US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Kuwait on Sunday evening to pay respects after the passing of Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the late Emir of Kuwait. “His Highness Sheikh Nawaf was a valued partner and friend to the US who demonstrated a lasting commitment to diplomacy aimed at de-escalating tensions in the Middle East. I am honored to be in Kuwait today to pay my respects and offer my condolences to the people of Kuwait and Sheikh Nawaf’s family,” wrote Austin.
The visit to Kuwait is important as Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, setting off the Gulf War that ended with the US and partners ejecting Saddam’s forces from Kuwait. This event lifted a curtain on the current Middle East and many of the issues affecting the region.
The Gulf War took place at the end of the Cold War and illustrated the transition to a new type of hi-tech warfare. Kuwait also plays a circumspect role in the region and has tried to steer clear of Gulf politics.
Austin’s trip is significant for US policy in the region, potentially including a new naval mission in the Red Sea and more discussions about Israel’s policy and the next phase of combat in Gaza. As such, this is a transition period in the region, with growing threats from Iran in Iraq, Syria, and the Red Sea.