Several Arab leaders have headed to Kuwait to offer condolences for the death of its ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad.
The Arab chieftains started arriving in the tiny Gulf state on Thursday to honour Sheikh Sabah, who died on Tuesday aged ninety-one, after committing decades towards the unification of a polarised region.
Jordan’s king, the presidents of Egypt and former occupier Iraq, and Oman’s sultan were among those paying respects to Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the brother and successor of Sheikh Sabah.
Gulf power Saudi Arabia, with which Kuwait has its closest but most complex relationship, was represented by Mansour bin Mutib, an adviser to King Salman, who had surgery in July and whose son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is de facto ruler.
Bahrain, who joined Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in boycotting neighbouring Qatar in a row that Sheikh Sabah tried in vain to end, sent its crown prince.
Qatar’s emir was the only Gulf ruler to attend Wednesday’s funeral rites for Sheikh Sabah, who was admired around the world for his humanitarian efforts and pursuit of moderation in a region mired in conflict.
Sheikh Nawaf is expected to uphold US-allied Kuwait’s foreign policy, but may struggle to navigate between a new generation of Sunni Muslim Gulf leaders who have taken a more hawkish approach, especially against Shi’ite rival Iran, with which Kuwait maintained ties.
The focus now for Sheikh Nawaf will be naming a crown prince at a time when low oil prices and COVID-19 have hit the finances of the country, which has a cradle-to-grave welfare system.
Under Kuwait’s constitution, the emir has up to a year to name an heir, but analysts expect a decision in the coming weeks. Parliament must approve the choice.
Among the mooted candidates are the late emir’s eldest son Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad, seventy-two; his nephew Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad, seventy-nine; and his brother Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber.