For thousands of years, the area of Bahrain has been on the trade route between India and Arabia. Though the Portuguese managed to gain control of the area in the 16th century, the Persians ousted them in the 17th century. A century later, Bahrain was a sheikhdom of the Ottoman Empire and by 1861, it was a British protectorate. It took over another 100 years for the country to achieve independence. At present, the United States maintains a base here that played an important role during the Gulf War of 1991. Though there has been unrest in the country, reflecting its high unemployment, repressive government, and the vast gap between rich and poor, the family-run government has maintained control with Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa succeeding his father, the founding emir, in 1999.