The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar
by Frederick F. Anscombe
New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. 270 pp. $47.50 (paper, $17.50).
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
The nineteenth-century Persian Gulf has been much studied but, Anscombe stresses, always relying primarily on the British archives and therefore seen predominantly from the British point of view. He instead bases his work on the Ottoman documents and sees the Gulf from the perspective of Istanbul. Perhaps his most dramatic insight concerns the ineptitude of the Ottomans and their inability to provide the sort of decent administration that would keep the allegiance of the Gulf Arabs. Oddly, the British challenge in the region stimulated the Ottomans to govern even worse than before because, driven by what the author calls "overblown suspicion," the Turks "often diverted scarce resources to meet unlikely outside threats" instead of fixing problems. This created opportunities that London took advantage of so regularly that by 1913—on the eve of World War I—it had won paramount authority in the region and Ottoman rule had come to an end.
The most immediately relevant conclusion of Anscombe's excellent though dense study concerns the historical origins of Kuwait, about which he is quite definite: "the Iraqi claim to historical rights over Kuwait is very week." While Kuwait did indeed come under Ottoman rule, it "was neither integrated into, nor dependent upon, Iraq." Indeed, its links to Iraq did not exceed those to other regions, such as the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, and India.
Related Topics: History, Kuwait, Persian Gulf & Yemen, Saudi Arabia | Daniel Pipes | June 1998 MEQ
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