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Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Emir, Dies at 91

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, who led his small oil-rich country on an independent path through rivalries and disputes in the Middle East for four decades as foreign minister and then ruler of the country, died on Tuesday. He was 91 years old.

And an official statement read by state television announced his death. Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported that the prince underwent surgery and was transferred to the United States for medical treatment in July.

His death is expected to elevate his half-brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, 82, to the leadership of Kuwait. While the policies of the next emir were not yet clear, analysts predicted that Kuwait would continue to play the role of mediator in its turbulent neighborhood, shuttling brilliantly between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the one hand, and the enemies of those Arab countries, Iran and Qatar. , On the other hand.

Kuwait, a Gulf state with a population of 4.2 million, between Saudi Arabia to the south and Iraq to the north, has the sixth largest known oil reserve in the world, which gives it enormous wealth that has given it a degree of independence from its powerful neighbors.

Sheikh Sabah was the architect of and often embodied this independent, non-aligned foreign policy.

Kuwait served as a regional mediator in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain competed with Qatar Charges Qatar undermined the rulers of other countries by financing terrorism, interfering in their internal affairs, financing the Al Jazeera satellite network, and sticking to Iran.

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Steeped in the tribal, religious and political dynamics in the region, Sheikh Sabah personally traveled from the Arab capital to the capital when he was in his mid-1980s, leading rounds of negotiations that ultimately pushed the two parties to an unstable breakthrough.

When opponents of Qatar Cut off ties with the country Altogether in 2017 – this time Egypt – Kuwait joined it Play again broker, Albeit with much less success. Qatar and its opponents are still far apart, with the freezing of diplomatic and economic relations, and the imposition of a land and sea blockade on Qatar. Still in place. (Qatar denies that it interfered with other countries or sponsored terrorism.)

Despite periods of turmoil, Kuwait has remained politically stable. Through an elected parliament, political party-like blocs and sometimes robust public debate, Kuwaitis can participate in their government to a greater extent than their Gulf neighbors, who are ruled by absolute monarchies.

The country has remained an important ally of the United States since 1991, when US-led forces repelled an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the Gulf War. Today, Kuwait hosts about 13,000 American soldiers.

James Baker III, who was Secretary of State during the war, said in a statement on Tuesday that Sheikh Sabah “has always been an outspoken and reliable ally.”

He added, “Whether it is working to calm difficult rivalries between competing countries or pledging to provide disaster relief to refugees from war-torn countries.” “Sheikh Sabah remained focused on helping us build a better world.”

However, this stability has been tested. Under Kuwait’s political system, the emir appoints the prime minister from the Sabah family and keeps the last word on state affairs, a system that has led to long-standing tension between the appointed government and the elected parliament. In the second half of Sheikh Sabah’s reign, this imbalance led to his biggest internal crisis – when the Arab Spring uprisings that spread across the Middle East in 2011 reached Kuwait, prompting open questions about the strength of the ruling family. .

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Kuwaiti protesters and opposition MPs, fueled by what they saw as government attempts to interfere in the parliamentary elections and a corruption scandal among members of Parliament, It paid for constitutional amendments To loosen the grip of the ruling family and bring the country closer to a complete parliamentary system.

The protests drew tens of thousands of Kuwaitis to the streets, forcing the emir to replace the prime minister and dissolve parliament. Two years of unrest ensued, during which the emir used emergency laws to change election rules in a way that the opposition said favored government candidates.

The opposition-dominated parliament was dissolved, protesters repeatedly encountered police in the streets, and scores of protesters were arrested for criticizing the emir.

Sheikh Sabah was born in Kuwait on June 6, 1929, and he is the fourth son of the Emir at that time. His family has ruled Kuwait continuously since the middle of the eighteenth century. The young sheikh received his education in Kuwaiti schools and by private tutors, according to an official biography published on the website of the Kuwaiti embassy.

He was appointed to a government commission at the age of 25, and he remained in various government positions until his death. His most important role before becoming prince was that of foreign minister, a title he held for most of the years from 1963 until 2003, when he was appointed prime minister.

According to the Kuwaiti tradition, according to which the position of the Emir rotates between the two branches of the ruling family, Sheikh Sabah was not supposed to rule. But it was Pushed to power In 2006, after a health crisis, his predecessor, Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, was deported after nine days of Sheikh Saad’s rule. Sheikh Saad passed away in 2008 at the age of 78.

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Harold Manning

"Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover."

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