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Kuwait

kuwait flag
Kuwait is one of the Gulf States, located at the head of the Persian Gulf, with Iraq to its north and east and Saudi Arabia to its south. Iran is located directly across the Gulf waters. The geography of Kuwait is dominated by mostly flat deserts interspersed with a few oases in Kuwait’s 6,880 square miles of territory. Kuwait is a diminutive form of the word for fort. The official language is Arabic.

From the 19th century onward the Sabah clan allied with the indigenous commercial elites, and Kuwait developed as a thriving mercantile community with an economy based on foreign trade. Although never directly under Ottoman rule, the Al-Sabahs paid financial tributes to the empire and recognized the sultan’s power, but Ottoman threats to annex Kuwait pushed the Sabahs to ally with Britain.

An 1899 treaty gave Britain control over Kuwait’s foreign affair, and Kuwait became a British protectorate. From that time forward, border issues continually plagued the country. The British relinquished control in 1961.

Kuwait Map
After independence the Sabah family governed Kuwait as emirs with a constitutional monarchy. The emir ruled the country through the council of ministers, which mostly consisted of family members appointed by the emir himself.

The judicial system was based on Islamic law, or sharia, particularly the Maliki school of jurisprudence, but many of the criminal and commercial laws were based on prior British laws. The legislative branch was composed of a National Assembly (Majlis al-Ummah), whose 50 members were elected to four-year terms.

Political parties are legally banned and instead, several organizations have representatives in parliament. Prior to 2005, voting was restricted to men who were able to prove that their ancestry in Kuwait dated prior to 1920 and who were not members of the armed forces. In 2005, women were granted the right to vote. After 2005 the government granted citizenship to 5,000 biduns, people without documents—originally from Syria, Iraq, and Jordan—per year.

Foreigners, called expatriate workers in Kuwait, are needed to fill positions in the workforce and especially in the oil, construction, and service sectors. Since these immigrant workers are not entitled to free government services and benefits and cannot become citizens, there is some hostility between the native Kuwaiti population and the majority immigrant population.

Kuwait City

The economy is mostly based on oil and overseas investments. In the 1970s the oil industry increased its extraction and processing capabilities, and by the mid-1980s 80 percent of the oil extracted in Kuwait was also being refined there. Oil production led to a Kuwaiti economic boom, with both direct and indirect services and products. By 2006 Kuwait had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

Kuwait

Kuwait is one of the Gulf States, located at the head of the Persian Gulf, with Iraq to its north and east and Saudi Arabia to its south. Iran is located directly across the Gulf waters. The geography of Kuwait is dominated by mostly flat deserts interspersed with a few oases in Kuwait’s 6,880 square miles of territory. Kuwait is a diminutive form of the word for fort. The official language is Arabic.

Kuwait Map
From the 19th century onward the Sabah clan allied with the indigenous commercial elites, and Kuwait developed as a thriving mercantile community with an economy based on foreign trade. Although never directly under Ottoman rule, the Al-Sabahs paid financial tributes to the empire and recognized the sultan’s power, but Ottoman threats to annex Kuwait pushed the Sabahs to ally with Britain.

An 1899 treaty gave Britain control over Kuwait’s foreign affair, and Kuwait became a British protectorate. From that time forward, border issues continually plagued the country. The British relinquished control in 1961.

After independence the Sabah family governed Kuwait as emirs with a constitutional monarchy. The emir ruled the country through the council of ministers, which mostly consisted of family members appointed by the emir himself.

The judicial system was based on Islamic law, or sharia, particularly the Maliki school of jurisprudence, but many of the criminal and commercial laws were based on prior British laws. The legislative branch was composed of a National Assembly (Majlis al-Ummah), whose 50 members were elected to four-year terms.

Political parties are legally banned and instead, several organizations have representatives in parliament. Prior to 2005, voting was restricted to men who were able to prove that their ancestry in Kuwait dated prior to 1920 and who were not members of the armed forces. In 2005, women were granted the right to vote. After 2005 the government granted citizenship to 5,000 biduns, people without documents—originally from Syria, Iraq, and Jordan—per year.

Foreigners, called expatriate workers in Kuwait, are needed to fill positions in the workforce and especially in the oil, construction, and service sectors. Since these immigrant workers are not entitled to free government services and benefits and cannot become citizens, there is some hostility between the native Kuwaiti population and the majority immigrant population.

Kuwait City

The economy is mostly based on oil and overseas investments. In the 1970s the oil industry increased its extraction and processing capabilities, and by the mid-1980s 80 percent of the oil extracted in Kuwait was also being refined there. Oil production led to a Kuwaiti economic boom, with both direct and indirect services and products. By 2006 Kuwait had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Organization
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was established in 1960. Its first meeting was held in 1961, and, beginning in 1965, it was headquartered in Vienna. The charter members included Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Abd Tuhan al-Tariki, the Saudi director of petroleum affairs, played a leading role in the organization’s inception. OPEC membership was later expanded to include Libya, Algeria, Indonesia, Qatar, Nigeria, UAR, Gabon, and Ecuador.

In 1968 the major Arab oil-producing nations formed OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries). OPEC members met on a regular basis to set quotas for production; however, the organization lacked the mechanism to enforce the quotas, which were frequently ignored or openly flouted by individual producing nations.

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Nations with large populations such as Iran, Algeria, and Nigeria tended to push for price increases. Nations with small populations and lesser economic domestic demands preferred stable prices. Because of their production capacity and huge reserves, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were able to increase production to prevent price increases or to keep prices low.

In the 1980s Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves contained over 168 billion barrels, Kuwait had over 66 billion barrels, and Iraq had 43 billion barrels, as compared to 27.3 billion barrels in the United States. By the 1980s the United States was also importing over half its oil, as compared to only 25 percent in the early 1970s.

In 1970 the new revolutionary government in Libya under Muammar Qaddafi forced production cuts to secure higher royalties. The petroleum companies—dominated by the so-called seven sisters, Western-owned corporations—bitterly opposed such pressure tactics, but because of ever-increasing demands they ultimately agreed to Libyan terms. The rest of the oil-producing nations soon followed suit and secured similar concessions. The price of oil then rose from $2 to $3 per barrel and then to $5 per barrel.

During the peak of the oil boom in the 1970s Sheik Ahmad Zaki Yamani, secretary-general of OPEC from 1968 to 1969, served as the Saudi Arabian minister of petroleum. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War King Faysal in Saudi Arabia was persuaded to use oil as a weapon, and cuts in supplies to those nations supporting Israel were announced.

However, Faysal was a staunch anticommunist, and, when the United States and Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat argued that the oil boycott could increase the threat of communism in the Arab and Muslim world, King Faysal effectively ended the boycott by withdrawing Saudi support in 1974. In 1986, when Yamani supported raising oil prices, King Fahd removed him from office.

With its huge reserves Saudi Arabia, and, to a lesser extent, Kuwait, could force price modifications by simply increasing production. By 1996 Saudi Arabia had become the world’s largest petroleum exporter. After the Iran-Iraq War Kuwait began to flood the market, exceeding its quota and driving down prices.

The lower prices hurt Iraq at the very time that it was desperately trying to increase revenues to rebuild its economy; this was a contributing factor in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the resulting First Gulf War. Depressed prices, largely caused by high production by the Arab Gulf states and Saudi Arabia, also contributed to Ecuador’s withdrawal from OPEC in 1992.

Owing to increased demand by burgeoning Indian and Chinese economies and ongoing wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the price of oil reached $60 per barrel in 2006 and prices continued to rise.

High prices resulted in huge profits for Western oil companies as well as for the oil-producing nations. In one quarter of 2006 Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest petroleum corporation, posted profits of over $7 billion.

Although governments talked about cost control measures, alternative fuel sources, and conservation, few practical programs were adopted either in the West or in Asia. Thus it remained certain that petroleum would continue to be the world’s primary energy source for the foreseeable future.

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein was born in Al Awja near Tikrit, Iraq, to a poor family. He was raised mostly by an uncle and attended school in Baghdad. As a young man he joined the Ba’ath Party. After Hussein was involved in an abortive attempted to assassinate Abdul Karim Qassem, the leader of the 1958 Iraq revolution, he fled to Egypt, where he studied law.
Saddam
Saddam Hussein

When the Ba’ath seized power in 1963, he returned to Iraq but was soon imprisoned for another attempt to overthrow the regime. He escaped from prison in 1966 and was elected assistant general secretary of the Ba’ath.

