Shaikh Mubarak’s Attitude Towards the Ottomans
Before 1896, Kuwait served as a staunch ally of the Ottomans. As a result, the country’s economic status was unstable. As a result of this, it somehow contributed to weak leadership. In 1896, Mubarak al Sabah took over command of Kuwait, and through his smart and courageous attitude, he freed Kuwait from the Ottomans. While in leadership, he faced various threats from the Ottomans, but it is his strong stance and diplomacy with Britain that enabled him overcome the Ottomans.
There are reasons why Mubarak disregarded the acceptance of the title qaimaqan or use of Turkish flags as this compromised his essential political independence. Mubarak clearly indicated that his independence was under threat when the Ottoman authorities proposed in 1897 to station an official in Kuwait and supervise quarantine plans. The Ottoman administration lacked military resources in the larger areas of the empire and could not control local rulers on daily basis. The empire had scattered army garrisons and power was diffuse which made the central authority more myth than reality. There were aspects that made Mubarak feel insecure. He made an approach to the Ottoman government claiming that he never killed his two brothers but instead were murdered by Bedouin. His nephews however informed the Sultan that Mubarak murdered their father.
The Ottoman Empire had difficulties in capturing the gulf coast due to the British influence. Mubarak capitalized on those loopholes, coupled with the fear that his nephews would oust him from power. He launched his diplomacy plans when he approached Britain through Salisbury at Basra so that they could offer Kuwait protection (Alghanim 31). As a result of the meeting, Salisbury gave Mubarak the option of becoming a highly ranked officer for the British in return for Kuwait’s security.
The strategy of appointing Mubarak as a British ally would cause conflict in the Ottoman Empire, which would be of benefit to England. At the initial stages, Salisbury was reluctant to offer Kuwait protection in fear of diplomatic relations with other countries. However, the opening of the Suez Canal changed his mind because the Ottoman government planned on building a railway from Syrian port to Kuwait with the help of the Russian government (Alghanim 45). Britain could not let Russian government gain the upper hand, thereby forging bonds with Mubarak.
The Hamdi strongly believed that Shaikh Mubarak was to be blamed for his misfortunes and acted accordingly when he was reinstated in Basra. The problem they faced was competition to secure the support of Hamdi’s successor as vali. Later in 1898, British would summarize the new vali’s terms of office which was focused on supporting persons who had would bring benefit. Before Mubarak’s initiative to have the support of vali would bear fruits, Kuwait’s relationship with the Ottoman Empire significantly changed because of choices made from Kuwait and the Gulf.
In 1899, Mubarak entered into a contract with Britain through Meade. In the agreement, Britain would pay one thousand pounds to Kuwait, offer protection to his heirs, and guarantee Kuwait’s security (Alghanim 76). In exchange, Britain would have held over Kuwait. Germany railway line with the Ottomans could not pass through Kuwait since Mubarak and England had already agreement dated in the year 1899. The bond between Kuwait and England put the British government at a bargaining point for the railway plans (Alghanim 78). The agreement also set Mubarak and Kuwait in a strong position regarding enriching themselves. For the railway line to pass through Kuwait, the Ottomans had to bargain with Kuwait. For example, the Porte tried to foster relations with Mubarak by offering him a position as Pasha and 1.5 tons of dates on annual basis. Officials back in London were not surprised about Ottoman proposals to base a quarantine official in Kuwait but Mubarak was worried by this development. Mubarak was in dire need of Ottoman allies to counter the hostility and growing influence of Vali and Basra. It is quite sure that he was informed by his friends on the quarantine proposal as the news arrived.
The British protection made Mubarak feel confident in interfering with the ongoing Arabian war. A battle had spark out in Kuwait and turkey was forcing Mubarak to surrender, he showed no intention of doing so because he had British protection (Alghanim 116). As a result, the Vari of Basra traveled to Kuwait to persuade Mubarak to accept small military assistance from the Ottomans to which he declined. The move increased Britain’s confidence in Kuwait, and thus Mubarak asked for diplomatic conquest which would enable Kuwait to receive maximum protection from England. The negotiations remained pending since Britain did not want ruin relationships with the other state. However, England feared that Kuwait would change their allegiance if a suitable offer were put in place by Germany. Britain thus increased their presence on Kuwait despite not formalizing it.
By 1905, Kuwait had managed to stay firm in the British sphere of influence. The British on their part maintained the status quo through infrastructure development. Mubarak allowed the British government to construct a post office in Kuwait and considered dropping the Turkish flag to distance from the Ottomans (Alghanim 150). Having had their strong influence in the Ottomans’ territory, Britain started to reconsider the train project. Mubarak sold the rights for building of the railway to Britain instead of Germany in exchange for 4000 pounds annually and recognition of Kuwait as a sovereign state. By 1914, Britain had expelled all the Ottomans from Kuwait, and declared Kuwait as an independent state with its flag (Alghanim 191). The attitude of Mubarak mixed with both courage and wits attributed to Kuwait gaining its sovereignty. It is surprising that there are no Kuwait sources covering the time when Shaikah Mubarak decided to approach the British, but he and Sabah family provided indications for their perception whch exist in the British files of the period. The first indication of the Kuwaiti view of affair is depicted through a memorandum written by legal adviser to the British Embassy.
Alghanim, Salwa. The Reign of Mubarak-Al-Sabah: Shaikh of Kuwait 1896-1915. IB Tauris, 1998