Flag of Kuwait (Available at Wikimedia Commons) Though several events and issues have negatively affected their relations, Iran and Kuwait maintain close diplomatic and economic ties and their shared memberships in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have provided a forum to enhance political cooperation

February 23, 2010

Kuwait-Iran Foreign Relations

Flag of Kuwait (Available at Wikimedia Commons)

Though several events and issues have negatively affected their relations, Iran and Kuwait maintain close diplomatic and economic ties and their shared memberships in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have provided a forum to enhance political cooperation. Iran and Kuwait also share extensive cultural links, as an estimated 30 percent of Kuwait’s majority Muslim population is Shi’a and four percent of Kuwait’s total population is Iranian.[1] Iran-Kuwait relations deteriorated as a result of Kuwait’s support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980-1988. Relations were further strained between 1987-1988 when the United States began reflagging Kuwaiti oil tankers and providing them with naval escorts through the Persian Gulf to prevent against Iranian air attacks.[2] Since the end of the war more than two decades ago, however, Kuwait and Iran have worked to improve relations. That Iran and Kuwait were able to agree to exchange ambassadors in May 2011, just two months after three individuals were sentenced to death in Kuwait for spying for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and one month after Kuwait expelled three Iranian diplomats over similar charges, speaks to the importance that both states have attributed to maintaining diplomatic ties. Diplomatic and economic ties aside, Kuwait still considers Iran a danger to its national security and has planned an upgrade to its Patriot missile defense system to counter Iran’s growing military threat. [3]

Kuwait has publicly expressed support for Iran’s right to maintain a peaceful nuclear program. The Gulf Emirate has also publicly opposed any U.S. military strike against Iran, calling instead for a peaceful resolution to the diplomatic dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.[4] Kuwait has so far agreed to comply by all sanctions levied against Iran by the United States and the United Nations Security Council.

Iran and Kuwait share, and have sometimes quarreled over, the Arash/Durra oil field. In 2006, the two Gulf states agreed to jointly develop the Arash/Durra field and subsequently met to discuss cooperation in the oil and natural gas sectors. In 2011, Iran and Kuwait signed an agreement to consolidate their industrial and customs relations and both countries have expressed a willingness to expand economic ties.



December 6, 2010: Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait called for a peaceful resolution to the diplomatic dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.  At the annual GCC meeting in Abu Dhabi, the Emir urged “dialogue, peaceful means and adherence to the principles of international legitimacy.”[5]

August 24, 2010: The Kuwaiti foreign ministry expressed concerns over potential leaks from Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility. Foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al Jarallah said that “Kuwait's concern is based on fears of any leaks due to natural causes that may have future consequences.” Iran’s foreign ministry tried to assuage Kuwaiti fears by praising the plant’s safety standards: “Due to the high standards with regards to safeguards in the Bushehr nuclear power plant, there should be no concern about it…. The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved the safeguards in the Bushehr plant."[6]

October 2, 2008: Kuwait affirmed that it accepts and will comply with all the UN Security Council sanctions against Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. In a note issued by the country’s Interior Ministry to the Chairman of the UN Security Council, Kuwait reaffirmed its “unwavering commitment” and asserted it was “committed to the provisions of the Charter, as well as to respecting the resolutions of the Security Council.” [7]

July 14, 2008: Jassem al-Kharafi, speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, said that when it comes to the diplomatic dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, “there are provocative Western statements, and Iran responds in the same way…I believe that a matter this sensitive needs dialogue not escalation.”[8]

June 4, 2007: Kuwaiti National Security Agency Chief Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah stated that Kuwait was “against any military strike against Iran” and expressed hope that the dispute could be solved through dialogue.[9]



February 2, 2011: Iranian and Kuwaiti officials signed an agreement to consolidate customs and industrial relations. In the same meeting, Iranian Minister of Commerce Mehdi Qazanfari stressed the country’s willingness to establish a joint trade council with Kuwait, increase trade, and expand relations.[10]

January 19, 2010: Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast voiced his country’s willingness to hold a bilateral meeting with Kuwaiti experts regarding shared oil fields. Mehmanparast said, “we previously voiced willingness to hold a meeting with the Kuwaiti side to reach an outcome in this regard.”[11]

January 26, 2010: The head of Iran’s Gas Transportation Company Reza Almasi claimed that Kuwait has expressed interest in connecting its gas network to Iran’s cross-country gas network. Almasi noted that Iran’s network already expands into Iran’s southern port city of Khorramshahr and that it was possible for it to extend to Kuwait. He also revealed that the plan to link the two countries’ gas networks includes building a submarine pipeline to Kuwait’s border.[12]

