Kuwait

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Overview

Kuwait enjoyed an obscure international profile until 1990, when Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded the small oil sheikdom and sought to take over its vast oil reserves. As the second largest exporter of oil in the world, Kuwait played a critical role in supplying oil for the West, prompting swift action by the United States, Western Europe and even some Arab countries to come to Kuwait’s rescue. The short-lived Persian Gulf War forced Iraq out of Kuwait and restored the longtime ruling family back into power. US officials have tried to characterize Kuwait as a democratic state, but in reality, the country is ruled by an emir whose power is unquestioned by the national legislative body. Islam is the dominant religion of Kuwait, and as in other Muslim countries, women struggle under a system that does not treat them equally as men. Kuwait’s human rights problems have not had any bearing on the United States’ commitment to fortify the country’s military and maintain a close security relationship that allows the stationing of thousands of American soldiers on Kuwaiti soil. Kuwait played a critical role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, as it provided a staging area for American marines and army divisions to amass and ultimately launch the attack that brought down Saddam Hussein.

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Tucked away on the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is bordered by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf. Except for a small portion in the south and the coastal strip, the entire country is desert, under which lies abundant oil and natural gas.

 
Population: 2.7 million (includes 1.2 million non-Kuwaiti nationals)
 
Religions: Sunni Muslim 70%, Shi'a Muslim 16.4%, Christian 8.8%, Hindu 3.6%, Agnostic 0.7%, Baha'i 0.3%, Sikh 0.1%.
Ethnic Groups: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%.
 
Languages: Standard Arabic (official), Gulf Spoken Arabic 22.7%, Najdi Spoken Arabic (7.4%), Northern Kurdish, South Levantine Spoken Arabic (3.1%), Egyptian Spoken Arabic (0.74%), languages of India, Pakistan, the Philippines (1.9%), Mehri (0.7%). Literacy is estimated to be at 71% to 79%.
 
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History

Kuwait has a long and rich history. Stone Age people lived in the area 10,000 years ago, but the oldest proper settlement in the region, dating to 4500 BC, was occupied by Ubaid settlers, the same people who populated ancient Mesopotamia, including the Sumerians, who developed the first recorded human civilization during the fourth millennium BC. The island of Falaika, located 12 miles from the southern promontory of Kuwait Bay, was long the site of ancient settlements. First, the seafaring Dilmun Empire, which dominated the Persian Gulf region from its capital in Bahrain between 2300 and 1100 BC, built settlements on Failaka. Later the Greeks, calling the island Ikaros, established a large settlement that thrived between the 3rd and 1st Centuries BC.

 
Later, the rise of Arab civilization, fueled by Islam, led to the growth of commerce between Yemen, in southern Arabia, and Baghdad and Damascus, far to the north. The Persian Gulf played a key role in this trade, and the town of Qurain, now called Kuwait City, located at the tip of the Gulf and having one of its two natural harbors, became a major entrepôt in the trade of frankincense, myrrh, dates, pearls, gems, spices, and fabrics. Eventually, goods from India, China, and Africa were shipped via the port, which also became an important caravan stop on pilgrimages to Mecca. 
 
About the same time that Arab civilization began to decline, European nations showed new interest in the area. Portugal asserted control over the Gulf at the end of the fifteenth century, although the Dutch and British soon became their rivals. During the first half of the eighteenth century, Qurain became the new home of several clans of the Utub tribe, who had emigrated from the desert interior. Gradually, the Sabah clan, which controlled the overland caravan trade, was able to establish its hegemony, and was chosen to rule Kuwait. The first Sheikh, who ruled from 1756 to 1762, was Sabah ibn Jaber, and all twelve of Kuwait’s succeeding rulers have been descendants of his. Under the rule of the Sabahs, Kuwait enjoyed relative security and thrived.  Along with maritime trade, Kuwait became well-known for its pearl diving industry, in which, by the end of the nineteenth century, there were nearly 500 ships working.
 
From the beginnings of Kuwait until the First World War, for 150 years the Sabahs played a delicate diplomatic game with the two imperial powers in the region, which were the Ottoman and the British empires. Thus, even though Kuwait was technically under the rule of the Ottomans, as early as 1775 the Sheikh was conducting independent foreign policy by establishing good relations with the British East India Company. Culturally as well, the Kuwaitis had maintained a relative degree of autonomy, and the network of ethnic and economic ties with the emirates of the Persian Gulf created stronger bonds than the formal political ones to the Ottomans. However, under Abd Allah Al Sabah II, who ruled from 1866 to 1892, Kuwait developed closer ties with the Ottomans, the Sheikh going so far as taking the Ottoman title of provincial governor in 1871.  Practically speaking, the pro-Ottoman tilt had little effect on Kuwait’s domestic politics, because the Ottomans did not interfere with local rulers or laws.
 
In any event, this tilt was completely reversed in 1896, when Sheikh Muhammad Al Sabah, who had ruled for four years, was murdered by his brother Mubarak, who then took the throne and ruled from 1896 to 1915. In light of Ottoman backing for his brother’s allies, Mubarak sought protection from Britain, and signed a treaty with the United Kingdom in 1899 that promised British support and an annual subsidy of 15,000 Indian rupees (£1,500) to the ruling family, and in return, gave Britain control of Kuwait's foreign policy.  
 
The reign of Mubarak also saw robust economic times and the beginnings of government programs to support the welfare of the people. The first public school and first medical services appeared in 1911, while postal and telegraph services began the next year.  After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and the British declared Kuwait to be an "independent sheikhdom under British protectorate." The 1920s and 1930s, however, brought economic hard times, largely because Japan began to flood the international pearl market with cultured pearls, a development that seriously damaged Kuwait’s pearl diving industry, which had become one of the core productive activities of the Kuwaiti economy.
 
In 1938, however, the discovery of oil in Kuwait, at the Burgan oil field, promised to change everything. World War II delayed exploitation of the field, but Kuwait made its first international shipment of oil in 1946. For many years Kuwait was the world’s second largest oil exporter, but the country’s reserves are declining, and it is no longer in the top five. The Emir, who receives half of the profits, devoted much of them to the education, welfare, and modernization of his kingdom. By 1968, Kuwait had established a system of generous state benefits for Kuwaiti citizens, and sought to establish dominance among the sheikdoms and emirates of the Persian Gulf.
 
In 1961, Britain ended the protectorate and recognized Kuwaiti independence, but agreed to give military aid on request. Iraq immediately threatened to occupy the area, and the British sent military forces to defend Kuwait. Soon afterward, the Arab League replaced the British, Iraq dropped its claim to Kuwait, and the Arab League recognized Kuwait’s independence on July 20, 1961.
 
In July 1990, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, blaming Kuwait for falling oil prices, revived Iraq’s claim to Kuwaiti territory and invaded Kuwait on August2, 1990. He set up a pro-Iraqi provisional government and began to drain Kuwait of its economic resources. The U.S. led a coalition of Arab and Western military forces that established defensive positions in Saudi Arabia to protect it and other oil sheikdoms from Iraqi forces. In February 1991, coalition forces invaded Kuwait, driving the Iraqi army out of the tiny oil kingdom in just four days. The emir was able to return to his country from Saudi Arabia in mid-March.  Since that time, the US has kept a permanent contingent of troops in Kuwait, partly to dissuade Iraq from further attacks, and partly as a way to project American power in the region. Indeed, American bases in Kuwait were critical to the U.S. led war on Iraq, initiated by President George W. Bush in March 2003. 
 
