The State of Kuwait (Arabic: dawlat al-kuwayt) is a sovereign Arab emirate bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and Iraq
to the north and west. The greatest distance from north to south is 200 km and from east to west 170 km. The name is a
diminutive of an Arabic word meaning “fortress built near water”. It has a population of 2.889 million and an area of
18,098 km². Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, with Kuwait City serving as the
country’s political and economic capital. Kuwait also includes several offshore islands, the largest of which is Bubiyan,
near the Iraqi border.
In 1990, Kuwait was invaded and annexed by neighboring Iraq. The seven month-long Iraqi occupation came to an end after a
direct military intervention by United States-led forces. Nearly 750 Kuwaiti oil wells were set ablaze by the retreating
Iraqi army resulting in a major environmental and economic catastrophe. Kuwait’s infrastructure was badly damaged during
the war and had to be rebuilt.
Kuwait has the world’s fifth largest oil reserves and is the eleventh richest country in the world per capita. Kuwait’s oil
fields were discovered and exploited in the 1930s. After it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1961, the
nation’s oil industry saw unprecedented growth. Petroleum and petroleum products now account for nearly 95% of export
revenues, and 80% of government income. Kuwait is regarded as the most developed country in the Arab League and a Major
non-NATO ally of the United Kingdom and the United States.