Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq's New Borders Create New Grudges

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq's New Borders Create New Grudges

Article excerpt

THE United Nations coalition, having won the Gulf war, may be planting a time bomb that will wreck the long-term goal of peace and security in the area. Cartographers labored for over a year to mark the precise boundary between Iraq and Kuwait. They plodded over the ground and employed the most sophisticated aerial photography and satellite positioning. They consulted old documents. But the line they have drawn and will present to the UN Security Council for approval in July is unacceptable to Iraq - an irredentist rallying cry for redress by Saddam Hussein and any subsequent Iraqi demagogues.

The story is out of "Arabian Nights." There has never been a clear boundary between Iraq and Kuwait. There was no Iraq until after World War I. Great Britain formed it from three districts of the defunct Ottoman Empire, two of them rich in oil, under a League of Nations mandate. Kuwait was little more than a figure of speech, an ill-defined area ruled by the Al-Sabah family. The Al-Sabahs acknowledged Ottoman sovereignty but hedged their bets in a secret pact with Britain, which wanted oil.

Under the Ottomans as under the British, internal boundaries were not important and were drawn with a wave of the hand. At one location, the Iraq-Kuwait border was marked by the southernmost palm tree "just south of Safwan." A notice was set there, which the Iraqis later removed "to repaint it."

Repeatedly over the years, Baghdad demanded possession of Kuwait as part of the Ottoman district of Basra, now the southern province of Iraq. Although Iraq in 1963 formally recognized Kuwait as an independent state, Saddam revived this claim when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. It has never been renounced. Iraq has also tried to acquire two large mudflats, Kuwait's islands of Warba and Bubiyan. They dominate the approach to Iraq's second port, Umm Qasr, which today is Iraq's only dry cargo port. Basra, the larger, is dead; the Shatt al-Arab, the great river that leads to the Gulf is blocked by sunken ships and silt that will take years to remove if Iran consents. Umm Qasr is where the drill hits the nerve. There and at the prodigious Rumaila oil field. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.