After the first Gulf War, Kuwaiti women began to make serious strides in gaining their rights. In 1999, the emir gave women the right to vote and run for parliament, but later that year parliament reversed the decree. In May 2005, Kuwait re-established woman suffrage, and in June a woman was appointed to the cabinet.  In April 2006, women voted for the first time.
 
Kuwait has faced political challenges and even instability in recent years. In January 2006, the emir, Sheik Jabir, died. His cousin, Crown Prince Sheik Saad, briefly became the nation’s ruler, but was forced to abdicate because of poor health. Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah was then nominated and unanimously confirmed by parliament as emir. Sheikh Sabah named his brother, Sheik Nawaf, as crown prince, and his nephew, Sheik Nasser, as prime minister. Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved the opposition-led parliament in March 2008 and called for new elections. In 2011, as protests swept the Arab world and the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by popular revolutions, Kuwait saw large protests in February, demanding better treatment for the many non-citizens who live and work in Kuwait as guest workers, rights for the Shia minority, and civil and political liberties generally. In March, rising political tensions forced the cabinet to resign. 
 
The Rich History of Kuwait (1 Website Creative)
History of Kuwait (Wikipedia)
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History of U.S. Relations with Kuwait

Relations between the two countries began in the early 20th century, when Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah invited the Reformed Church of America to open a medical center in Kuwait. The hospital was opened in 1911 and is known to Kuwaitis as the American Hospital.

 
Oil relations began in the 1930s, when Kuwait Oil Company was formed as a joint venture between the British Anglo-Persian Oil company and the American Gulf Oil company.
 
A US consulate was opened in Kuwait in October 1951 and later elevated to embassy status upon Kuwait’s independence from Britain in 1961. Kuwait, the first Persian Gulf state to establish relations with the Soviet Union in the 1960s, was not particularly close to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s because of America’s strong support for Israel. US-Kuwait defense and political relations began to warm during the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq war (1987-1988), when the United States established a naval escort and tanker reflagging program to protect Kuwaiti and international shipping from Iranian naval attacks (Operation Earnest Will).
 
Kuwait drew even closer to the United States after US-led forces spearheaded the liberation of
Kuwait in the January-March 1991 Persian Gulf War. Kuwait’s leadership signed a ten-year defense pact with the United States on September 19, 1991; in September 2001, the pact was renewed for another ten years. Observers say the pact does not explicitly require that the United States defend Kuwait in a future crisis, but provides for mutual discussions of crisis options. The agreement provides for joint military exercises, US training of Kuwaiti forces, US arms sales, pre-positioning of US military equipment (enough armor to outfit a US brigade), and US access to Kuwaiti facilities. It is also includes a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), providing that US forces in Kuwait be subject to US rather than Kuwaiti law.
 
Since Kuwait’s liberation in 1991, the US has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. The US Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS. US military systems currently purchased by Kuwait’s Defense Forces include F-18 Hornet fighter jets, Patriot Missile systems and the Apache helicopter.
 
During the 1990s, Kuwait hosted about 1,000 US Air Force personnel performing the US and British-led enforcement of a “no fly zone” over southern Iraq.
 
Kuwait: Post-Saddam Issues and U.S. Policy (by Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service Report) (pdf)
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Current U.S. Relations with Kuwait

Kuwait continues to enjoy a strong security-oriented relationship with the United States. Kuwait supported the Bush Administration’s decision to militarily overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003, even though Kuwait joined other Arab states in publicly opposing the invasion. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait closed off almost 60% of its territory in order to secure the US-led invasion force, which consisted of about 250,000 personnel and several thousand pieces of armor and related equipment. (Saudi Arabia, a larger and more strategic US ally, refused to host the force because it questioned the necessity of the war.) Kuwaiti allowed OIF forces to operate out of two air bases that the United States had helped upgrade (Ali al-Salem and Ali al-Jabir), as well as its international airport and sea ports. Kuwait provided $266 million to support OIF, including base support, personnel support, and supplies (food and laundry service and fuel). The key US headquarters facility in Kuwait was Camp Doha, north of Kuwait City. To express appreciation for Kuwait’s support to OIF, the Bush Administration declared in 2004 that Kuwait was a “major non-NATO ally (MNNA),” a designation held only by one other gulf state, Bahrain.

 
Today, about 10,000 US military personnel are in Kuwait at any given time, mostly preparing to rotate into Iraq to replace or join other US forces.. Kuwait pledged $500 million in aid to the Iraqi government at a post-Saddam donors’ conference in Madrid in late 2003.
 
Kuwait has urged US officials to work to discover the fate of about 600 Kuwaitis missing from the 1991 war. The bodies of about 220 of them have been found in Iraq since Saddam fell from power. Kuwait also wants to maximize the UN-supervised reparations by Iraq for damages caused from the 1990 invasion. Much of the awards made or yet to be made will benefit Kuwait’s government or firms.
 
The US-Kuwait defense relationship has improved the quality of the Kuwaiti military, particularly the air force. The military, which numbered about 17,000 before the 1990 Iraqi invasion, has been rebuilt to nearly that strength, but still fewer than the 25,000 troops recommended by the US. Recent sales of major systems to Kuwait encountered little congressional opposition, although some doubt Kuwait has sufficient trained manpower to optimize use of all purchased weapons.
 
Kuwait is a “cash customer,” making it ineligible to receive US excess defense articles. Major recent Foreign Military Sales (FMS) have included the purchase of 218 M1A2 Abrams tanks at a value of $1.9 billion; a purchase of five Patriot anti-missile fire units, including 25 launchers and 210 Patriot missiles, valued at about $800 million; a purchase of 40 FA-18 combat aircraft; and a purchase of 16 AH-64 Apache helicopters equipped with the Longbow fire-control system. Kuwait is said to be considering purchasing about 10 additional FA-18 combat aircraft, although Kuwait does not view new major equipment purchases as urgent now that Saddam Hussein is gone.
 
A total of 1,189,731 people identified themselves as being of Arab ancestry in the 2000 US census (there is no category for Kuwaiti), although scholars estimate there may be over 3 million ethnic Arabs in America. Traditional fear of governmental abuse of personal information has led many Arabs to conceal their ethnicity. Over a third of the Arab population in America lives in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles. 
 
In 2004 92,761 Americans visited Kuwait. This is a massive increase over 2002, when only 35,219 Americans traveled to Kuwait.
 
In 2006, 20,866 Kuwaitis visited the US. The number of Kuwaitis traveling to the US has increased consistently every year since 2002, when 14,204 Kuwaitis came to America.
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Where Does the Money Flow

Crude oil dominates US imports from Kuwait, accounting for $5.145 billion annually in purchases by the United States from 2008-2010, or 95% of the three-year total. The only other sizeable imports are fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides ($182 million) and “fuel oil and other petroleum products” ($25.8 million).

 
American exports to Kuwait are more diverse. The leading export is new and used passenger cars, which averaged sales of $649.3 million from 2008 to 2010, or 26.1% of the three-year total. Other top exports include industrial engines ($220.6 million or 8.8%); chemicals ($124.7 million or 5%); generators and accessories ($86.2 million or 3.5%); industrial machines ($82.8 million or 3.3%); and drilling & oilfield equipment ($62 million or 2.5%).
 
Overall, from 2008 to 2010, the US ran a trade deficit with Kuwait of $2.9 billion per year, thanks to the volume and rising price of crude oil imports.
 
