/koo wayt"/, n.
1. a sovereign monarchy in NE Arabia, on the NW coast of the Persian Gulf: formerly a British protectorate. 2,076,805; ab. 8000 sq. mi. (20,720 sq. km).
2. a seaport in and the capital of this monarchy. 800,000.
Also, Koweit.

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Introduction Kuwait -
Background: Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely liberated Kuwait in four days. Kuwait has spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. Geography Kuwait
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 29 30 N, 45 45 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 17,820 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 17,820 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 462 km border countries: Iraq 240 km, Saudi Arabia 222 km
Coastline: 499 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters
Terrain: flat to slightly undulating desert plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m highest point: unnamed location 306 m
Natural resources: petroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 0.34% permanent crops: 0.06% other: 99.61% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 60 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: sudden cloudbursts are common from October to April; they bring heavy rain which can damage roads and houses; sandstorms and dust storms occur throughout the year, but are most common between March and August Environment - current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; some of world's largest and most sophisticated desalination facilities provide much of the water; air and water pollution; desertification Environment - international party to: Climate Change,
agreements: Desertification, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Marine Dumping
Geography - note: strategic location at head of Persian Gulf People Kuwait -
Population: 2,111,561 note: includes 1,159,913 non- nationals (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.3% (male 304,200; female 292,900) 15-64 years: 69.2% (male 934,115; female 527,331) 65 years and over: 2.5% (male 34,106; female 18,909) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.33% note: this rate reflects a return to pre-Gulf crisis immigration of expatriates (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 21.84 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 2.46 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 13.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.77 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.8 male(s)/ female total population: 1.52 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 10.87 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.46 years male: 75.56 years female: 77.39 years (2002 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.14 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.12% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Kuwaiti(s) adjective: Kuwaiti
Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%
Religions: Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi'a 30%), Christian, Hindu, Parsi, and other 15%
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely spoken
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 78.6% male: 82.2% female: 74.9% (1995 est.) Government Kuwait -
Country name: conventional long form: State of Kuwait conventional short form: Kuwait local short form: Al Kuwayt local long form: Dawlat al Kuwayt
Government type: nominal constitutional monarchy
Capital: Kuwait Administrative divisions: 5 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Ahmadi, Al Farwaniyah, Al 'Asimah, Al Jahra', Hawalli
Independence: 19 June 1961 (from UK)
National holiday: National Day, 25 February (1950)
Constitution: approved and promulgated 11 November 1962
Legal system: civil law system with Islamic law significant in personal matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: adult males who have been naturalized for 30 years or more or have resided in Kuwait since before 1920 and their male descendants at age 21 note: only 10% of all citizens are eligible to vote; in 1996, naturalized citizens who do not meet the pre-1920 qualification but have been naturalized for 30 years were eligible to vote for the first time
Executive branch: chief of state: Amir JABIR al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah (since 31 December 1977) head of government: Prime Minister and Crown Prince SAAD al-Abdallah al-Salim Al Sabah (since 8 February 1978); First Deputy Prime Minister SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah (since 17 October 1992); Deputy Prime Ministers JABIR MUBARAK al- Hamud Al Sabah (since NA) and MUHAMMAD KHALID al-Hamed Al Sabah (since NA) cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister and approved by the monarch elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the monarch
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-Umma (50 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: last held 3 July 1999 (next to be held NA 2003) election results: percent of vote - NA%; seats - independents 50; note - all cabinet ministers are also ex officio members of the National Assembly
Judicial branch: High Court of Appeal Political parties and leaders: none; formation of political parties is illegal Political pressure groups and several political groups act as de
leaders: facto parties: Bedouins, merchants, Sunni and Shi'a activists, and secular leftists and nationalists International organization ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, BDEAC,
participation: CAEU, CCC, ESCWA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNITAR, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al Jaber AL SABAH FAX: [1] (202) 966-0517 telephone: [1] (202) 966-0702 chancery: 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Richard
US: H. JONES embassy: Bayan, near the Bayan palace, Kuwait City mailing address: P. O. Box 77 Safat, 13001 Safat, Kuwait Unit 69000, APO AE 09880-9000 telephone: [965] 539-5307, ext. 2240 FAX: [965] 538-0282
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a black trapezoid based on the hoist side Economy Kuwait
Economy - overview: Kuwait is a small, rich, relatively open economy with proved crude oil reserves of 94 billion barrels - 10% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP, 90% of export revenues, and 75% of government income. Kuwait's climate limits agricultural development. Consequently, with the exception of fish, it depends almost wholly on food imports. About 75% of potable water must be distilled or imported. Higher oil prices put the FY99/00 budget into a $2 billion surplus. The FY00/01 budget covers only nine months because of a change in the fiscal year. The budget for FY01/02 envisioned higher expenditures for salaries, construction, and other general categories. Kuwait continues its discussions with foreign oil companies to develop fields in the northern part of the country.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $30.9 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $15,100 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: industry: 60% services: 39.7% agriculture: 0.3% (2000) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.7% (2001)
Labor force: 1.3 million (1998 est.) note: 68% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national (July 1998 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture NA%, industry NA%, services NA%
Unemployment rate: 1.8% (official 1996 est.)
Budget: revenues: $11.5 billion expenditures: $17.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY01/02)
Industries: petroleum, petrochemicals, desalination, food processing, construction materials Industrial production growth rate: 1% (1997 est.) Electricity - production: 31.2 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 29.016 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: practically no crops; fish
Exports: $16.2 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: oil and refined products, fertilizers
Exports - partners: Japan 23%, US 14%, South Korea 13%, Singapore 7%, Netherlands 6%, Pakistan 6%, Indonesia 4%, UK 2% (2000)
Imports: $7.4 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing
Imports - partners: US 12%, Japan 8%, UK 8%, Germany 7%, China 5%, France 4%, Australia 3%, Netherlands 2% (2000)
Debt - external: $6.9 billion (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: NA
Currency: Kuwaiti dinar (KD)
Currency code: KWD
Exchange rates: Kuwaiti dinars per US dollar - 0.3075 (January 2002), 0.3066, (2001), 0.3067 (2000), 0.3044 (1999), 0.3047 (1998), 0.3033 (1997)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March Communications Kuwait - Telephones - main lines in use: 412,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 210,000 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: the quality of service is excellent domestic: new telephone exchanges provide a large capacity for new subscribers; trunk traffic is carried by microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, open wire, and fiber- optic cable; a cellular telephone system operates throughout Kuwait, and the country is well supplied with pay telephones international: coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; linked to Bahrain, Qatar, UAE via the Fiber-Optic Gulf (FOG) cable; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean, 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean), and 2 Arabsat Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 11, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 1.175 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 13 (plus several satellite channels) (1997)
Televisions: 875,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .kw Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 3 (2000)
Internet users: 165,000 (2001) Transportation Kuwait -
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: 4,450 km paved: 3,590 km unpaved: 860 km (1999 est.)
Waterways: none
Pipelines: crude oil 877 km; petroleum products 40 km; natural gas 165 km
Ports and harbors: Ash Shu'aybah, Ash Shuwaykh, Kuwait, Mina' 'Abd Allah, Mina' al Ahmadi, Mina' Su'ud
Merchant marine: total: 38 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,274,515 GRT/3,627,835 DWT ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 1, container 6, liquefied gas 6, livestock carrier 5, petroleum tanker 19 note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Monaco 1, Saudi Arabia 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 7 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 3 over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 4 under 914 m: 3 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
Heliports: 3 (2001) Military Kuwait -
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force (including Air Defense Force), National Police Force, National Guard, Coast Guard Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 812,059 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 486,906 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 18,309 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $1,967.3 million (FY01)
figure: note: Kuwait is changing its fiscal year; the above figure is for July- March 2001; future budget years will be April-March annually Military expenditures - percent of 5.5% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Kuwait - Disputes - international: in November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait which had been spelled out in Security Council Resolutions 687 (1991), 773 (1993), and 883 (1993); this formally ends earlier claims to Kuwait and to Bubiyan and Warbah islands, although the Iraqi Government continues periodic rhetorical challenges

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officially State of Kuwait

Country, northeastern Arabian Peninsula.

Area: 6,880 sq mi (17,818 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 2,253,000. Capital: Kuwait City. Its population is overwhelmingly Arab. Languages: Arabic (official), Persian, English. Religion: Islam (official). Currency: dinar. Except for Al-Jahrāʾ Oasis, at the western end of Kuwait Bay, and a few fertile patches in the southeastern and coastal areas, it is largely desert; annual precipitation totals 1–7 in (25–180 mm). Kuwait has almost no arable land, but there is a small amount of pastureland for livestock (sheep and goats). Its extensive petroleum and natural gas deposits are the basis of its economy. Its estimated reserves of petroleum represent roughly one-tenth of global reserves, ranking Kuwait third, behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It is a constitutional monarchy with one legislative body; the head of state and government is the emir, assisted by the prime minister. Traces of civilization on Faylakā Island, in Kuwait Bay, date to the 3rd millennium BC. These flourished until с 1200 BC, when they disappeared from the historical record. Greek colonists again settled the island in the 4th century BC. The nomadic ʽAnizah tribe of central Arabia founded Kuwait city in 1710, and ʽAbd al-Raḥīm of the Sabāh dynasty became sheikh in 1756; the family continues to rule Kuwait. In 1899, to thwart German and Ottoman influences, Kuwait agreed to give Britain control of its foreign affairs. Following the outbreak of war with the Ottoman Empire in World War I (1914–18), Britain established a protectorate there. In 1961, after Kuwait gained full independence from Britain, Iraq laid claim to Kuwait. British troops were sent to defend Kuwait; the Arab League recognized its independence, and Iraq dropped its claim. Iraq reasserted these claims in the aftermath of the Iraq-Iraq War and invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990. A U.S.-led military coalition drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait the next year (see Persian Gulf War). Iraq's deliberate destruction of nearly half of Kuwait's oil wells complicated reconstruction efforts.
or Kuwait City

City (pop., 1995: 28,859), capital of Kuwait.

