Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah died after a long illness at the age of 91.
As news of his death broke, condolence messages streamed in from leaders throughout the region. He had ruled the country for nearly 15 years.
State television announced his death after playing Quran prayers, with Royal Court Minister Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al Sabah reading a brief statement, his hands shaking.
“With great sadness and sorrow, the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world mourn the death of the late His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, Emir of the state of Kuwait who moved to the realm of the Lord,” Sheikh Ali said.
Sheikh Sabah is expected to be succeeded by his half brother, the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
According to AP, the late Emir saw an outpouring support for him across the Mideast as he suddenly fell ill in July 2020, leading to a quick hospitalization and surgery in Kuwait City amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Authorities did not say what ailed him.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 flying hospital then transported Sheikh Sabah from Kuwait to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the flagship campus of the Mayo Clinic - an extraordinary gesture by the American government for a foreign head of state.
Sheikh Sabah leaves behind his legacy as a key mediator of regional disputes and a leading philanthropist in the Middle East and beyond.
Born in Kuwait on June 16, 1929, Sheikh Sabah was the fourth son of Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. After receiving his primary education at the al-Mubarakiya School, he went on to complete his education under tutors.
Before his accession to power, Sheikh Sabah was Kuwait’s Foreign Minister from 1963 to 1991 and then again from 1992 to 2003, while also serving as Deputy Prime Minister.
As the Foreign Minister at the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Emir “became the face of Kuwait” to Americans and the international community, according to Ambassador Silliman.
He was sworn into power on January 29, 2006, following the death of his half-brother Sheikh Jaber and the abdication of Sheikh Saad.
With 40 years of experience in international affairs, Sheikh Sabah quickly positioned Kuwait as a key mediator in several regional disputes.
When tensions began to rise between Qatar and the five other Gulf states in 2014, the Emir went on a regional tour to visit the countries involved to try to defuse the conflict.
After Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt officially severed diplomatic ties and trade links with Qatar in 2017, Sheikh Sabah continued to lead efforts to engineer a reconciliation.
When the Emir visited US President Donald Trump that same year, the President praised Sheikh Sabah’s contributions to achieve regional stability.
Sheikh Sabah, popularly called the “father of humanity,” has often been lauded for his humanitarian efforts around the world.
During his reign, Kuwait became internationally renowned for its charitable efforts, particularly in war-torn countries like Syria and with global health initiatives like the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2013, Kuwait donated over $100 million to support Syrian refugees around the Middle East. In February 2020, Palestinian officials in Gaza named a road after the Emir for his continuous efforts to support the Palestinian people.
Just a day after the deadly Beirut port explosion on August 4, Kuwait sent 36 tons of medicine, wheelchairs, baby milk, and blood collection bags to the Lebanese capital.