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CRS — Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Kuwait has been pivotal to all the U.S. interventions in the Persian Gulf region since the 1980s because of its location, its role as the object of past Iraqi aggression, and its close cooperation with the United States. Kuwait remains a key to the U.S. ability to act militarily in the northern Persian Gulf region now that all U.S. forces have left Iraq. Kuwait’s relations with the post- Saddam government in Iraq have warmed significantly in recent years through resolution of many of the territorial, economic, and political issues from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Although the threat from Iraq has abated, Kuwait is increasingly suspicious of Iranian intentions in the Gulf, aligning Kuwait with U.S. efforts to contain Iranian power in the Gulf. Still, Kuwait maintains relatively normal economic and political relations with Iran so as not to provoke it to take military action or to provide material support to pro-Iranian elements inside Kuwait. Regional issues were the focus of meeting between the Amir of Kuwait and President Obama on September 13, 2013, during the Amir’s visit to Washington, DC.

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Playing with Fire: Why Private Gulf Financing for Syria’s Extremist Rebels Risks Igniting Sectarian Conflict at Home

December 9, 2013 Comments off

Playing with Fire: Why Private Gulf Financing for Syria’s Extremist Rebels Risks Igniting Sectarian Conflict at Home
Source: Brookings Institution

In this new Saban Center analysis paper, Elizabeth Dickinson examines why private financing by Gulf donors for Syria’s extremist rebels risks igniting sectarian conflict in Gulf countries. Over the last two and a half years, Kuwait has emerged as a financing and organizational hub for charities and individuals supporting Syria’s myriad rebel groups. These donors have taken advantage of Kuwait’s unique freedom of association and its relatively weak financial rules to channel money to some of the estimated 1,000 rebel brigades now fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Asad.

The paper charts how individual donors in the Gulf encouraged the founding of armed groups, helped to shape the ideological and at times extremist agendas of rebel brigades, and contributed to the fracturing of the military opposition. From the early days of the Syrian uprising, Kuwait-based donors—including one group currently under U.S. sanction for terrorist financing—began to pressure Syrians to take up arms. The new brigades often adopted the ideological outlook of their donors. As the war dragged on and the civilian death toll rose, the path toward extremism became self-reinforcing. Today, there is evidence that Kuwaiti donors have backed rebels who have committed atrocities and who are either directly linked to al Qaeda or cooperate with its affiliated brigades on the ground.

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

New Report: Energy Conservation Key Security Goal for Gulf

August 21, 2013 Comments off

New Report: Energy Conservation Key Security Goal for Gulf
Source: Chatham House

The systemic waste of oil and gas in the Gulf is eroding economic resilience to shocks and increasing security risks, including to citizens’ health. Success or failure in setting and meeting sustainable energy goals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will have a global impact, says a new report Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf.

The six GCC countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain – now consume more primary energy than the whole of Africa. Yet they have just one twentieth of that continent’s population. Energy intensity in the region is high and rising in contrast to other industrialized regions and is driven by systemic inefficiencies.

Almost 100% of energy in the region is produced from oil and gas without carbon dioxide abatement, and water security is increasingly dependent on energy-driven desalination. If the region’s fuel demand were to continue rising as it has over the last decade, it would double by 2024. This is a deeply undesirable prospect for both the national security of each state and the global environment.

Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf is the first report to offer practical recommendations that address the key challenges of governance, political commitment and market incentives from a GCC-wide perspective. It draws on the results of two years of research and workshops in the region, with representatives of over 60 local institutions w ith a critical interest in and influence over domestic energy.

The report concludes that efficiency savings are urgent, achievable and will build a bridge to renewables deployment.

CRS — Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy

July 15, 2013 Comments off

Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Kuwait was pivotal to two decades of U.S. efforts to end a strategic threat posed by Iraq, because of its location, its role as the object of past Iraqi aggression, and its close cooperation with the United States. Kuwait remains a key to the U.S. ability to act militarily in the northern Persian Gulf region now that all U.S. forces have left Iraq. Kuwait’s relations with the post-Saddam government in Iraq have warmed significantly in recent years through resolution of many of the territorial, economic, and political issues from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait is increasingly suspicious of Iranian intentions in the Gulf, aligning Kuwait with U.S. efforts to contain Iranian power in the Gulf and prevent Iran from exerting undue influence in Iraq. Still, Kuwait maintains relatively normal economic and political relations with Iran so as not to provoke Iran militarily or prompt it to try to empower pro-Iranian elements in Kuwait.

