Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, dies at 86

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His death comes after he was rushed to hospital with an unspecified illness in late November.

ANNOUNCEMENT

Kuwait’s ruling emir, 86-year-old Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, has died after three years of a low-profile reign focused on trying to resolve the small oil-rich nation’s internal political disputes.

Kuwait’s state television began programming with Koranic verses shortly before a somber official made the announcement.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we – the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations and the friendly peoples of the world – mourn the late His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, who passed away to his Lord today,” he said Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Sabah, minister of his Emirati court, who read the short statement.

Authorities did not provide a cause of death.

Kuwait’s deputy ruler and his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber, now 83, is believed to be the world’s oldest crown prince. He is in line to take over as ruler of Kuwait and represents one of the last octogenarian leaders of the Gulf countries.

In late November, Sheikh Nawaf was rushed to hospital for an unspecified illness. Since then, Kuwait has been waiting for news about his health. State news previously reported that he traveled to the United States for unspecified medical checks in March 2021.

The health of Kuwait’s leaders remains a sensitive issue in the Middle Eastern nation that also borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which has seen internal power struggles behind palace doors.

Those in Sheikh Nawaf’s life, born before oil completely transformed Kuwait from a trading hub into a petrostate, are fading with age. This, as well as the fact that other Gulf Arab nations have put younger and more assertive rulers in power, has put increasing pressure on Al Sabah to pass power to the next generation.

Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in as emir following the death in 2020 of his predecessor, the late Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

He previously served as Kuwait’s Minister of Interior and Defense, but was not considered particularly active in government outside of these terms. However, it was largely an incontrovertible choice for the emir, even if his advanced age led analysts to suggest that his tenure would be short. It was: Sheikh Nawaf had the third shortest tenure of any emir since Al Sabah ruled Kuwait starting in 1752.

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