Under the patronage of Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, to whom he was related by blood, Hussein rose in power following the 1968 Ba’athist-led coup. In 1975 Hussein and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi signed the Algiers Accord, which led to the Iran-Iraq Treaty of International Boundaries and Good Neighborliness, whereby the eastern portion of the Shatt al Arab was ceded to Iran. The agreements were a victory for Iran, and Hussein subsequently argued that Iraq had only signed under duress.

In 1979 Hussein ousted the ailing al-Bakr and assumed leadership of the Ba’ath Party and the nation. He emulated the Stalinist approach to government, establishing a totalitarian state based on a cult of personality.

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He ruthlessly purged possible dissidents within the Ba’ath Party, closely controlled the media and communications systems, and had the populace—especially the youth—indoctrinated in loyalty to himself. Although not a professional soldier, Hussein often appeared in military uniform, and he curried favor with the army.

His regime was a secular one, and he closely monitored Shi’i clerics and Islamist movements. He appointed relatives and close associates from Tikrit to key government positions and demanded absolute loyalty. However, his regime also improved education, healthcare services, and the status of women.

Hussein initiated the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88) ostensibly to recover the Shatt al Arab but also to contain the Shi’i-led Iranian revolution. The resulting war of attrition led to massive human, military, and economic losses for both sides. Neighboring Arab nations in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, fearing the export of the Iranian revolution, assisted Iraq with loans and aid.

From the Iraqi perspective the Arab regimes were paying for the war with money, and Iraq was paying with the blood of its soldiers. After the war Hussein downplayed his former secularism and adopted a more Islamic approach. He also launched major offensives, including the use of poison gas, against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major ally, Iraq became more isolated and found it increasingly difficult to obtain loans or assistance to rebuild its war-torn economy.

Hussein also recognized the mounting hostility of his former Arab allies and resented the refusal of Kuwait to forgive wartime loans. He also accused Kuwait of illegally slant-drilling for petroleum into Iraq. In August 1990, he ordered the invasion of Kuwait.

Kuwait quickly fell to the Iraqi forces and was incorporated into Iraq. The international community, including the Arab world, condemned the invasion and after a month of massive aerial bombardment in the so-called First Gulf War, coalition forces, led by the United States, moved into Kuwait.

The Iraqi army crumbled and hastily retreated. The coalition established no-fly zones that essentially created an autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

However, Hussein crushed uprisings, especially among the large and disaffected Shi’i population in southern Iraq. Iraq managed to rebuild much of its infrastructure, and water and electricity services were restored to major cities.

In spite of a decade of international sanctions that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of mostly civilian Iraqis, Hussein clung to power. International diplomacy and arms inspections resulted in the demilitarization and destruction of most of the Iraqi military arsenal, but although severely weakened, the military remained intact. Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay became increasingly powerful during the 1990s, and their erratic behavior and violence terrorized those around them.

Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (the Second Gulf War). As U.S. forces entered Baghdad many leaders of the regime, including Hussein and his sons, went into hiding. His sons were found and killed, and U.S. forces ultimately captured Hussein, who was then put on trial for crimes committed during his rule.

During the protracted trial, Hussein adopted a belligerent tone, maintaining that he was still the legitimate ruler of Iraq, but he was found guilty and executed. A new Iraqi regime was established, and the Ba’ath Party was banned from holding positions in government or schools.

The Iraqi army was also disbanded, but the nation continued to face tremendous economic and social problems as sectarian fighting broke out and massive opposition to foreign occupying forces erupted throughout much of the country.

Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988)

The Algiers Treaty of March 6, 1975, signed by Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and then vice president of Iraq Saddam Hussein, was intended to solve long-standing border and waterway disputes between the two neighboring countries.
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Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988)

However, with the overthrow of the shah in 1979, which put Iran in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, the political dynamics changed. By 1980 Iran’s new leaders started to hint that they did not feel obligated by the shah’s earlier commitments, and Iraqi leaders were complaining that Iran still had not returned certain border areas promised under the 1975 treaty.

In September 1980 Iraqi armed forces moved to reclaim those lands, and on September 22 they crossed the border into Iran. The invasion had consequences that Iraqi president Hussein had not expected.


In launching the attack on Iran, Hussein thought the war would be brief and would lead to the downfall of Iran’s religious leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Hussein disliked. Instead, the power of Khomeini and other Islamic revolutionaries increased as Iranians united and rallied to support the war.

Few had expected Iraq to win the war outright. Although Iraq had better technology, more weapons, and a stronger air force, Iran had three times the population and about four times the geographic area of Iraq. Thus the Iran-Iraq War seesawed back and forth for eight grueling years.

Some methods of World War I were employed; Iran, for example, often conducted useless infantry attacks, using “human assault waves” made up in part by young, untrained conscripts, as in the Kerbala offensives, which were repulsed by the superior air- and firepower of the Iraqis.

Iraq, concerned with the war’s trench warfare and stalemate, had its overtures for a peace agreement undercut when its reputation was tainted by United Nations reports that it had used deadly (and illegal) chemical weapons against Iranian troops in 1984.

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Military volunteer of Iran army

Although both Iran and Iraq attacked each other’s oil-tanker shipping in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s attacks on Kuwait’s and other gulf states’ tankers caused the United States and several Western European nations to station battleships in the gulf to protect those tankers.

This in turn led, on July 3, 1988, to the accidental shooting down of an Iranian civil airliner by the U.S. cruiser Vincennes, which killed all 290 crew members and passengers aboard.

As many as 1 million people died in the Iran-Iraq War, approximately 1.7 million were wounded, about 1.5 million were forced to flee as refugees, and major cities were destroyed on both sides. The oil industries of both countries also suffered extensive damage due to the fighting; oil exports, and earnings from those exports, naturally dropped.

More important, the large oil reserves of Iran and Iraq represented the potential for significant international economic power, but both nations had together largely wasted $400 billion on the war and along with that the chance to build up their societies.

The effects of the war clearly reached beyond the two combatants. Iran’s need for additional weapons led to a compromising relationship for the administration of U.S. president Ronald Reagan in 1985. In the secret Iran-contra affair, Iran was able to obtain weapons from the United States (the country that Khomeini had called “the great Satan”) in exchange for the release of hostages in Lebanon.

At about the same time U.S. aid of all types began to appear in Iraq, whereas the Soviet Union supplied about two-thirds of Iraq’s weapons. The Iran-Iraq War also ended Khomeini’s attempts to spread his fundamentalist Islamic revolution abroad.

Although stymied in his ambitions to make Iraq the leading power in the Persian Gulf (and the Arab world), Iraqi president Hussein learned new fighting strategies that he would later use against another neighboring country, Kuwait, which had been his ally during the conflict.

By the time a cease-fire finally arrived on August 20, 1988, the Iran-Iraq War had been the longest and most destructive conflict in the post–World War II era, and none of the basic friction points between Iran and Iraq had been settled.

However, in August–September 1990, while Iraq was busy with its invasion of Kuwait, Iraq and Iran quietly restored diplomatic relations, and Iraq agreed to Iranian terms for the settlement of the war: the removal of Iraqi troops from Iranian territory, division of sovereignty over the Shatt al Arab waterway, and an exchange of prisoners of war.

United Nations

The United Nations, already six decades old, has traversed a long, strife-formed cold war. Not a superstate above the states, it collectively approaches issues of war, peace, development, and justice, and has sufficient transforming potentials to create a new, better world order.

Since the end of the cold war, it has acquired new dynamism, but at the same time it has to be restructured to cope with an emerging complex world of nation-states, various movements, and unforeseen challenges like terrorism.

The United Nations, founded in the aftermath of World War II, was established at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 on the principle of collective security. It was the successor to the League of Nations, which had been established after World War I but failed to organize world order on the principles of universality.

The United Nations, therefore, took care to avoid the mistakes of its predecessor, and five major powers were given special power and responsibility through the mechanism of "veto" power in the most important organ of the United Nations—the Security Council.

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The goals of the United Nations were enshrined in the Charter: to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to achieve international cooperation, and to work as a harmonizer among nations. Security was the principal goal of the United Nations.

Unlike in the league, however, security was not narrowly conceived in the United Nations but was broadened to include socioeconomic justice, human rights, and development. Like the league, the United Nations was based on the principles of collective security.

