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Last updated : Nov 2009
UAE History
UAE History - TravelPuppy.com
Since the seventh century this group of small sheikhdoms on the coastline of the Persian Gulf was a backwater of the Islamic civilization. It was then under the Ottoman control until the arrival of European colonists in the 1820s. It was brought under British suzerainty after attacks on British-owned shipping by pirates operating in the Gulf region. In 1853 the Arab rulers signed a treaty with the British in under which they accepted British military protection and in exchange promised to refrain from piracy.

During the 1950s, the British sought to bring together the seven distinct regimes of the Trucial States into one administrative bloc. Two key factors set the future of the territory: the 1968 decision by the British to withdraw the military forces from the Gulf; and the discovery of oil that gave a rapid boost to the economy of the region. The UAE became an independent state on 2 December 1971. FOr several years internal politics are prone to instability due to the uncertain nature of the federation and boundary disputes. The Sharjah emirate has been the subject of a couple of coup attempts. The ruling families in the two largest emirates, Dubai (the al-Makhtoums) and Abu Dhabi (whose ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, is the current president of the UAE) have managed to maintain stability in the federation.

The UAE has taken an active role in Middle East politics, both as a founding member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and as mediator in disputes including those between Israel and the Palestinians, Morocco and Algeria, Iran and Iraq, and Oman and Yemen. It was one of the first Gulf states to establish diplomatic relations with China and the countries of the former USSR.

In August 1990, along with other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council, the UAE gave its backing to the US-led anti-Iraqi coalition. Following the war, the UAE bolstered its national security by participating in various GCC defence initiatives, as well as signing bilateral agreements with the USA and the UK. The political situation in the Gulf has been sensitive ever since. The US policy of ‘dual containment’ (of Iran and Iraq) has created some difficulties for the essentially pro-Western UAE regime throughout the 1990s. The UAE has a long standing territorial dispute with Iran over the ownership of three small Gulf islands – Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and Abu Musa. The islands are in a key position close to Gulf shipping lanes and large oil and gas fields. Though this dispute has yet to be resolved, several other lesser conflicts with other Gulf states (principally Qatar) have been settled.