Arabs, Islam, and Oil: Kuwait

Kuwait is a small country located on the Persian Gulf. It is a monarchy ruled by an emir from the royal family. Huge oil reserves have made Kuwait attractive to international oil investors. In 1961, an oil company drilled the first offshore Kuwaiti oil well in the Persian Gulf. Due to oil money, the small Kuwaiti population (about three million people) has adequate social services. The country has a high standard of living. Education is free, and much of the workforce comes from non-Kuwaiti migrants.

Kuwait has an excellent port at Kuwait City. However, one of the environmental problems with building a large city in the desert is the shortage of fresh water. To solve this problem, Kuwait desalinizes seawater.

The United States and an international coalition fought the First Persian Gulf War in 1991 to free Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. The war was not about democracy—it was about the control of oil. Iraq invaded Kuwait and took over its enormous oil industry and port facilities. With the support of the United Nations, President George H. W. Bush organized an international military coalition to remove Hussein from Kuwait. When Hussein realized that he could not benefit from the oil, he dynamited 750 oil wells in Kuwait, causing serious fires and large lakes of oil flowing out onto the desert sands. The fires and spilled oil caused extensive environmental damage.

Kuwait had to invest nearly five billion dollars to reestablish the oil industry after the Persian Gulf War, but the emirate has recovered, and its economy is growing.

Kuwait is not a democracy. It is considered a constitutional emirate. The emir, or head of the royal family, is the head of state. He appoints the prime minister and has control over the government. The emir has the authority to dissolve the National Assembly, whose members are elected. Politically active groups include Islamists, business merchants, secular liberals, and Shia activists.

Source: Arabs, Islam, and Oil: Kuwait
By Saylor Academy, CC-BY 3.0

Back to top