For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.
Cities: Capital--Kuwait City.
Terrain: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point--306 m).
Climate: Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42o-49oC (108o-120oF); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10o-30oC (50o-80oF), with limited rain.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Kuwaiti(s).
Population (2009 est.): 3,520,000 including approximately 1.06 million Kuwaiti citizens, 2.36 million non-Kuwaiti nationals, and 100,000 stateless persons.
Annual growth rate (2009 est.): 3.549%.
Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%.
Religion: Muslim estimated 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi'a 30% among Kuwaitis), with sizable Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist communities.
Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.
Education: Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult literacy (age 15 and over)--93.3% for the total population (male 94.4%, female 91%) (2005 census).
Health: Infant mortality rate (2009 est.)--8.97 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2009 est.)--76.51 yrs. male, 78.96 yrs. female.
Work force (2009 est.): 2.091 million (75% male, 25% female; 20% Kuwaiti citizens).
Type: Constitutional hereditary emirate.
Independence: June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).
Constitution: Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.
Branches: Executive--Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative--unicameral National Assembly (Majlis al-'Umma) of 50 elected members who serve 4-year terms plus all ministers, who serve as ex officio members. Judicial--High Court of Appeal.
Administrative subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat): Al 'Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra', Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.
Political parties: None; formal political parties have no legal status, although de facto political blocs exist.
Elections: There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and crown prince are appointed by the Amir. National Assembly elections were last held May 16, 2009. Municipal council elections were held on June 25, 2009.
Suffrage: Adult males and since May 16, 2005, adult females who are 21, have been citizens for 20 years, and are not in the security forces. In June 2006, women participated as voters and candidates in parliamentary elections for the first time.
GDP (official exchange rate, 2010 est.): $150 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (2010 est.): 3.7%.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish.
Agriculture (about 0.3% of GDP): With the exception of fish, most food is imported. Cultivated land--1%.
Industry (about 48.3% of GDP): Types--petroleum extraction and refining, fertilizer, chemicals, desalination, construction materials.
Services (about 51.4% of GDP): public administration, finance, real estate, trade, hotels, and restaurants.
Trade (2010 est.): Exports--$63.27 billion f.o.b.: oil (93%). Major markets--Japan 18.4%, South Korea 14.6%, India 11.5%, U.S. 8.9%, Singapore 7.9%, China 6.1%. Imports--$21.61 billion f.o.b.: food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing. Major suppliers--U.S. 11.9%, Japan 9.2%, Germany 8.1%, China 7.6%, Saudi Arabia 7%, Italy 4.8%, U.K. 4.2% (2008 est.).
Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, fewer than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (approximately 68% of the total population is non-Kuwaiti).
Of the country's total population of 3.5 million, approximately 85% are Muslims, including nearly all of its 1.06 million citizens. While the national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi'a adherents, approximately 70%-75% of citizens, including the ruling family, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The remaining Kuwaiti citizens, with the exception of about 100-200 Christians and a few Baha'is, are Shi'a. Among expatriates, there are an estimated 450,000 Christians, 400,000 Hindus, and 100,000 Buddhists.
Kuwait's 93.3% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. In 2009, approximately 3,318 Kuwaitis were enrolled in U.S. universities.
Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggest that Failaka was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.
Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (U.A.E.) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah--"the Great"--signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.
Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915-17) and Salim (1917-21). Kuwait's subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.
Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Ahmed's successor, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.
Kuwait enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years. Under his rule, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy.
In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters."
Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses.
Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883. Despite these steps, bilateral relations between Kuwait and Iraq continued to be troubled into 2010 by unresolved problems related to border demarcation, debt, reparations, and the return of missing persons and archives seized during the 1990 invasion.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family since the middle of the 18th century. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir's choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, the founder of modern Kuwait, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence. In January 2006, the National Assembly played a symbolically important role in the succession process, which was seen as an assertion of parliament's constitutional powers.
For almost 40 years, the Amir appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait's Prime Minister. However, in July 2003, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a different ruling family member as Prime Minister.
Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. In 1999, 2006, 2008, and March 2009, the Amir dissolved the National Assembly, but complied with the constitution by holding new elections within 60 days. The most recent general election, held in May 2009, was considered free and fair. Women participated for the third time as voters and candidates, and Masouma Al-Mubarak, Aseel Al-Awadi, Rola Dashti, and Salwa Al-Jassar became the first women to win seats in the National Assembly.
The 2009 parliamentary election was the second under a new five-constituency system. Observers noted that the outcomes of these elections reflected gains for Shi'a and tribal and sectarian influences. The government does not officially recognize political parties; however, de facto political blocs, typically organized along ideological lines, exist and are active in the National Assembly. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question ("grill") cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation.