Located at the head of the Persian Gulf, it was founded in the 18th century and was a trading city relying on sea and caravan traffic. Until 1957 it was enclosed by a mud wall separating it from the desert and was only 5 sq mi (13 sq km) in area. The development of the country's oil industry after World War II (1939–45) transformed the city into a modern metropolis. Almost all of the country's population is concentrated near the capital. The city, damaged during the Iraqi occupation and the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), soon recovered.

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▪ 2009

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 3,530,000
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Sheikh Nassar Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah

      Relations between the Kuwaiti government and the parliament continued to deteriorate in 2008, with the latter insisting on more government accountability. This tension led to the dissolution of the parliament by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah and a new general election, held on May 17. The opposition, composed of Islamists, liberals, and nationalists—scored a resounding victory, winning 33 of 50 seats. Women failed to gain representation, which indicated that Kuwait was still a conservative Islamic society.

      The elections, however, failed to quell concerns in the National Assembly about the way in which the government was handling the development of the economy and presumed irregularities in the construction and financing of a gigantic new oil refinery. More important, some deputies insisted on calling Prime Minister Sheikh Nassar Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah before the parliament for questioning.

      Declining economic conditions in Kuwait for foreign workers, who made up two-thirds of the population, led in July to a strike by hundreds of them. Disturbances continued for three days, resulting in clashes with the security force and the deportation of hundreds of workers (mainly Bengalis). In an attempt to address the problem, the government announced plans to raise the workers' minimum wage, revise work contracts, and improve living conditions. Kuwaiti nationals also protested the rise in food and commodity prices. In response, the government twice increased the salaries of Kuwaitis working in the public sector by 170 Kuwaiti dinars (about $643). In other news, on May 13 Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah (Sabah, Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al- ), ruler of Kuwait for a short period (Jan. 15–29, 2006), passed away.

      Relations between Kuwait and Iraq saw a noticeable improvement during the year. On July 18 Kuwait announced the appointment of an ambassador in Baghdad, the first since Iraq's 1991 invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait had not yet forgiven Iraqi debts estimated at $16 billion–$17 billion, and at the popular level, bitterness between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi people continued to exist.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2008

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 3,294,000
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Sheikh Nassar Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah

      The year 2007 in Kuwait was marked by continuous tensions between the parliament and the government. Having increased in importance and self-confidence after playing a pivotal role in January 2006 in removing the ailing emir, Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah, and replacing him with Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, the parliament attempted to play a greater role in government and function as an elected body. There were even calls, inside and outside the parliament, for a constitutional monarchy. Of the six countries that constituted the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Kuwait was unique. Whereas “elected” or appointed councils were weaker than the government in the GCC, in Kuwait the legislature was active and questioned acts of the executive. Pressures from the parliament led to the resignation of several government ministers between January and September.

      Kuwaiti social and economic concerns were focused on revision of the educational system; improved health, water, and electricity services; and implementation of long-term planning in the fields of housing and employment. The government, for its part, began a campaign to encourage Kuwaitis to work in the private sector. In 2006 foreign workers made up more than 80% of the total labour force in the private sector. Foreign workers in Kuwait often lived under poor conditions and received low wages. In February some Indian workers staged a strike to protest poor living conditions and a delay in payment of their wages. They claimed that there were sometimes 10 workers living in a small room, part of which was used as a kitchen.

      Early in the year Kuwaiti authorities announced plans for the construction of a new oil refinery, the largest of its kind in the Middle East. The $13 billion project was expected to be completed by the end of 2011.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2007

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 3,084,000
Head of state and government:
Emirs Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah from January 15, and, from January 29, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Ministers Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah and, from February 7, Sheikh Nassar Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah

      Following a protracted illness, the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (Sabah, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al- ), died on Jan. 15, 2006. (See Obituaries.) In accordance with the Kuwaiti constitution, he was immediately replaced by Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah (76), who was himself ailing and almost incapacitated. His accession led to an open power struggle with Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al Jabir al-Sabah (76), who was supported by the cabinet and the parliament and had strong followers among members of the Sabah ruling family. On January 23 the cabinet moved swiftly to nominate the prime minister as the next emir of Kuwait, and on the following day the parliament unanimously elected him the new emir. That same day Sheikh Saad sent a letter of abdication to the parliament. Sheikh Sabah was sworn in as the new ruler on January 29.

      The short-lived struggle for power in Kuwait was painful and public. The change in leadership served as a clear sign of growing maturity in Kuwait, and the crisis helped to assert the powers and importance of the parliament and the cabinet in settling the unprecedented leadership dispute.

      The new emir moved quickly to consolidate his power. On February 8 he appointed his brother Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah as crown prince and heir apparent. He also appointed Sheikh Nassar Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the minister in charge of the royal court, as the new prime minister. These moves effectively did away with a long-held political tradition for the emir and the top posts in the government to rotate between the two wings of the Sabah family—the Abdullah and the Jabir lines. The new emir, the crown prince, and the prime minister were all members of the Jabir line.

 In May, clashes between the parliament and the cabinet increased. The emir dissolved the parliament before its term expired and called for new elections. The disagreements came about because of demands from lawmakers for democratic reforms and electoral redistricting. After an intense campaign, elections took place on June 29. The Islamist and reformist candidates (that is, the opposition) won 33 of the 50 elected seats (15 cabinet members not elected to the parliament serve ex officio). For the first time in any Kuwaiti parliamentary election, women voted; no women candidates won election, however.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2006

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 2,847,000
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah

      Security forces were active in uncovering the mounting activities of Islamic extremists in Kuwait in 2005. In January the country witnessed several armed confrontations between police and members of militant Islamic groups organized in underground cells. The confrontations left several dead and wounded among both the suspected terrorists and the security forces. Soon after, more than 30 people linked to the Lions of the Peninsula—a militant group that allegedly took part in the clashes and was suspected of planning attacks on U.S. troops—were arrested, and in December six were sentenced to death. In May a Kuwaiti court sentenced 20 people to prison for having links to al-Qaeda and for attempting to recruit fighters for the insurgency in Iraq. In an effort to quell religious extremism, the government undertook several measures, including an amnesty for those surrendering their arms and closer surveillance of mosques and religious associations.

      On January 29, in an unprecedented move, several Islamist personalities announced the establishment of Hizb al-Umma (“the Nation's Party”). This not only was the first such organization in Kuwait but represented the first time a political party had been publicly established in any Gulf Cooperation Council country. Hizb al-Umma leaders demanded that they be allowed to register as a party, but the Kuwaiti government refused, emphasizing that Kuwaiti law did not allow political parties.

      The year also saw major improvements in the status of women in Kuwait. After years of unsuccessful efforts by the government and Kuwaiti women to compel the conservative parliament to grant women the right to vote and run for office, the parliament finally amended the election law to give women these rights. The vote of approval was 35 to 23. Soon after, on June 12, Masouma al-Mubarak, a U.S.-educated professor, was appointed planning minister, the first woman to serve as a cabinet member in Kuwait. Women were expected to register and vote in the country's parliamentary election in 2007.

      The Shiʿites in Kuwait were able to achieve some of their demands in the spring when Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah agreed to allow them to have their own husainiyyas—religious clubs or associations in which people gathered to perform religious ceremonies and social functions. In addition, Shiʿites would be allowed to establish a hawza, or religious seminary, to teach Shiʿite theology.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2005

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 2,586,000
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah

      The year 2004 saw a major shift in Kuwait's policy toward Iraq. Traditionally, the two neighbours entertained considerable suspicion—even animosity—toward one another, but the changing situation in Iraq induced Kuwait to call for friendly ties. Kuwaiti businesses sought commerce with Iraq and hoped to help in Iraq's reconstruction. At the end of July, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (see Biographies (Allawi, Ayad )) made a historic state visit to Kuwait during which he asked for relief of the $15 billion that Iraq owed from its invasion of Kuwait in 1990–91. On June 28 Kuwait's prime minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, announced the restoration of full diplomatic ties with Iraq and said he planned to open an embassy in Baghdad as soon as the security situation permitted.

