Rahman expertly fills a major scholarly gap by providing a detailed history of the Iraqi claim to Kuwait. He dates the origins of an autonomous Kuwait to 1752 and marshals an impressive array of contemporary sources, mostly British, to show that the sheikhdom retained its autonomy throughout the next one and a half centuries, until in 1899 it signed an agreement with the British government that placed Kuwait effectively under British protection. This arrangement, it bears stressing, was initiated by the Kuwaitis themselves due to their fear of Ottoman expansionism southward from Iraq.
Hardly had Iraq become an independent state when its leaders began the campaign to annex Kuwait. The first declaration about Kuwait as a "non-separable part" of Iraq was published in Baghdad by a government daily on May 16, 1933. Rahman analyzes a campaign that sometimes sought a border rectification and at other times aspired to take over the whole of Kuwait, then shows how it continued, with ups and downs, over six decades, culminating with the invasion of August 2, 1990. The author convincingly concludes that the ugly boundary dispute behind that invasion "had its roots in the beginning of the twentieth century when the Ottoman Empire extended its power" southward toward Kuwait. Regrettably, Rahman does not draw conclusions from his historical study about the future, but his long tale of territorial ambition will leave most readers worried that Iraq's long-standing irredentism lives on, despite the many costs of defeat and deprivation.