DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 86, died on Saturday after a three-year, low-key rule that focused on trying to settle the small, oil-rich nation. Internal political conflicts.
Kuwaiti state television entered programs with Quranic verses.
“With great sadness and grief, we – the people of Kuwait, the Arab and Islamic countries, and the friendly people of the world – the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, passed away to His Lordship. today,” said Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Sabah, Minister of His Emirate’s Court, who read the brief statement.
Officials have not released a cause of death.
Kuwait’s deputy ruler and his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber, now 83, is believed to be the world’s oldest crown prince. He is about to take office as the ruler of Kuwait and represents one of the last Endonian leaders of the Gulf Arab states.
In late November, Sheikh Nawaf was taken to hospital for an unspecified illness. Since then, Kuwait has been waiting for news on his health. State-run news previously reported that he had traveled to the US for unspecified medical tests in March 2021.
The health of Kuwait’s leaders has also been a hot topic in the Middle Eastern nation, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which has seen internal power struggles behind palace doors.
Those born before Sheikh Nawaf’s lifetime, before oil fully transformed Kuwait from a trading center to a petrostate, have been fading with age. That, and other Gulf Arab states putting younger and more assertive rulers in power, has put more pressure on Al Sabah to pass power to the next generation.
In neighboring Saudi Arabia, 87-year-old King Salman is widely believed to have left the day-to-day running of his country in the hands of his 38-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Sheikh Nawaf took over as emir in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, following the demise of his predecessor. Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. The breadth and depth of emotion at the loss of Sheikh Sabah, known for diplomacy and peace, was felt across the region.
Sheikh Nawab previously served as the Minister of Interior and Defense of Kuwait. Despite being part of the ruling Al Sabah family, his political fortunes were not assured. As defense minister, Sheikh Nawaf oversaw the rapid decline of his forces when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded his country in August 1990. He faced widespread criticism for his decisions during the war.
In a letter sent to the country’s ruler at the time, Sheikh Nawaf reportedly ordered tank crews not to open fire on approaching Iraqi forces. The reasoning behind the purported order is not clear. Iraq’s battle-hardened forces easily overwhelmed the country after years of war with Iran.
The US-led multinational force then drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait through Operation Desert Storm. Al Sabah has never published the findings of its investigations into the government’s actions surrounding the invasion.
“Our main goal is liberation. After our return, we will fix our own house,” Sheikh Nawaf said in 1991. “You must reform yourself and correct the mistakes of the past.”
He faced a demotion and didn’t hold a cabinet-level post for about a decade, serving as the country’s deputy chief of the national security force. Even when he returned, analysts considered him not particularly active in government, although his low-key approach later appealed to some Kuwaitis who were left out of his wartime performance.
Sheikh Nawaf was often a controversial choice for emir, although his advancing years suggested his tenure would be short-lived. He had the third shortest tenure as Emir since Al Sabah ruled Kuwait starting in 1752.
During his tenure, he focused on domestic issues as the country struggled through political disputes — including overhauling Kuwait’s welfare system. Despite amassing enormous wealth from its oil reserves, its coffers have little to pay huge public sector salaries.
In 2021, Sheikh Nawaf issued the long-awaited amnesty decree. Excusing and reducing sentences About three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents are involved in the operation, which is aimed at de-escalating a major government conflict. He announced another shortly before he fell ill, aiming to resolve a political deadlock that has seen Kuwait hold three separate parliamentary elections under his rule.
“He earned his title — he has a nickname here, they call him the Emir of Pardons,” said Badr al-Saif, an assistant professor of history at Kuwait University. “No one in modern Kuwaiti history has gone so far to reach the other side, to open up.”
Kuwait is considered to have the most independent parliament in the Gulf, allowing relatively less dissent.
Meanwhile, Gulf Cooperation Council countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have restored ties after years of boycotting Doha, easing regional tensions and allowing the Sheikh Nawab to focus on domestic issues.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his condolences.
“His Highness was a great friend of the UK and we will fondly remember all that he did for our bilateral relationship and his work to promote stability in the Middle East,” Sunak said in a statement released by his office.
Slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey, Kuwait is a country of about 4.2 million people and has the world’s sixth largest oil reserves.
It has been a staunch ally of the US since the 1991 Gulf War. Kuwait is home to about 13,500 US troops and the US military’s forward headquarters in the Middle East.
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report