Egypt and Kuwait: A Comparison of Two Arab Countries

Topics: United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kuwait Pages: 13 (4604 words) Published: November 20, 2002
Egypt and Kuwait: A Comparison of Two Arab Countries

Egypt and Kuwait are both Arab countries, and yet they are very different from one another. Egypt has a culture that goes back centuries, predating Islam, and is considered part of the cradle of civilization. Kuwait is a modern and new country, very wealthy because of its oil, but very vulnerable to its more aggressive neighbors like Iraq. Both have different realities facing them in today's complicated world stage, and their foreign policies reflect their realities. I will compare the foreign policies of Kuwait and Egypt, and discuss any similarities and the definite differences between them.

Kuwait is a small country with a population of just over one and a half million people. It is located at the head of the Persian Gulf, which is strategically a crucial area in the geopolitics of our time, in world affairs. It is precisely because of this prime location that Kuwait is vulnerable. The advantages of its wealth have also brought some misfortune on Kuwait, in the form of outside attack. Kuwait is bordered by Saudi Arabia on the south, and by Iraq on the north and west. It is a modern and very wealthy nation, but in some ways it still is behind the rest of the modern world in some of its cultural practices, for example equality of women. Although women in Kuwait live light years better than their Muslim sisters in Iran, they are still relegated second-class status and denied opportunities for public roles. Also, Kuwait has been criticized for its treatment of foreign laborers, especially poor women from the Philippines and Indonesia, who come to work as cheap domestics in the homes of wealthy Kuwaitis. In other respects, however, Kuwait enjoys a very important role in world affairs because of its oil supply.

The population of Kuwait is predominantly Arab, but only about one-third of the Kuwaiti population are actual Kuwaitis. This is due to the fact that native Kuwaitis have a very high per capita income, and they pay no taxes. They also enjoy extensive social services. Therefore, there is not a viable work force that can perform all of the duties needed by a modern society. That is why many foreigners come to Kuwait to perform these duties and make a good living. Some of the major ethnic groups that come to Kuwait to find work are Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, Yemenis, and Palestinians. 85-percent of the population is Muslim, but there are other religious groups active in Kuwait.

Kuwait is a monarchy, but the ruling sheikh does pick a prime minister to head the government. Kuwait has a unicameral national assembly made up of 50 members who are elected by popular vote. There are no official political parties. Women do not have the right to vote in Kuwait. In 1999, the sheikh issued an edict giving Kuwaiti women the right to vote and to run for office, but parliament failed to ratify it (Encyclopedia.com, 1,2).

In 1897, Kuwait became a British protectorate. This protectorate ended in 1961, and Kuwait became an independent sheikhdom. Shortly after Kuwait's independence, however, Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait. British troops were invited into Kuwait by the new sheikhdom for protection. Shortly after, the British troops were replaced by Arab League detachments. Finally, in 1963, Iraq officially recognized the nation of Kuwait.

Kuwait was a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Kuwait's vast oil revenues have been used to support other Arab countries. One of the main causes supported by Kuwait has been the Palestinians, in their conflict with Israel. Kuwait has also kept up relations with the West. Not to be too tied up into ideological arguments and positions, Kuwait was also the first Persian Gulf State to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1963. Kuwait did take part in the oil embargo against the nations that supported Israel in the 1973 war, and Kuwaiti troops stationed in Egypt along the...

Cited: CIA, "Egypt". www.cia.gov/cia. 1.
Egypt, "External Relations". lcweb2.loc.gov. 1,2.
Egypt, "Foreign Policy". lcweb2.loc.gov. 1,2.
Encyclopedia.com, "Kuwait". www.encyclopedia.com. 1,2.
Kuwait, "Persian Gulf War". rs6.loc.gov. 1,2.
Kuwait, "Post Persian Gulf War Foreign Policy". rs6.loc.gov. 1.
Kuwait Country Profile, "Foreign Affairs and Defense". www.kuwait-info.org. 1-3.
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