The new principle on which the league and the United Nations were based does not consider security as the individual affair of states or regions but as a collective affair of all states, and aggression against one state is considered aggression against all others. All states are obliged to take collective action against the aggressor.

From The League

The UN Charter provided for six major organs, four of which evolved out of the League of Nations. The General Assembly was based on the democratic principle of "one country, one vote", irrespective of size and power, and was essentially a deliberative organ.

The countries of the Third World used the body for organizing themselves and took up issues of colonialism and racialism. The Charter provided for some supervisory functions of the General Assembly. The council and assembly had joint functions as well.

The Security Council, the most important organ of the United Nations, reflected the reality of power. The United States, the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain, and China were the five permanent members with veto power and had special responsibility to maintain world peace and security.

However, veto became a mechanism of obstruction, and the Soviet Union frequently used it; while the United States did not use it in earlier years, the frequency of veto increased after 1970. The Security Council was based on the assumption that the major powers would agree on issues of war and peace, but the onset of the cold war around 1945 made the United Nations a helpless spectator.

The Charter provided for a mechanism of maintaining peace, whereby the council may call upon members states to apply sanctions against the aggressor and may form a Military Staff Committee consisting of the chief of staff of permanent members of the Security Council.

The enforcement of peace was possible in the Korean War, and a united command was formed under the United States. It placed an embargo on the export of strategic materials to China and North Korea. Subsequently the provision could not be replicated for a long time.

It was only after the closing stages of the cold war that the Security Council became effective again; consultations and coordination among the major powers in the council have been frequent, as in the Persian Gulf crisis and more recently over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

For about five decades of the cold war, the United Nations never appeared to play the role envisaged at San Francisco in the realm of peace and security; it was bypassed in major flash points across the globe, such as the Panama Canal crisis, Hungary, the Berlin blockade, the Cuban missile crisis, Arab-Israeli conflicts, the India-China border war, Vietnam and Indochina, and the Sino-Soviet border war.

The United Nations was a passive bystander as major powers professed to settle scores outside the United Nations. When the United Nations was hamstrung due to the use of veto, the General Assembly sought a way out through the Uniting for Peace Resolution to consider measures in a situation of breach of peace.

After the end of the cold war, the United Nations became more active again, although in the process it acquired new functions, in line with but not envisaged in the Charter. During the turn of the 21st century this function, known as peacekeeping—traditionally denoting acting as a buffer between contending parties or monitoring ceasefire agreements—expanded to other areas.

Now peacekeeping also means the provision of humanitarian relief, removal of mines, repatriation of refugees, and reconstruction of national infrastructure in devasted areas, such as Afghanistan.

The costs of all of these functions have been enormous, especially in recent peacekeeping operations: South Africa, Rwanda, Iraq-Kuwait, Mozambique, Somalia, Haiti, and Liberia. Sometimes the United Nations has drawn flak; the UN troops have also been targeted, as in Somalia and Bosnia.

Cooperation

Unlike during the cold war years, however, the United Nations finds cooperation among major powers to repulse aggression. In the First Gulf War, Moscow supported U.S. efforts to impose sanctions against Iraq, which had annexed Kuwait.

The machinery of the United Nations was used. Other major powers contributed troops, particularly France and Britain. Japan and Germany too accepted new security roles.

Besides war and peace, the United Nations has been instrumental in various humanitarian efforts. A large amount of credit must go to the United Nations for ending apartheid in South Africa, improving life expectancy in Africa, helping children suffering from malnutrition, and fighting diseases. It has not been as successful in the removal of global poverty, but it has launched efforts in that direction.

Now the United Nations finds itself playing a new role against international terrorism. It has not been as successful, and the United States acted unilaterally in 1998 when al-Qaeda attacked U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Subsequently, following September 11, 2001, the United States took drastic steps, and the United Nations was more involved than before; terrorism became a key issue of international and United Nations concern.

The United Nations has been moving into new, uncharted areas. In a world where millions of children die days after they are born, the issue of human rights has become a major arena of international attention.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, has been enshrined in constitutions of states. Now the United Nations has also been a force in expanding the frontiers of democracy worldwide, believing that democracy fosters world peace.

While the United Nations is engaged in redefining issues of war, peace, development, and freedom, reforming the world body has become a burning issue since the end of the cold war, and more particularly since 1998, when 185 states met to celebrate 50 years of the United Nations.

There is also demand to restructure the Security Council and to add new permanent members—with or without veto power. Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, and some African countries are key candidates demanding permanent places on the Security Council.

The major powers with vetos—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France—themselves differ about who should be permanent members in a reformed council. Reforms are, however, necessary to make the United Nations more in tune with the changes of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century.

Third World/Global South


The term Third World applies to those nations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere that mostly secured independence from the imperial powers after World War II. In the cold war construct the First World, dominated by the United States, also included Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

These nations were wealthy, highly industrialized, urban, largely secular, democratic, and had capitalist economies. The Second World consisted of the Soviet bloc, dominated by the Soviet Union.

These nations were industrialized but not as wealthy as the First World; they were secular, authoritarian, and had socialist economics. The Third World nations, consisting of two-thirds of the world’s population, were poor, rural, and agrarian, with traditional societies.

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After the breakup of the Soviet bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the terms no longer applied and because most of the nations of the Third World were south of the equator the term Global South came to be used as a collective label for these nations.

The gap between rich and poor nations grew in the 20th century. As the Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru commented, "The poor have to run fast just to keep up". Third World countries were caught in a cycle of poverty, with low incomes and low production. After independence many became dictatorships and attempted to improve their economies, usually unsuccessfully, by adopting socialist systems on the Soviet state capitalist model.

Economists often referred to the poor developing nations as low-GDP (low Gross Domestic Product) countries, meaning they produced little in the way of goods and services. Countries in the Global South adopted a wide variety of methods to break out of the cycle of poverty.

In China Mao Zedong led a socialist revolution and mobilized the masses, but only with privatization after his death did the Chinese economy begin to take off. India, the world’s most populous democracy, adopted a capitalist approach; India also successfully applied the technology of the Green Revolution, the use of hybrid seeds to increase agricultural productivity.

At the beginning of the 20th century, India suffered major famines but by the end of the century it was exporting foodstuffs. India and many other poor nations also invested heavily in education. In Southeast Asia educated workers became the backbone of industrialization and the development of high-tech firms.

Other nations built huge development projects, such as the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Three Gorges Dam in China. Following Western advice in the 1950s and 1960s, many Third World nations concentrated on industrialization, to the detriment of the agricultural sector. That, along with ecological changes, droughts along wide bands of Africa, civil wars, political corruption, and instability, contributed to large famines and mass starvation in many African nations.

In the Middle East oil-producing nations joined a cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to gain increased revenues from their major resource. They then used the new revenues to build modern infrastructures. Kuwait was able to provide a complete welfare system from cradle to grave for its small population.

Other countries, such as the "little dragons" in Southeast Asia (Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore), attracted foreign businesses and industries. Many nations in South America and Africa also borrowed vast amounts of money from private and public Western banks, such as the World Bank, to bring much-needed capital into their countries.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also provided assistance in welfare, food, education, and healthcare. Brazil used foreign loans to create new industries and provide jobs, but it, along with many other countries, became ensnared in a web of indebtedness that was impossible to repay.

By the 1990s rich nations promised but often failed to deliver increased foreign aid and to forgive or restructure the debts of these nations, especially the poorest in Africa. Other nations had some modest successes in adopting appropriate technology to establish small, inexpensive grassroots projects.

Population growth also contributed to economic problems. In Kenya the population doubled every 18 years and in Egypt every 26 years, compared to every 92 in the United States. By 2000 the world’s population had exceeded 6 billion, from 1 billion in 1800. It was expected to reach 9 billion by 2054.

In poor countries high infant mortality contributed to the desire to have many children in hopes that at least some would survive to adulthood and be able to care for their parents, especially their mothers, in their old age. To limit its population China adopted a draconian one-child policy and strictly enforced it through its totalitarian system.

India adopted numerous approaches in attempts to limit population growth; these were often accepted by urban elites, but peasants continued to value large families. In societies where women had low status, having children, especially boys, brought status and the hope of some security.

The educational status of many improved, and literacy rates improved, although in many countries boys enjoyed higher rates of education than girls. While programs to empower women were often successful, they were also resisted by traditional and religious leaders.