The US gave no aid to Kuwait in 2009. In the 2010 budget estimate and the 2011 budget request, International Military Education and Training was the entirety of the budget of $10,000 for each year.
 
The US sold $314 million in defense articles and services to Kuwait in 2009. Some of the US companies that have benefited from arms sales to Kuwait include General Dynamics (Abrams tank), Raytheon (Patriot missile), Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin (Apache helicopter, FA-18 fighter, and KC-130J Multi-mission Aircraft).
 
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Controversies

Kuwaiti Company Indicted for Fraud in Supplying Food to U.S. Troops

Agility, a Kuwaiti logistics company owned by the Sultan Al-Essa family, is in hot water with the federal government for allegedly defrauding the U.S. out of billions of dollars on contracts to provide food for troops stationed in the Middle East. Agility was indicted in November 2009 by a federal grand jury on multiple charges of conspiracy to cheat the Defense Department on $8.5 billion in contracts to feed American soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan. (In January 2011 the government added a civil suit and re-filed the fraud charges to cure supposed technical defects.) Company officials are accused of grossly overcharging the government, intentionally failing to purchase less expensive food items, knowingly manipulating and inflating prices, and receiving product rebates and discounts that it did not pass on to Washington as required. Agility has taken billions of dollars from the U.S. government during the Iraq war through logistics contracts, some of which were awarded after investigations were launched into the company’s business dealings.
 
Kuwait Company Accused of Threatening Foreign Workers Bound for Iraq
Controversy over the actions of a US-paid Kuwaiti subcontractor erupted in 2005 when it was revealed that Asian laborers were being forced to work in Iraq despite concerns for their protection. Nepalese working for First Kuwait, a subcontractor of American-based KBR (itself a subsidiary of Halliburton) expressed worries about being sent to Iraq to perform construction tasks after a group of their countrymen were found executed at the hands of insurgents in Iraq. But a manager for First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., gathered the Nepalese together and issued an ultimatum: Agree to travel to Iraq and they would get more food and water. Refuse, and they would get nothing and be put out on the streets of Kuwait City to find their way home.
Rescue Spares Some Workers (by Cam Simpson, Chicago Tribune)
They Forcibly Brought Me to Iraq’ (by David Phinney,  CorpWatch)
 
US Firm Leverages Connections to Help Kuwait
The Carlyle Group was accused in October 2004 of being a part of a consortium that touted its political ties in an attempt to win business collecting and managing billions of dollars owed to Kuwait by Iraq. The consortium, called International Strategy Group LLC, offered to help the government of Kuwait seek full repayment of Iraqi debt. The offer, which emphasized Carlyle's participation as manager of any funds recovered, came after Carlyle’s senior counselor, James A. Baker III, was appointed by President Bush to persuade foreign governments and private lenders to forgive more than $200 billion in Iraqi debt.
Carlyle Disavows Plan to Get Kuwait Business (by Terence O'Hara, Washington Post)
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Human Rights

Kuwait’s human rights problems begin with the fact that democracy exists only on paper in the country. As the State Department reports, citizens do not have the ability to change their government or form political parties. Although the May 16, 2009, parliamentary elections were generally free and fair, the fact remains that parliament has little real power, while political authority ultimately rests in the hands of the emir.

 
Other serious problems included security forces abusing prisoners and detainees, the government restricting freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement for certain groups, issues involving corruption and trafficking in persons, women not enjoying equal rights, and expatriate workers facing difficult conditions in the domestic and unskilled service sectors.
 
Some police and members of the security forces reportedly abused detainees. Police and security forces were more likely to inflict such abuse on noncitizens, particularly non-Gulf Arabs and Asians. The government stated that it investigated all allegations of abuse and punished at least some of the offenders, but in most cases the government did not make public either the findings of its investigations or punishments it imposed. In February 2010, however, a Kuwait appeals court upheld a two-year prison sentence for three police officers convicted of torturing a young man in prison in 2008.
 
There were reports of torture while in custody or during interrogation. Two journalists reported that security officials beat them while in custody. One of the journalists, Bashar Al-Sayegh, posted comments on his website that the authorities deemed inappropriate and that “infringed on the emir." Security services arrested Al-Sayegh's colleague, Jassem Al-Qames, because he took photographs of the arrest. Both men claimed that they were blindfolded and beaten en route to the security services building and again when they arrived.
 
Several foreign nationals provided verifiable claims that security forces abused them during 2007. According to press reports, police abused two Egyptian workers. The workers were in custody at the Shuwaikh Immigration Department for forging official immigration documents. According to a representative from the Egyptian Embassy who visited them in the hospital one day following their detainment, medical records indicated that they had been abused.
 
Individuals were able to criticize the government in public gatherings as long as they did not attack Islam, the emir, or the crown prince. Pointed criticism of ministers and other high‑ranking government officials was widespread, and individuals were not subjected to punishments as a result.
 
The law mandates jail terms for journalists who “defame religion.” The law provides that any Muslim citizen may file criminal charges against an author whom a citizen believes has defamed Islam, the ruling family, or public morals. Citizens often filed such charges for political reasons.
On August 18, authorities arrested two journalists on suspicion of criticizing the emir on a web log and detained them at the Kuwait State Security Building.
 
In May 2006 authorities jailed Hamid Buyabis for having quoted direct criticism of the emir in an article he wrote in a daily newspaper. In November 2006 authorities jailed Khalid Obaysan al-Mutairi for one day for writing an article that seemed to support Saddam Hussein as the legitimate leader of Iraq. Also in November 2006 a journalist was found guilty under the new Press and Publications Law of questioning the independence of the judiciary. She was given a three-month suspended sentence and three years' probation.
 
Most Christian groups have found it impossible to build new churches to serve the growing community of expatriate Christians in the country, who number over 400,000. The Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church continued a protracted struggle with the Municipal Council to secure land on which to build a new church. After it received an initial offer in 2005, the Municipal Council eventually denied its request in July 2006. The debate within the council's technical committee left little doubt that the problem was more religious than technical. The issue caused a number of prominent parliamentarians and religious figures to vociferously condemn the idea of building more churches in the country.
 
Islamic religious instruction is mandatory in all government schools and in any private school that has one or more Muslim students. The law prohibits organized religious education other than Islam. The government did allow non‑Muslim religious instruction as long as no Muslim students were taking part in the education.
 
Women in Kuwait now have political rights, but they continue to face discrimination in the workplace and under Kuwaiti personal status law. Violence against women continued to be a serious and overlooked problem. Rape is criminalized with a maximum penalty of death, which the country imposes for the crime. The media reported hundreds of rape cases during the year. Many of the victims were noncitizen domestic workers. The police occasionally arrested rapists, and several were tried and convicted during the year. But laws against rape were not always enforced effectively. According to third‑country diplomatic sources, victims reported that some police stations and hospitals handled their cases in a professional way, but many did not.
 
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although cases are tried as assault. Each of the country's 83 police stations reportedly received weekly complaints of domestic abuse. The courts have found husbands guilty of spousal abuse. However, most domestic abuse cases were not reported, especially outside of the capital. Abusive husbands, if convicted, rarely faced severe penalties, and there was no criminalization of spousal rape. There are no shelters or hot lines for victims of domestic violence, although on September 24, the government opened a shelter for domestic workers.
 
