DUBAI – Kuwait's Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah became the oil-rich nation's new ruling emir Tuesday night, reaching the highest post in the country after decades in its security services.
Sheikh Nawaf, 83, had served as the crown prince since 2006, jumping a traditional order of alternating rule between the Al Jaber and the Al Salim branches of the country's ruling family.
While his taking of the throne came as prescribed by Kuwait's constitution, there likely will be negotiations behind the scenes in the weeks ahead over who will become the country's next crown prince.
Those discussions likely will take time as Kuwait mourns its late ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, and weighs who best represents a country that had carefully positioned itself amid regional rivalries.
Sheikh Nawaf “may provide a welcome respite of unity in transition," wrote Kristin Smith Diwan, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. ”Yet, 83 years old and without any clear national program, his reign is unlikely to deter the sharp competition already underway to claim the title of his successor."
State television carried an address by Anas Khalid al-Saleh, Kuwait's interior minister and deputy prime minister, announcing Sheikh Nawaf had taken the position just hours after Sheikh Sabah's death.
Sheikh Nawaf, like his half-brother Sheikh Sabah, was born before Kuwait discovered the oil that would make this small nation among the richest in the world. Born June 25, 1937, Sheikh Nawaf became a governor of Kuwait's Hawalli region and later the country's interior minister, a position he held for nearly a decade.
As interior minister, Sheikh Nawaf negotiated in 1980 with two Jordanians who hijacked a Boeing 727 heading from Beirut to Kuwait City. The hijackers ultimately gave up the plane without harming any passengers on board. Sheikh Nawaf negotiated in other hijackings as well.