Women’s work continued to be undervalued and underpaid. Child labor was yet another problem. Globalization and privatization in the late 20th century actually caused some nations to become poorer as prices for agricultural goods and raw materials dropped.

In some Global South nations, such as India, a few people became millionaires, but most remained desperately poor. In the 1990s, incomes in 54 nations actually declined, and in Zimbabwe life expectancy fell from 56 to 331, compared to over 80 in the United States and Japan. Disease, especially AIDS, contributed to further economic and social problems, particularly in many southern African countries.

At the 2000 Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed to institute programs aimed at cutting in half the number of people living on under $1 a day and at halving the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. Five years later the commitments of the donor nations, especially the United States, had fallen short of the promises made, and it remained uncertain whether the goals would be met.

Taliban

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Taliban

Osama bin Laden was born on March 10, 1957, in Riyadh, into a family who owned a construction dynasty estimated worth $5 billion by the mid-1990s. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, they began a war in which 1 million people were killed and 5 million were sent into exile.

During the war, Osama bin Laden, then 22, lobbied his family and friends to support the cause of the Afghan freedom fighters, the mujahideen, and made several trips to Pakistan, where he continued his fundraising work.

During this time the United States also supported the cause of the mujahideen against the Soviets. The Reagan administration authorized the CIA to establish training camps for the mujahideen in Afghanistan and Pakistan and asked King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to match U.S. contributions.

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King Fahd instructed the minister of intelligence, Turki al-Faisal, to raise money from private sources and Faisal, knowing of bin Laden’s efforts toward the cause, entrusted bin Laden with the task of raising money. Besides raising money for the effort, bin Laden helped encourage Arab volunteers to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets. He kept a database of his volunteers; the word database translates to Arabic as al-Qaeda.

When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, the United States withdrew its support for the mujahideen, and the country was plunged into chaos and civil war. When Iraq, built up as a major military power by the United States against Iran, invaded Kuwait, the United States sent thousands of troops into Saudi Arabia. The U.S.-Saudi alliance was criticized by bin Laden, who objected to the presence of U.S. troops on land sacred to Muslims.

Bin Laden began publicly criticizing the Saudi regime. As a result, he was placed under house arrest. He convinced King Fahd that he had business to take care of in Pakistan as a means of escaping the country, and eventually found refuge in Sudan with Hasan al-Turabi, the leader of the country’s Islamic Front.

While in Sudan, bin Laden opposed the presence of U.S. troops in Somalia, and al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen bombed two hotels housing American troops in transit to Somalia. Following an attack by al-Qaeda on the World Trade Center in 1993, the Saudi government froze bin Laden’s assets in the country and stripped him of his citizenship.

Meanwhile, in 1994, the Taliban (translated as "students"), a small group of graduates from madrassas (schools of Islamic learning) led by Mullah Muhammad Umar, took control of the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Taliban were able to seize leaders of warring factions, and called for the city to disarm. Fatigued by two years of anarchy, the city willingly agreed to the restoration of order.

The Taliban announced that it was their duty to set up an Islamic society in Afghanistan, and gained popular support. By 1996 they had taken Kabul and established a government willing to provide sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and to accept his support of their regime.

In 2000, bin Laden was linked to the attack on the American guided missile destroyer USS Cole in Aden Harbor, Yemen, and on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda was held responsible by the United States for the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon. While the Taliban regime fell as a result of U.S. attacks on Afghanistan on October 10, 2001, the United States was unable to capture Osama bin Laden or destroy the Taliban.

Saudi Arabia


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab country on the Arabian Peninsula. Bordering Jordan, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen, Saudi Arabia has played an important strategic role in the Middle East. Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, are located in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces, and, until the 1960s, most of the population was nomadic. Most Saudis are ethnically Arab, although some are of mixed ethnic origins. Many Arabs from neighboring countries work and live in Saudi Arabia but are not citizens. Of a population numbering approximately 26 million, 7 million are foreign citizens, mostly from South Asia. There are also a significant number of Westerners living in Saudi Arabia. All citizens are required to be Muslims.

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud, who assumed the throne upon the death of his half brother Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud in 2005. The 1992 Basic Law established the system of government and the rights of citizens and provided for rule according to sharia, which is Islamic law. The Qu’ran is the constitution of the land, and there is no separation of church and state.

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The country held its first municipal elections in 2005. The king is an absolute monarch whose powers are tempered only by the sharia and other Saudi traditions. The king consults with the Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council; the Council of Ministers; the ulema (religious leaders); and other senior members of the Saudi royal family. The Council of Ministers approves legislation, which must be compatible with sharia.

While the Basic Law provides for an independent judiciary, the king serves as the highest court. The Saudi judicial system imposes amputations of hands and feet for serious robbery, floggings for lesser crimes such as sexual deviance and drunkenness, and beheadings for more serious crimes. Religious police enforce strict social rules.

The Saudi economy is based on petroleum and gas resources, and the government controls most of the revenues. Approximately 40 percent of the economy is privatized. Saudi Arabia contains nearly 25 percent of the world’s oil reserves and is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world. Saudi Arabia has also played a central role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Oil production increased during the reign of King Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz; Faisal became king following the abdication of his inept half brother King Saud ibn Abd al-Aziz. He introduced various reforms and attempted to modernize the kingdom. With the support of his wife, Queen Iffat, Faisal introduced education for females.

A devout Muslim, Faisal also worked to increase the Islamic political identity in the Arab world. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Saudi Arabia’s strategic importance increased, and Faisal built up the nation’s military capabilities. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Faisal moved to mix oil and politics by withdrawing Saudi oil from nations that supported Israel.

He also advocated the return of Jerusalem to Muslim rule. In 1975 Faisal was assassinated by a nephew, and his half brother, King Khaled ibn Abd al-Aziz, known for his pro–United States stance, assumed the throne. Following his death in 1982, Fahd ibn Abd al-Aziz became king.

The Saudi government supported the growth of the private sector to decrease economic dependence on oil and to increase employment opportunities. In the 1990s, water shortages hampered efforts toward agricultural self-sufficiency and the per capita income decreased from almost $25,000 in the 1980s to about $8,000 by 2000. In order to increase employment for its citizens, the government attempted to Saudize the economy by replacing foreign labor with Saudi workers.

Counterterrorism efforts dominated Saudi politics in the early 21st century. After 15 Saudi hijackers perpetrated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the Saudi government intensified its antiterrorism campaign.

However, the future of the authoritarian monarchy remained uncertain as the Saudi government attempted to combine sweeping programs of modernization with the continuation of traditional and puritanical ways of life.

Al-Qaeda

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Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda (Arabic for "the base") is a worldwide Sunni Islamist militant insurgent group. Founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988 in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda is now dedicated to driving the United States out of the Middle East specifically and out of Muslim countries generally, to destroying Israel, and to toppling pro-Western governments in Islamic countries and replacing them with Islamic fundamentalist governments.

These three goals lead to the organization’s ultimate goal, which is the reestablishment of the caliphate, a nation uniting Muslims and spanning the Islamic world.

The organization is believed to be highly redundant, both financially and operationally. While the various cells that make up the organization are accountable to higher-level leadership, operations appear to be left to the individual cells, while higher levels provide material and logistical support.

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Ideas and targets coming from the upper echelons filter down to the individual cells responsible for coordinating and executing the attacks. This redundancy increases the organization’s resiliency; when cells are destroyed or captured, the losses can be contained more effectively than if al-Qaeda were a more linear organization.

Al-Qaeda’s training camps are likewise well organized. The extent of the training and organization is best seen in the group’s multivolume Encyclopedia of Jihad. Several thousand pages in length, the encyclopedia details the bureaucratic workings of the group.

Covered topics include guerrilla warfare, assembling booby traps, tactics for fighting against armored or aerial combat units, urban warfare, intelligence security, data gathering, and chemical weapons tactics.

The group has been linked to or accused of taking part in terrorist acts across the globe beginning in the early 1990s. A list of the attacks against U.S. interests attributed to al-Qaeda includes the 1992 hotel bombings in Aden, Yemen; the February 6, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City; attacks carried out on U.S. military forces in Somalia in 1993 and 1994; the June 25, 1996, truck bombing of the Khobar Towers residential compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; the near-simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998; the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen on October 12, 2000; and the September 11, 2001, airline hijackings and attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

The United States is not the group’s only target, however. Al-Qaeda also is linked to the April 2002 bombing of the El Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia; the October 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia; the November 2003 bombings of synagogues and a British bank in Istanbul, Turkey; the March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid, Spain; and the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings.