There is no specific law that addresses sexual harassment. Human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive but unreported problem. While no official statistics on the problem were available, Al-Qabas, a local newspaper, conducted a survey of 100 women from various professions, of whom 40 percent stated that they had experienced sexual harassment.
 
Women continued to experience legal, economic, and social discrimination. Shari'a discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement, and marriage. In October 2009, the Constitutional Court ruled that a woman may obtain a passport without her husband’s permission, and separately, that female members of parliament, female candidates for parliament, and female voters are not legally required to wear the hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women, thereby settling a contentious issue of how to interpret the 2005 women’s suffrage amendment to the 1962 election law. Also, in July 2010, female police officers began working in public in Kuwait, having been previously restricted to deskwork and training new cadets.
 
Homosexuality is illegal, and there was discrimination against homosexuals in societal attitudes and legal issues. The law punishes homosexual behavior between men older than 21 with imprisonment of up of to seven years; those engaging in homosexual activity with men younger than 21 may be imprisoned for as long as 10 years. The law imposes a fine of $3,450 (1,000 dinars) and/or one year’s imprisonment for imitating the appearance of the opposite sex in public. During 2010 there were more than a dozen reports of police arresting transgender persons at malls and markets, beating them in custody and shaving their heads, and then generally releasing them without charges.
 
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), police arrested several individuals they believed were imitating the appearance of the opposite sex. Police arrested three individuals at a police checkpoint in Salimeya and days later arrested three more individuals in Kuwait City. Police arrested three individuals in Hawalli district and two others at a police checkpoint. According to HRW, the men were subjected to physical and psychological abuse while in detention in Tahla prison. HRW reported that the detainees did not have access to counsel. At year's end the men remained in detention.
 
There were no developments in the 2006 case in which police raided a party where homosexuals were allegedly celebrating a wedding. In 2005 police charged a group of 28 alleged homosexuals with creating a public disturbance after they met outside a fast‑food restaurant.
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Dayton S. Mak
Appointment: [see note below]
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 18, 1961
Termination of Mission: Superseded, Jan 7, 1962
Note: Not commissioned; letter of credence dated Oct 2, 1961. Embassy Kuwait was established Sep 22, 1967, with Mak in charge.

 
Parker T. Hart
Appointment: Dec 14, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 7, 1962
Termination of Mission: Appointment terminated Jul 12, 1963
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 30, 1962. Also accredited to Saudi Arabia and Yemen; resident at Jidda.
 
Howard Rex Cottam
Appointment: Aug 1, 1963
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 24, 1963
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 6, 1969
 
John Patrick Walsh
Appointment: Sep 19, 1969
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 5, 1969
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 19, 1971
 
William A. Stoltzfus, Jr.
Appointment: Dec 9, 1971
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 9, 1972
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 6, 1976
Note: Also accredited to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; resident at Kuwait.
 
Frank E. Maestrone
Appointment: May 1, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 13, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 5, 1979
 
Francois M. Dickman
Appointment: Nov 28, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 24, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 8, 1983
Note: Philip J. Griffin served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Aug 1983–Sep 1984.
 
Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton
Appointment: Aug 13, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 19, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 14, 1987
 
W. Nathaniel Howell
Appointment: Jul 31, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: 2 Sep. 1987
Termination of Mission: Iraqi armed forces occupied Kuwait, 2 Aug. 1990
Note: Howell and the Embassy staff left Kuwait Dec 13, 1990.
Note: Embassy Kuwait was reopened Mar 1, 1991.
 
Edward William Gnehm, Jr.
Appointment: Aug 6, 1990
Presentation of Credentials: 2 Apr. 1991
Termination of Mission: Left post, 1 Apr. 1994
 
Ryan Clark Crocker
Appointment: May 9, 1994
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 7, 1994
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 4, 1997
 
James A. Larocco
Appointment: Nov 10, 1997
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 16, 1997
Termination of Mission: Left post May 17, 2001
 
Laurence E. Pope
Appointment: Nomination of Feb 22, 2000 not acted upon by the Senate
 
Richard Henry Jones
Appointment: Aug 7, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 1, 2001
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 26, 2004
 
Richard B. LeBaron
Appointment: May 12, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Oct. 12, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 11, 2007
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Kuwait's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Al-Sabah, Salem

Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah became ambassador of Kuwait to the United States in June 2001.

 
Born circa 1959 into Kuwait’s ruling Sabah family, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
 
From 1986 to 1991 he was the diplomatic attaché for the Office of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in Kuwait. From 1991 to 1998 he served with Kuwait’s mission to the United Nations in New York, including, from 1997, as first secretary. Al-Sabah then served as ambassador to South Korea from 1998 to 2001, when he was posted to Washington, DC.
 
He speaks Arabic, English and French. He is married to Lebanese-born former journalist Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, whom he met in 1983 when both were students in Beirut. They married in 1988 and are raising four sons.

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Kuwait's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.

Kuwait’s Embassy in the United States

2940 Tilden St., NW
Washington, DC 20008
202-966-0702
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U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait

Tueller, Matthew
ambassador-image

Matthew Tueller, a career Foreign Service Officer, was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Kuwait on September 8, 2011. He has served there previously on two occasions.

 
Born circa 1951 in Utah, Tueller grew up in in Europe, North Africa, and Latin America, including four years in Tangier, Morocco, as his father, Blaine Tueller, was a Foreign Service officer. Tueller earned a B.A. in International Relations from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1975. Over the next twenty years, nine of his siblings also graduated from BYU. He took a year off from school at BYU to live and work in Spain as a Mormon missionary. He also earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1984.
 
Tueller joined the Foreign Service in 1985 and served as Egypt Desk Officer from 1989 to 1991. Early overseas assignments included Political Officer at the Embassy in Kuwait, Political Officer and Consular Officer at the Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Political Officer at the Embassy in London, UK, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Doha, Qatar.
 
In the aftermath of the October 2000 terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, Tueller was made Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, overseeing the inter-agency investigation into the bombing, a task that kept him there until February 2001. He then served as Political Counselor at the Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He returned to Kuwait as Deputy Chief of Mission from 2004 to 2007, and served as Political Minister Counselor at the Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, from July 2007 to July 2008. Most recently he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where he served from August 2008 to May 2011, leaving several months after the Egyptian Revolution that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. That stint was a return to Cairo for Tueller, who was in Egypt taking advanced Arabic classes in October 1981 when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated and President Mubarak began his 29 years of rule, meaning that Tueller was present for both the beginning and the end of Mubarak’s rule.
 
Tueller and his wife, DeNeece, have five children.
 
Official Biography

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait

Jones, Deborah
ambassador-image

Deborah K. Jones assumed the post of U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait on April 19, 2008.


Raised in New Mexico, she earned a B.A. in History from Brigham Young University, and an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College of the National Defense University. She subsequently studied Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute in Roslyn, Virgini,a and at the State Department’s Field School in Tunis, Tunisia.
 
Jones joined the U.S. Department of State in 1982 and served for two years as Country Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs. She also worked as Staff Assistant to Richard Murphy, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs, and as Acting Public Affairs Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs.
 
Jones then became Desk Officer for Jordan, and worked in the State Department’s Operations Center and on its Board of Examiners until 2005. From August 2005 to 2007, she served as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey.
 
Jones’s additional foreign service work included assignments in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Baghdad, Iraq; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Damascus, Syria.
 
She is married to U.S. Foreign Service officer Richard G. Olson, and has two daughters. Olson assumed the post of ambassador to the United Arab Emirates on September 23, 2008.
 