In July 2005, the Prime Minister appointed Kuwait's first female minister, Masouma Al-Mubarak, as Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs, and later as Minister of Health. Moudhi Al-Humoud, appointed Minister of Education in May 2009, is the sole female cabinet member.
Principal Government Officials
Amir--Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al Sabah
Crown Prince--Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al Sabah
Prime Minister--Nasser Al-Mohammed Al Sabah
First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Interior--Jaber Al-Mubarak Al Sabah
Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Minister of State for Development Affairs--Ahmad Al-Fahad Al Sabah
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister--Mohammad Sabah Al-Salim Al Sabah
National Assembly Speaker--Jassem Al-Khorafi
Ambassador to the United States--Salim Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al Sabah
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Mansour Al-Otaibi
Kuwait maintains an embassy in the United States at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel.  (202)-966-0702).
Kuwait is a geographically small but wealthy country with a relatively open economy and self-reported crude oil reserves of nearly 105 billion barrels--about 9% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 95% of government income. Kuwaiti officials have committed to increasing oil production to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2020. Due to a budget surplus generated from oil prices, Kuwait survived the economic crisis that began in 2008, and in 2009 it posted its eleventh consecutive budget surplus. Kuwait has done little to diversify and reform its economy, in part because of this positive fiscal situation, but also due to the poor business climate. In addition, the acrimonious relationship between the National Assembly and the executive branch has stymied most movement on economic reforms. Nonetheless, in 2009 the government passed an economic development plan that pledged to spend up to $104 billion over five years to diversify the economy away from oil, attract more investment, and boost private sector participation in the economy. There is speculation whether such an increase in spending over the planned time frame is even possible.
The Kuwait National Assembly passed a law on December 26, 2007, amending the Income Tax Decree No. 3 of 1955 and setting taxes at a flat rate of 15%. The tax rate previous ranged from 0% to 55%.
In 1934, the ruler of Kuwait granted an oil concession to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), jointly owned by the British Petroleum Company and the Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1976, the Kuwaiti Government nationalized KOC. The following year, Kuwait took over part of onshore production in the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (KGOC) produces jointly there with Saudi Arabian Chevron, which, by its 1984 purchase of Getty Oil Company, acquired the Saudi Arabian onshore concession in the Divided Zone. Saudi Arabia renewed Chevron's concession in the Divided Zone for another 30 years effective from February 2009. KGOC also manages offshore production operations, while Aramco Gulf Oil Company (AGOC) manages the Saudi portion of the offshore Divided Zone.
Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), an integrated, state-owned oil company, is the parent company of the government's operating companies in the petroleum sector. It includes Kuwait Oil Company, which produces oil and gas; Kuwait National Petroleum Company, which manages refining and domestic sales; Petrochemical Industries Company, which produces ammonia, urea, ethylene, propylene, and styrene and participates in a number of successful joint ventures with Dow Chemical within Kuwait and abroad; Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company, which is responsible for exploration and upstream production outside Kuwait (in several developing countries and Australia); Kuwait Oil Tanker Company; Kuwait Gulf Oil Company, responsible for exploration and production in the Kuwait portions of the offshore and onshore Divided Zone; and Kuwait Petroleum International, which manages refining and retail operations outside Kuwait (in Europe and East Asia).
According to official Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) figures, Kuwait has approximately 101.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (including the Kuwaiti share of proven reserves in the Divided Zone), the fifth-largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, and Iraq. Kuwait recently began limited production from a 35 trillion cubic feet natural gas field discovered in 2006. By 1993 Kuwait had restored its production capacity to its pre-occupation levels of 2.4 million bpd. Kuwait's current oil production capacity is estimated to be 2.27 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2015 and 4.0 million bpd by 2020. Many analysts question whether these goals are feasible. Kuwaiti export crude averaged $60.30 per barrel in 2009.
KPC purchased refineries in the Netherlands and Italy and service stations in the Benelux nations, Italy, and Scandinavia from Gulf Oil Company. In 1987, KPC bought a 19% share in British Petroleum, which was later reduced to 10%. KPC markets its products in Europe under the brand name Q8. In 2006, KPC announced plans to participate in a joint venture to build and operate a refinery and associated petrochemical plant in China. In April 2008, KPC signed a joint venture agreement with Idemitsu Kosan-Japan to hold a 35.1% stake, worth $6 billion, of Vietnam's second refinery.
On May 12, 2008, KPC awarded a $14 billion project to construct a fourth refinery to several international firms. The project would increase refining capacity from the current 930,000 barrels per day to 1.5 million barrels per day by 2012. The project has been under review by parliament since January 2009 and has not yet been retendered.