      During the year the government announced the arrest of several Islamic extremists who had published articles or spoken out against Kuwait's pro-American policies. Several were caught trying to enter Iraq to join the anti-American insurgency there. In September a number of Shiʿite religious leaders petitioned the government to allow the teaching of their theology in Kuwait's public schools. Shiʿites constituted about 30% of Kuwait's population.

      In June liberal deputies in the parliament introduced a bill to reduce the number of electoral districts from 25 to 10; the existing distribution was felt to favour sectarianism and tribalism. The plan met with stiff resistance, however, and was effectively delayed until 2005. In October the government sent a measure to the parliament that would give women the right to vote in general elections, but the proposal was expected to meet with vigorous opposition from Islamist and tribal deputies. Privatization was a top economic priority, and the government turned its eye toward state-owned companies, including Kuwaiti Airways and several communications firms. It also set up a mainly private company to manage 40 of the country's 110 gas stations.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2004

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 2,439,000
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Ministers Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah and, from July 13, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah

      In 2003 the Kuwaiti government supported international efforts to induce Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein to resign and leave Iraq voluntarily. When those failed, Kuwait supported the U.S.-led campaign against Iraq and allowed a massive military buildup by U.S. and British troops on its territory. These forces finally invaded and occupied Iraq in March and April. Afterward, Kuwait was the first Arab country to help the Iraqi people with supplies of fresh water and emergency materials.

      A general election was held in Kuwait on July 5. The liberals sustained heavy losses, and the new 50-member National Assembly came under the control of Islamist, conservative, and pro-government elements. The election results stunned liberal Kuwaitis, who had thought that important changes in the region, particularly in Iraq, would set the stage for long-awaited internal reforms, including giving women the right to vote and to be candidates in general elections. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia remained the only two members of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in which women did not have such political rights.

      After the election, the emir of Kuwait met a long-standing demand of political activists to separate the position of crown prince from the office of prime minister. On July 13 Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (the former foreign minister) was appointed prime minister, while Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah, who belonged to a different branch of the ruling family, remained crown prince. The change meant that the prime minister could be subjected to questioning by the National Assembly.

      The problem of stateless people (biduns) remained unsolved. These immigrants, numbering 100,000 to 250,000, were mainly of Iraqi or Iranian origin and had lived for decades in the country without obtaining Kuwaiti nationality. The Kuwaiti government was awarding them citizenship at the rate of about 5,000 a year, but the process was too slow to solve the problem.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2003

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 2,253,000
Kuwait City
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah

      The political situation in Kuwait was clouded in 2002 by the comeback of “movement Islamists” (those associated with organizations such as the Islamic Constitution Movement, which in turn was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood). Following revelations after Sept. 11, 2001, about Kuwaiti involvement in Osama bin Laden's operations, the Islamists were subjected to rare public criticism, and there were even calls for government supervision of Islamist-run “charities” that solicited money from the population. By the spring of 2002, however, reports of civilian casualties from U.S. bombing in Afghanistan and the staunchly pro-Israel stance of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush had helped restore Islamist credibility and popularity. October saw two attacks by Kuwaitis on American servicemen who were training in the country for a possible attack on Iraq. The government quickly reaffirmed support for U.S. goals in the region, but the attacks reflected popular resentment of U.S. Middle East policy. On the other hand, Kuwait shut down the local offices of the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, citing its lack of objectivity.

      Stock prices in Kuwait were strong through most of the year, while fears about a U.S. attack on Iraq pushed oil and gas prices higher. Another boost to national income came from reparation payments flowing from the United Nations Compensation Committee for damage incurred during the Iraqi occupation. At the same time, lower world interest rates and declining corporate revenues reduced government income from the overseas investments that made up most of the assets in the Reserve Fund for Future Generations, a repository comprising 10% of annual state revenues.

      Not all was well in Kuwait's petroleum industry in 2002, and some disturbing problems threatened the sector that provided 84% of the country's budgeted revenues. Project Kuwait, a plan to include foreign investors in the expansion of production capacity in the northern oil fields, had been stalled for well over a year. A run of oil-industry accidents dating back several years was topped by a spectacular explosion on Jan. 31, 2002, at a gathering centre in the north. The explosion killed four people, destroyed the most technically advanced parts of the gathering centre, damaged several production installations, and led to the resignation of the oil minister, Adel al-Sabeeh.

Mary Ann Tétreault

▪ 2002

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 2,275,000
Kuwait City
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah

      Prior to the terrorist attacks in New York City and near Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, strength in oil prices had led economic analysts to predict another year of prosperity for Kuwait. The strong oil market had boosted gross domestic product growth in the country for a second year in a row. Following September 11, however, slumping demand in Kuwait's principal markets, Asia and Europe, exposed the fragility of the economy. The one bright spot in the domestic sector was a boom in house construction. Government housing programs were so far behind demand that Kuwaitis increasingly had been availing themselves of interest-free loans and building homes on their own.

      The stagnant economy reflected a deeper problem: government paralysis due to the age and debility of the nation's leaders. In late September Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah suffered a brain hemorrhage and was taken to London for medical treatment. The caretaker government—constrained from taking initiatives without the emir's backing—was thus stymied with regard to continued Islamist agitation, including fallout from the revelation following the September 11 attacks that a member of the inner circle of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization was a Kuwaiti.

      A January 2001 request by Uday Hussein, son of Pres. Saddam Hussein, to the Iraqi parliament to revise the country's maps to include Kuwait within Iraq's borders served as a grim reminder that, despite having signed a treaty recognizing Kuwait as an independent state, Iraq remained a threat to its continued independence. Even so, the Kuwaiti government had backed down repeatedly in confrontations with Islamists. In a startling statement about government laxity in this regard, a former oil and information minister and member of the ruling family, Sheikh Saud Nasir as-Sabah, connected the government's tepid support for U.S. antiterrorism measures following September 11 to the successful “hijacking” of the government by Islamist militants. “We should remove the veil of secrecy that protects these groups and their financial and political activities in Kuwait and abroad,” the sheikh declared.

Mary Ann Tétreault

▪ 2001

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 1,984,000
Kuwait City
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah

      Ten years after the Iraqi invasion, Kuwait's security in 2000 remained questionable. Renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coupled with long-standing domestic criticism of high-cost Kuwaiti arms purchases from the U.S., eroded domestic support for the strategic status quo. More than 600 Kuwaitis remained prisoners in Iraq, while the September decision of the UN Compensation Commission to award $15.9 billion to Kuwait for damage to its oil industry brought renewed Iraqi accusations and threats.

      Within Kuwait economic restructuring continued to be difficult. Health care charges to expatriates were initiated in April. The government also considered assessing fees on employers and foreign workers to fund subsidies and unemployment compensation payments to Kuwaitis who, faced by rising unemployment and a bloated civil service, agree to take jobs in the private sector. Kuwait's social security system faced bankruptcy as the result of overly generous policies on retirement, such as allowing mothers to retire with full benefits after only 15 working years. Economically, higher oil prices eased pressure on the Kuwaiti government to force additional economic restructuring measures through the National Assembly.

      The local economy remained stagnant. Oil revenues provided more than 90% of government income and nearly half of gross national product. Kuwait's dependence on oil exports explained the government's eagerness to readmit foreign companies as partners in order to attract needed capital and to offset some of the risks of a planned rapid expansion of oil-production capacity from fields located near the border with Iraq. The nation's refining capacity suffered constriction during the year as the result of two refinery explosions in June.

      Domestically, Kuwaitis continued to debate the role of women in society. Despite support for increased rights for women from Kuwait's emir, the National Assembly in June approved by a large margin a measure requiring that any private colleges or universities established in Kuwait be gender segregated, as the national university was required by law to be by September 2001.

Mary Ann Tétreault

▪ 2000

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 1,866,000
Kuwait City
Head of state and government:
Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah

      The dismissal of the Kuwaiti National Assembly in May 1999 by Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah was a milestone event. Unlike two prior dismissals, this one was carried out constitutionally. Elections were held in early July, and a new legislature was installed later that month. Nearly two-thirds of the elected legislators ran on antigovernment platforms that addressed a wide range of issues, from defense procurement to government finance and investment policies. Although large, the opposition was also divided, counting among its members representatives from across the ideological spectrum.

      During the interregnum, the emir issued 60 decrees on various matters of state, including one that conferred full political rights on Kuwaiti women. When the new National Assembly was convened, however, the decrees met with some resistance, with incumbent speaker Ahmad ʿAbd al-ʿAziz as-Saʾdoun advocating a blanket rejection of all the decrees as unnecessary. When the National Assembly elected its new officers, Saʾdoun was defeated by Jassim al-Kharafi, whose 10-vote margin of victory was reported as the result of an alliance between pro-government forces and Sunni Islamists. Perhaps in consequence, the move to dismiss all 60 decrees fizzled out. The National Assembly eventually approved 35 of them, most of which dealt with budgetary matters. The remainder were put on the table for the next session.

      A new government was formed by Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah, the man who had served as prime minister for the past 21 years. He chose a council of ministers in which members of the ruling family were heavily represented. Only one parliamentarian who was asked to take a portfolio, ʿEid ar-Rashidi from the tribal area of Farwaniya, accepted. Three highly respected activists also agreed to head the Ministry of Education (Youssef al-Ibrahim), Labour and Social Affairs and Commerce and Industry (ʿAbd al-Wahhab al-Wazzan, two portfolios), and Information (Saad al-ʿAjm).