 

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Overview

Kuwait enjoyed an obscure international profile until 1990, when Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded the small oil sheikdom and sought to take over its vast oil reserves. As the second largest exporter of oil in the world, Kuwait played a critical role in supplying oil for the West, prompting swift action by the United States, Western Europe and even some Arab countries to come to Kuwait’s rescue. The short-lived Persian Gulf War forced Iraq out of Kuwait and restored the longtime ruling family back into power. US officials have tried to characterize Kuwait as a democratic state, but in reality, the country is ruled by an emir whose power is unquestioned by the national legislative body. Islam is the dominant religion of Kuwait, and as in other Muslim countries, women struggle under a system that does not treat them equally as men. Kuwait’s human rights problems have not had any bearing on the United States’ commitment to fortify the country’s military and maintain a close security relationship that allows the stationing of thousands of American soldiers on Kuwaiti soil. Kuwait played a critical role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, as it provided a staging area for American marines and army divisions to amass and ultimately launch the attack that brought down Saddam Hussein.

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Tucked away on the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is bordered by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf. Except for a small portion in the south and the coastal strip, the entire country is desert, under which lies abundant oil and natural gas.

 
Population: 2.7 million (includes 1.2 million non-Kuwaiti nationals)
 
Religions: Sunni Muslim 70%, Shi'a Muslim 16.4%, Christian 8.8%, Hindu 3.6%, Agnostic 0.7%, Baha'i 0.3%, Sikh 0.1%.
Ethnic Groups: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%.
 
Languages: Standard Arabic (official), Gulf Spoken Arabic 22.7%, Najdi Spoken Arabic (7.4%), Northern Kurdish, South Levantine Spoken Arabic (3.1%), Egyptian Spoken Arabic (0.74%), languages of India, Pakistan, the Philippines (1.9%), Mehri (0.7%). Literacy is estimated to be at 71% to 79%.
 
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History

Kuwait has a long and rich history. Stone Age people lived in the area 10,000 years ago, but the oldest proper settlement in the region, dating to 4500 BC, was occupied by Ubaid settlers, the same people who populated ancient Mesopotamia, including the Sumerians, who developed the first recorded human civilization during the fourth millennium BC. The island of Falaika, located 12 miles from the southern promontory of Kuwait Bay, was long the site of ancient settlements. First, the seafaring Dilmun Empire, which dominated the Persian Gulf region from its capital in Bahrain between 2300 and 1100 BC, built settlements on Failaka. Later the Greeks, calling the island Ikaros, established a large settlement that thrived between the 3rd and 1st Centuries BC.

 
Later, the rise of Arab civilization, fueled by Islam, led to the growth of commerce between Yemen, in southern Arabia, and Baghdad and Damascus, far to the north. The Persian Gulf played a key role in this trade, and the town of Qurain, now called Kuwait City, located at the tip of the Gulf and having one of its two natural harbors, became a major entrepôt in the trade of frankincense, myrrh, dates, pearls, gems, spices, and fabrics. Eventually, goods from India, China, and Africa were shipped via the port, which also became an important caravan stop on pilgrimages to Mecca. 
 
About the same time that Arab civilization began to decline, European nations showed new interest in the area. Portugal asserted control over the Gulf at the end of the fifteenth century, although the Dutch and British soon became their rivals. During the first half of the eighteenth century, Qurain became the new home of several clans of the Utub tribe, who had emigrated from the desert interior. Gradually, the Sabah clan, which controlled the overland caravan trade, was able to establish its hegemony, and was chosen to rule Kuwait. The first Sheikh, who ruled from 1756 to 1762, was Sabah ibn Jaber, and all twelve of Kuwait’s succeeding rulers have been descendants of his. Under the rule of the Sabahs, Kuwait enjoyed relative security and thrived.  Along with maritime trade, Kuwait became well-known for its pearl diving industry, in which, by the end of the nineteenth century, there were nearly 500 ships working.
 
From the beginnings of Kuwait until the First World War, for 150 years the Sabahs played a delicate diplomatic game with the two imperial powers in the region, which were the Ottoman and the British empires. Thus, even though Kuwait was technically under the rule of the Ottomans, as early as 1775 the Sheikh was conducting independent foreign policy by establishing good relations with the British East India Company. Culturally as well, the Kuwaitis had maintained a relative degree of autonomy, and the network of ethnic and economic ties with the emirates of the Persian Gulf created stronger bonds than the formal political ones to the Ottomans. However, under Abd Allah Al Sabah II, who ruled from 1866 to 1892, Kuwait developed closer ties with the Ottomans, the Sheikh going so far as taking the Ottoman title of provincial governor in 1871.  Practically speaking, the pro-Ottoman tilt had little effect on Kuwait’s domestic politics, because the Ottomans did not interfere with local rulers or laws.
 
In any event, this tilt was completely reversed in 1896, when Sheikh Muhammad Al Sabah, who had ruled for four years, was murdered by his brother Mubarak, who then took the throne and ruled from 1896 to 1915. In light of Ottoman backing for his brother’s allies, Mubarak sought protection from Britain, and signed a treaty with the United Kingdom in 1899 that promised British support and an annual subsidy of 15,000 Indian rupees (£1,500) to the ruling family, and in return, gave Britain control of Kuwait's foreign policy.  
 
The reign of Mubarak also saw robust economic times and the beginnings of government programs to support the welfare of the people. The first public school and first medical services appeared in 1911, while postal and telegraph services began the next year.  After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and the British declared Kuwait to be an "independent sheikhdom under British protectorate." The 1920s and 1930s, however, brought economic hard times, largely because Japan began to flood the international pearl market with cultured pearls, a development that seriously damaged Kuwait’s pearl diving industry, which had become one of the core productive activities of the Kuwaiti economy.
 
In 1938, however, the discovery of oil in Kuwait, at the Burgan oil field, promised to change everything. World War II delayed exploitation of the field, but Kuwait made its first international shipment of oil in 1946. For many years Kuwait was the world’s second largest oil exporter, but the country’s reserves are declining, and it is no longer in the top five. The Emir, who receives half of the profits, devoted much of them to the education, welfare, and modernization of his kingdom. By 1968, Kuwait had established a system of generous state benefits for Kuwaiti citizens, and sought to establish dominance among the sheikdoms and emirates of the Persian Gulf.
 
In 1961, Britain ended the protectorate and recognized Kuwaiti independence, but agreed to give military aid on request. Iraq immediately threatened to occupy the area, and the British sent military forces to defend Kuwait. Soon afterward, the Arab League replaced the British, Iraq dropped its claim to Kuwait, and the Arab League recognized Kuwait’s independence on July 20, 1961.
 
In July 1990, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, blaming Kuwait for falling oil prices, revived Iraq’s claim to Kuwaiti territory and invaded Kuwait on August2, 1990. He set up a pro-Iraqi provisional government and began to drain Kuwait of its economic resources. The U.S. led a coalition of Arab and Western military forces that established defensive positions in Saudi Arabia to protect it and other oil sheikdoms from Iraqi forces. In February 1991, coalition forces invaded Kuwait, driving the Iraqi army out of the tiny oil kingdom in just four days. The emir was able to return to his country from Saudi Arabia in mid-March.  Since that time, the US has kept a permanent contingent of troops in Kuwait, partly to dissuade Iraq from further attacks, and partly as a way to project American power in the region. Indeed, American bases in Kuwait were critical to the U.S. led war on Iraq, initiated by President George W. Bush in March 2003. 
 
