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Bahraini–Qatari Wars


A series of conflicts from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries over disputed territory.

When it left Kuwait around 1760, the Al Khalifa clan landed at Zubara, on the northwestern coast of the Qatar peninsula. After capturing Bahrain in 1782, it kept Zubara until 1796. The Al Khalifa reoccupied Zubara in 1799, but by the early 1800s control of the area was contested by the Al Thani, based at Doha on the eastern coast of Qatar. Skirmishing persisted until 1880, when Britain imposed a truce. A 1913 treaty committed Britain to preventing the Al Khalifa from annexing any territory on the peninsula; a later pact promised British assistance to repel attacks against the Al Thani.

These agreements terminated Al Khalifa intervention at Zubara, but left indeterminate the status of the Hawar Islands and Fasht al-Dibal reef, situated just off the coast. In 1939, Britain put the sixteen islands under Bahrain's jurisdiction. Armed clashes erupted around the archipelago in 1978, 1982, 1986, and 1991. In 1992, Qatar asserted sovereignty over the islands, now thought to command a significant oil field, and rejected Bahrain's proposal to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice. In 1994, Qatar changed tack and petitioned the court for a ruling, over the protests of Bahrain. In 1998, when proceedings lagged, Bahrain started work on a causeway and tourist facilities on the islands. Mediation attempts by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates failed to resolve the dispute, which threatened to polarize the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bahrain and Qatar set up a joint committee to deal with the matter in 2000, but it soon deadlocked. In 2001, the International Court of Justice awarded the Hawar Islands to Bahrain and Zubara and Fasht al-Dibal to Qatar.

see also al khalifa family; al thani family; bahrain; gulf cooperation council; qatar.


Kelly, J. B. Britain and the Persian Gulf 17951880. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.

Lawson, Fred H. Bahrain: The Modernization of Autocracy. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1989.

Fred H. Lawson

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