November 22, 2009: Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mir Kazemi and Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al Abdullah al Sabah met in Tehran to discuss Iranian gas exports to Kuwait.[13]

January 16, 2008: Iran and Kuwait held their first Economic Commission, a meeting which served to create a political platform for more financial connections between the countries. The two agreed to increase their cooperation and signed agreements stating they will develop greater economic ties in the future.[14]

September 27, 2006: The Iranian Offshore Oil Company (IOOC) held talks with Kuwait to discuss jointly developing the disputed Arash offshore oil field.[15] The IOOC’s Managing Director, Mahmud Zirakchian, said that “appropriate measures have been taken to encourage preserving the oilfield instead of promoting competitive productions.”[16]

[Additional information on Kuwait’s business activity with Iran.]



June 27, 2011: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates signed a contract with the defense corporation Raytheon to upgrade their air defense systems in order to counter the growing Iranian threat. Kuwait announced it intends to spend $900 million on upgrading its five batteries of U.S.-supplied Patriot PAC-2 missile systems.[17]

May 18, 2011: Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with his counterpart in Kuwait and announced: “It was decided that the ambassadors of the two countries will return to their posts as soon as possible.”[18] On May 23, 2011, the new Iranian Ambassador to Kuwait, Rouhollah Qahremani Chabok arrived in Kuwait. Iran had not had an ambassador in Kuwait for over a year.[19]

April 10, 2011: Iran expelled three Kuwaiti diplomats in response to the Kuwait’s March 2011 decision to throw out three Iranian diplomats accused of spying inside Kuwait.[20]

April 7, 2011: Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri accused Iran of meddling in the affairs of Lebanon, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Describing it as “flagrant intervention,” Hariri stated that Iran’s activities are “not acceptable to anyone.”[21]

April 2, 2011: Kuwait expelled three Iranian diplomats accused of spying for Iran since 2003. “There will be action against a group of Iranian diplomats....They will be considered persona non grata and expelled from Kuwait,” announced Kuwait’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al Salem al Sabah.[22] According to the minister, the spy network planned to attack “strategic” sites inside Kuwait: “We are talking about a cell whose task was not only to monitor and record the (U.S.) military presence that is in their view hostile…but it exceeded that.” He added, “[t]hey had explosives and the intention to explode vital Kuwaiti facilities. They had names of officers and they had extremely sensitive information. This indicates bad intentions to harm Kuwaiti security.”[23]

March 29, 2011: A criminal court in Kuwait sentenced two Iranians and a Kuwaiti national to death for providing intelligence to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). A Syrian national and a “stateless Arab” were given life sentences for the same offense. At time of arrest, the three sentenced to death and the Syrian were serving in Kuwait’s army, and the stateless Arab was a former member of Kuwait’s military.[24]

April 16, 2010: In a meeting with the Kuwaiti emir’s special, Mohammad Abdullah Abu al-Hassan, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed his country’s desire to expand relations with Kuwait: “Iran and Kuwait are two brother countries and have common interests…. Today, the capacity and the will for further expansion of ties between Iran and Kuwait exist.”[25]

January 28, 2010: During a meeting in Kuwait City with the head of Kuwaiti Parliament Foreign Policy Committee, Marzouq al Ghanim, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said that Iran is prepared to enter into bilateral and multilateral security agreements with its Arab neighbors.[26]

November 4, 2009: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Jabir al Sabah in Kuwait City to discuss bilateral issues of mutual interest.[27]

October 5, 2005: Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, conveying “Iran’s message of peace, friendship and willingness to expand friendly ties with all regional countries, particularly with Kuwait.” According to the pro-government Iran Daily, the Kuwaiti Prime Minister responded that “blossoming Iran-Kuwait ties would definitely have positive effects on regional peace and stability, particularly between Iran and the other Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) member-states.”[28]