After the first Gulf War, Kuwaiti women began to make serious strides in gaining their rights. In 1999, the emir gave women the right to vote and run for parliament, but later that year parliament reversed the decree. In May 2005, Kuwait re-established woman suffrage, and in June a woman was appointed to the cabinet.  In April 2006, women voted for the first time.
 
Kuwait has faced political challenges and even instability in recent years. In January 2006, the emir, Sheik Jabir, died. His cousin, Crown Prince Sheik Saad, briefly became the nation’s ruler, but was forced to abdicate because of poor health. Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah was then nominated and unanimously confirmed by parliament as emir. Sheikh Sabah named his brother, Sheik Nawaf, as crown prince, and his nephew, Sheik Nasser, as prime minister. Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved the opposition-led parliament in March 2008 and called for new elections. In 2011, as protests swept the Arab world and the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by popular revolutions, Kuwait saw large protests in February, demanding better treatment for the many non-citizens who live and work in Kuwait as guest workers, rights for the Shia minority, and civil and political liberties generally. In March, rising political tensions forced the cabinet to resign. 
 
The Rich History of Kuwait (1 Website Creative)
History of Kuwait (Wikipedia)
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History of U.S. Relations with Kuwait

Relations between the two countries began in the early 20th century, when Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah invited the Reformed Church of America to open a medical center in Kuwait. The hospital was opened in 1911 and is known to Kuwaitis as the American Hospital.

 
Oil relations began in the 1930s, when Kuwait Oil Company was formed as a joint venture between the British Anglo-Persian Oil company and the American Gulf Oil company.
 
A US consulate was opened in Kuwait in October 1951 and later elevated to embassy status upon Kuwait’s independence from Britain in 1961. Kuwait, the first Persian Gulf state to establish relations with the Soviet Union in the 1960s, was not particularly close to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s because of America’s strong support for Israel. US-Kuwait defense and political relations began to warm during the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq war (1987-1988), when the United States established a naval escort and tanker reflagging program to protect Kuwaiti and international shipping from Iranian naval attacks (Operation Earnest Will).
 
Kuwait drew even closer to the United States after US-led forces spearheaded the liberation of
Kuwait in the January-March 1991 Persian Gulf War. Kuwait’s leadership signed a ten-year defense pact with the United States on September 19, 1991; in September 2001, the pact was renewed for another ten years. Observers say the pact does not explicitly require that the United States defend Kuwait in a future crisis, but provides for mutual discussions of crisis options. The agreement provides for joint military exercises, US training of Kuwaiti forces, US arms sales, pre-positioning of US military equipment (enough armor to outfit a US brigade), and US access to Kuwaiti facilities. It is also includes a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), providing that US forces in Kuwait be subject to US rather than Kuwaiti law.
 
Since Kuwait’s liberation in 1991, the US has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. The US Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS. US military systems currently purchased by Kuwait’s Defense Forces include F-18 Hornet fighter jets, Patriot Missile systems and the Apache helicopter.
 
During the 1990s, Kuwait hosted about 1,000 US Air Force personnel performing the US and British-led enforcement of a “no fly zone” over southern Iraq.
 
Kuwait: Post-Saddam Issues and U.S. Policy (by Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service Report) (pdf)
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Current U.S. Relations with Kuwait

Kuwait continues to enjoy a strong security-oriented relationship with the United States. Kuwait supported the Bush Administration’s decision to militarily overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003, even though Kuwait joined other Arab states in publicly opposing the invasion. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait closed off almost 60% of its territory in order to secure the US-led invasion force, which consisted of about 250,000 personnel and several thousand pieces of armor and related equipment. (Saudi Arabia, a larger and more strategic US ally, refused to host the force because it questioned the necessity of the war.) Kuwaiti allowed OIF forces to operate out of two air bases that the United States had helped upgrade (Ali al-Salem and Ali al-Jabir), as well as its international airport and sea ports. Kuwait provided $266 million to support OIF, including base support, personnel support, and supplies (food and laundry service and fuel). The key US headquarters facility in Kuwait was Camp Doha, north of Kuwait City. To express appreciation for Kuwait’s support to OIF, the Bush Administration declared in 2004 that Kuwait was a “major non-NATO ally (MNNA),” a designation held only by one other gulf state, Bahrain.

 
Today, about 10,000 US military personnel are in Kuwait at any given time, mostly preparing to rotate into Iraq to replace or join other US forces.. Kuwait pledged $500 million in aid to the Iraqi government at a post-Saddam donors’ conference in Madrid in late 2003.
 
Kuwait has urged US officials to work to discover the fate of about 600 Kuwaitis missing from the 1991 war. The bodies of about 220 of them have been found in Iraq since Saddam fell from power. Kuwait also wants to maximize the UN-supervised reparations by Iraq for damages caused from the 1990 invasion. Much of the awards made or yet to be made will benefit Kuwait’s government or firms.
 
The US-Kuwait defense relationship has improved the quality of the Kuwaiti military, particularly the air force. The military, which numbered about 17,000 before the 1990 Iraqi invasion, has been rebuilt to nearly that strength, but still fewer than the 25,000 troops recommended by the US. Recent sales of major systems to Kuwait encountered little congressional opposition, although some doubt Kuwait has sufficient trained manpower to optimize use of all purchased weapons.
 
Kuwait is a “cash customer,” making it ineligible to receive US excess defense articles. Major recent Foreign Military Sales (FMS) have included the purchase of 218 M1A2 Abrams tanks at a value of $1.9 billion; a purchase of five Patriot anti-missile fire units, including 25 launchers and 210 Patriot missiles, valued at about $800 million; a purchase of 40 FA-18 combat aircraft; and a purchase of 16 AH-64 Apache helicopters equipped with the Longbow fire-control system. Kuwait is said to be considering purchasing about 10 additional FA-18 combat aircraft, although Kuwait does not view new major equipment purchases as urgent now that Saddam Hussein is gone.
 
A total of 1,189,731 people identified themselves as being of Arab ancestry in the 2000 US census (there is no category for Kuwaiti), although scholars estimate there may be over 3 million ethnic Arabs in America. Traditional fear of governmental abuse of personal information has led many Arabs to conceal their ethnicity. Over a third of the Arab population in America lives in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles. 
 
In 2004 92,761 Americans visited Kuwait. This is a massive increase over 2002, when only 35,219 Americans traveled to Kuwait.
 
In 2006, 20,866 Kuwaitis visited the US. The number of Kuwaitis traveling to the US has increased consistently every year since 2002, when 14,204 Kuwaitis came to America.
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Where Does the Money Flow

Crude oil dominates US imports from Kuwait, accounting for $5.145 billion annually in purchases by the United States from 2008-2010, or 95% of the three-year total. The only other sizeable imports are fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides ($182 million) and “fuel oil and other petroleum products” ($25.8 million).

 
American exports to Kuwait are more diverse. The leading export is new and used passenger cars, which averaged sales of $649.3 million from 2008 to 2010, or 26.1% of the three-year total. Other top exports include industrial engines ($220.6 million or 8.8%); chemicals ($124.7 million or 5%); generators and accessories ($86.2 million or 3.5%); industrial machines ($82.8 million or 3.3%); and drilling & oilfield equipment ($62 million or 2.5%).
 
Overall, from 2008 to 2010, the US ran a trade deficit with Kuwait of $2.9 billion per year, thanks to the volume and rising price of crude oil imports.
 