The government has sponsored many social welfare, public works, and development plans financed with oil and investment revenues. Among the benefits for Kuwaiti citizens are retirement income, marriage bonuses, housing loans, virtually guaranteed employment, free medical services, and education at all levels. By Amiri decree, the government occasionally disburses a portion of its budget surplus as a grant to all Kuwaiti citizens. In 2006, an Amiri grant of 200 Kuwaiti dinars (approximately $700) was paid to every citizen who applied. In 2007, the government implemented a debt forgiveness scheme for Kuwaiti citizens amounting to just over U.S. $1 billion. Foreign nationals residing in Kuwait do not have access to these welfare services. The right to own stock in publicly traded companies, real estate, and banks or a majority interest in a business is limited to Kuwaiti citizens and citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states under limited circumstances.
Industry and Development
Industry in Kuwait consists of several large export-oriented petrochemical units, oil refineries, and a range of small manufacturers. It also includes large water desalinization, ammonia, desulphurization, fertilizer, brick, block, and cement plants. The U.S. and Kuwaiti governments signed a Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) agreement in 2004. Kuwait and the other GCC nations signed a free trade agreement with Singapore in 2008. Kuwait does not attract significant foreign direct investment (FDI), largely due to bureaucratic obstacles and barriers to doing business in Kuwait.
Agriculture is limited by the lack of water and arable land. The government has experimented in growing food through hydroponics and carefully managed farms. However, much of the soil which was suitable for farming in south central Kuwait was destroyed when Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in the area and created vast "oil lakes." Fish and shrimp are plentiful in territorial waters, and large-scale commercial fishing has been undertaken locally and in the Indian Ocean.
The Kuwait Oil Tanker Company has 24 crude oil, liquefied petroleum gas, and refined product carriers and is the largest tanker company in an OPEC country. Kuwait is a member of the United Arab Shipping Company.
Trade, Finance, and Aid
The Kuwaiti dinar is currently pegged to an undisclosed basket of currencies. As of April 2010, one U.S. dollar was equivalent to 0.2884 Kuwaiti dinars.
Stable oil prices in 2009 contributed to a budget surplus for fiscal year 2010 (ending March 31). As of January 2010, the government predicted a budget surplus of U.S. $23.45 billion for FY 2010.
The government’s two reserve funds, the Fund for Future Generations and the General Reserve Fund, are both managed by the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). Prior to the onset of the global financial crisis in mid-2008, the KIA’s aggregate holdings were estimated at more than a quarter of a trillion dollars. The KIA’s losses since mid-2008 are unknown at this stage. KIA’s assets are invested in stocks, bonds, and real estate in the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. Kuwait is reportedly considering increasing its investments in Asia, with a specific focus on China and India. Generally, Kuwait is considered a conservative investor.
Kuwait has been a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through its Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED). The fund is an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of western and international development agencies and is chaired by the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister. In 1974, the fund’s lending mandate was expanded to include all non-Arab developing countries. According to the most recent statistics, the fund’s paid capital amount is $7 billion. Total loan disbursement extended is $15 billion. The fund has granted 754 loans with a total value of about $14.6 billion since its inception, and has extended technical assistance on 101 countries, including 16 Arab countries, 40 African countries, 34 Asian and European countries, and 11 Latin American countries. During the year ending on March 31, 2009, the fund signed 18 loan agreements, valued at $690 million, with nine Arab and four African countries, two in East and South Asia and the Pacific, and one country in Central Asia and Europe.
Following independence in June 1961, Kuwait faced its first major foreign policy problem arising from Iraqi claims to Kuwait's territory. The Iraqis threatened invasion but were dissuaded by the U.K.'s ready response to the Amir's request for assistance. Kuwait presented its case before the United Nations and preserved its sovereignty. U.K. forces were later withdrawn and replaced by troops from Arab League nations, which were withdrawn in 1963 at Kuwait's request.
On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Through U.S. efforts, a multinational coalition was assembled, and, under UN auspices, initiated military action against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. Arab states, especially the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, and Syria, supported Kuwait by sending troops to fight with the coalition. Many European and East Asian states sent troops, equipment, and/or financial support.
After liberation, Kuwait concentrated its foreign policy efforts on development of ties to states which had participated in the multinational coalition. Notably, these states were given the lead role in Kuwait's reconstruction. Kuwait's relations with those nations that supported Iraq, among them Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, and Cuba, were slow to recover. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasir Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein during the war also affected Kuwait's attitudes toward the PLO though Kuwait supports the Arab-Israeli peace process.
The Government of Kuwait has abandoned its previous policy of limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. In August 2001, the Interior Minister announced that there were no longer any special restrictions or permits required for Palestinian workers wishing to return to the country. At the end of 2009, there were approximately 30,000 Palestinians, 48,000 Jordanians, and 5,000 Yemenis resident in Kuwait.
Since liberation from Iraq, Kuwait has made efforts to secure allies throughout the world, particularly UN Security Council members. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been concluded with the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Ties to other key Arab members of the Gulf War coalition--Egypt and Syria--also have been sustained.
