The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah died at the age of 91 in the United States on Tuesday, where he was undergoing treatment. His death has created a void in the politics of the Gulf as he was considered as a ‘voice of wisdom’. His role in bringing truce between Qatar on the one side and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt on the other in 2017 will be remembered for a long time. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition had imposed a sea, air and land blockade on Qatar accusing it of having close ties with Iran.
Ironically, the US Central Command base is situated in Qatar, which is going to organize the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Footballing competitiveness also fueled this tension as other Arab countries were also in the race for holding the prestigious Football World Cup. Sheikh Sabah by his dexterous diplomacy prevented the situation from going out of hand and preserving the amity and harmony between the Gulf nations.
Among the thirteen demands made by the Arab coalition the prominent ones were cutting ties with Iran, shutting down Aljazeera Media Network and severing all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah.
Sheikh Sabah was sworn in on 29 January 2006 after a power struggle.
Incidentally Kuwait was invaded by Iraq on August 2, 1990. As a result the US-led NATO forces invaded and liberated Kuwait in January next year. Sabah‘s role was important in the then crisis. As foreign minister, Sabah restored Kuwaiti diplomacy after the Gulf War. It needs to be mentioned that Sabah was the foreign minister from 1963 to 1991 and from 1992 to 2003 before becoming the Emir of Kuwait.
The Muslim world had reacted in anguish after Qatar had been blockaded in 2017 by the Gulf allies led by Saudi Arabia. A large section of the Muslim populace feels that Saudi Arabia (along-with other Gulf nations) did so because of its own ambitions and its long-running rivalry with Iran. They don’t want Qatar to drift closer to Iran, much less becoming an ally of that country. Qatar is being seen as a moderate force in the Middle East, being backed by Iran and Turkey as well.