Tag Archives: Kuwait

Storyline: Kuwait swears in new emir after leader dies at 91.

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Kuwait on Wednesday swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and prepared to receive the body of his half-brother, the late ruler Sheikh Sabah who died in the US at the age of 91.

Sheikh Nawaf was visibly emotional as he addressed the National Assembly a day after the death of the emir, an acclaimed diplomat and mediator who ruled for 14 years.


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“The precious confidence that the people of Kuwait have entrusted in us will be guarded with our lives,” the 83-year-old said after taking the oath of office.

He pledged to “serve the nation” in the address before lawmakers, who sat socially distanced and in masks, in line with coronavirus precautions.

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The remains of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah are expected to arrive in Kuwait City later Wednesday, on a flight from Minnesota where he had been undergoing treatment in hospital since July.

According to the royal court, the funeral will be “restricted to the emir’s relatives” — a move likely designed to avoid large crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic. The country has already begun a 40-day period of national mourning.

Sheikh Sabah earned a reputation as a shrewd, unshakeable leader who helped steer his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes in global oil markets and upheavals in parliament and on the streets.

World leaders and Kuwaitis alike have hailed the legacy of the late emir, architect of the nation’s modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst crises to grip the Gulf.

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“This man was the safety valve of the Arab world, not just for Kuwait,” Bandar al-Dahani, a Kuwaiti citizen, told AFP.

Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah (C) reads a statement asfter being sworn in as Kuwait’s new Emir at the National Assembly in Kuwait City, as Parilament Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem (L) looks on, on September 30, 2020. – Kuwait on Wednesday swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah, who died in the US at the age of 91. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP)

“God willing, that goodness will be in Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf and he will follow the emir’s path.”

Generational transition looms
Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, takes over with Kuwait facing the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, which triggered a sharp decline in oil prices and severe economic consequences for Gulf states.

The elder statesman, who was named heir apparent in 2006, served as defence minister when Iraqi troops rolled into the oil-rich emirate in 1990, and also as interior minister in the face of challenges from Islamist militants.

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The new leader is popular within the ruling Al-Sabah family and is reported to have been a consensus choice for ruler. He also enjoys a reputation for modesty and has largely maintained a low profile.

Major policy changes are not expected during his reign, even after the Gulf underwent a seismic shift with Kuwait’s neighbours, the UAE and Bahrain, opting to establish relations with Israel.

Normalisation with the Jewish state is highly unpopular among the Kuwaiti public, which largely supports the Arab world’s historic position of demanding a resolution of the Palestinian cause before giving diplomatic concessions to Israel.

Despite expectations for a smooth succession, there could be more spirited debate over who the new crown prince should be.

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Kuwait’s constitution stipulates that the ruler should be a descendant of the nation’s founder, Mubarak al-Sabah, but the throne has alternated between the descendants of his sons, Salem and Jaber, for four decades.

In this file photo taken on December 15, 2009 Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah attends the final session of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait City. – Kuwait named Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as its new emir, after the death of his half-brother Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on September 29, 2020 at the age of 91. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP)

Contestants for the newly vacated role of crown prince include Sheikh Sabah’s son and former deputy prime minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti political heavyweight.

“Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed should be viewed more as a caretaker than as a watershed new leader,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Behind the scenes, however, younger princes would likely continue to compete to succeed him.”


#Newsworthy…

Iraq’s invasion on Kuwait 30 years ago

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On August 2, 1990, the army of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein swarmed into neighbouring Gulf emirate Kuwait, annexing the small oil-rich territory.

Seven months later, Iraq was chased out by a US-led international coalition, leaving behind a devastated and pillaged Kuwait, and 750 oil wells ablaze.

Here is a recap of the conflict and its aftermath:

– Accusations –
On July 18, 1990, tensions spiral after Iraq accuses Kuwait of stealing petrol from the Rumaila oil field and encroaching on its territory.

Saddam demands $2.4 billion from the emirate.

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Kuwait counters, saying Iraq is trying to drill oil wells on its territory.

It is one of several disputes, the most complex involving their border — a bone of contention since Kuwait’s independence in 1961.

Iraq also accuses the emirate of flooding the oil market, driving down crude prices.

