of looting the nation’s wealth. They complain of the presence of large expatriate community which has serious bearing on their traditional life- affecting their religious, social and cultural life. They resist their rulers’ also see how accountable the rulers have been in the other countries. In the dependency on US and UK in running the affairs of their countries and vehemently oppose collaborating with US and European invasions and destruction of Muslim countries and the indiscriminate massacre of innocent Muslims.midst came the Arab uprising which provides food for thought for people in the Gulf.
The people in the Gulf also detest their rulers wasting the country’s wealth on purchasing arms knowing very well that they cannot fight any country in the region. Only weapons industry, predominantly owned by Jews, and the arms merchants together with the ruling family members benefit by such purchases. Saudi Arabia, for example, ordered $60 billion worth of arms in 2012 and last month Qatar and the United Arab Emirates ordered to buy more than $ 7.6 billion in US missile technology.
Adding fuel to this anger liquor flows freely and prostitution has become an industry. List of complains continues and the people helplessly watch their rulers’ misdeeds with great frustration. It was under such circumstance comes opposition demonstration in Kuwait which has all the potentials to trigger social unrest engulfing the entire Gulf including Saudi Arabia.
It was the creation of the European Colonial powers which divided the oil rich Gulf and the Middle East in the aftermath of World War 1 to serve their own interests. Kuwait’s history cannot be traced back to more than 300 years. It all started in the aftermath of the famine in the region around 1700s when Bedouin tribes began their search for new areas for water and vegetation -both rare in the extreme and harsh desert climate.
It was this migration, around 1716, brought the Utab family from the Anza tribe of Saudi Arabia, then called Najd, to what is now called the Kuwait city where they settled down. There was no historic record as such showing the reason for selecting this location without water and greenery. But many believe that it was the natural harbor and the Gulf waters, rich in fish and pearl, attracted them as they found wealth in the sea. They took to sailing and trade although remained attached to the desert due to their nomadic discordancy. The result was a quick change from nomadic culture to pearl diving, trade and travel. They lived a very hard life in mud houses and poverty was part of their life. Extreme poverty and unbearable desert climate made life miserable and caused early deaths.
The society was molded in Islamic environment which forbidden smoking, drinking and even music and dancing. Their constant visits to other ports for trade broadened their outlook over the years .Some men took to sea for fish, pearl and trade while others kept themselves busy with desert camel caravans to sell their goods. Women devoted their time for children and domestic duties, purchasing food or cloth and meeting other women in the neighborhood.
This lifestyle continued uninterrupted till the discovery of oil in 1938 and there was no mention in any record of the family name of the first ruler except calling him a sheikh. The first reference of the present ruling family was made in 1752 when a tribal council elected Sabah bin Jaber to administer justice. Since then the Al Sabah family had been ruling except for an incident in 1896 when the two brothers, Muhammad and Jarrah, forced their half- brother Mubarak into the desert to look after the Bedouins and controlled the city.
Meanwhile a rich Kuwaiti merchant of Iraqi origin ,Yusuf Ibrahim, who was close to the Ottoman Empire Governor of Basra, conspired to take control of Kuwait. Thinking that his two brothers were too coward, Mubarak raided his brothers’ houses one night in June 1896 and shot at Muhammad who was sleeping on the roof. Surviving the first shot Muhammad cried for mercy and begged his brother for life but merciless Mubarak’s second son shot and killed him while Mubarak’s other son stabbed Jarrah to death. Yusuf Ibrahim sought the assistance of the Ottoman governor in Basra and Mubarak contacted the Ottoman Governor in Baghdad before they both contacted the British who were bent on destroying the Ottoman Empire.
Shrewd Mubarak was successful and Kuwait prospered during his rule -1896-1915. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, after the First World War, the British Empire started its maneuverings to gain a foothold in the Middle East and cultivated the rulers in Kuwait to keep France, Germany and Russia out.
The result was the Britain- Kuwait agreement, in 1899, which gave Britain control over Kuwait’s foreign affairs. This was followed by the establishment of a protectorate by Britain over the tiny state of Kuwait to protect its interest in the Middle East. In the aftermath of the First World War the victorious allies-Britain, France and Russia- partitioned and carved out the Ottoman Empire with numerous agreements which paved the way for many border disputes, including the Iraqi- Kuwaiti, in the twentieth century.
This is how the demarcation of Iraqi Kuwaiti border was done. Tired of bickering among Iraqi, Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti governments the then British High Commissioner in Iraq Sir Percy Cox simply took a pen in hand and made a new map giving some of Kuwaiti territory to Iraq , some to Saudi Arabia and a bit of land from Saudi Arabia to Iraq. Iraq was unhappy with small amount from Kuwait and Saudi ruler Abdul Aziz al Saud was furious at the loss of any land. Kuwait was told by Sir Percy that it was too small a country and should not antagonize its large neighbors.
In 1945 Kuwait was admitted to the Arab League despite threats from Iraq. However Iraq continued to claim Kuwait as its nineteenth province. A year later, on June 30, 1946, the first oil tap was turned on in Kuwait and this was also the historic turning point in the life of its long suffering people. The oil wealth brought about an overall economic boom transforming Kuwait, within years, into a modern city state with all the sophisticated facilities including an advanced economic and social welfare system.