After the Kuwait War, the defense was reorganized and the number of conscripts was greatly reduced. This includes (2010) 15,000 men enlisted with elements of voluntary military service. The army is organized into seven brigades and comprises 11,000 men with 24,000 men in reserve, the latter of whom are trained annually for a month. The Navy comprises 2,000 men with ten patrol boats. The Air Force comprises 2,500 men with 50 fighter aircraft and 25 armed helicopters. Half-military security forces amount to 7,000 men, which includes a coast guard with about fifty ships. The equipment is modern and mainly American.
Defense costs decreased in 1985-2008 from 9.1% to 4.4% of GDP. The United States and the United Kingdom signed long-term defense agreements with Kuwait in 1991-92. The United States has also pre-stocked equipment for a mechanized brigade in the country. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that KWT stands for Kuwait.
Kuwait’s foreign policy has to a large extent been characterized by its relationship with the long-ago aggressive neighboring Iraq, which invaded and annexed the country in 1990 – and which both sooner and later led to a close relationship with western states. Until independence in 1961, as well as for a decade thereafter, there was a close political and security policy relationship with the United Kingdom; after the 1991 Gulf War also with the United States. At the same time, Kuwait has developed close security-policy cooperation with other states worth the Gulf of Persia. As an Arab state, Kuwait’s foreign policy is also characterized by the Middle East conflict, but after the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) supported Iraq in the 1990 occupation, relations with the Palestinians have been strained.
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Relationship with the Arab world
Kuwait has traditionally pursued a conservative and Western-oriented foreign policy, even though the country already joined the Arab League in the 1961 independence year, and has supported Arab countries that have gone to war against Israel – and has supported the Palestinian liberation struggle. Kuwait participated in smaller military forces during the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur (October) War in 1973, and has provided financial support to the countries that confronted Israel. In 1967, Kuwait forces joined Egyptian forces in Sinai – and were bombed by Israeli aircraft; in 1973, Kuwait sent forces to Egypt. Kuwait was also involved in the Arab oil and supply boycott of the US and the Netherlands in 1973; implemented as a means of pressure to get Israel to enter occupied Arab territory.
The relationship with the Palestinian liberation movement was long close, partly because Kuwait was one of the countries that welcomed most Palestinians after 1948, and where a vast Palestinian intellectual environment developed. Among others, the later PLO leader Yasir Arafat stayed here, and al-Fatah was founded in Kuwait. Relations with the PLO deteriorated significantly when Arafat and the PLO chose Iraq’s side in the 1990-91 war. As a result, most of the over 400,000 Palestinians in Kuwait were no longer granted a residence permit, and Kuwait temporarily halted its financial contributions to the PLO. A political reconciliation came only after Arafat’s death in 2004, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apologized. In 2013, he visited Kuwait and opened a Palestinian embassy. Kuwait supported the Oslo Accords and, at the 1994 donor conference, was one of only three Arab countries to contribute to the Palestinian Authority.
The establishment of a joint market between Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Syria, under the auspices of the Arab League, in 1964 did not produce results. In 1981, Kuwait joined other Gulf States in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with, among other things, coordination of defense policy and the objective of regional economic integration. Military cooperation has been strengthened following the invasion of Kuwait. In 2000, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia signed a defense pact.
The war in 1990 strengthened the relationship between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which has historically been somewhat characterized by a conflict of the 1920s, when Kuwait relinquished large areas to neighboring countries. A common zone between the two countries existed until 1970. Later, the two countries have had a disagreement over the control of two smaller islands. A demarcation of the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – the so-called neutral zone – was carried out in 1995; The agreement was signed in 2000. The war contributed significantly to Kuwait’s foreign policy in the 1990s and thereafter, with strengthened relations with countries that had condemned the Iraqi occupation and contributed to the liberation, and the opposite for the few who had left Iraq, including neighboring north, Jordan, as well as Yemen.