Although Kuwait’s foreign policy fluctuates little, its political system has been in turmoil since 2006, and has deteriorated significantly since late 2012. The political disputes in Kuwait have centered on opposition to the political dominance of the Al Sabah family, as well as over official corruption, security force brutality, citizenship eligibility, and other issues. These disputes, manifested primarily in the form of opposition to the Al Sabah family within the National Assembly, have produced repeated dissolutions of the National Assembly and new elections. The latest suspension occurred on June 16, 2013 and triggered new elections to be held on July 27, 2013. Perhaps accelerated by the uprisings in several Arab countries since early 2011, the disputes in Kuwait have also expanded beyond the Assembly to the general population. Public protests expanded significantly in late 2012 to challenge the Sabah regime’s unilateral alteration of election rules to shape the December 1, 2012 elections to its advantage. Most oppositionists boycotted the December 1 elections, lowering the turnout but producing an overwhelmingly pro- government Assembly. The demonstrations sometimes have been suspended after compromises with the government.

Yet, the ruling establishment in Kuwait retains substantial assets that will likely prevent major political change. Kuwait remains a relatively wealth y society where most citizens do not want to risk their economic well-being to try to bring about the downfall of Al Sabah rule through violence. Reflecting that sentiment, the opposition largely confines its demands to limiting Sabah power rather than ending the family’s rule. To contain unrest, the government is able to use financial largesse—budgets loaded with subsidies and salary increases—as well as some repressive measures, including beatings and imprisonments. But, the many years of political paralysis have led to some economic stagnation as well, because parliamentary approval for several major investment projects has been held up due to the infighting. The lack of economic vibrancy led to strikes in several economic sectors in 2012.

On other regional issues, in part because of its leadership turmoil, Kuwait tends to defer to consensus positions within the Gulf Cooperation Council. This deference is evident in Kuwait’s stances on the Israel-Palestinian dispute as well as on the uprisings in Yemen and Syria. Kuwait has largely confined its support for the armed rebellion in Syria to financial aid. On the uprising in Bahrain, in March 2011, Kuwait joined a Gulf Cooperation Council intervention on the side of the government, but unlike Saudi Arabia and UAE, Kuwait sent naval and not ground forces.

Country Analysis Brief: Kuwait

July 8, 2013 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Kuwait
Source: Energy Information Administration

As a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Kuwait is the world’s 10th largest oil producer in 2012. Despite being the second smallest land area among the OPEC member countries, Kuwait exports the third largest volume of oil. Kuwait’s economy is heavily dependent on petroleum export revenues, accounting for nearly half of its gross domestic product and nearly 70 percent of export revenues. EIA estimates these revenues were 75 billion dollars in 2012. Kuwait should remain one of the world’s top oil producers as the country pushes towards a target of 4 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of production capacity by 2020.

In an effort to diversify its oil-heavy economy, Kuwait has expanded efforts to explore its non-associated natural gas fields, which remain a small portion of its natural gas production. Gas exploration leads to greater production of gas to provide feedstock for its struggling electricity sector which frequently overloads in peak times.

Energy policy is set by the Supreme Petroleum Council, overseen by the Ministry of Petroleum, and executed by The Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and its various subsidiaries. In addition, Kuwait has an active sovereign-wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority, which oversees all state expenditures and international investments. Despite, Kuwait’s constitutional ban on foreign ownership of its resources, the government has taken measures to increase foreign participation in the oil and gas sectors. Kuwait is a constitutional emirate led by the Emir of Kuwait, a hereditary seat led by the Al-Sabah family. The Prime Minister and his deputy and council of ministers are approved by the Emir.

CRS — Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy

May 3, 2013 Comments off

Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Kuwait was pivotal to two decades of U.S. efforts to end a strategic threat posed by Iraq, because of its location, its role as the object of past Iraqi aggression, and its close cooperation with the United States. Kuwait is a key to the U.S. ability to act militarily, if necessary, in the northern Persian Gulf region now that all U.S. forces have left Iraq. Kuwait’s relations with the postSaddam government in Iraq have been hampered by long-standing territorial, economic, and political issues unresolved from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, but those issues have been narrowed significantly since 2011. Kuwait is increasingly suspicious of Iranian intentions in the Gulf, aligning Kuwait with U.S. efforts to contain Iranian power in the Gulf and prevent Iran from exerting undue influence in post-withdrawal Iraq. Still, Kuwait maintains relatively normal economic and political relations with Iran so as not to provoke Iran militarily or prompt it to try to empower pro-Iranian elements in Kuwait.

