Kuwait - Leadership

The Sabah leadership has been an integral part of the Kuwaiti state since its inception. The family regulates and controls the government and receives a salary from the state. The Sabah family has been compared to a corporation: an organization with policies, plans, and a hierarchy of its own. While the emir is the head of state within what can be called the corporate structure of the Sabah family, he does not necessarily have a monopoly on power. Rather, decisions are often made by a family council, which meets regularly to discuss important issues.

Kuwait's Sabah family has been more successful than neighboring Gulf petromonarchies in settling intrafamily disputes in a peaceful manner. Since the discovery of oil, Sabah influence has increased as tribes and merchants have come to rely on the state. The military is firmly controlled by the Sabah family, whose members are dominant in the higher echelons of the armed forces. In the 1980s, the Shias emerged as a threat to the regime as a result of the Iranian revolution and the Kuwaiti support of Iraq in its war with Iran. Kuwait was a frequent target of terrorist attacks, including an assassination attempt on Jabir's life in May 1985. Sabah members have successfully survived these threats and have in fact acquired the sympathy of the Kuwaiti public. The challenge Jabir and the Sabah family face is to allow political participation in government decision-making without letting power slip entirely from their hands. While this may not be easy, the family has shown an ability to survive challenges in the past.

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