      Kuwait moved to reorganize its oil industry in 1999. The government invited international oil companies to submit proposals for participating with Kuwait's national oil company in exploration, development, and production operations. Meanwhile, the unexpected success of OPEC's production cutbacks in raising world oil prices in 1999 promised lower budget deficits and a better position from which the government could argue for additional budget cutbacks.

Mary Ann Tétreault

▪ 1999

      Area: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 1,866,000

      Capital: Kuwait City

      Head of state and government: Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah

      Low oil prices caused 1998 to be an extremely difficult year for all oil producers, and Kuwait was obliged to take a hard look at its industry and initiate some significant changes. In March Kuwait joined with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers in an accord to cut production. It was not until late summer that this attempt to counter the worst price collapse in the oil market since 1986 began to stabilize prices. In August industry observers learned that Kuwait's national oil company, the Kuwait Petroleum Corp., would undergo extensive restructuring. Under a proposal made by Kuwait's Supreme Petroleum Council, the body charged with devising national oil policy, the two largest affiliates in the domestic oil sector, the Kuwait Oil Co., which carried out exploration and production, and the Kuwait National Petroleum Co., which managed the country's three large refineries, were to be merged. Even more significant for the long-term structure of Kuwait's oil industry was a proposal to invite foreign participation in the industry.

      The domestic economy was a major worry for Kuwaitis throughout 1998, with the stock market reaching a low of slightly less than 2000 in July. Privatization of some government holdings, which began under the auspices of the Kuwait Investment Authority in 1994, in the absence of a strategic plan, had by late 1998 earned $10 billion for the government.

      The government that had been formed following the October 1996 election fell in March 1998 as the result of a successful no-confidence vote against the information minister, Saud Nasir as-Sabah, a member of the ruling family and former Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. The reshuffled Cabinet, however, included most of the members of the old Cabinet.


▪ 1998

      Area: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 1,809,000

      Capital: Kuwait City

      Head of state and government: Emir Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah, assisted by Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah

      Domestic politics absorbed the attention of Kuwaitis in 1997, highlighted by exposures of corruption in government and an assassination attempt against a prominent critic of the regime. The new government got off to a shaky start. Election of the speaker of the 1996 National Assembly resulted in a 30-29 vote for the incumbent, Ahmad ˋAbd al-ˋAziz as-Saˋdoun. His opponent in the race, a former finance minister, Jassim al-Kharafi, challenged the election in court on the grounds that the speaker had not received an absolute majority of the votes of all 60 members, and it was not until early 1997 that Saˋdoun's entitlement to his office was judicially confirmed.

      Some critics concluded that the new Cabinet, appointed shortly after the October election, was among the least distinguished since the adoption of the 1962 constitution. Kuwaitis' disappointment at some ministerial choices was reinforced by allegations of ministerial malfeasance and nonfeasance that surfaced shortly after the new Cabinet took office. One of the most troubling and complex of these came to light at a December 1996 press conference called by the managing director of the Kuwait Oil Tanker Co., a subsidiary of Kuwait's national oil company from which millions of dollars had been embezzled during the Iraqi occupation. A former oil and finance minister and also a member of the ruling family, Sheikh ˋAli al-Khalifah as-Sabah, was among those charged with the crime.

      In 1997 political parties were illegal in Kuwait, but voluntary associations with political goals were not. A new organization of this type, founded late in the spring of 1997, was formed by a group of middle-class Kuwaitis, many of them professors at Kuwait University, including a female former dean, Moudhi al-Hamoud. Dissatisfied with the already existing political groups yet concerned that independent candidacies were retarding the progress of democratization in Kuwait, the group had begun meeting informally after the 1996 election. The new organization, the Nahdha Party/National Democratic Rally, aspired to be the political home of what one founding member, Shamlan al-ˋEisa, called "the silent majority"—that is, Kuwaitis interested in liberalization of the economy and government but who were neither Arab Nationalists, Socialists, nor religious ideologues.

      The hopefulness engendered by the appearance of a centrist political grouping was rapidly dissipated on June 6 when an assassination attempt was made on the life of parliamentarian ˋAbdullah an-Naibari. Naibari had been a strong critic of fiscal malfeasance in Kuwait for many years and the nemesis of Sheikh ˋAli al-Khalifah as- Sabah throughout most of the latter's government service. A report by a member of a prominent merchant family, Jassim as-Saqr, that he had received a death threat by telephone the day after the assassination attempt evoked fears that the attempt on Naibari's life was part of a larger plot. The prompt arrest of those responsible, however, one of whom was a cousin of the finance minister, Nasser ˋAbdullah ar-Roudhan, both quieted fears of subsequent attempts on the lives of other dissidents and stirred concern that the minister himself might be involved.

      This article updates Kuwait, history of (Kuwait).

▪ 1997

      A constitutional monarchy (emirate), Kuwait is situated in the northeastern Arabian Peninsula, on the Persian Gulf. Area: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 2,070,000. Cap.: Kuwait City. Monetary unit: Kuwaiti dinar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a controlled rate of 0.30 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.47 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah; prime minister in 1996, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah.

      The major event of 1996 in Kuwait was the election of a new National Assembly on October 7. Government supporters won 30 of the 50 elective seats in the Assembly, while Islamic fundamentalists and their allies accounted for the remainder.

      Among the Assembly's most controversial actions in 1996 was the passage of a law mandating gender segregation at Kuwait University. Only one member voted against the final bill, a testament to members' perceptions of Islamist strength in the electorate. The gender-segregation law touched off a firestorm of protest that coincided with the election campaign. A number of candidates running for reelection found that their support of the Islamists on the segregation issue confirmed constituents' perceptions that they had abandoned principles for politics, and several failed to win reelection. The election revealed other shifts in the domestic political scene, including the defeat of two tribally backed incumbents and the election of a Shi'ite cleric trained in Iran who advocated a shift in Kuwait's foreign policy away from dependence on the United States.

      Kuwait's economy expanded throughout 1996, thanks to rising oil prices and new investments in the oil and construction industries. The stock market remained strong well into the autumn, with trading volumes running between $150 million and $200 million per day. (MARY ANN TÉTREAULT)

      This article updates Kuwait, history of (Kuwait).

▪ 1996

      A constitutional monarchy (emirate), Kuwait is in the northeastern Arabian Peninsula, on the Persian Gulf. Area: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 1,691,000. Cap.: Kuwait City. Monetary unit: Kuwaiti dinar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a controlled rate of 0.30 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.47 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah; prime minister in 1995, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah.

      During 1995 Kuwait avoided acute new problems and made progress toward resolving some of its chronic difficulties. Others remained to trouble citizens and policy makers in the future. The October 1994 Iraqi military buildup provoked the U.S. and Great Britain to hold military exercises in Kuwait and urge the UN not to lift the sanctions it had imposed on Iraq. These rapid responses to Iraqi provocations eased Kuwaitis' fears, but efforts by Russia and France to lift the UN sanctions highlighted Kuwait's dependence on extraregional military intervention. Arms purchases from Western allies weakened Kuwait's economy without enabling the country to defend itself. As the clock ran down on Kuwait's military treaties with former coalition partners, its strategic vulnerability remained unchanged.

      The domestic economy showed strength, but the lack of clear policies hampered growth. The drain on the treasury from arms purchases and the September compromise between the government and the National Assembly on the most recent plan to resolve the nation's lingering debt crisis compounded the problem. The compromise received the endorsement of the crown prince, reputed to be among the largest debtors.

      The construction industry and the stock market enjoyed minibooms. Privatization measures were greeted enthusiastically by Kuwaiti investors, although knowledgeable observers were concerned about the lack of planning and hints of insider trading. Oil industry recovery continued, with production averaging two million barrels per day. Repayment of Kuwait's $5.5 billion foreign loan to finance postwar reconstruction proceeded on schedule.

      Little progress was made on the resolution of structural deficits. The 1995-96 budget included no new taxes. A "defense tax" might have been feasible following the 1994 Iraqi scare, but no action was taken. Strategic insecurity and persistent polarization between the head of government and the national legislature foreshadowed continuing conflicts and an acrimonious election year in 1996.


      This updates the article Kuwait, history of (Kuwait).

▪ 1995

      A constitutional monarchy (emirate), Kuwait is in the northeastern Arabian Peninsula, on the Persian Gulf. Area: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 1,469,000. Cap.: Kuwait City. Monetary unit: Kuwaiti dinar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 0.30 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.47 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah; prime minister in 1994, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah.

      Iraqi tanks and 50,000 of that nation's elite troops carried out threatening maneuvers against Kuwait in October 1994 in an area just north of the demilitarized zone between the two nations, raising fears of a new invasion. Iraq organized a mass demonstration by stateless nomads in the sensitive area but described its military action as "training exercises." The U.S. and the U.K. responded quickly to Kuwait's appeal for help with the deployment to the emirate of 40,000 U.S. troops, British marines, 600 aircraft, and a number of U.S. warships.