During the 2002-03 buildup to and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait was a vital coalition partner, reserving a full 60% of its total land mass for use by coalition forces and donating significant assistance in kind to the effort. Kuwait continues to provide generous assistance in kind to ongoing coalition operations in Iraq. Kuwait has been consistently involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq, pledging $1.5 billion at the October 2003 international donors' conference in Madrid, and consulting closely with Iraqi officials, including former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaffari, who visited Kuwait in late October 2005, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who visited in July 2006 and again in April 2007. Kuwait has been an active and vocal public supporter of the political process in Iraq, welcoming the January 2005 elections and praising Iraq's October 2005 successful constitutional referendum. In April 2008 Kuwait hosted the Iraq Neighbors’ Conference, which was attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, and foreign ministers from throughout the region. In October 2008, Lieutenant General (retired) Ali Al-Mou’min presented his credentials as Kuwait’s Ambassador to Baghdad to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Two years later, in 2010, Iraq nominated Muhammad Al-Ulum to become the first Iraqi Ambassador to Kuwait since 1990.
Kuwait is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); African Development Bank (AFDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Group of 77 (G-77), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), INMARSAT, International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labor Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization, Interpol, IOC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Before the Gulf War, Kuwait maintained a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force units. The majority of equipment for the military was supplied by the United Kingdom. Aside from the few units that were able to escape to Saudi Arabia, including a majority of the air force, all of this equipment was either destroyed or taken by the Iraqis. Much of the property returned by Iraq after the Gulf War was damaged beyond repair. Iraq retained a substantial amount of captured Kuwaiti military equipment in violation of UN resolutions.
Since liberation, Kuwait, with the help of the United States and other allies, has made significant efforts to increase the size and modernity of its armed forces. These efforts are succeeding. The government also continues to improve defense arrangements with other Arab states, as well as UN Security Council members. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, Kuwaiti military elements successfully operated missile defense systems.
A separately organized National Guard maintains internal security. The police constitute a single national force under the purview of civilian authorities of the Ministry of Interior.
The United States opened a consulate in Kuwait in October 1951, which was elevated to embassy status at the time of Kuwait's independence 10 years later. The United States supports Kuwait's sovereignty, security, and independence, as well as its multilateral diplomatic efforts to build greater cooperation among the GCC countries.
Strategic cooperation between the United States and Kuwait increased in 1987 with the implementation of a maritime protection regime that ensured the freedom of navigation through the Gulf for 11 Kuwaiti tankers that were reflagged with U.S. markings.
The U.S.-Kuwaiti strategic partnership intensified dramatically again after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The United States spearheaded UN Security Council demands that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and its authorization of the use of force, if necessary, to remove Iraqi forces from the occupied country. The United States also played a dominant role in the development of the multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship has remained strong in the post-Gulf War period. Kuwait and the United States worked on a daily basis to monitor and to enforce Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and Kuwait has also provided the main platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.
Since Kuwait's liberation, the United States has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from both foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS program. There are currently 107 open FMS contracts between the U.S. military and the Kuwait Ministry of Defense totaling $8.4 billion. Principal U.S. military systems currently purchased by the Kuwait Defense Forces are Patriot Missile systems, F-18 Hornet fighters, the M1A2 main battle tank, AH-64D Apache helicopter, and a major recapitalization of Kuwait's Navy with U.S. boats.
Kuwaiti attitudes toward American products have been favorable since the Gulf War. In 1993, Kuwait publicly announced abandonment of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel (those aspects affecting U.S. firms). The United States is currently Kuwait's largest supplier of goods and services, and Kuwait is the fifth-largest market in the Middle East. U.S. exports to Kuwait totaled $2.14 billion in 2006. Provided their prices are reasonable, U.S. firms have a competitive advantage in many areas requiring advanced technology, such as oil field equipment and services, electric power generation and distribution equipment, telecommunications gear, consumer goods, and military equipment.
Kuwait also is an important partner in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups. In January 2005, Kuwait Security Services forces engaged in gun battles with local extremists, resulting in fatalities on both sides in the first such incident in Kuwait's history.
In January 2008, three Kuwait citizens were designated by the UN 1267 Committee as terrorist facilitators and in May 2008, in compliance with UN 1267 obligations, the Government of Kuwait froze the assets of the three Kuwaitis.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Deborah K. Jones
Deputy Chief of Mission--Thomas Williams
Political Affairs--Peter A. O’Donohue
Commercial Affairs--Nancy Charles-Parker
Economic Affairs--Oliver B. John
Consular Affairs--Patrick Walsh
Management Affairs--Virginia Keener
Public Affairs--Katharina Gollner-Sweet
Chief, Office of Military Cooperation--BG Gregory “Greg” Touhill
The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al Masjed Al Aqsa Street. Block 13, Bayan Plan 36302. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, SAFAT, 13001 Safat, Kuwait; or PSC 1280 APO AE 09880.