Laying it down in stone: delimiting and demarcating Iraq’s boundaries by mixed international commission

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Mixed international commissions have been centrally involved in shaping the outer margins of the state territory of Iraq over the last century and ahalf. Laborious Anglo-Russian efforts to narrow the traditional Perso-Ottoman frontier in the seventy-year period before the Great War contrasted with the League of Nations' ostensibly speedy treatment of Iraq's more arbitrary northern and north-western territorial limits in the early inter-war years. More recently, a team appointed by the UN Secretary-General finalised definition of Iraq's international boundaries with Kuwait when teh emirate was liberated from Iraqi occupation in the spring of 1991. The article scrutinises the role played by these bodies in teh boundary evolutionary process from a review of their primary records. It highlights the fact that the evolution of Iraq's (and those of its Ottoman forbears) international boundarie sto the east, north and west was rarely straightforward and refelcted both regional considerations and imperial contexts. The problem of reconciling inadequate textual definitions with features on the ground has been a constant phenomenon. Deciding whether commissions actually delimited or demarcated territory was as valid a question following the UN's Iraq-Kuwait settlement as in teh mid-nineteenth century. Whether many historical treaty delimitations were ever designed to be anything more than territorial allocations is another theme explored in this article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-421
Number of pages24
Issue number3
Early online date30 Nov 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008


  • Ottoman Empire
  • Iraq
  • Colonial boundary-making
  • frontiers
  • delimitation nad demarcation
  • League of Nations
  • United Nations


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