Attempts by the Arab League and Saudi Arabia to mediate an end to the crisis fail and talks are suspended on August 1.

– Invasion –
The next day, Iraq invades.

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“Iraqi troops began at 2 a.m. local time to violate our northern borders, to enter Kuwait territory and to occupy positions within Kuwait,” Radio Kuwait announces in its first news bulletin.

It is followed by patriotic music and calls on Kuwaitis “to defend their land, their sand and their dunes”.

Violent clashes with heavy weaponry break out in Kuwait City between Kuwaiti units and the Iraqi army.

Faced with 100,000 Iraqi troops and 300 tanks, the 16,000-strong Kuwaiti army is overwhelmed.

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The capital falls that morning and Kuwait’s head of state Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Al-Sabah flees to Saudi Arabia.

His brother Fahd is killed as Iraqi troops seize the palace.

In Baghdad official radio announces the end of the “traitor regime” it accuses of being an accomplice in an “American Zionist plot”, aimed at undermining the recovery of the Iraqi economy.

– Shockwaves –
The international community condemns the invasion and oil prices soar on world markets.

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At an emergency meeting, the UN Security Council demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Washington freezes Iraqi assets in the US and its subsidiaries abroad, along with Kuwaiti assets, to prevent them benefiting Baghdad.

The Soviet Union, Iraq’s main arms supplier, halts its deliveries.

On August 6, the UN Security Council slaps a trade, financial and military embargo on Iraq.

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Two days later, the US president George H.W. Bush announces he is sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

Iraq closes its borders to foreigners. Thousands of western, Arab and Asian civilians are held against their will in Iraq or Kuwait, with some 500 people used for months as human shields at strategic sites.

– Annexation –
On August 8, Baghdad announces Kuwait’s “total and irreversible” incorporation into Iraq.

Later in the month, Iraq annexes the emirate as its 19th province.

“Kuwait is part of Iraq,” Saddam declares.

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– Liberation –
On November 29, the UN Security Council authorises the use of “all necessary means” to force Iraq out of Kuwait if it has not withdrawn its troops voluntarily by January 15, 1991.

Baghdad rejects the ultimatum.

On January 17, after diplomatic initiatives fail, Operation Desert Storm is launched with intensive bombardments of Iraq and Kuwait.

On February 24, Bush announces a ground offensive.

The allied troops free the emirate in days.

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Bush announces on February 27 the liberation of Kuwait and the cessation of hostilities the next day, at 0400 GMT.

Iraq accepts all UN resolutions.

The crisis divides Arab states.

Egyptian and Syrian armies take part in the coalition, but it is denounced by other Arab countries.

More than a decade later, in 2003, Kuwait serves as a bridgehead for the US-led invasion of Iraq, which leads to the overthrow of Saddam.


#Newsworthy…

Kuwait’s leader, Al-Sabah leaves for treatment in United States

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Kuwait’s 91-year-old ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah left for the United States Thursday to undergo medical treatment, his office said, days after he had surgery for an undisclosed illness.

The emir, who has ruled the oil-rich Gulf state since 2006, had been in hospital since the weekend.

Sheikh Sabah “left the country today at dawn to go to the United States to complete his medical treatment”, his office said in a statement cited by state news agency KUNA.

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Earlier, it had said he would make the journey “based on the advice of his medical team to complete treatment following the successful surgery”.

The statements did not reveal the nature of his illness, the type of surgery he had undergone in Kuwait, or what treatment was planned in the US.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree dissolving the Gulf state’s parliament (AFP Photo/Yasser Al-Zayyat)

In September 2019, he underwent medical tests shortly after arriving in the United States, leading to a meeting with President Donald Trump being called off.

The emir had his appendix removed in 2002, two years after having a pacemaker fitted. In 2007, he underwent urinary tract surgery in the United States.

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Under Kuwaiti law, when the emir is absent, crown prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, 83, the emir’s half-brother, is appointed acting ruler.

Sheikh Nawaf is an elder statesman who has held high office for decades, including the defence and interior portfolios.

Sheikh Sabah argued last year for de-escalation in the Gulf as tensions surged between the US and its arch-foe Iran.

He is widely regarded as the architect of modern Kuwait’s foreign policy.


#Newsworthy…