Al-Qaeda is most often represented and understood in regard to its founder, Osama bin Laden (aka Abu Abdallah). Bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 10, 1957. When he was six months old, his father, Muhammad bin Laden, the Yemeni immigrant who established the Saudi Binladin Group, relocated to Jeddah, where Osama grew up.

The Soviet Union’s December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan galvanized the Muslim world in defense of Afghanistan and provided the West with a proxy war through which to combat the Soviet Union. Bin Laden, who had studied economics at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, was one of many spurred to action in defense of Afghanistan.

He made his first trip to neighboring Pakistan in 1980, where he sought ways to contribute to the jihad. Bin Laden made several monetary contributions to the mujahideen, but quickly began looking for other ways to contribute.

Bin Laden joined with Palestinian cleric Abdullah Azzam to found the Services Bureau (Makhtab al-Khidimat, or MAK) in Pakistan in 1984. Azzam, who had taught at King Abdul Aziz University while bin Laden studied there, was indispensable in recruiting.

In addition to providing relief to war victims in Afghanistan, the MAK organized and coordinated the volunteers, donations, and weapons coming into Pakistan and Afghanistan in support of the jihad.

Azzam believed that the young Arab men streaming to Pakistan to participate in the jihad should be scattered among the Afghan functions. Azzam felt that such a mixing of Arabs among the local forces would reap benefits both in Afghanistan and abroad.

Bin Laden saw the situation differently and sought to create his own separate Arab fighting force. He believed that such a force would be a superior fighting unit compared to local Afghan forces. Bin Laden broke with Azzam and established training camps for his Arab force near Jaji, in eastern Afghanistan.

From this base, which they dubbed al-Masadah (the Lion’s Den), bin Laden’s "Arab Afghans" engaged the Soviets in the battle of Jaji in the spring of 1987. It was at this time that bin Laden grew closer to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and one of its most prominent members, Ayman al Zawahiri, who would become bin Laden’s deputy in al-Qaeda.

When the Soviets announced their planned withdrawal in April 1988, bin Laden began preparations to perpetuate and expand his forces. He began by moving his unit to the area around Jalalabad, Afghanistan, which became known as al-Qaeda; bin Laden would later say that the name remained with the group by accident. Following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, bin Laden, who had consistently expressed his contempt for the "atheist" Hussein and his Ba’athist government, approached the Saudi king with a plan to use his Arab Afghans to drive Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

The Saudi government sought to restrict his movements within the kingdom. Bin Laden obtained permission in early 1991 to travel to Pakistan on the pretext of checking in on some business interests and never returned to Saudi Arabia.

In early 1992 bin Laden and al-Qaeda moved to Sudan, where they remained until 1996. Al-Qaeda and the National Islamic Front (NIF), the ruling party in Sudan, enjoyed a symbiotic relationship.

The NIF granted al-Qaeda a safe haven and freedom of movement, while bin Laden made substantial investments in Sudanese industry and agriculture and undertook several large-scale construction projects to develop the infrastructure and agricultural and industrial production capacity of Sudan.

While in the Sudan, bin Laden directed his forces in actions against the communist government of South Yemen. The Arab Afghans also were sent to Bosnia, where they had a substantial impact on that conflict. Bin Laden dispatched al-Qaeda forces into Somalia in response to the buildup of U.S. forces.

In December 1992 President George H. W. Bush sent 28,000 U.S. troops into Somalia on a humanitarian mission in support of United Nations (UN) relief efforts. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda dismissed all humanitarian claims and interpreted the U.S. presence as a way of putting pressure on Islamic regimes and as an effort to establish another base from which to attack Muslim nations.

Al-Qaeda regarded Yemen as a major victory. First, even though the hotels bombed in Yemen did not house U.S. personnel, the transfer of U.S. troops out of Yemen shortly after the hotel bombings indicated to al-Qaeda that they had been successful in driving the Americans from Yemen.

Bin Laden also claimed that the militarily superior U.S. forces were driven from Somalia by a poor, ill-armed people whose only strength was their faith. In his 1996 aliran declaring war against the United States, bin Laden claimed that the most important lesson to be learned from Somalia was that the United States would flee at the first sign of resistance.

The year 1994 was a watershed for bin Laden. He survived two assassination attempts and in April was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in response to the growing threat he represented to the regime.

A jawaban step in his radicalization came in August, when the Saudi government imprisoned clerics Salman al Awdah and Safar al Hawali, who were among the first and most prominent of the clerics circulating cassettes of their sermons against the continued U.S. presence in the Arabian Peninsula, and whose imprisonment bin Laden would later mention in his 1996 fatwa.

Bin Laden and al-Qaeda left Sudan in 1996 and returned to Afghanistan, a move prompted by several factors. In addition to the assassination attempts, bin Laden faced international pressure on the NIF and its de facto leader, Hassan al-Turabi.

The United States and Saudi Arabia sought to have bin Laden silenced and his activities curtailed, and al-Turabi found it increasingly difficult to maneuver and protect bin Laden.

When Sudan started pressuring bin Laden, he returned to Jalalabad. There bin Laden and al-Qaeda entered into a symbiotic relationship with the Taliban ("the students"), who were in the process of consolidating their control over much of the country.

This relationship was similar to that with the NIF in Sudan; bin Laden and his organization gained considerable freedom of movement and protection, while his benefactors benefited from agricultural, infrastructural, and industrial investment and development.

It was during the period between bin Laden’s return to Afghanistan and the 1998 aliran that civilians became targets. Both the 1996 aliran and bin Laden’s 1997 CNN interview spoke of civilians as collateral damage, not as legitimate targets in and of themselves.

By 1998 this had changed, and the aliran issued February 22, 1998, explicitly stated that Americans and their allies, civilians and military alike, were now al-Qaeda targets anywhere they could be found.

Communications from al-Qaeda repeatedly stress their belief that Western governments oppress Muslims and Muslim nations and are engaged in a war against Islam. Bin Laden describes the presence of U.S. forces in "the Land of the Two Holy Places" (Saudi Arabia) as the greatest insult and threat faced by the Islamic world since Muhammad’s lifetime.

In addition to decrying U.S. support for Israel, the group condemns U.S. support for what it considers "apostate regimes", particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden also points to the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the Gulf War as one reason to reject any human rights arguments coming from the West.

Al-Qaeda’s idea of the ummah (community of believers; the Islamic world) in opposition to the world derives from the teachings of two prominent Islamic scholars.

Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328) was a 14th-century Islamic scholar who taught that jihad is the duty of each individual Muslim when Islam is attacked, that the Qu’ran should be interpreted literally, and that all Muslims should read the Qu’ran and Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet) for themselves and not rely on a learned clergy. A second influence on al-Qaeda was Sayyid Qutb (1906–66), an Islamist associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Describing the world as existing between states of belief (Islam) and unbelief (jahiliyya), Qutb condemned Western and Christian civilization. Urging jihad against all enemies of Islam, Qutb believed that there is no middle ground and that all Muslims must take to jihad when Islam is threatened.

These influences are apparent in al-Qaeda’s activities and rhetoric. Bin Laden believes that since the Christians, Jews, and Hindus have nuclear weapons, it is only fitting that Muslims obtain them as well.

Bin Laden also echoes Ibn Taymiyyah in his assertions that the Saudi government is aiding the "crusaders" in plundering the wealth of the ummah, the vast Middle Eastern oil reserves, and by acting to keep oil prices below fair-market value.

Al-Qaeda’s leadership cadre is well educated. Bin Laden has a university degree in economics, and his inner circle contains doctors; agricultural, civil, and electrical engineers; and computer scientists, but no religious scholars.

Rahman’s aliran echoed the call to attack the United States and its allies—civilian and military, anywhere in the world—and contained exhortations to sink ships, shoot down airplanes, and burn corporations and businesses.

Two separate attacks on U.S. warships were made in subsequent years, with the USS Cole attack following an unsuccessful attack on the USS The Sullivans one year earlier. On September 11, 2001, the plot masterminded by Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003, respectively, proceeded along the lines of Rahman’s fatwa.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)


The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964 under Ahmed Shukairy to represent Palestinian national demands for self-determination. In 1964 the Palestine National Council (PNC, or parliament) of 350 representatives met in East Jerusalem and voted on the Palestine National Charter, or declaration of independence, that declared historic Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian Arabs. The charter has been amended several times.