The US gave no aid to Kuwait in 2009. In the 2010 budget estimate and the 2011 budget request, International Military Education and Training was the entirety of the budget of $10,000 for each year.
 
The US sold $314 million in defense articles and services to Kuwait in 2009. Some of the US companies that have benefited from arms sales to Kuwait include General Dynamics (Abrams tank), Raytheon (Patriot missile), Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin (Apache helicopter, FA-18 fighter, and KC-130J Multi-mission Aircraft).
 
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Controversies

Kuwaiti Company Indicted for Fraud in Supplying Food to U.S. Troops

Agility, a Kuwaiti logistics company owned by the Sultan Al-Essa family, is in hot water with the federal government for allegedly defrauding the U.S. out of billions of dollars on contracts to provide food for troops stationed in the Middle East. Agility was indicted in November 2009 by a federal grand jury on multiple charges of conspiracy to cheat the Defense Department on $8.5 billion in contracts to feed American soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan. (In January 2011 the government added a civil suit and re-filed the fraud charges to cure supposed technical defects.) Company officials are accused of grossly overcharging the government, intentionally failing to purchase less expensive food items, knowingly manipulating and inflating prices, and receiving product rebates and discounts that it did not pass on to Washington as required. Agility has taken billions of dollars from the U.S. government during the Iraq war through logistics contracts, some of which were awarded after investigations were launched into the company’s business dealings.
 
Kuwait Company Accused of Threatening Foreign Workers Bound for Iraq
Controversy over the actions of a US-paid Kuwaiti subcontractor erupted in 2005 when it was revealed that Asian laborers were being forced to work in Iraq despite concerns for their protection. Nepalese working for First Kuwait, a subcontractor of American-based KBR (itself a subsidiary of Halliburton) expressed worries about being sent to Iraq to perform construction tasks after a group of their countrymen were found executed at the hands of insurgents in Iraq. But a manager for First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., gathered the Nepalese together and issued an ultimatum: Agree to travel to Iraq and they would get more food and water. Refuse, and they would get nothing and be put out on the streets of Kuwait City to find their way home.
Rescue Spares Some Workers (by Cam Simpson, Chicago Tribune)
They Forcibly Brought Me to Iraq’ (by David Phinney,  CorpWatch)
 
US Firm Leverages Connections to Help Kuwait
The Carlyle Group was accused in October 2004 of being a part of a consortium that touted its political ties in an attempt to win business collecting and managing billions of dollars owed to Kuwait by Iraq. The consortium, called International Strategy Group LLC, offered to help the government of Kuwait seek full repayment of Iraqi debt. The offer, which emphasized Carlyle's participation as manager of any funds recovered, came after Carlyle’s senior counselor, James A. Baker III, was appointed by President Bush to persuade foreign governments and private lenders to forgive more than $200 billion in Iraqi debt.
Carlyle Disavows Plan to Get Kuwait Business (by Terence O'Hara, Washington Post)
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Human Rights

Kuwait’s human rights problems begin with the fact that democracy exists only on paper in the country. As the State Department reports, citizens do not have the ability to change their government or form political parties. Although the May 16, 2009, parliamentary elections were generally free and fair, the fact remains that parliament has little real power, while political authority ultimately rests in the hands of the emir.

 
Other serious problems included security forces abusing prisoners and detainees, the government restricting freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement for certain groups, issues involving corruption and trafficking in persons, women not enjoying equal rights, and expatriate workers facing difficult conditions in the domestic and unskilled service sectors.
 
Some police and members of the security forces reportedly abused detainees. Police and security forces were more likely to inflict such abuse on noncitizens, particularly non-Gulf Arabs and Asians. The government stated that it investigated all allegations of abuse and punished at least some of the offenders, but in most cases the government did not make public either the findings of its investigations or punishments it imposed. In February 2010, however, a Kuwait appeals court upheld a two-year prison sentence for three police officers convicted of torturing a young man in prison in 2008.
 
There were reports of torture while in custody or during interrogation. Two journalists reported that security officials beat them while in custody. One of the journalists, Bashar Al-Sayegh, posted comments on his website that the authorities deemed inappropriate and that “infringed on the emir." Security services arrested Al-Sayegh's colleague, Jassem Al-Qames, because he took photographs of the arrest. Both men claimed that they were blindfolded and beaten en route to the security services building and again when they arrived.
 
Several foreign nationals provided verifiable claims that security forces abused them during 2007. According to press reports, police abused two Egyptian workers. The workers were in custody at the Shuwaikh Immigration Department for forging official immigration documents. According to a representative from the Egyptian Embassy who visited them in the hospital one day following their detainment, medical records indicated that they had been abused.
 
Individuals were able to criticize the government in public gatherings as long as they did not attack Islam, the emir, or the crown prince. Pointed criticism of ministers and other high‑ranking government officials was widespread, and individuals were not subjected to punishments as a result.
 
The law mandates jail terms for journalists who “defame religion.” The law provides that any Muslim citizen may file criminal charges against an author whom a citizen believes has defamed Islam, the ruling family, or public morals. Citizens often filed such charges for political reasons.
On August 18, authorities arrested two journalists on suspicion of criticizing the emir on a web log and detained them at the Kuwait State Security Building.
 
In May 2006 authorities jailed Hamid Buyabis for having quoted direct criticism of the emir in an article he wrote in a daily newspaper. In November 2006 authorities jailed Khalid Obaysan al-Mutairi for one day for writing an article that seemed to support Saddam Hussein as the legitimate leader of Iraq. Also in November 2006 a journalist was found guilty under the new Press and Publications Law of questioning the independence of the judiciary. She was given a three-month suspended sentence and three years' probation.
 
Most Christian groups have found it impossible to build new churches to serve the growing community of expatriate Christians in the country, who number over 400,000. The Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church continued a protracted struggle with the Municipal Council to secure land on which to build a new church. After it received an initial offer in 2005, the Municipal Council eventually denied its request in July 2006. The debate within the council's technical committee left little doubt that the problem was more religious than technical. The issue caused a number of prominent parliamentarians and religious figures to vociferously condemn the idea of building more churches in the country.
 
Islamic religious instruction is mandatory in all government schools and in any private school that has one or more Muslim students. The law prohibits organized religious education other than Islam. The government did allow non‑Muslim religious instruction as long as no Muslim students were taking part in the education.
 
Women in Kuwait now have political rights, but they continue to face discrimination in the workplace and under Kuwaiti personal status law. Violence against women continued to be a serious and overlooked problem. Rape is criminalized with a maximum penalty of death, which the country imposes for the crime. The media reported hundreds of rape cases during the year. Many of the victims were noncitizen domestic workers. The police occasionally arrested rapists, and several were tried and convicted during the year. But laws against rape were not always enforced effectively. According to third‑country diplomatic sources, victims reported that some police stations and hospitals handled their cases in a professional way, but many did not.
 
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although cases are tried as assault. Each of the country's 83 police stations reportedly received weekly complaints of domestic abuse. The courts have found husbands guilty of spousal abuse. However, most domestic abuse cases were not reported, especially outside of the capital. Abusive husbands, if convicted, rarely faced severe penalties, and there was no criminalization of spousal rape. There are no shelters or hot lines for victims of domestic violence, although on September 24, the government opened a shelter for domestic workers.
 
