Shifting Lines in the Sand: Kuwait's Elusive Frontier With Iraq

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Shifting Lines in the Sand: Kuwait's Elusive Frontier With Iraq

By David H. Finnie
Harvard University Press, 1992
221 pp. $29.95
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The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had almost no positive side effects. But the writing of this fine book was one. Well-researched and well-written, this study traces the history of Kuwait's relations with Iraq, with emphasis on the border, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Finnie is scrupulously fair in his use of sources, has no ax to grind and acknowledges the frequent lapses and ambiguities in the positions of both Iraqis and Kuwaitis. His research establishes several points clearly. Kuwait, under the rule of the Sabah family, cannot be considered in historical terms to have been simply a province of Iraq. Although the precise location of the border has been elusive, the legitimacy of Kuwait as an independent state is no less than that of many other members of the United Nations. In addition, on at least three occasions Iraqi governments have officially recognized Kuwait, and its northern border has been delimited, although a precise demarcation is only now underway. The Iraqi prime minister signed an agreement in 1932 acknowledging the border; this was reaffirmed again by Iraq in 1963, after which diplomatic relations were established between Iraq and Kuwait; Iraq accepted U.N. resolution 687, which confirmed the 1963 agreement, after its defeat in Desert Storm. All of this suggests that Iraq's legal case against Kuwait has been extremely weak. When the next Iraq-Kuwait crisis erupts, this will be the book to take down from the shelf to refresh one's memory about how Kuwait came to be.