In 1968 the charter added that "armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine". In 1988 the PLO under Yasir Arafat’s orders agreed to drop the use of terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and essentially accept the establishment of the independent state of Palestine in the Occupied Territories of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank—the so-called mini-state solution.

Although some Palestinian groups opposed Arafat on these issues—the changes were agreed upon by the Palestine National Council, dominated by pro-Fatah Arafat supporters. Fatah (the Palestine National Liberation Movement) continued to dominate the PLO until 2006.

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After the Arab defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Shukairy stepped down as chairman of the PLO, and Yasir Arafat, the leader of Fatah, the largest guerrilla group, was elected chairman.

Arafat remained the leader of the Palestinian national movement until his death in 2004. The PLO constantly struggled to remain independent from any Arab government and often found it difficult to steer a neutral course among rival Arab governments.

Secular and all-inclusive, the PLO was an umbrella organization of some 10 different Palestinian groups, including the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), under Dr. George Habash, and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), led by Naif Hawatmeh; the Arab Liberation Front, supported by Iraq; and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, a PFLP splinter group supported by Syria and sometimes Libya.

The Palestine National Council operated until the 1993 Oslo Accords as a government in exile. The PNC comprised over 300 members, including fighters, union members, students, and women. The Palestine Central Council acted as an advisory board of approximately 60 representatives from all the various factions.

The Executive Committee ran the PLO on a daily basis and comprised 15 members. In contrast to many other Arab governments, the PLO was highly democratic and engaged in lively and often public debates about strategies and tactics.

The Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) was the PLO’s military wing and was often made up of fedayeen (self-sacrificers). By the 1970s the PLA had an estimated 10,000 fighters based mostly in Lebanon and Syria.

After the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon the PLA was forced to scatter to a number of Arab countries. After the establishment of the Palestine Authority (PA) under the 1993 Oslo Accords, many soldiers were subsumed under the police force.

The Palestine National Fund was the PLO’s economic arm. The fund was financed by donations from Palestinians in exile as well as taxes levied on Palestinians working in some Arab nations such as Libya. Individual Arab governments, such as oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, also provided aid. Those regimes cut off aid after the PLO supported Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the First Gulf War.

After the 1967 war, some groups within the PLO endorsed terrorist attacks on civilians. The PFLP simultaneously skyjacked four planes, landing them at a remote airstrip in Jordan in 1970; this incident precipitated "Black September", when the Jordanian army attacked and defeated Palestinian forces and ousted the PLO, which then moved its base of operations to Lebanon.

Attacks on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics followed in 1972. The cycle of violence escalated as PLO groups launched raids inside and outside of Israel and Israel assassinated Palestinian leaders in the Middle East and Europe. As a result many innocent civilians on both sides were killed and wounded.

Within the Arab world the PLO was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Although it was condemned as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, the PLO gradually gained international recognition, and, once it renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist, even Israel and the United States entered into both public and secret negotiations with it.

The PLO also established an extensive network of social services, including schools, orphanages, and hospitals. The Palestine Red Crescent was active in providing health and emergency care. SAMED provided an economic infrastructure of small businesses, workshops, and factories manufacturing textiles and even office furniture in Lebanon and Syria.

Many of these institutions were destroyed in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In the 1970s the PLO also sponsored some agricultural cooperatives in Sudan, Somalia, and other African nations. It also sponsored art and cultural events.

The Palestine Research Center, based in Beirut, focused on collecting materials and publishing books and articles on Palestinian history in order to preserve its cultural heritage. The center was also destroyed, and materials were taken by the Israelis in the 1982 war. The PLO also maintained information bureaus and had diplomatic representatives in major world capitals.

In the midst of the 1987 Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in the occupied territories, a rival Islamist organization, Hamas, emerged to challenge Fatah’s leadership. Financed by devout Muslims, especially in conservative Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Hamas prospered first among poor Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip.

Because it competed with the PLO, Israel initially ignored Hamas but subsequently found that in many ways it proved a more dangerous enemy. When the PLO, in spite of concessions to Israel, failed to achieve a viable Palestinian state, many more young Palestinians who had grown up under Israeli military occupation joined Hamas.

When the Palestine Authority was established in the territories evacuated by the Israeli military in 1994, Arafat became the leader of the PA; he won a clear-cut majority as president in open and fair elections in 1996.

However, the PA leaders, most of whom were members of Fatah who had spent years outside the Occupied Territories, were also accused of corruption and inefficiency. After Arafat’s death Mahmud Abbas was elected president in 2005.

Fatah dominated the Palestinian parliament until it was defeated by the Islamist Hamas party in the 2006 elections and Ismail Haniyeh became prime minister. As the two main political forces—Fatah and Hamas—competed for power and the Israeli occupation of most of the territories continued, the future of the PLO remained uncertain.

Third World/Global South

The term Third World applies to those nations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere that mostly secured independence from the imperial powers after World War II. In the cold war construct the First World, dominated by the United States, also included Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

These nations were wealthy, highly industrialized, urban, largely secular, democratic, and had capitalist economies. The Second World consisted of the Soviet bloc, dominated by the Soviet Union.

These nations were industrialized but not as wealthy as the First World; they were secular, authoritarian, and had socialist economics. The Third World nations, consisting of two-thirds of the world’s population, were poor, rural, and agrarian, with traditional societies.

After the breakup of the Soviet bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the terms no longer applied and because most of the nations of the Third World were south of the equator the term Global South came to be used as a collective label for these nations.

The gap between rich and poor nations grew in the 20th century. As the Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru commented, "The poor have to run fast just to keep up". Third World countries were caught in a cycle of poverty, with low incomes and low production. After independence many became dictatorships and attempted to improve their economies, usually unsuccessfully, by adopting socialist systems on the Soviet state capitalist model.

Economists often referred to the poor developing nations as low-GDP (low Gross Domestic Product) countries, meaning they produced little in the way of goods and services. Countries in the Global South adopted a wide variety of methods to break out of the cycle of poverty.

In China Mao Zedong led a socialist revolution and mobilized the masses, but only with privatization after his death did the Chinese economy begin to take off. India, the world’s most populous democracy, adopted a capitalist approach; India also successfully applied the technology of the Green Revolution, the use of hybrid seeds to increase agricultural productivity.

At the beginning of the 20th century, India suffered major famines but by the end of the century it was exporting foodstuffs. India and many other poor nations also invested heavily in education. In Southeast Asia educated workers became the backbone of industrialization and the development of high-tech firms.

Other nations built huge development projects, such as the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Three Gorges Dam in China. Following Western advice in the 1950s and 1960s, many Third World nations concentrated on industrialization, to the detriment of the agricultural sector. That, along with ecological changes, droughts along wide bands of Africa, civil wars, political corruption, and instability, contributed to large famines and mass starvation in many African nations.

In the Middle East oil-producing nations joined a cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to gain increased revenues from their major resource. They then used the new revenues to build modern infrastructures. Kuwait was able to provide a complete welfare system from cradle to grave for its small population.

Other countries, such as the "little dragons" in Southeast Asia (Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore), attracted foreign businesses and industries. Many nations in South America and Africa also borrowed vast amounts of money from private and public Western banks, such as the World Bank, to bring much-needed capital into their countries.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also provided assistance in welfare, food, education, and healthcare. Brazil used foreign loans to create new industries and provide jobs, but it, along with many other countries, became ensnared in a web of indebtedness that was impossible to repay.

By the 1990s rich nations promised but often failed to deliver increased foreign aid and to forgive or restructure the debts of these nations, especially the poorest in Africa. Other nations had some modest successes in adopting appropriate technology to establish small, inexpensive grassroots projects.

Population growth also contributed to economic problems. In Kenya the population doubled every 18 years and in Egypt every 26 years, compared to every 92 in the United States. By 2000 the world’s population had exceeded 6 billion, from 1 billion in 1800. It was expected to reach 9 billion by 2054.

In poor countries high infant mortality contributed to the desire to have many children in hopes that at least some would survive to adulthood and be able to care for their parents, especially their mothers, in their old age. To limit its population China adopted a draconian one-child policy and strictly enforced it through its totalitarian system.