There is no specific law that addresses sexual harassment. Human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive but unreported problem. While no official statistics on the problem were available, Al-Qabas, a local newspaper, conducted a survey of 100 women from various professions, of whom 40 percent stated that they had experienced sexual harassment.
 
Women continued to experience legal, economic, and social discrimination. Shari'a discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement, and marriage. In October 2009, the Constitutional Court ruled that a woman may obtain a passport without her husband’s permission, and separately, that female members of parliament, female candidates for parliament, and female voters are not legally required to wear the hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women, thereby settling a contentious issue of how to interpret the 2005 women’s suffrage amendment to the 1962 election law. Also, in July 2010, female police officers began working in public in Kuwait, having been previously restricted to deskwork and training new cadets.
 
Homosexuality is illegal, and there was discrimination against homosexuals in societal attitudes and legal issues. The law punishes homosexual behavior between men older than 21 with imprisonment of up of to seven years; those engaging in homosexual activity with men younger than 21 may be imprisoned for as long as 10 years. The law imposes a fine of $3,450 (1,000 dinars) and/or one year’s imprisonment for imitating the appearance of the opposite sex in public. During 2010 there were more than a dozen reports of police arresting transgender persons at malls and markets, beating them in custody and shaving their heads, and then generally releasing them without charges.
 
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), police arrested several individuals they believed were imitating the appearance of the opposite sex. Police arrested three individuals at a police checkpoint in Salimeya and days later arrested three more individuals in Kuwait City. Police arrested three individuals in Hawalli district and two others at a police checkpoint. According to HRW, the men were subjected to physical and psychological abuse while in detention in Tahla prison. HRW reported that the detainees did not have access to counsel. At year's end the men remained in detention.
 
There were no developments in the 2006 case in which police raided a party where homosexuals were allegedly celebrating a wedding. In 2005 police charged a group of 28 alleged homosexuals with creating a public disturbance after they met outside a fast‑food restaurant.
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Dayton S. Mak
Appointment: [see note below]
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 18, 1961
Termination of Mission: Superseded, Jan 7, 1962
Note: Not commissioned; letter of credence dated Oct 2, 1961. Embassy Kuwait was established Sep 22, 1967, with Mak in charge.

 
Parker T. Hart
Appointment: Dec 14, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 7, 1962
Termination of Mission: Appointment terminated Jul 12, 1963
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 30, 1962. Also accredited to Saudi Arabia and Yemen; resident at Jidda.
 
Howard Rex Cottam
Appointment: Aug 1, 1963
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 24, 1963
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 6, 1969
 
John Patrick Walsh
Appointment: Sep 19, 1969
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 5, 1969
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 19, 1971
 
William A. Stoltzfus, Jr.
Appointment: Dec 9, 1971
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 9, 1972
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 6, 1976
Note: Also accredited to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; resident at Kuwait.
 
Frank E. Maestrone
Appointment: May 1, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 13, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 5, 1979
 
Francois M. Dickman
Appointment: Nov 28, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 24, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 8, 1983
Note: Philip J. Griffin served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Aug 1983–Sep 1984.
 
Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton
Appointment: Aug 13, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 19, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 14, 1987
 
W. Nathaniel Howell
Appointment: Jul 31, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: 2 Sep. 1987
Termination of Mission: Iraqi armed forces occupied Kuwait, 2 Aug. 1990
Note: Howell and the Embassy staff left Kuwait Dec 13, 1990.
Note: Embassy Kuwait was reopened Mar 1, 1991.
 
Edward William Gnehm, Jr.
Appointment: Aug 6, 1990
Presentation of Credentials: 2 Apr. 1991
Termination of Mission: Left post, 1 Apr. 1994
 
Ryan Clark Crocker
Appointment: May 9, 1994
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 7, 1994
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 4, 1997
 
James A. Larocco
Appointment: Nov 10, 1997
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 16, 1997
Termination of Mission: Left post May 17, 2001
 
Laurence E. Pope
Appointment: Nomination of Feb 22, 2000 not acted upon by the Senate
 
Richard Henry Jones
Appointment: Aug 7, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 1, 2001
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 26, 2004
 
Richard B. LeBaron
Appointment: May 12, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Oct. 12, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 11, 2007
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Kuwait's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Al-Sabah, Salem

Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah became ambassador of Kuwait to the United States in June 2001.

 
Born circa 1959 into Kuwait’s ruling Sabah family, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
 
From 1986 to 1991 he was the diplomatic attaché for the Office of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in Kuwait. From 1991 to 1998 he served with Kuwait’s mission to the United Nations in New York, including, from 1997, as first secretary. Al-Sabah then served as ambassador to South Korea from 1998 to 2001, when he was posted to Washington, DC.
 
He speaks Arabic, English and French. He is married to Lebanese-born former journalist Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, whom he met in 1983 when both were students in Beirut. They married in 1988 and are raising four sons.

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Kuwait's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.

Kuwait’s Embassy in the United States

2940 Tilden St., NW
Washington, DC 20008
202-966-0702
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U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait

Tueller, Matthew
ambassador-image

Matthew Tueller, a career Foreign Service Officer, was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Kuwait on September 8, 2011. He has served there previously on two occasions.

 
Born circa 1951 in Utah, Tueller grew up in in Europe, North Africa, and Latin America, including four years in Tangier, Morocco, as his father, Blaine Tueller, was a Foreign Service officer. Tueller earned a B.A. in International Relations from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1975. Over the next twenty years, nine of his siblings also graduated from BYU. He took a year off from school at BYU to live and work in Spain as a Mormon missionary. He also earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1984.
 
Tueller joined the Foreign Service in 1985 and served as Egypt Desk Officer from 1989 to 1991. Early overseas assignments included Political Officer at the Embassy in Kuwait, Political Officer and Consular Officer at the Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Political Officer at the Embassy in London, UK, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Doha, Qatar.
 
In the aftermath of the October 2000 terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, Tueller was made Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, overseeing the inter-agency investigation into the bombing, a task that kept him there until February 2001. He then served as Political Counselor at the Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He returned to Kuwait as Deputy Chief of Mission from 2004 to 2007, and served as Political Minister Counselor at the Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, from July 2007 to July 2008. Most recently he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where he served from August 2008 to May 2011, leaving several months after the Egyptian Revolution that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. That stint was a return to Cairo for Tueller, who was in Egypt taking advanced Arabic classes in October 1981 when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated and President Mubarak began his 29 years of rule, meaning that Tueller was present for both the beginning and the end of Mubarak’s rule.
 
Tueller and his wife, DeNeece, have five children.
 
Official Biography

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait

Jones, Deborah
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Deborah K. Jones assumed the post of U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait on April 19, 2008.


Raised in New Mexico, she earned a B.A. in History from Brigham Young University, and an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College of the National Defense University. She subsequently studied Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute in Roslyn, Virgini,a and at the State Department’s Field School in Tunis, Tunisia.
 
Jones joined the U.S. Department of State in 1982 and served for two years as Country Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs. She also worked as Staff Assistant to Richard Murphy, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs, and as Acting Public Affairs Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs.
 
Jones then became Desk Officer for Jordan, and worked in the State Department’s Operations Center and on its Board of Examiners until 2005. From August 2005 to 2007, she served as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey.
 
Jones’s additional foreign service work included assignments in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Baghdad, Iraq; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Damascus, Syria.
 
She is married to U.S. Foreign Service officer Richard G. Olson, and has two daughters. Olson assumed the post of ambassador to the United Arab Emirates on September 23, 2008.
 
 

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