      The deployment continued in late 1994 despite Iraqi withdrawal and a decree on November 10 recognizing Kuwaiti sovereignty. In a unanimous resolution the UN Security Council warned Iraq of UN retaliation if further provocative action was taken by Baghdad against its neighbours.

      The invasion threat rekindled in Kuwait a spirit of national unity that had been fractured by internal wrangles between the government and the elected National Assembly. On June 29 the Constitutional Court in a procedural ruling declined jurisdiction over a corruption case brought by the Assembly against former finance minister Sheikh Ali Khalifah as-Sabah. Sheikh Ali accused the Assembly of pursuing the indictment to cover up its own lack of a coherent legislative program.

      Thirteen terrorists were convicted on June 4 of having attempted to assassinate former U.S. president George Bush during a visit to Kuwait in April 1993. Five Iraqis and one Kuwaiti received death sentences, and others were jailed. Two days later 10 Jordanians, found guilty in May 1993 of having collaborated with Iraq during the 1990-91 invasion, had their death sentences commuted to prison terms by the Court of Appeal.

      On April 13 the prime minister announced a Cabinet reshuffle; the principal casualty was outspoken Oil Minister Ali Ahmad al-Baghli, an elected assemblyman and lawyer. Baghli went without grace and launched a bitter attack on alleged corruption at the Kuwait Petroleum Corp.


      This updates the article Kuwait, history of (Kuwait).

▪ 1994

      A constitutional monarchy (emirate), Kuwait is in the northeastern Arabian Peninsula, on the Persian Gulf. Area: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 1,433,000. Cap.: Kuwait City. Monetary unit: Kuwaiti dinar, with (Oct. 4, 1993) an official rate of 0.30 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.45 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah; prime minister in 1993, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah as-Salim as-Sabah.

       Kuwait's elected National Assembly assumed a greater importance in domestic policy in 1993 as the government continued to rebuild the emirate's economic and military power following the Iraqi invasion crisis of 1990-91. The government remained implacably opposed to reconciliation with Iraq or its Arab supporters, including Jordan, Yemen, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and started work on border fortifications that would include the deployment of 1.3 million Iraqi land mines recovered after the Gulf war. In March the armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Sheikh Jabir al-Khaled as-Sabah, resigned in the face of continued criticism of his failure to defend Kuwait against Iraqi attack.

      On February 3 the UN Security Council agreed on the deployment of a single battalion of troops to Kuwait, which resulted in the dispatch of 750 Argentine soldiers. The U.S. sent troops and the U.K. a token force. Early in the year Kuwait confirmed the purchase of 236 U.S. tanks and $200 million worth of Patriot surface-to-air missiles, providing further evidence of its weapons buildup.

      In a major policy statement on March 7, the Kuwaiti government reacted with some irritation to reconciliation initiatives with Iraq started by Qatar, saying that it was not even looking for a mediator. On June 20 the exiled Iran-based leader of the Supreme Assembly for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, was accorded full diplomatic honours while on a visit to Kuwait, underlining the government's support of political opponents of Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein. On April 12 the speaker of the National Assembly, Jassem as-Saadoun, claimed that he had been attacked by two Iraqi delegates while attending a parliamentary conference in India. On April 26, 14 alleged Iraqi terrorists were arrested near the border with arms and explosives, including a 250-kg (550-lb) booby-trapped bomb.

      The National Assembly also probed widely into domestic affairs. In February it passed a bill requiring full disclosure of investments by government-owned companies where the state's holding was more than 25% of the equity. In early June the government agreed to relax its secondary trade boycott against Israel, allowing foreign companies that did business with Israel to trade with Kuwait but not allowing direct links with Israeli companies.

      Kuwait's oil production rose to 2,160,000 bbl a day by September, continuing the remarkable recovery since the invasion. Oil Minister Ali Ahmad al-Baghli was put in a difficult position, however, with Kuwait exceeding OPEC's quotas for most of the year. (JOHN WHELAN)

      This updates the article Kuwait, history of (Kuwait).

* * *

Kuwait, flag of country of the Arabian Peninsula (Arabia) located in the northwestern corner of the Persian Gulf.

      A small emirate nestled between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait is situated in a section of one of the driest, least-hospitable deserts on earth. Its shore, however, includes Kuwait Bay, a deep harbour on the Persian Gulf. There, in the 18th century, Bedouin from the interior founded a trading post—the name “Kuwait” is derived from the Arabic diminutive of the Hindustani kūt (“fort”). Since the emirate's ruling family, the Āl Ṣabāḥ, formally established a sheikhdom in 1756, the country's fortunes have been linked to foreign commerce. In time and with accumulated wealth, the small fort grew to become Kuwait city, a modern metropolis mingling skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and mosques. Kuwait city has most of the country's population, which makes Kuwait one of the world's most urbanized countries.

      The tiny country, which was a British protectorate from 1899 until 1961, drew world attention in 1990 when Iraqi forces invaded and attempted to annex it. A United Nations coalition led by the United States drove Iraq's army out of Kuwait within days of launching an offensive in February 1991, but the retreating invaders looted the country and set fire to most of its oil wells (see Persian Gulf War). Kuwait has largely recovered from the effects of the war and again has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Its generally conservative government continues to provide generous material benefits for Kuwaiti citizens, and, though conservative elements in its society resisted such reforms as woman suffrage (women were not enfranchised until 2005), it has remained relatively stable. It has been called an “oasis” of peace and safety amid an otherwise turbulent region.

 Slightly larger in area than the U.S. state of Hawaii, Kuwait is bounded to the west and north by Iraq, to the east by the Persian Gulf, and to the south by Saudi Arabia.

      Kuwait is largely a desert, except for Al-Jahrāʾ (Jahra, al-) oasis, at the western end of Kuwait Bay, and a few fertile patches in the southeastern and coastal areas. Kuwaiti territory includes nine offshore islands, the largest of which are the uninhabited Būbiyān and Al-Warbah. The island of Faylakah, which is located near the entrance of Kuwait Bay, has been populated since prehistoric times.

      A territory of 2,200 square miles (5,700 square km) along the gulf was shared by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as a neutral zone until a political boundary was agreed on in 1969. Each of the two countries now administers half of the territory (called the Neutral, or Partitioned, Zone), but they continue to share equally the revenues from oil production in the entire area. Although the boundary with Saudi Arabia is defined, the border with Iraq remains in dispute.

 The relief of Kuwait is generally flat or gently undulating, broken only by occasional low hills and shallow depressions. The elevations range from sea level in the east to 951 feet (290 metres) above sea level at Al-Shiqāyā peak, in the western corner of the country. The Al-Zawr Escarpment, one of the main topographic features, borders the northwestern shore of Kuwait Bay and rises to a maximum elevation of 475 feet (145 metres). Elsewhere in coastal areas, large patches of salty marshland have developed. Throughout the northern, western, and central sections of Kuwait, there are desert basins, which fill with water after winter rains; historically these basins formed important watering places, refuges for the camel herds of the Bedouin.

      Kuwait has no permanent surface water, either in the form of standing bodies such as lakes or in the form of flows such as perennial rivers. Intermittent water courses (wadis) are localized and generally terminate in interior desert basins. Little precipitation is absorbed beyond the surface level, with most being lost to evaporation.

      True soils scarcely exist naturally in Kuwait. Those that exist are of little agricultural productivity and are marked by an extremely low amount of organic matter. Eolian soils and other sedimentary deposits are common, and a high degree of salinity is found, particularly in basins and other locations where residual water pools. One of the environmental consequences of the Persian Gulf War was the widespread destruction of the desert's rigid surface layer, which held underlying sand deposits in place; this has led to an increase in wind-borne sand and the creation of larger and more numerous sand dunes in the country.

      The climate is desert, tempered somewhat in the coastal regions by the warm waters of the gulf. If there is enough rainfall, the desert turns green from mid-March to the end of April. But during the dry season, between April and September, the heat is severe—daytime temperatures ordinarily reach 111 °F (44 °C) and on occasion approach 130 °F (54 °C). The winter is more agreeable (frost can even occasionally occur in the interior, though never on the seacoast). Annual rainfall averages only from 1 to 7 inches (25 to 180 mm), chiefly between October and April, though cloudbursts can bring more than 2 inches (50 mm) of rain in a single day.

      The frequent winds from the northwest are cool in winter and spring and hot in summer. Southeasterly winds, usually hot and damp, spring up between July and October; hot and dry south winds prevail in spring and early summer. The shamāl (shamal), a northwesterly wind common during June and July, causes dramatic sandstorms.

Plant and animal life
      Except in the new green belt of Kuwait city and in a few desert oases such as Al-Jahrāʾ, where cultivation and irrigation are carried out, the vegetation consists of scrub and low bushes (and ephemeral grass in the spring). Halophytes (salt-loving plants) grow on the marshy stretches along the coast.

      The harsh climate limits mammals to the occasional gazelle, fox, or civet. Among lizards are the rare and venomous sand viper (Cerastes vipera) and the monitor and vegetarian dab lizards (Uromastix spinipes).

