Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, ruler of Kuwait, in a March 31, 2019 photo (Fethi Belaid)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Sheikh Saba Al Ahmad Al Saba, the ruler of Kuwait who used his decades of experience as that country's top diplomat to try to repair relations with Iraq after the 1991 war and resolve other regional crises, died on Tuesday, Kuwaiti state television reported. He was 91 years old.
In a Middle East replete with aging rulers, Sheikh Saba was noted for his efforts to push forward diplomacy to resolve a bitter dispute between Qatar and other Arab nations that continues to this day.
His 2006 ascension in Kuwait, a staunch ally of the United States since the American-led war that drove out the occupying Iraqi troops, came after Parliament unanimously voted to overthrow his predecessor, the ailing Sheikh Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabá, nine days after starting his government.
However, as the ruling emir of Kuwait, he faced internal political disputes, the fallout from the 2011 Arab Spring protests, and the ups and downs of oil prices that affected national coffers.
“He represents the older generation of Persian Gulf leaders who valued discretion and restraint and the importance of personal ties between their fellow monarchs,” said Kristin Diwan, a researcher at the Gulf Arab States Institute in Washington who studies Kuwait. “There is no doubt that he has suffered from the lack of deference and respect shown by the younger and more daring princes who hold power today.”
Sheikh Saba was succeeded by his half brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Saba, Interior Minister Anas Khalid al-Salé reported in a televised message.
Nawaf, 83, had served as crown prince since 2006, jumping a traditional order of alternate rule between the Al Jaber and Al Salam branches of the country's ruling family.
Nawaf served as Kuwait's defense minister starting in 1988. He would serve in the post in 1990, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied the nation for seven months.