During the Iraq- Iran war, there were minor confrontations between Iran and Kuwait, with the former attacking Kuwaiti oil installations and tankers. In 1988, Iran attacked the Kuwaiti island of Buiyan and two Kuwaiti soldiers were killed. The relationship between the two countries was normalized in 1989.
From 1993, Kuwait has restored normal relations with the Arab states that had taken a stand for Iraq during the war, with the exception of Jordan; relations with Jordan were first normalized in 1999. In 1995, Kuwait gave up debt to Egypt, Syria and other states that had supported Kuwait during the war.
Relations with Iraq
Although the border between Kuwait and Iraq was established under British oversight in 1913, Iraq has, since 1938, promoted claims to Kuwaiti territory, on the grounds that the area has historically been ruled by Basra under Ottoman rule. The claim was repeated when Kuwait became independent in 1961, and Britain – at Kuwait’s request – sent a military force to protect against Iraq. Later that year, it was replaced by an Arab League force, with contributions from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia. After independence, the Soviet Union first vetoed Kuwaiti membership in the UN, at the request of Iraq, before Kuwait was accepted as a member in 1963 – the same year that Iraq declared its claim to the country.
After the war against Iran (1980-88), Iraq was hit hard financially, putting pressure on Kuwait in particular to relinquish debt – and contribute to the reconstruction. Kuwait had then supported Iraq both politically and financially during the war, with the Kuwaitis considering the Sunni regime in Iraq as less threatening than the Shi’ite regime in Iran, which came to power in 1979. Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein followed up his demands to invade Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and then annex the country – and incorporate it into Iraq. This led to the Gulf War in 1991, when a coalition of countries, led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and with less Norwegian participation, launched an operation that liberated Kuwait.
The UN peace treaty after the war involved the creation of a buffer zone on the border, where a peace force, the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM), was deployed. The border between Kuwait and Iraq was drawn up by the UN in 1993 and accepted by Iraq in 1994. The UN ordered Iraq to pay Kuwait war damages, while Kuwait contributed financially to some of the countries that had contributed to its liberation, including the United States.
Relations with Iraq improved after the regime change following Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003, and Kuwait sent its first ambassador to Baghdad in 2008.
Relationship with the West
The close relationship with the West was maintained despite participation in the wars against Israel and the support of the oil boycott – and it was reinforced during the 1991 liberation war, in which the United States played a crucial role, thereby strengthening its relationship with Kuwait. It was the United States that, at the strong request of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s leadership, requested international assistance to Iraq, and the United States led the multinational military attack on Iraq, which also released Kuwait: Operation Desert Storm. Then, in 1991, Kuwait and the United States signed a defense agreement; in 1992, Kuwait signed similar agreements with the United Kingdom and France, and in 1993 with Russia. A military cooperation agreement with China was signed in 1994.
As a result of the 1990-91 war, Kuwait has entered into closer cooperation with the West, especially with the United States, which has established a number of military bases in the country. In addition, US companies received major assignments related to infrastructure reconstruction and the post-war defense structure. Kuwait expressed its immediate support for the fight against terror following the attacks on the United States in the fall of 2001, and provided military bases used for supplies by US troops in Afghanistan when the United States started the war there later that year. When Saudi Arabia officially did not allow the United States to use bases for the Iraq attack in 2003, Kuwait became the most important base area, while the command center was added to Qatar. Kuwait was then the only Arab country prepared to support the campaign.
By independence, Kuwait emphasized good relations both to the west and the east, with a neutral, non-Allied policy during the Cold War. In addition to a military agreement with Britain and the United States after independence, Kuwait also signed cooperation agreements with the Soviet Union in 1964, establishing diplomatic relations with China and North Korea.
Especially before the war, Kuwait provided a significantly larger share of its GDP than the OECD countries for development aid, both to Arab and other states, but the scale was reduced after the war, as large resources were needed to rebuild Kuwait. The Kuwait Development Fund for Arab Economic Development was established in the 1961 independence year.