      Historically, there were several important class divisions in Kuwait. These divisions emerged during the period when the country was a trade entrepôt and were largely economic; thus, as the state became Kuwait's primary employer after oil was discovered in the 1930s and these reserves were commercially developed in subsequent decades, this class structure became less pronounced. The one historically important class that remains politically important is the old merchant oligarchy, the Banū (Banī) ʿUtūb—of which the ruling family is a member.

Ethnic groups
      Despite a government policy to reduce the number of foreign workers following the Iraqi invasion in 1990, Kuwaitis remain a minority in their own country. Nearly two-thirds of the population are expatriate workers, formerly from other Arab states but now largely from South and Southeast Asia. These nonnationals do not enjoy citizenship rights, economic or political, which are reserved for Kuwaiti citizens—defined as those able to prove Kuwaiti ancestry prior to 1920. Naturalization is strictly limited. Arabs—either Bedouin, sedentary, or descendants of immigrants from elsewhere in the region—constitute the largest ethnic group, and a small number of ethnic Persians have resided in the country for centuries.

      The native and official language is Arabic (Arabic language), fluency in which is a requirement for naturalization. Kuwaitis speak a dialect of Gulf Arabic, and Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools. English is the second language taught in public schools. Hindi, Urdu, Persian (Farsi), and other languages also are widely spoken among the foreign population.

      Kuwaiti citizens are almost entirely Muslim, and a law passed in 1981 limits citizenship to Muslims. The majority are Sunni (Sunnite), but about one-third are Shīʿite. Both the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the Kuwaiti government's subsequent discrimination against Shīʿites fostered a heightened sense of community among the country's Shīʿite population in the 1980s and '90s, and this led to political tension between the two groups.

Settlement patterns
      The old town of Kuwait, although located in a harsh desert climate, opened onto an excellent sheltered harbour. Kuwait developed in the 18th and 19th centuries as a trading city, relying on the pearl banks of the gulf as well as on long-distance sea and caravan traffic. The old city—facing the sea and bounded landward from 1918 to 1954 by a mud wall, the gates of which led out into the desert—was compact, only 5 square miles (13 square km) in area; its typical dwelling was a courtyard house. After the discovery of oil in the 1930s and the petroleum industry's rapid expansion after World War II, Kuwait city underwent a transformation. The ensuing urban explosion led to the destruction of the semicircular city wall (its gates were preserved as a reminder of the early years), and city planners formally laid out new suburbs. The government invested large portions of oil revenues in infrastructure and urban development, creating in the process a modern metropolis.

      Kuwaitis are now scattered at a relatively low density throughout the urban area and surrounding suburbs. Non-Kuwaitis, largely excluded from the restricted suburbs, live at higher densities in the old city and in the suburbs of Ḥawallī and Al-Sālimiyyah, mostly in apartments.

Demographic trends
      Until the Iraqi invasion, Palestinians, some of them third-generation residents of Kuwait, were the largest single expatriate group, numbering perhaps 400,000. Popular Palestinian support for Iraq during the war and persistent Palestinian demands for political inclusion led the Kuwaiti government to deport most of them following the restoration of authority, and by early 1992 their number had fallen to 50,000. They have been largely replaced by Egyptians, Syrians, Iranians, and South Asians.

      Life expectancy in Kuwait is high, with males living to about 75 years and females to 77. Although Kuwait's birth rate is roughly equal to the world average, its low death rate has led to a high rate of natural increase. The leading cause of death is circulatory disease. The country is young, with roughly three-fifths of the population under the age of 21.

      Virtually all of Kuwait's wealth is derived directly or indirectly, by way of overseas investments, from petroleum extraction and processing. The most dramatic element of Kuwait's economic development has been the steady and rapid expansion of its oil industry since the 1970s. By the mid-1980s Kuwait was refining four-fifths of its oil domestically and marketing some 250,000 barrels a day in its own European retail outlets under the name “Q8.” This oil income and the investment income it generated—the latter surpassed direct sales of oil revenues by the 1980s—gave Kuwait one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. However, both the Iraqi invasion (which nearly exhausted Kuwait's overseas investment revenues) and the increasing volatility of the global oil market in the 1980s reduced this income substantially, but income levels rebounded when oil prices rose dramatically in the early 21st century. Other sectors of Kuwait's economy are weak by comparison; agriculture, manufacturing, and trade each constitute only a small proportion of gross domestic product (GDP).

Agriculture and fishing
      The possibilities of agricultural development are severely limited. Only a small amount of the land is arable, and, because of scarcity of water, soil deficiencies, and lack of workers trained in agricultural skills, only a portion of that land area is under actual cultivation. Agriculture's contribution, therefore, is insignificant to the output of the economy.

      Fish are plentiful in the Persian Gulf, and fishing in Kuwait was a leading industry before the discovery of oil. The United Fisheries of Kuwait continues the tradition today. Shrimp was one of the few commodities besides oil that Kuwait continued to export after World War II. Shrimp production, devastated by the environmental havoc wreaked in the gulf by the Persian Gulf War, had recovered by the mid-1990s.

Resources and power
      Kuwait has nearly one-tenth of the world's proven oil reserves. Kuwait's proven recoverable reserves are thought to be enough to sustain current production levels for some 150 years, and, though the oil industry sustained severe damage during the Iraqi invasion, most of that was repaired by the mid-1990s. Kuwait also has considerable natural gas reserves, almost all in the form of associated gas—i.e., gas that is produced together with crude oil. There are no other important minerals. Naturally occurring fresh water is scarce; until desalination plants were built after World War II, water had to be imported.

      The generation of electricity also has increased significantly as population and industry have grown. Production is concentrated in several large natural-gas–fired power stations, including one at Al-Shuwaykh and another at Al-Shuʿaybah.

 In 1934 the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), the ownership of which was divided equally between what were then the British Petroleum Company and the Gulf Oil Corporation (of the United States), obtained a concession covering the whole territory except the Neutral Zone. Oil was struck in 1938, but World War II deferred development until 1946. Thereafter, progress was spectacular. In 1953 the American Independent Oil Company and the Getty Oil Company, which jointly held concessions for the Neutral Zone, struck oil in commercial quantities, and in 1955 oil was discovered in northern Kuwait. By 1976 Kuwait had achieved complete control of the KOC, with the former owners retaining the right to purchase at a discount. The government also achieved full ownership of the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), which it had formed in 1960 with private Kuwaiti investors. The KNPC, designed to serve as an integrated oil company, controlled the supply and distribution of petroleum products within the country and began marketing operations abroad. In 1980 the government founded the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation as an umbrella organization overseeing the KOC and the KNPC as well as the Kuwait Oil Tanker Company, the Petrochemicals Industries Company, and the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company.

      The relatively low cost of oil production in Kuwait stems from certain unique advantages. Most important, there are a number of highly productive wells, the output of which can be varied at short notice, which thus eliminates the need for large numbers of storage tanks. Most of the storage tanks themselves are placed on a ridge set back a few miles from the seacoast at a height of some 300 feet (90 metres); this enables loading operations to be carried out by gravity rather than by pumps. There are also extensive refineries and bunkers for tankers. While retreating from Kuwait at the end of the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi forces set fire to more than 700 of the country's 950 wells. By the fall of 1991, the fires, which had consumed about six million barrels of oil per day, had been extinguished, and production soon returned to preinvasion levels.

      Massive volumes of natural gas are produced in association with crude oil. Although natural gas has great potential as a source of foreign exchange, it principally has been used for reinjection in oil fields to maintain pressure, generating electricity (notably for water distillation), and producing (as raw material) petrochemicals and fertilizers, some of which Kuwait exports in small quantities.

      For fresh water in earlier days, people depended on a few artesian wells (artesian well) and on rainwater collected from the roofs of houses or from cisterns at ground level. dhows piloted by Kuwaiti seamen also brought fresh water from the Shatt al-Arab (Arab, Shaṭṭ Al-ʿ) near Al-Baṣrah, Iraq. With the rapid growth of population, however, the government of Kuwait built desalination plants at Kuwait city, Al-Shuʿaybah, and several other locations. Important sources of fresh water have been discovered at Al-Rawḍatayn and Al-Shiqāyā, but desalination still provides the great bulk of Kuwait's daily consumption of potable water.

      Manufacturing contributes roughly one-tenth of Kuwait's GDP and consists almost entirely of refined petroleum products, petrochemicals, and fertilizers. Other, less-important manufactured products include clothing and apparel, fabricated metal products, industrial chemicals, and nonelectrical machinery.

      The Central Bank of Kuwait (Bank al-Kuwayt al-Markazī) issues the national currency, the Kuwaiti dinar, and is the country's main banking regulatory body. In addition to its central bank, Kuwait has specialized banks operating in the areas of savings and credit, industrial loans, and real estate. There are also commercial banks. No foreign banks may operate in Kuwait, with the exception of the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait, based in Bahrain and owned equally by the two states. An Islamic bank—one bound by stringent religious laws governing financial transactions—has also been established. Before independence an officially sanctioned stock exchange operated, growing to become one of the largest in the world. The fall of the unofficial but wildly popular stock market, the Sūq al-Manākh, in 1982 sent the local economy into a mild recession. A resulting debt-settlement program supervised by the government was not completed until the early 21st century.

