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The State of Kuwait i/kuːˈweɪt/ (Arabic: دولة الكويت, Dawlat al-Kuwayt) is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the Arabic أكوات ākwāt, the plural of كوت kūt, meaning a fortress built near water. The country covers an area of 17,820 square kilometers (6,880 sq mi) and has a population of about 3.5 million.
Historically, the region was the site of Characene, a major Parthian port for trade between Mesopotamia and India. The Bani Utbah tribe were the first permanent Arab settlers in the region, and laid the foundation of the modern emirate. By the 19th century, Kuwait came under the influence of the Ottoman Empire, and after World War I, it emerged as an independent sheikhdom under the protection of the British Empire. Kuwait’s large oil fields were discovered in the late 1930s.
After Kuwait gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1961, the state’s oil industry saw unprecedented economic growth. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded and annexed by neighboring Iraq. The seven month-long Iraqi occupation came to an end after a direct military intervention by United States-led forces. Around 773 Kuwaiti oil wells were set ablaze by the retreating Iraqi army resulting in a major environmental and economic catastrophe. Kuwait’s infrastructure was badly damaged during the war and had to be rebuilt.
Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a parliamentary system of government, with Kuwait City serving as the country’s political and economic capital. The country has the world’s fifth largest oil reserves and petroleum products now account for nearly 95% of export revenues, and 80% of government income. Kuwait is the eleventh richest country in the world per capita. In 2007, it had the highest human development index (HDI) in the Arab world. Kuwait is classified as a high income economy by the World Bank and is designated as a major non-NATO ally of the United States.