India adopted numerous approaches in attempts to limit population growth; these were often accepted by urban elites, but peasants continued to value large families. In societies where women had low status, having children, especially boys, brought status and the hope of some security.

The educational status of many improved, and literacy rates improved, although in many countries boys enjoyed higher rates of education than girls. While programs to empower women were often successful, they were also resisted by traditional and religious leaders.

Women’s work continued to be undervalued and underpaid. Child labor was yet another problem. Globalization and privatization in the late 20th century actually caused some nations to become poorer as prices for agricultural goods and raw materials dropped.

In some Global South nations, such as India, a few people became millionaires, but most remained desperately poor. In the 1990s, incomes in 54 nations actually declined, and in Zimbabwe life expectancy fell from 56 to 331, compared to over 80 in the United States and Japan. Disease, especially AIDS, contributed to further economic and social problems, particularly in many southern African countries.

At the 2000 Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed to institute programs aimed at cutting in half the number of people living on under $1 a day and at halving the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. Five years later the commitments of the donor nations, especially the United States, had fallen short of the promises made, and it remained uncertain whether the goals would be met.

Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was a centralized absolute regime ruled from the top by the sultan. As in other nomadic and Islamic empires, the Ottomans never developed a legal procedure for accession and this was to be a source of instability and weakness.

The first sultans were among the most able sons of the sultans, and rival brothers were sometimes executed. By the 1600s, the oldest male members of the family were selected as sultans. Thus the sultanate passed among brothers or nephews and other possible heirs were kept under “house arrest” in various palaces.

The Ottoman Empire was a Sunni Islamic state, and although the sultans ultimately took the title of caliph, the Sheikh al Islam was the major religious authority of the state. In keeping with Islamic practice, there was no separation of religious and secular law in the early Ottoman Empire and the Shari’a was recognized as the law of the empire.


The Sheikh al Islam issued fatwas, legal opinions based on Islamic law, on matters ranging from the theological to the practical. Qadis, or Muslim judges, served in the provinces and local towns and muftis were appointed to give legal pronouncements if asked by the qadi.

Religious education was conducted in madrassas throughout the empire and the office of the waqf (pl. awqaf) oversaw religious endowments, many of which had been given by devout Muslims as zakat, or alms. Waqf endowments included hospitals, schools, retirement homes, public fountains, and soup kitchens.

Power Hierarchy

Politically, the vizier was the second-most powerful figure after the sultan. During the 18th century, when the sultans were weak or inept, the viziers, particularly the able and honest Koprülü family, managed the vast bureaucracy and government.

Early sultans governed through the imperial divan, or council, but ultimately the vizier oversaw the divan. A huge number of bureaucrats including scribes, translators, and clerks administered the day-to-day operation of the far-flung empire.

The sultans appointed valis, or governors, to rule over each province. To prevent governors from becoming too powerful, their terms in office were usually short; two years was the average. The constant administrative changes often led to inefficiency and corruption.

As a rule of thumb, the Ottomans exercised more direct authority in the provinces closest to the center of power in Istanbul; remote provinces, far from the center of power, enjoyed considerable autonomy and local families or officials often were the real sources of power.

Because remote regions such as Kuwait and Yemen often only gave an annual tribute to the Ottomans, it was sometimes unclear whether they were actually part of the empire. Unless protracted revolts broke out or people refused to pay taxes, the Ottomans generally interfered little in the daily lives of their subjects.

Militarily, the Janissaries composed the elite forces. They were conscripted through the devshirme system whereby young Christian boys from the Balkans were taken as slaves, converted to Islam, and trained as professional soldiers or administrators whose sole loyalty was to the state.

As the sultans became weaker, the Janissary corps became politically powerful and on occasion overthrew sultans to replace them with individuals of their own choice. The cavalry or sipahis, free-born Muslims, were given land as payment. Ownership of such land grants was sometimes hereditary. There were also a large number of conscripted foot soldiers.

Taxation

The collection of taxes was a perennial duduk perkara and the Ottomans developed a system of tax farming, or iltizam, in which multazim, tax collectors, were hired to collect taxes throughout the empire.

This system led to considerable abuses, and often unfair tax burdens were placed on the poorest peasants, who lacked the resources or power to avoid payment or to buy off the tax collector. Peasant farmers were often informally tied to the land, much of which was owned by old feudal families who retained their wealth under the Ottomans.

Religious minorities, Christians, Jews, and Armenians, lived under the millet system. They paid an additional tax but maintained their own schools, controlled their local communities, and settled legal disputes among their members.

The Ottoman Empire was remarkably tolerant of minorities, who enjoyed considerable upward mobility and economic freedom. Members of ethnic and religious minorities could and did rise to high positions, including that of vizier or physician to the sultan. Only the position of sultan was reserved for members of the House of Osman.

Agreements of capitulation were signed with foreign powers such as the French. Under the capitulations foreign merchants and others were granted rights to conduct business within the empire and were exempt from Ottoman taxation and laws. When the empire was strong, the capitulations were not a problem, but as the empire declined, the millet system and capitulations became sources of foreign economic and political interference.

Life as A Sultan

The sultan and his household ruled from the Topkapi in Istanbul. Topkapi was a sprawling complex of vast audience halls, throne rooms, living quarters for the harem, pleasure gardens and fountains, and a kitchen large enough to provide daily meals for 2,000 people.

The harem included the sultan’s wives, concubines, eunuchs, and the queen mother or Valide Sultan. Early sultans, like their counterparts in Europe and Asia, often married the daughters or sisters of defeated foes or wed to cement political and military alliances.

By the 16th century, sultans generally did not marry and Suleiman I the Magnificent’s marriage to his beloved Hurrem (Roxelana) was highly unusual. Women of the harem, particularly the Valide Sultan, exerted considerable political power during the 18th century.

They often conspired for their favorite sons to become the sultan. Although early sultans received firsthand training leading military forces and administering Ottoman provinces, by the 17th century royal princes were educated totally within the palace.

Their lack of outside experience and isolation within the harem made them poorly equipped to rule. Seventeenth-century sultans were often spoiled and self-indulgent with little or no awareness of the problems or corruption within ruling circles.

Ottoman Turkish was the language of the ruling elite and government. But as the language of the Qur’an, Arabic enjoyed a special place and was spoken as the first language by the Arabs who composed the majority of the population.

The Ottomans eagerly assimilated the artistic forms and cultures of those they ruled and often synthesized a wide variety of artistic forms into new, vibrant ones. A lavish court life with patronage of the arts evolved. As with most nomadic societies the Ottomans had a rich tradition of textiles and Ottoman artisans were known for their luxurious textiles, carpets, enameled tile work, and armor.

Ottoman Expansion

Following the collapse of Timurlane’s empire, Sultans Mehmed I (r. 1413–21) and Murad II (r. 1421–51) began the process of the reconquest and consolidation of the Ottoman Empire.

Mehmed enjoyed the support of the old Ottoman ghazi fighters and used that military support as the foundation for reestablishing Ottoman control over much of Anatolia and parts of the Balkans. He was contemplating an attack on Constantinople, the famed Byzantine capital, when he died.

His young son Murad failed in his attempts to take Constantinople but through force and clever diplomacy succeeded in establishing Ottoman control over western Anatolia; he also established an Ottoman navy based at Gallipoli while securing an uneasy peace with King Ladislaus of Lithuania and Poland in 1444. He then abdicated to lead a life of spiritual contemplation.

His son, Mehmed II, had been well trained for the sultanate and promptly began careful preparations to take Constantinople. In 1453, after a protracted siege, the city fell to the Ottoman forces and Mehmed entered the city as the new ruler.

Known as Istanbul to the Turks, the city became the new Ottoman capital and a vibrant center for trade and culture. Mehmed II the Conqueror expanded Ottoman control into the Balkans and launched attacks against the Venetians as well as into the Crimea and Iran.

By 1468, he had broken the obdurate Karaman opposition around Bursa and moved into the Black Sea region as well. In 1475, the Tartar khans in the Crimea bowed to Ottoman control.

The Ottomans now controlled territory from the Balkans to the vital Dardanelles Straits to the Crimea and the Black Sea and the Anatolian coast along the Mediterranean. At the time of Mehmed’s death, Ottoman forces were poised to attack Otranto in southern Italy, but with the succession of a new sultan they were called home in 1481, and the attack was never resumed.