      Petroleum and petroleum-derived products account for all but a very minor portion of Kuwait's exports, with Asia and Europe being the most important markets. Kuwait's imports—largely machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, and food—are principally from the United States, Japan, and countries of the European Union.

      Kuwait has invested only marginally in local industry. As a result, nearly all employed Kuwaitis work for the state, largely in education (only a small fraction of these are in the oil industry). Almost one-third of the government's revenues are spent on salaries. Tourism plays only a small role in the country's economy. The Iraqi invasion further limited its importance, and the sector has been slow to recover.

Labour and taxation
      In both the public and private sectors, Kuwait remains heavily dependent on foreign labour, despite repeated reforms aimed at reducing this dependency. By the late 1990s only one-fifth of the country's workforce were Kuwaiti nationals; of that number, more than one-third were women. Trade unions are allowed, but numerous restrictions limit their establishment. Less than one-tenth of the country's workforce belongs to a union.

      Kuwait has no individual income tax. Much of the government's revenue comes from oil as well as from taxes on foreign corporations and on the foreign interests of Kuwaiti companies.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Although there are no railways in the country, Kuwait has a modern road system linking it with its neighbours, as well as a large international airport, Kuwait International Airport, which is located just south of the capital. Kuwait Airways Corporation, a state-owned enterprise, serves a number of international routes. The country's port facilities and its fleet of oil tankers and general cargo ships have been expanded.

      Regular telephone service was established in Kuwait only in the 1950s; since that time the country has made significant progress in telephone, cable, wireless communication, and Internet service. The country's communication infrastructure was badly damaged during the Iraqi invasion, but the damage has largely been repaired, and the Kuwaiti government—through its Ministry of Communications—has further developed Kuwait's communication grid by means of contracts with international telecommunications firms.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      Since gaining independence from Britain in 1961, Kuwait has been governed by an emir from the Ṣabāḥ family. The emir rules through a Council of Ministers—consisting largely of members of his own family—that he himself appoints. Legislative power rests in the National Assembly (Majlis al-Ummah), whose 50 members are elected to four-year terms. This parliament, however, was suspended in 1976, in 1985, and again in 1999.

      Kuwait's legal system has several sources. Personal and civil law (roughly, family law and probate law) are based largely on Sharīʿah (Islamic law). Commercial and criminal law, while also influenced by Sharīʿah, borrows heavily from both European civil and common law as well as from the legal codes of the Ottoman Empire and from those of other Arab states, which are themselves heavily influenced by European law. There are several lower courts and a system of appeals courts. The emir sometimes acts as the final court of appeal.

Political process
      In lieu of political parties, which are prohibited in Kuwait, several quasi-political organizations have representatives in the parliament. Voting is limited to natural-born Kuwaiti men who are at least 21 years old; servicemen and police are barred from voting. Under these qualifications, approximately one-tenth of the population forms the electorate. Beginning in the 1990s, attempts to extend suffrage (woman suffrage) to women increased. In 1999 the emir announced that he would allow women to vote in future elections; the franchise was officially granted in 2005.

      Kuwait's military expenditure per capita is among the highest in the world. Such spending is largely a result of the hostile relationship with Iraq; after the Persian Gulf War, Kuwait undertook significant measures to modernize and increase its armed forces. U.S. troops have been stationed there since the early 1990s, and Kuwait also has defense agreements with other countries, including Russia, the United Kingdom, and France. Kuwaiti males are required to serve two years in the armed forces, although university students may receive exemptions for one year of that service.

Health and welfare
      Kuwait has a comprehensive scheme of social welfare. The needy receive financial assistance; loans are provided to the handicapped to start businesses; the disabled can get treatment and training; and education is available for adult illiterates. The Ministry of Social Affairs offers a program that provides adequate, affordable housing, fully equipped with modern facilities, for citizens with limited incomes. Kuwait also has a comprehensive and highly developed subsidized national health-care system. In 1976 the government established Kuwait's Reserve Fund for Future Generations, and it has set aside 10 percent of the state's revenues annually for it. The government found it necessary, however, to tap into that fund during the Iraqi occupation.

      Housing in Kuwait is heavily subsidized by the government, and—since the government has invested large amounts of money in development since the oil boom—housing standards are generally high. Traditional housing (mud-walled structures one to two stories tall) has largely given way to modern-style homes and apartment complexes in most parts of the country.

      About four-fifths of the population is literate. General education in Kuwait is compulsory for native Kuwaitis between the ages of 6 and 14. It is entirely free and also includes school meals, books, uniforms, transportation, and medical attention. Non-Kuwaiti students typically attend private schools. Kuwait University was founded in 1964. The vast majority of its students are Kuwaitis, and about three-fifths are women. In 2001 the university began segregating by gender, a move that was called for by the National Assembly. Other institutions of higher learning include the College of Technological Studies. The American University of Kuwait was established in 2004. Several thousand students attend colleges and universities overseas, principally in the United States, Britain, and Egypt, usually on state scholarships.

Cultural life
      Although Kuwait embraces many facets of Western culture, the country remains culturally conservative. Its Arab-Islamic heritage permeates daily life. As in much of the Middle East, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1970s and '80s was reflected in a general return to traditional customs, as seen in the public dress of women, who began wearing the ḥijāb, or veil, far more than in the past. The right of women to drive automobiles and to work outside the home is generally accepted and has not been a matter of public debate, yet the question of granting women the right to vote has divided Islamists, some of whom seek to enforce even more conservative Islamic standards such as those found in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Daily life and social customs
      At the heart of traditional Kuwaiti culture is the institution of the diwāniyyah, a regular gathering of men—usually in a tent or a separate room of the main house—which serves as a time to gather, enjoy refreshments, talk, or play games. Kuwaitis observe all major Islamic holidays, including Ramadan and the two ʿīds (festivals), Īd al-Fiṭrʿ and Īd al-Aḍḥāʿ. The country's Independence Day and Liberation Day (from the Iraqi occupation of 1990–91) are important secular holidays.

      Fūl, falafel, and hummus are the cornerstones of Kuwaiti cuisine, though Western fast-food restaurants abound in Kuwait city. Fūl is a paste based on fava beans, with garlic and lemon added. Formed from fried balls of chickpeas and spices, falafel is often served in unleavened bread (khubz) with vegetables. Chickpeas are also used to make hummus, a dip for vegetables and bread. The traditional Kuwaiti meal consists of spiced rice topped with meat or fish or shellfish taken from the Persian Gulf.

The arts
      Kuwaiti folk arts remain important, and Bedouin crafts are the most prominent. Though few Bedouins now inhabit Kuwait, their art traditions, especially weaving, have been maintained. The intricately woven fabrics are made on a sadu, a Bedouin loom, and are common sights in souks (bazaars). Sadu House, a museum for Bedouin crafts, offers classes on weaving. Also popular are traditional dances, including the ʿarḍah, which features swords and poetry singing. The government supports the preservation of folk arts and funds numerous organizations, as well as several troupes that perform across the country.

Cultural institutions
      Kuwait has numerous museums, but the Iraqi invasion had a disastrous effect on many institutions. Many artworks were stolen by the Iraqis, and some buildings were severely damaged. The National Museum of Kuwait, which once housed a comprehensive collection of Islamic art, was looted and set ablaze; only a small portion of the building has been renovated and reopened to the public. The loss has increased the importance of the Tareq Rajab Museum (Matḥaf Ṭāriq), a private collection that features paintings, pottery, metalwork, jewelry, and musical instruments, among other items.

Sports and recreation
      Kuwait's sports culture, like that of other gulf states, combines the traditional sports of nomadic Arabian society with contemporary sports of Western origin. Traditional sports of enduring popularity include camel and horse racing; Arabian horses (Arabian horse) are held to be among the finest in the world. Falconry is enjoyed primarily by wealthy sheikhs, although the overhunting of game and, after 1990, the presence of unexploded land mines in the desert have reduced its practice. Kuwaitis have competed at the national and international levels in the country's two most widely played sports, football (soccer) and golf. Oil revenues have enabled the government to support sports generously, and the country boasts a number of stadiums capable of hosting international competitions. The country first participated in the 1968 Summer Olympic Games, but it has never competed at the Winter Games.

Media and publishing
      The Ministry of Information runs the government press and the radio and television broadcasting stations. Much of the print media receives financial support from the government. Although the constitution guarantees freedom of the press, this right has often been suspended. In 1992 print restrictions were relaxed on the condition that the media sources monitor themselves. Direct criticism of the emir, however, is still prohibited.

Dawlat Ahmed Sadek John Duke Anthony Jill Ann Crystal


Early settlers
      The origin of the city of Kuwait—and of the State of Kuwait—is usually placed at about the beginning of the 18th century, when the Banū (Banī) ʿUtūb, a group of families of the ʿAnizah tribe in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, migrated to the area that is now Kuwait. The foundation of the autonomous sheikhdom of Kuwait dates from 1756, when the settlers decided to appoint a sheikh from the Ṣabāḥ family (Āl Ṣabāḥ). During the 19th century, Kuwait developed as a thriving, independent trading community. Toward the end of the century, one ruler, ʿAbd Allāh II (reigned 1866–92), began to move Kuwait closer to the Ottoman Empire, although he never placed his country under Ottoman rule. This trend was reversed with the accession of Mubārak the Great, who came to power by assassinating his brother ʿAbd Allāh—an act of uncustomary political violence in Kuwait. Ottoman threats to annex Kuwait prompted Mubārak to cultivate a close relationship with Britain (British Empire). An 1899 treaty basically granted Britain control of Kuwait's foreign affairs. Following the outbreak of World War I (1914–18), Kuwait became a British protectorate.