Although Kuwait’s foreign policy fluctuates little, its political system has been in turmoil since 2006, and has deteriorated significantly since late 2012. Previously, political disputes in Kuwait had consisted of opposition within the elected National Assembly to the political dominance of the Al Sabah family. These disputes aggravated—and been aggravated by—schisms within rival branches of the ruling Al Sabah. The disputes produced five dissolutions of the National Assembly and new elections since 2006, the latest of which occurred on October 8, 2012, requiring new elections that were held on December 1, 2012.

During 2011-2012, there were relatively small demonstrations in Kuwait by opposition groups over official corruption, security force brutality, citizenship eligibility, and other issues. However, protests expanded significantly in late 2012 to challenge Sabah regime efforts to shape the December 1, 2012 elections to its advantage. Most oppositionists boycotted the December 1 elections, lowering the turnout but producing an overwhelmingly pro-government Assembly. Since the election, the opposition has continued its battle to reduce Sabah power through public protests, but the demonstrations sometimes are suspended after compromises with the government.

Even though opposition to Sabah rule has grown, the opposition still largely confines its demands to limiting Sabah power rather than ending the family’s rule. And, Kuwait remains a relatively wealthy society where most citizens do not want to risk their economic well-being to try to bring about the downfall of Al Sabah rule through violence. To try to contain the unrest, the government has used financial largesse—budgets loaded with subsidies and salary increases—as well as some repressive measures, including beatings and imprisonments. But, the many years of political paralysis have led to some economic stagnation as well, because parliamentary approval for several major investment projects, such as development of major oil fields in northern Kuwait, has been held up due to the infighting. The lack of economic vibrancy led to strikes in several economic sectors in 2012.

On other regional issues, in part because of its leadership turmoil, Kuwait tends to defer to consensus positions within the Gulf Cooperation Council; this deference is evident in Kuwait’s stances on the Israel-Palestinian dispute as well as on the uprisings in Yemen and Syria. On the uprising in Bahrain, in March 2011, Kuwait joined a Gulf Cooperation Council intervention on the side of the government, but unlike Saudi Arabia and UAE, Kuwait sent naval and not ground forces.

CRS — Arab League Boycott of Israel

March 15, 2013 Comments off

Arab League Boycott of Israel (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Office)

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the primary boycott to any entity world-wide that does business in Israel. A blacklist of global firms that engage in business with Israel is maintained by the Central Boycott Office, and disseminated to Arab League members. The tertiary boycott prohibits an Arab League member and its nationals from doing business with a company that deals with companies that have been blacklisted by the Arab League.

Since the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, its impact, measured by capital or revenue denied to Israel by companies adhering to the boycott, is difficult to measure. The effect of the primary boycott appears limited since intra-regional trade and investment are small. Enforcement of the secondary and tertiary boycotts has decreased over time, reducing their effect. Thus, it appears that since intra-regional trade is small, and that the secondary and tertiary boycotts are not aggressively enforced, the boycott may not currently have an extensive effect on the Israeli economy.

Despite the lack of economic impact on either Israeli or Arab economies, the boycott remains of strong symbolic importance to all parties. The U.S. government has often been at the forefront of international efforts to end the boycott and its enforcement. Despite U.S. efforts, however, many Arab League countries continue to support the boycott’s enforcement. U.S. legislative action related to the boycott dates from 1959 and includes multiple statutory provisions expressing U.S. opposition to the boycott, usually in foreign assistance legislation. In 1977, Congress passed laws making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with the boycott and authorizing the imposition of civil and criminal penalties against U.S. violators. U.S. companies are required to report to the Department of Commerce any requests to comply with the Arab League Boycott.

The current list of countries that request U.S. companies to participate or agree to participate in boycotts prohibited under U.S. law includes Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

This report provides background information on the boycott and U.S. efforts to end its enforcement. More information on Israel is contained in CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

The Rise of Diabetes Prevalence in the Arab Region

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.
Method:
We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.
Results:
Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).
Conclusion:
The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.

