Kuwait. According to Countryaah, the year was marked by a power struggle between the emir and the opposition, where a number of former MPs were leading. In a recent election on July 27 – the third parliamentary election in just over a year – clan-based candidates advanced most strongly, while Shia Muslim politicians lost half of their seats. Three Liberal candidates also took a seat among the 50 parliamentarians – previously no member had been classified as a Liberal. The election had been announced since the country’s constitutional court had ruled that the last parliamentary election, held in December 2012, was invalid because the election commission which oversaw it was not legal.
The Kuwait Parliament is one of the more influential Arab worlds. legislative powers and power to oust government members. However, the Emir has veto rights on many issues and appoints the government, where his relatives dominate.
A number of regime critics, several of them former MPs, were sentenced during the winter and spring to multi-year prison terms for defaming the emir, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah sacked, but most were pardoned at the end of July. However, an acquittal against the high-profile opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak had been appealed to the higher court and he was therefore not pardoned. Many of the most prominent regime critics have their background in the various Bedouin groups, which together comprise about half of the country’s citizens and who become increasingly dissatisfied with what they perceive as discrimination on the part of the royal house.
Kuwait’s recent history
Kuwait’s recent history is particularly related to British military protection until independence in 1961, and the modernization of Kuwait’s society as a result of the first oil discoveries in 1938 – and subsequent extraction from 1946. The 1899 United Kingdom Protection Agreement strategic location at the heart of the Gulf of Persia; later with the country’s major oil deposits. The latter are the main reason Iraq has repeatedly claimed the country, and the Iraqi invasion of 1990.
Fear of Ottoman annexation of Kuwait, after a failed attack in 1897, prompted Sheikh Mubarak to seek military and political protection from the United Kingdom. Through an agreement signed in 1899, the United Kingdom provided naval vessels and contributed financial transfers. In return, Mubarak agreed to transfer control of the country’s foreign policy and defense to the United Kingdom. The agreement also helped prevent Germany from using Kuwait as the end point for its planned Berlin-Baghdad railway, which the British saw as a threat to their interests in the region.
Following the signing of the Anglo-Ottoman Agreement in 1913, Sheikh Mubarak was recognized by both parties as ruler of Kuwait. After the outbreak of World War I, the United Kingdom terminated the agreement, declaring Kuwait as independent – under British protection. As a result, Kuwait became a British protectorate in practice. From the south-west, Saudi Arabia threatened the independence of Kuwait, and fighting was fought at Jahra in 1920 – where the Saudi forces were held, to British units to the Kuwaiti’s rescue. The battle is highlighted as significant for Kuwaiti identity. As a result of the confrontation, Britain pushed through the Uqair Agreement of 1922, leaving nearly two-thirds of Kuwait’s territory to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone of 5,180 km 2was established. It existed until 1970, when it was shared equally between the two states. An unsuccessful revolt against the emir was launched by Kuwaiti traders in 1938, the so-called Majlis movement.
The British essentially left the local administration in Kuwait’s hands, and after the war Kuwait’s importance as a trade center was further strengthened. At the same time, the country’s economic mainstay – pearl fishing – collapsed most as a result of Japan’s introduction of cultural pearls, partly due to the international depression. Revenue loss was partially offset by increased trade with Iraq, and gradually from oil license fees. The first oil exploration and extraction licenses were issued in 1934, and oil was found in 1938, but the recovery was suspended due to World War II. Commercial extraction for export was then started in 1946. Oil revenues radically changed Kuwait as both society and state, and thus the country’s role regionally and globally, with rapid modernization under Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah, who ascended the throne in 1950. With a large income in a small country, he was able to implement infrastructure development and the introduction of welfare goods; Kuwait became a welfare state, with one of the highest living standards in the world – though reserved for its own citizens. Sheikh Abdullah also established modern governance structures, as a basis for independence.
The gradually substantial oil revenues were mainly used by a single royal family, which strengthened the position of power of the emir and al-Sabah dynasty. Modernization did not initially include political liberalization, but it raised demands for full independence, at the same time as those who wanted to merge with Iraq – at a time of increasing pan-Arab patriotism. Relations with Iraq have been a crucial dimension of Kuwait’s development since the 1950s. Iraq claimed Kuwait in 1938 – as it did in 1961, and again in 1990, with reference to the fact that Kuwait under the Ottoman regime should have been part of Iraq.