[1] “CIA World Factbook: Kuwait,” Central Intelligence Agency online library, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html
[2] For more information see Margaret G. Wachenfeld’s “Reflagging Kuwaiti Tankers: A U.S. Response in the Persian Gulf” in Duke Law Journal, Vol. 1988, NO. 1.
[3] “Kuwaiti National Security and the U.S.-Kuwaiti Strategic Relationship after Saddam,” Strategic Studies Institie, United States Army War College, September 2007
[4] “UAE wants sanctions on Iran to End,” Gulf News, December 7, 2010, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/uae-wants-sanctions-on-iran-to-end-1.724970
“Kuwaiti National Security and the U.S.-Kuwaiti Strategic Relationship after Saddam,” Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College, September 2007
“Kuwait opposes military strike against Iran,” AFP via Iran Focus, June 3, 2007, http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11457:kuwait-opposes-military-strike-against-iran&catid=4:iran-general&Itemid=26 http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/summary.cfm?q=788 (accessed July 19, 2011)
[5] “Gulf Arabs Meet Amid Alarm Over Iran Atomic Plans,” AP, December 6, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=12323875 (accessed July 19, 2011)
[6] “Kuwait concerned over Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant,” AFP, August 24, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h-PaMG0Skt7rONodAe42ZdtQ2n2Q (accessed July 19, 2011)
[7] "Kuwait In Compliance With UNSC Iran Sanctions Resolution Interior", KUNA, October 2, 2008, http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?Language=en&id=1941524
[8] “Kuwait’s Parliament Speaker Says The West Is ‘Provoking’ Iran On Nuclear Issue,” Associated Press via Gulf News,  July 14, 2008, http://gulfnews.com/news/region/iran/west-provoking-tehran-says-kuwait-speaker-1.118277
[10] “Minister Stresses Establishment of Iran-Kuwait Joint Trade Council ,” Fars News, February 2, 2011, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8911130543 (accessed July 19, 2011)
[11] "Iran Open To Oil Field Talks ", Arab Times, January 19, 2010, http://www.arabtimesonline.com/NewsDetails/tabid/96/smid/414/ArticleID/148375/t/Iran-open-to-oil-field-talks/Default.aspx
[12] "Kuwait ready to link gas network with Iran", Tehran Times, January26, 2010, http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=213037
[13] “Iran Says in Talks with Kuwait on Possible Gas Supply,” Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20091122-703825.html (accessed November 29, 2009)
“Iran, Kuwait Gas Talks Underway,” Mehr News via Payvand, November 22, 2009, http://www.payvand.com/news/09/nov/1236.html
[14] “Iran, Kuwait Ink Accord On Economic Cooperation Agreement,” IRNA, January 16, 2008
“No doubt in Iran, Kuwait friendship: FM,” ISNA via Payvand, January 16, 2008 http://www.payvand.com/news/08/jan/1155.html
[15] “Joint Development For Disputed Arash/Durra Agreed In ‘Principle’ Between Iran And Kuwait,” World Markets, September 27, 2006
[16] “Iran, Kuwait to jointly develop Arash oilfield,” Mehr via Payvand, September 26, 2006, http://www.payvand.com/news/06/sep/1302.html
[17] “Raytheon gets $1.7 billion Patriot deal,” UPI, June 27, 2011, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2011/06/27/Raytheon-gets-17-billion-Patriot-deal/UPI-74681309198406/ (accessed July 19, 2011)
[18] “Iran, Kuwait patch up relations,” Mehr News Agency via Payvand, May 23, 2011, http://www.payvand.com/news/11/may/1234.html
[19] “Iran, Kuwait patch up relations,” Mehr News Agency via Payvand, May 23, 2011, http://www.payvand.com/news/11/may/1234.html
[20] “Iran expels 3 Kuwait diplomats in spy row,” Reuters, April 10, 2011, http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/04/10/idINIndia-56238420110410 (accessed July 19, 2011)
[21] “Outgoing Lebanese PM Slams Iran for Meddling,” Associated Press, April 7, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=13316805  (accessed July 19, 2011)
[22] “KUWAIT, IRAN: Iranian diplomats to be expelled over spy ring row in latest spat in Arab Gulf-Iranian relations,” Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2011, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/04/kuwait-iran-iranian-diplomats-to-be-expelled-over-spy-ring-row-in-latest-blow-to-arab-gulf-persian-r.html (accessed July 19, 2011)
[23] “Iran cell planned attacks in Kuwait, minister says,” Reuters, April 21, 2011, http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE73K3NO20110421 (accessed July 19, 2011)
[24] “KUWAIT: Court sentences 3 to death for being part of Iranian spy ring,” Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2011, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/03/kuwait-court-sentences-3-to-death-iranian-spy-ring.html (accessed July 19, 2011)
[25] “President Urges Expansion of Iran-Kuwait Ties,” Fars News, April 16, 2010, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8901270794 (accessed July 19, 2011)
[26] "Iran ready to sign security deals with Arab neighbors: senior MP", Tehran Times, January28, 2010, http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=213179
[27] “Kuwaiti emir supports Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, Tehran Times, November 4, 2009, http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_view.asp?code=207098 (accessed November 7, 2009)
[28] “Kuwait Supports Peaceful Nuclear Program,” Iran Daily, October 5, 2005
“Iranian FM discusses Iraq on Persian Gulf tour,” Turkish Weekly, October 5, 2005, http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/20393/iranian-fm-discusses-iraq-on-persian-gulf-tour.html

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