CRS — Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy

August 23, 2011 Comments off

Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Kuwait has been pivotal to two decades of U.S. efforts to end a strategic threat posed by Iraq and then to stabilize that country in its transition to democracy. After U.S. forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi invading forces in February 1991, Kuwait was the central location from which the United States contained Saddam during 1991-2003, and Kuwait hosted nearly all of the U.S.-led force that invaded Iraq in March 2003 to remove Saddam from power. It is the key route through which U.S. troops have been withdrawing from Iraq during 2009-2011. Kuwait’s relations with the current government of Iraq are hampered, in part, by longstanding territorial, economic, and political issues—issues not resolved by an outwardly positive exchange of high level visits in early 2011. With the strategic threat from Iraq sharply reduced, Kuwait is cooperating with U.S.- led efforts to contain Iranian power in the Gulf. At the same time, like other Gulf states, Kuwait seeks to maintain normal economic and political relations with Iran so as not to provoke Iran or cause it to increase its support to pro-Iranian movements in Kuwait.

Kuwait has been troubled domestically for at least five years, but it has not faced the mass popular unrest that other governments throughout the Middle East have faced in 2011. The domestic disputes have taken the form of infighting between the elected National Assembly and the ruling Al Sabah family primarily over the political and economic dominance of the Al Sabah. In March 2009, the infighting led to the second constitutional dissolution of the National Assembly in one year, setting up new parliamentary elections on May 16, 2009. That produced an Assembly that was considered more pro-government, and included four women, the first to be elected to the Assembly in Kuwait since women were given the vote in 2005. However, over the subsequent two years, oppositionists in the Assembly continued to challenge the ruling family, producing two unsuccessful attempts (the most recent on January 5, 2011) to vote no confidence in Prime Minister Shaykh Nasser al-Muhammad al-Ahmad Al Sabah and forcing him to dismiss and rename a cabinet seven times since 2006. The latest cabinet, little different from the previous one, was formed on May 10, 2011. The political deadlock has prevented breaking long-standing legislative and regulatory logjams holding up key energy projects, including some projects involving major foreign energy firms.

Kuwait has been only slightly affected by the unrest sweeping the Middle East in 2011. Demonstrations by opposition groups have been held, but they have been small. Kuwait is a relatively wealthy society where citizens do not want to take risks to achieve greater freedoms. The Assembly passage of a record national budget in late June 2011—a budget loaded with subsidies and salary increases—appeared intended to ensure that demonstrations to do not broaden. The government also has used a measure of repression, including beatings of demonstrators and imprisonments of journalists and activists. Still, Kuwait’s tradition of vibrant civil society and expression of opinion led to the resignation of the interior minister, held responsible for repressive measures, on February 7, 2011, in advance of a planned public demonstration.

On other regional issues, the political stalemate in Kuwait has contributed to a tendency among Kuwaiti leaders to defer to Saudi Arabia and other more active Gulf states. Kuwait has not attempted to take a leading role in formulating new approaches to the Arab-Israeli dispute, in mediating disputes within the Palestinian territories, or trying to determine Iran’s role in Gulf security and political arrangements. In March 2011, it joined a Gulf Cooperation Council to intervene on the side of the government of Bahrain but, unlike Saudi Arabia and UAE, Kuwait did not send ground forces there.

Country Analysis Brief: Kuwait

July 17, 2011 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief:  Kuwait
Source: Energy Information Administration

Kuwait is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), exporting the fourth largest volume of oil among the group in 2010. At the same time, Kuwait’s economy is one heavily dependent on petroleum export revenues, which account for half of its overall gross domestic product (GDP), 95 percent of total export earnings, and 95 percent of government revenues. Kuwait has an active sovereign-wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority, which oversees all state expenditures and international investments. Kuwait also allocates 10 percent of its state revenues into the Reserve Fund for Future Generations (RFFG), for the day when oil income starts to decline. 

Map of Kuwait

 

Article 21 of the Kuwaiti constitution specifically allocates all natural resources and revenue they generate to the state. However, the Foreign Direct Capital Investment Law passed by the National Assembly in March 2001, has facilitated some foreign investment and development in those sectors, causing significant controversy in Kuwait.
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