Table of Contents
Foreign policy is perceived and implemented in accordance with impacts and requirements that are interwoven and generally difficult to detach from each other since it relates to external factors and internal circumstances including ideational factors like religion, cultural components, ideologies and many more Beach (116-119). Third world state politics, especially in the advent of “new states” that gained independence in recent times, since 1945, have greatly impacted the new global map, which has necessitated some Arab nations to seek advanced positions in the changing global map. Such nations have done so by playing more effective and prominent roles in their region in order to gain recognition in the global political scene. Kuwait’s case is particularly interesting in this thinly populated landscape although it is among the least studied cases (Walker et al. 44-51)
This oil rich country has utilized its economic and diplomatic tools to engage its internal and external policies in order to hold an effective and significant position on the regional and international levels. More so, the country has, through national and political objectives assisted more than one hundred nations in the form of foreign aid and loan grants since it acquired its independence in 1961. This aid and grants have, since 2011, totaled to up to $ 18 billion, which has been facilitated using the KFAED (Kuwait Fund for Arabic Economic Development). In addition, Kuwait has sometimes also made undeclared and confidential contributions that go beyond public control, which the government provides to some nations following national and political considerations. Such contributions are generally obtained from the GRF (General Reserve Fund), and mostly come in the form of assistance such as medication and foodstuffs, which may be difficult to quantify.
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The modern age Kuwait has always had to contend with the existence of three major powerhouses in the region namely Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. More so, its shifting number of ideational and material challenges including its small size has always put the country in a precarious state. This was evidently illustrated on 2 August 1990, when the country was invaded by Iraq. The invasion resulted in major alterations of Kuwait’s foreign policy on the Arab and global levels as well as its attitude towards Iraq from that time to date.
Since its emergence, Iraq always posed a menace to Kuwait especially during the 1930’s, until Kuwait gained its independence in 1961. Even so, Abdul Karim Qasim the then Iraqi president threatened to occupy Kuwait six days following its independence. The threat finally materialized with Saddam Hussein at the helm on August 2 in 1990 when Kuwait was invaded and subsequently occupied by Iraq. The invasion certainly had a major impact on Kuwait’s policy in International, Arabian and regional levels especially, though not restricted to its attitude towards Iraq. After NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) liberated it in February of 1991, Kuwait’s foreign policy assumed a practical approach in a bid to protect its autonomy, resources and entity, considering its small size and the surrounding nations that possess greater military might, geographic areas and greater populations.
Kuwait’s area is 17,819 km2, situated at the extreme north-western section of the Arabian Gulf and surrounded on the north and the west by Iraq. It shares a maritime border on the east with Iran and a long border on the south with Saudi Arabia. Hence, its location is within a triangle of nations that are constantly in conflict with each other, especially the Iranian-Iraqi conflict that culminated into the Iran- Iraq war, which is sometimes referred to as the First Gulf War that lasted eight years. Since its independence until its invasion by Iraq, Kuwait had three key drivers that shaped its foreign policy. These were mainly its sovereignty and external and internal political security, Islam and Arabism values and the need to gainfully invest its funds in foreign countries while directing a portion of the surplus to Third World and Arab nations to attain humanitarian and political objectives abroad (Cameron 36-38).
The approach taken in this endeavor was of course dependent on the sheikhdom decision-making nature and the personalities and views of certain players. The setting in which policymaking took place and its ultimate response involved various factors and specific events from the country’s independence in 1961 and the Iraqi invasion in 1990. Some of these factors include; Kuwait’s geographic location that directly overlooks Iraq, the lack of border demarcations that had already been agreed upon by both countries in 1963, which brought about pressure and border violations on Kuwait to surrender regional obligations to Iraq, including military coups and political instability in Iraq since 1958. These and many other factors caused the suspension of exertions geared towards resolving the majority of Kuwaiti- Iraqi issues.
The late Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait, had articulated the basic principle upon which Kuwait’s foreign policy is based upon when he stated that the country is protected by its religion and Islam, with its homeland being Arabism, its strategic path being cooperation, its guidance being fraternity, and tolerance as its motto. He further stated that the country’s modus operandi was its constitution, its rule being justice, peace being its goal and progress its responsibility. According to Keukeleire et al. (111-114), Kuwait’s objective in its quest for diplomacy is based on a balanced and practical approach and is steered in accordance with the interest of the state and the government’s philosophy.
Katzman (753-757) contends that Kuwait observes a foreign policy that is characterized by quiet and straightforward diplomacy as well as clarity. It tries to strengthen productive cooperation with all nations based on non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs according to the principles of justice and fairness as well as mutual respect. Kuwait advocates the use of amicable and peaceful ways to resolve conflicts between states according to the principles of justice and right, disregarding International blocs and the sphere of influence. Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait outlined the most significant features of the country’s foreign policy as being cooperation with all nations in order to uphold global stability and security including attaining sustainable societal development.
