Sheikhdom at the head of the Persian Gulf, on the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Sparsely populated and mostly barren, Kuwait was settled in the early 18th century by Arab tribes. The dynasty that still rules it was founded by Sabah abu Abdullah, who was sheikh from 1756 to 1772. The sheikhdom, formally a province of the Ottoman Empire, was threatened several times in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the Wahabis, an Islamic reform movement. The ruling sheikh put Kuwait under British protection in 1897, when he feared the Turks were about to assume more direct rule of the land . The British gave up their protectorate in 1961, but provided support when Iraq threatened to take over the country. The sheikhdom joined in the oil embargo against nations that supported Israel in the 1973 war. A new constitution was promulgated in 1963, but the sheikh and his council held the real power.
In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, occupying the country. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein announced the Iraq had annexed Kuwait, citing historic claims. American-led coalition forces liberated Kuwait in 1991 in the Gulf War, but Iraq had looted the country, devastating the infrastructure, and set fire to many of the oil wells. More than 80% of the oil wells were destroyed or damaged. The emir returned to the head of the government and ordered the expulsion of all Palestinian guest workers in retaliation for the support of Iraq. Elections were conducted in 1992, with the opposition gaining many seats in the parliament, but the royal family continued to hold most of the control. Kuwait rebuilt its infrastructure in the 1990s. In 1999, the emir issued an edict giving women the right to vote and hold office, but the parliament didn’t ratify the edict. In 2003, the United States and its allies used Kuwait as a staging and support area for the invasion of Iraq.
Kuwait has enormous oil reserves, which since 1946 have made it a major exporter. The great wealth produced has been used to improve the condition of the people. Al-Kuwait is the capital.