Kuwait is located on the Northwest coast of the Persian Gulf in Southwest Asia. It is bordered by Iraq on the Northwest and North sides, and by Saudi Arabia on the South side. The country’s total area, including the islands of Bubiyan, Warbah, and Faylakah is 6,880 square miles. (Encarta)
Virtually the entire country, except for some small coastal areas, is barren desert, with a flat to rolling terrain. Soils are practically nonexistent. The average annual temperature is 77° F, and the average annual rainfall is 127 mm (5 in) or less, most of which falls in the cooler season, between October and March. During the dry season temperatures frequently exceed 115° F. The country obtains its water supply from the desalination of sea water. Petroleum and natural gas are Kuwait’s only natural resources. (Encarta)
The Native people of Kuwait are Arabs. There are also many minority groups in Kuwait such as Indians, Pakistanis, and Iranians. In 1999, the estimated population of Kuwait was 1,991,115, with fifty-four percent being immigrants. The population density is around 112 persons per 289 square miles. (facts.com) The dominant religion is Islam. The majority of the Muslims are Sunnite Muslims. The official language is Arab, but English is widely spoken. (Grolier)
Kuwait’s government is headed by a hereditary emir whose power is exercised through a prime minister and a council of ministers. There are fifty legislators elected to four year terms. Political parties are not allowed; however, several Islamic groups have run candidates in elections. Voting is only done by native born, literate males over the age 21. (Grolier)
Kuwait’s economy is almost completely based on petroleum. Kuwait has a law that requires ten percent of all petroleum revenues to be deposited into a special reserve fund to provide for the time when the oil reserves are exhausted. Kuwait has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world. In 1997 the per-capita income was 22,300 dollars a person. Much of this wealth is in the hands of the government. (facts.com) The official currency is the dinar, which is made up of one thousand fils. In September of 1999, the exchange rate was .3 dinar equals one U.S. dollar.
Kuwait was developed around the city of Kuwait in the late 18th century. It was under Ottoman Turkish rule until 1899 when the reigning emir asked for, and got, British protection. In 1914 Great Britain recognized the independence of the state. Petroleum was discovered in Kuwait in 1938. Operating under a concession, the Kuwait Oil Company, owned jointly by the Gulf Oil Corporation of the United States and the British Petroleum Company, began full-scale exploitation of the reserves in 1946. Under the provisions of a 1951 agreement, the emir shared equally in the company’s profits.
During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Kuwait aided Iraq; in 1987 the U.S. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) each sent naval escorts to protect Kuwaiti shipping from Iranian attack. After the Iran-Iraq war ended, Iraq revived a long-standing territorial dispute with Kuwait and claimed that overproduction of petroleum by Kuwait was injuring Iraq’s economy. Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and rapidly took over the country; they reportedly committed many human rights abuses. The invasion was condemned by the UN Security Council and the Arab League, which continued to support the exiled emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, as Kuwait’s legitimate ruler. (facts.com)
During the Persian Gulf War, a coalition led by the U.S. successfully freed Kuwait by late February 1991. Problems facing Kuwait in the postwar period included inadequate supplies of food, fresh water, and electricity; hundreds of oil-well fires set by the retreating Iraqis; environmental damage from burning wells and deliberately spilled oil; demands by resistance leaders who had remained in Kuwait for a greater share of political power; and enmity between Kuwaitis and Palestinian residents, some of whom were accused of collaborating with Iraqi occupation forces.
By early 1992 the fires had been put out, most Palestinians had fled the country, and Kuwait had paid $16.5 billion to the U.S. as its share of allied war expenses. Groups opposed to the emir but divided on other political, economic, and religious issues won a parliamentary majority in the elections of October 1992. In 1993, during a visit by former U.S. President George Bush, Kuwaiti officials arrested 14 Iraqis and Kuwaitis accused of plotting to assassinate the former president.
Some main problems that Kuwait faces today are women’s voting rights border disputes with Iraq, and fear of future Iraqi troubles. In the past couple of years, women’s voting rights have been a hot issue in Kuwait. In May of 1999, a law that extended voting rights to women was rejected by the legislature. This year the issue has been brought up again. Kuwait has a history of border disputes with the neighboring country of Iraq. Ever since the Middle east was divided up by “The West,” Iraq has complained that Kuwait is part of their country. Since the Gulf War of the early nineties, Kuwait has been very cautious of Iraq; with good reason of course. They still see Iraq as a threat to the entire middle east as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.
As for the future of Kuwait, there are many possibilities. There could be more trouble with Iraq. Hussein is a very unpredictable leader and Kuwait is a very easy target. Kuwait will have to rely on the UN and U.S. forces to protect them if they do get invaded again like they did back in 1990. Another thing to watch in the future will be Kuwait’s economy. Since their economy is based almost entirely on oil, any problems with oil will disrupt their entire economy. Kuwait has taken financial precautions for if the oil reserves become depleted, but one has to wonder how long a country can survive on a bank account.
I believe that the U.S. should invest time and money in Kuwait. Kuwaiti oil is very important, especially with the rising gas prices of today. If we could start increased trade to Kuwait, we might be able to negotiate oil prices.
I feel that the U.S. should protect Kuwait from enemy attack. Since it is such an easy target, we’ll have to keep a close eye on it. Iraq should be our main concern for Kuwait’s safety. Saddam Hussein needs to be overthrown or killed, whatever it takes. He seems to hold a grudge against Kuwait, and it will not stop until his power is taken away. Overall, I think Kuwait should be high on the U.S.’s priority list coming into the new millenium.
Barbara Cossette. “Dispute Arises on Iraqi Debt for Oil Losses by Kuwaitis.” New York Times. 23 Aug. 2000.
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Robin, Allen. “Kuwait Deploys Extra Police on Border with Iraq.” Financial Times. 4 Oct. 2000.
“U.S. Library of Congress Country Study: Kuwait.” U.S. Library of Congress Online. 2000.
“World Heads of State and Gov. Leaders.” Facts.com. 2000. Facts on File News Services.