Kuwait swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, on Wednesday, and prepared to receive the body
of his half-brother, the late Sheikh Sabah, who died in the United States at the age of 91.
A day after the death of the emir, an acclaimed diplomat and mediator who
ruled for 14 years, Sheikh Nawaf was noticeably emotional as he addressed the National Assembly.
“The precious confidence that the people of Kuwait have entrusted in us will be guarded with our lives,” the 83-year-old said after taking the oath of office.
In compliance with coronavirus precautions, he vowed to “serve the country”
in the address before legislators, who sat socially distanced and in masks.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah ‘s remains are scheduled to arrive later on Wednesday in Kuwait
City on a flight from Minnesota, where he has been receiving hospital care since July.
The funeral would be “restricted to the emir’s relatives,” according to the royal
court, a measure possibly intended to prevent massive crowds in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The country has already begun a
period of national mourning lasting 40 days.
As a shrewd, unshakeable leader who helped guide his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes
on global oil markets and upheavals in parliament and on the streets, Sheikh Sabah won a reputation.
The legacy of the late emir, architect of the new foreign policy of the nation and mediator in some
of the worst crises to take hold of the Gulf, has been praised by world leaders and Kuwaitis alike.
“This man was the safety valve of the Arab world, not just for Kuwait,” Bandar al-Dahani, a Kuwaiti citizen, told AFP.
“God willing, that goodness will be in Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf and he will follow the emir’s path.”
between generations looms
With Kuwait facing the ramifications of the coronavirus crisis, which caused a dramatic drop in oil prices and
serious economic implications for the Gulf States, Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, is taking over.
When Iraqi troops rolled into the oil-rich emirates in 1990, the elder statesman, who was elected heir apparent
in 2006, served as defense minister, and also as interior minister in the face of challenges from Islamist militants.
Within the ruling Al-Sabah family, the new leader is popular and
is claimed to have been a consensus option for the ruler.
He also enjoys a reputation for modesty
and a low profile has generally been maintained.
Significant policy changes are not anticipated during his reign, even after a seismic shift in
the Gulf with neighbors from Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain, opting to establish ties with Israel
Normalization with the Jewish state is highly unpopular with the Kuwaiti public, which generally follows the historical
stance of the Arab world of insisting that the Palestinian cause be resolved before making Israel diplomatic concessions.
There could be more spirited discussion about who the next
crown prince might be, amid hopes for a smooth succession.
The constitution of Kuwait provides that the ruler should be a descendant of the founder of the
country, Mubarak al-Sabah, but for four decades the throne has alternated between his sons’ descendants, Salem and Jaber.
Sheikh Sabah ‘s son and former Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a
Kuwaiti political heavyweight, are the contestants for the newly vacant position of crown prince.
“Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed should be viewed more as a caretaker than as a watershed new leader,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“Behind the scenes, however, younger princes would likely continue to compete to succeed him.”
Source: THE GUARDIAN NEWS