Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah passed away at 86 on Saturday. The announcement was made by Kuwait state television.

The minister of the emiri court, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Sabah, delivered a statement mourning the emir’s death, refraining from disclosing the cause of Sheikh Nawaf’s demise. The emir was hospitalised for an unspecified illness in November.

Meshaal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, the deputy ruler and half-brother of the late emir, is now in line to succeed Sheikh Nawaf. He is the world’s oldest crown prince at the age of 83.

The health of Kuwait’s leaders has historically been a sensitive matter due to the nation’s history of internal power struggles, given its strategic location bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Nawaf assumed the role of emir in 2020 after the death of his predecessor, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a figure known for his diplomatic skills and peacemaking. Despite being considered an uncontroversial choice for emir, analysts anticipated a relatively short tenure due to Sheikh Nawaf’s advancing age.

During his term, Sheikh Nawaf focused on domestic issues, addressing political disputes and implementing significant changes such as the overhaul of Kuwait’s welfare system. The nation faced challenges in managing its finances due to political disputes, limiting its ability to take on debt despite substantial oil reserves.

In 2021, Sheikh Nawaf issued a significant amnesty decree, pardoning and reducing sentences for nearly three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents, aiming to defuse a government standoff. Another amnesty decree was issued just before his illness, attempting to resolve a political impasse that led to three separate parliamentary elections under his rule.

Kuwait is known for having the Gulf’s freest parliament. The country allows for dissent in comparison to other nations in the region.

The nation has been a strong ally of the United States since the 1991 Gulf War, during which the occupying Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein were expelled. Kuwait plays a significant role in hosting approximately 13,500 American troops and serves as the forward headquarters of the US Army in the Middle East.

Kuwait, with a population of around 4.2 million and a land area slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey, possesses the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves.