The oil-rich State of Kuwait, a small emirate bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia, holds a total population of approximately 4.8 million people. Similar to other Gulf nations, the majority, about two thirds of the country’s population consists of expatriate workers. While Kuwaiti citizens are mostly Sunni Muslims, ruled by a likewise Sunni leadership, about one third are Shi’a, which has fed into sectarian tensions, particularly after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Everyday sectarianism is part of the societal and political fabric, albeit to a much lesser extent than in its fellow GCC member states Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The 1990-1991 Iraqi invasion and occupation remains profoundly etched into Kuwaiti memory. By way of safeguarding its own sovereignty and independence, Kuwait exercises political neutrality and regularly and actively engages in balancing regional rivalries and conflicts through acts of diplomacy and mediation and therefore takes an important role in working towards regional peace, stability and security. However, Kuwait’s delicate sectarian equilibrium is challenged by regional developments and the animosity among fellow GCC states as well as between Saudi Arabia and Iran.