Mehmed’s two sons, Jem and Bayezid, struggled over succession to the throne but key military forces supported Bayezid, who outmaneuvered his brother for the sultanate. Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512) continued raids into Hungary and along the Black Sea while attacking Venice in 1499.

Following a peace in 1503, the Ottoman navy emerged as the dominant force in the eastern Mediterranean. Bayezid also entered into a protracted and ultimately futile series of conflicts with the rival Safavid dynasty in Iran.

In 1512, as the Safavids threatened Ottoman territories, the ailing Bayezid turned over the throne to his able son Selim. Known as “the Grim,” Selim I (r. 1566–74) had extensive military experience and moved quickly against the Safavids under Shah Ismail, who scorched the earth as he retreated from eastern Anatolia around Lake Van.

Selim then turned his army against the Mamluks in Syria and Egypt. Previous Ottoman attacks on the Mamluks had failed, but by the early 16th century, the Mamluks had been seriously weakened by the perpetual rivalries among their leaders and the loss of lucrative trade to the Portuguese navy and merchants, who had established maritime trading posts in key African and Asian ports.

Egypt

In 1516, Selim defeated the Mamluks in northern Syria near the city of Aleppo; he appointed Ottoman governors to administer the northern regions close to Anatolia but local leaders remained powerful in southern Syria. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus were the main power bases in Syria.

The last Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, who had been living under Mamluk protection, was captured and taken to Istanbul. He died in 1543, thereby formally ending the Abbasid line of the caliphate. Selim also confronted the Mamluks outside Cairo. After a short struggle, Cairo fell and in 1517 all of Egypt came under Ottoman control.

However the Ottomans retained the Mamluks as titular rules of Egypt under Ottoman suzerainty. The Ottoman sultan now controlled territory from the Balkans to the Nile including the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The sultans adopted the title caliph but it held little real meaning. However, the Ottomans believed themselves to be the protectors of the Islamic world and of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Hijaz in Arabia.

When Selim died, his only son, Suleiman, inherited an empire at the peak of its power and wealth. Suleiman ruled for 46 years and continued his forebears’ traditions of military conquest. After taking the island of Rhodes from the Knights of St. John, who escaped to the island of Malta, and the city of Belgrade, Suleiman moved to confront his major enemy, the Habsburg dynasty of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire.

To counter Habsburg power, Suleiman entered into alliances with the French rulers, who viewed the Habsburgs as impediments to their territorial ambitions. Similarly, the Venetians wavered back and forth between alliances with the Habsburgs to counter Ottoman expansion and with the Ottomans to counter Austrian power.

At the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Suleiman won a major victory that was followed by Ottoman forces’ occupying the cities of Buda and Pest in Hungary. The Ottomans also fought Russia over territories in the Balkans and Black Sea.

In 1529, Suleiman led the Ottoman army deep into Austrian territory and laid siege to Vienna. However, he failed to take the city before winter and as Ottoman troops refused to fight during winter months, he was forced to retreat without taking the city.

The Ottomans took Baghdad in 1554 and again in 1639 from their Safavid rivals. Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) was largely controlled from Mosul in the north and by various Mazelike in the south. Suleiman died in 1655 while on yet another campaign into Hungary.

Although the Ottoman Empire was the major land power of the age, it was also a major naval power. In 1533 Khair ad Din (c. 1475–1546) became admiral in chief of the Ottoman navy. Khair ad Din and his brothers had been notorious privateers in the Mediterranean and entered into the Ottoman service in the early 16th century.

Known as Barbarossa, “Red Beard,” Khair ad Din defeated the Austria fleet of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, at the Battle of Preveza in 1538, thereby establishing Ottoman ascendancy throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

North Africa

Algiers and Tunis in North Africa were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire and thousands of loyal Ottomans were settled in Algiers as further protection against Spanish incursions.

Although the Spanish were able to establish outposts along the northern Moroccan coast, the Moroccan Sa’did dynasty used gunpowder armaments to repel both Ottoman and Spanish attacks; thus Morocco never became part of the Ottoman Empire. When Khair ad Din died, his son Hasan Pasha was made bey, or ruler, of Algiers.

In North Africa, the Ottomans exercised loose control over the territories through appointed pashas, Janissary forces, and local beys and deys, who frequently competed with one another for actual political power.

In Tunis during the early 18th century, an Ottoman cavalryman established the Husaynid dynasty, which, although it paid lip service to Ottoman suzerainty, was largely independent. It lasted into the mid-20th century, when Tunisia became an independent nation.

Although the Ottoman navy failed to take Malta, it was ascendant throughout most of the Mediterranean in the 16th century. However, in 1571 unified Christian European forces were victorious over the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto.

Based in Egypt and in Basra in present-day Iraq, Ottoman ships extended their reach to Yemen and Aden in the southern Arabian Peninsula and even raided along the Indian coast. Suleiman’s son Selim II (reigned 1566–74) conquered Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean and his successor Murad III (reigned 1574–95) continued Ottoman territorial gains until 1683.

At its fullest extent in 1683, Ottoman territory included all of the Balkans and much of Hungary in Europe, the entire Black Sea coast and Crimea in the north; the western shores of the Caspian Sea in the east; the eastern Mediterranean coast and islands, the Arab provinces of greater Syria (present-day nations and territory of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan), Iraq, and most of Arabia including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; and in the west Egypt and North Africa (present-day Libya, Tunisia, Algeria) to the borders of Morocco. During the 18th century, a series of weak sultans contributed to a decline of Ottoman strength and to the gradual end to their military victories.

Ottoman Decline

The long decline of the Ottoman Empire was caused by a variety of internal and external factors. During the 17th century, a series of inept sultans failed to provide dynamic military and political leadership of their able predecessors. Corruption and inefficiency grew with few if any attempts at necessary reforms.

The cultural and political life of the empire began to ossify. Externally, European rivals grew in political, military, and economic power. New Portuguese-controlled sea routes to India were formidable competition to the overland trade routes controlled by Muslim states, especially the Ottoman Empire.

The increase of trade over sea routes developed during the age of exploration by European powers, thereby contributed to the emergence of Europe as the dominant world force by the 19th century. The discovery of vast amounts of gold and silver in the Western Hemisphere also increased the revenues flowing into European treasuries.

This new wealth enabled European rulers to mount increasingly well-armed military forces. Silver flooded into Ottoman territories and caused a drop in the value of Ottoman exchange as well as major inflation. As Ottoman conquests ceased, the treasury was no longer replenished with booty and goods from defeated foes.

The Ottomans also gradually lost the military technological edge they had previously held. In addition, protracted wars with the rival Safavid Empire in the east sapped vital economic and military reserves.

A series of weak, inept sultans increased the political weakness of the empire and made it difficult for it to respond with dynamic reforms or responses to the internal and external challenges. Sultan Ibrahim (reigned 1640–48) was so quixotic and self-indulgent that the Janissaries and Sheikh al Islam deposed him in favor of his young son, Mehmed IV (reigned 1648–87).

To preserve the throne for her son, Mehmed’s mother interfered and secured the appointment of the able and efficient Mehmed Koprülü as vizier. During this era, the Koprülüs were largely responsible for running the government and for initiating some reforms that helped to preserve the empire.

The so-called long war between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans from 1593 to 1606 was an early indication of Ottoman military decline. The Ottomans retained most of their holdings in the Balkans, in spite of local revolts, but the Ottoman sultan was forced to recognize the Habsburg ruler as a fellow emperor.

The Ottoman military decline was marked by the loss to the so-called Holy League of Austria, Poland, and Venice during the Balkan Wars of 1683–97. The Ottomans again laid siege to Vienna in 1683 and for a short time it appeared the city might surrender.

Then Polish forces came to the rescue and defeated the attacking Ottoman army. This marked the last attempt by the Ottomans to take the city. Subsequently, the Habsburgs pushed the Ottomans south of the Danube and Venice took portions of Greece and the Adriatic coast, while the Russians attacked in the Crimea.

The defeated Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 whereby all of Hungary, including Transylvania in present-day Romania and the northern Balkan territories of Croatia and Slovenia, were ceded to Austria. Large portions of the Dalmatian coast were taken by Venice but regained by the Ottomans in 1718.

Although the Ottoman Empire was severely weakened by the mid-18th century, its decline lasted longer than the entire histories of most world empires and the empire would not finally collapse until the 20th century.