Chomsky et al. (52-59) assert that Kuwait seeks to promote peace among states and partner with friendly and brotherly nations for societal development. Equally, the country’s policy is to protect her sovereignty and independence and the freedom to make political decisions. His Highness the Amir asserts that the country’s pursuit of diplomacy is centered on defending its interests and the state’s security. Being a passionate supporter of Pan Arabism, Kuwait’s Policy and interest in the Arab world is inspired by its strong devotion to Arab nationalism principles. It is a vocal and active affiliate of the Arab League, believing in a mutual Arab destiny through enhancement of Arab State relations. In this regard, the country has, and continues to play a leading role in promoting the region’s economic prosperity. Kuwait’s leadership contends that the grants and loans offered by the Kuwait fund including other global funds from Kuwaiti donations are a demonstration of the country’s active role in creating bridges of cooperation and friendship through the funding of development projects in all corners of the world. More so, Kuwait has been extra vocal in demanding for the pull out of Israeli forces from all forced and illegal occupation of Arab lands.
As a rejoinder to the UN (United Nations) plea for humanitarian aid to war victims in Syria, Kuwait acted as host to a donor nations’ summit meeting that was held in the country twice, both in January of 2013 and 2014. Benevolence and Philanthropy play a central role in Kuwait’s diplomatic pursuit. Besides instituting a waiver on numerous soft loans to developing countries, which constituted 87% of the country’s official humanitarian assistance, Kuwait has also doubled its support to numerous international organizations including global support of humanitarian work. In 2014, in recognition of the country’s diplomatic push to bridge differences between nations by way of humanitarian support and service, the Secretary General of the United Nations presented his Highness the Amir of Kuwait with a Certificate of Appreciation. The citation referred to the Kuwaiti leader as an exemplary humanitarian frontrunner. Hence, the presentation accentuated the success and achievement of the country’s foreign policy pursuit. The goals and objectives of Kuwait’s foreign policy were subsequently summed up by His Highness the Amir that the country, since independence, has been committed to humanitarian aid to all nations regardless of their ethnic origin, religious beliefs or geographic location.
Carment et al. (103-105) contend that as a gulf state, Kuwait’s role was critical in unifying the Gulf Emirates. The establishment of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), a creation of Kuwait’s Amir was possibly one of the most significant milestones in Kuwait’s foreign policy. The establishment of the GCC was an extension and expression of the country’s foreign policy goals. The forum was conceived by His Highness the Amir to promote coordination and cooperation amongst member states in all domains for the mutual benefit of member states as well as the entire Arab nation. With regard to the European Union and the entire global scene, Kuwait’s foreign policies have always been based on openness and well balanced. By hosting the ACDS (Asian Cooperation Dialog Summit), Kuwait clearly demonstrated its eagerness to bolster cooperation among Asian states.
As part of its role in pursuing a pro-active and dynamic foreign policy, the country hosted the third African- Arab Summit at the end of 2013. More so, the country, unlike its neighbors Saudi Arabia and Iran has opened its doors to Syrian immigrants after European countries struggled with the influx for a long time. According to Müller (70-72), this candid attitude in Kuwait’s behavior with regard to relations with other nations based on continuity, understanding and cooperation does not pass off as a mere coincidence or a period that would ultimately change with the passing of the current administration. Rather, it is an attitude that the government profoundly feels which is based on mutual trust and self-confidence between the government of Kuwait and its citizens. The citizens fully support the Kuwaiti administration in this endeavor.
Kuwait seeks a new approach to global relations based on a new world order that is molded on international lawfulness and a total denunciation of the ideologies of aggression, terrorism and the use of force to change the status quo. The country is currently undergoing a makeover as it recognizes its position in the era of globalization. The citizens of Kuwait acknowledge the connection between foreign and domestic policy and have made remarkable economic and political decisions that prepare the nation for extensive reforms. Quite recently, the country has expanded its deep commitment and obligation to democratic progress. Even so, the country has however has had to undergo numerous severe tests with regard to its external policy principles. Nevertheless, it has always held up to its conviction where it does not compromise its honour or principles.
The country constantly reflects on His Highness the Amir’s statement of 1985 that the country’s decision will forever remain free without succumbing to emotionalism, terrorism and blackmail. Kuwait firmly believes that regional and world peace, prosperity and stability can only be achieved through ethical and rational approaches to contentious issues, which ought to be resolved affably through discussions. As a member country of the UN, Kuwait strongly supports the role of the United Nations in the preservation of world security and peace. Besides advocating for a total obliteration of all forms of coercion and terror that threatens states and individuals, Kuwait also supports every nation’s right to re-establish its sovereign privileges and defend itself. It has great faith in the UN and its charters and principles to sustain international security, peace and legitimacy among all nations.
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