      At the 1922 Conference of Al-ʿUqayr, Britain negotiated the Kuwait-Saudi border, with substantial territorial loss to Kuwait. A memorandum in 1923 set out the border with Iraq on the basis of an unratified 1913 convention.

      The first Iraqi claim to Kuwait surfaced in 1938—the year oil was discovered in the emirate. Although neither Iraq nor the Ottoman Empire had ever actually ruled Kuwait, Iraq asserted a vague historical title. That year it also offered some rhetorical support to a merchant uprising against the emir. Following the failure of the uprising, called the Majlis Movement, Iraq continued to put forth a claim to at least part of Kuwait, notably the strategic islands of Būbiyān and Al-Warbah.

      On June 19, 1961, Britain recognized Kuwait's independence. Six days later, however, Iraq renewed its claim, which was now rebuffed first by British and then by Arab League forces. It was not until October 1963 that a new Iraqi regime formally recognized both Kuwait's independence and, subsequently, its borders, while continuing to press for access to the islands.

      The Iran-Iraq War of 1980–88 represented a serious threat to Kuwait's security. Kuwait, fearing Iranian hegemony in the region, saw no alternative to providing Iraq with substantial financial support and serving as a vital conduit for military supplies. Iran attacked a Kuwaiti refinery complex in 1981, which inspired subsequent acts of sabotage in 1983 and 1986. In 1985 a member of the underground pro-Iranian Iraqi radical group al-Daʿwah attempted to assassinate the Kuwaiti ruler, Sheikh Jābir al-Aḥmad Āl Ṣabāḥ (Sạbāḥ, Sheikh Jābir al-Aḥmad al-Jābir al-).

      In September 1986 Iran began to concentrate its attacks on gulf shipping, largely on Kuwaiti tankers. This led Kuwait to invite both the Soviet Union (with which it had established diplomatic relations in 1963) and the United States to provide protection for its tankers in early 1987. The effect of the war was to promote closer relations with Kuwait's conservative gulf Arab neighbours (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman), with whom Kuwait had formed the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981 in order to develop closer cooperation on economic and security issues. With the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations began to deteriorate. On August 2, 1990, Iraq unexpectedly invaded and conquered the country, precipitating the Persian Gulf War.

The Persian Gulf War and its aftermath
      Although Iraq advanced several arguments in support of its actions, the basic reasons behind the invasion of Kuwait were the perennial ones that had led earlier Iraqi regimes to seek the same result: control of Kuwait's oil and wealth, the military advantage of frontage on the Persian Gulf, Pan-Arabism under Iraqi leadership, and a way to generate popular support in the wake of its defeat in the Iran-Iraq War. On August 8 Iraq announced its annexation of Kuwait, in spite of condemnations from the United Nations, the major world powers, the Arab League, and the European Community (now the European Union). The vehement anti-Iraqi feelings harboured by virtually all Kuwaitis, in conjunction with diplomatic efforts by the Kuwaiti government-in-exile in Saudi Arabia, did not stop Iraq from harshly imposing its rule on Kuwait.

      In mid-January 1991 a coalition of nations, acting under the authority of the United Nations and led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, began launching air strikes against Iraqi forces, and five weeks later it conducted a ground assault into Kuwait and Iraq. By late February Kuwait had been liberated from Iraqi control. As hundreds of thousands of Kuwaitis returned from foreign refuges to their homes in May, the full extent of the damage created by the invasion, looting, and war became clear.

      The invasion and occupation affected every aspect of Kuwaiti life. More than half the population fled during the war. Although most nationals returned during 1991, many nonnationals, notably the Palestinians, were not permitted to do so. A division emerged between those who had stayed behind in the resistance and those who had fled. Another developed between the majority pressing for political liberalization (specifically, for parliamentary elections) and the ruling family, whose behaviour in exile had stirred considerable popular disfavour in Kuwait. The government's initial response—instituting martial law and staging show trials—gave way as reconstruction proceeded to a more liberal stance. This led to elections to the National Assembly in 1992, in which Islamic candidates and independent candidates sympathetic to them were successful.

      In 1992 a United Nations commission formally delimited the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border in accordance with a resolution of the UN Security Council passed in April 1991, which had reaffirmed the border's inviolability. The commission's findings were generally favourable to Kuwait, moving the Iraqi border slightly to the north in the area of Safwān and slightly north in the area of the contested Al-Rumaylah oil field and thereby giving Kuwait not only additional oil wells but also part of the Iraqi naval base of Umm Qaṣr. Kuwait accepted the UN's border designation, but Iraq rejected it and continued to voice its claim to Kuwaiti territory.

      The survival of the Baʿth regime of Ṣaddām Ḥussein in Iraq spawned an ambient fear among Kuwaitis of a repeat of the events of 1990–91. A tense standoff atmosphere prevailed, exacerbated by Iraqi troop movements along the border, until 2003, when U.S. and British forces launched an invasion of Iraq, largely from bases inside Kuwait. The fall of the Baʿth regime in the Iraq War was greeted with great relief in Kuwait, which offered critical logistic support to the United States and its allies. However, the subsequent occupation of Iraq (and the attraction of some Kuwaitis to the guerrilla insurgency that it produced) led to new political tensions.

John Duke Anthony William L. Ochsenwald Jill Ann Crystal

Additional Reading
Comparative coverage of Kuwait and the other Arab Gulf states is provided by Helen Chapin Metz (ed.), Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3rd ed. (1994); F. Gregory Gause, III, Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States (1994); Rosemarie Said Zahlan, The Making of the Modern Gulf States, rev. and updated ed. (1998); Khaldoun Hasan al-Naqeeb, Society and State in the Gulf and Arab Peninsula: A Different Perspective, trans. from Arabic (1990); and Michael Herb, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (1999). A historical overview is found in Frederick F. Anscombe, The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (1997); and Ahmad Mustafa Abu-Hakima, The Modern History of Kuwait, 1750–1965 (1982). Jill Crystal, Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State (1992), and Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar, updated ed. (1995); Anthony H. Cordesman, Kuwait: Recovery and Security After the Gulf War (1997); and Jacqueline S. Ismael, Kuwait: Dependency and Class in a Rentier State, 2nd ed. (1993), examine Kuwait specifically. Mary Ann Tétreault, The Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and the Economics of the New World Order (1995), focuses on the oil industry. A thorough study of the ruling family is found in Alan Rush, Al-Sabah: Genealogy and History of Kuwait's Ruling Family, 1752–1986 (1987). Anh Nga Longva, Walls Built on Sand: Migration, Exclusion, and Society in Kuwait (1997); and Shafeeq N. Ghabra, Palestinians in Kuwait: The Family and the Politics of Survival (1987), discuss the expatriate population. Comparative studies on border disputes are David H. Finnie, Shifting Lines in the Sand: Kuwait's Elusive Frontier with Iraq (1992); Richard Schofield, Kuwait and Iraq: Historical Claims and Territorial Disputes, 2nd ed. rev. and enlarged (1993); and Richard Schofield (ed.), Territorial Foundations of the Gulf States (1994).Jill Ann Crystal

Arabic  Al-Kuwayt  
 city and national capital, eastern Kuwait. The city lies on the southern shore of Kuwait Bay of the Persian Gulf. Its name is derived from the Arabic kūt (“fort”).

      Kuwait city was founded at the beginning of the 18th century by a group of families who migrated to the coast from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula. The old mud-walled city, only about 5 square miles (13 square km) in area, made its livelihood by fishing, pearling, and trading with the Indian subcontinent and eastern Africa. It was long the only populated place of consequence in the country.

      With the development of Kuwait's petroleum industry after World War II, Kuwait city and the surrounding area, including the residential suburb of Ḥawallī, began to grow rapidly. The mud wall was torn down in 1957, and only three gates remain. The city rapidly became a flourishing administrative, commercial, and financial centre, with modern hotel and high-rise office buildings; its banking facilities were among the largest in the Middle East. Kuwait city has many luxurious residences, as well as a number of parks and gardens; tree-lined avenues carry heavy automobile traffic. Kuwait University opened in 1966; the city's historical museum exhibits artifacts from Faylakah island.

      When Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait from August 1990 to February 1991, Iraqi forces systematically stripped Kuwait city of its food supplies, consumer goods, equipment, and other movable assets, and many of the city's inhabitants fled the country. Kuwait city suffered considerable damage to buildings and infrastructure, but after the war Kuwaitis were able to return to their capital and much of the city was rebuilt. (See Persian Gulf War.) Pop. (1995) city, 28,859; (2001 est.) urban agglom., 888,000.

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Universalium. 2010.

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