Kuwait has been pivotal to nearly two decades of U.S. efforts to reduce a threat posed by Iraq. After U.S. forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi invading forces in February 1991, Kuwait was the central location from which the United States contained Saddam during 1991-2003, and it hosted the bulk of the U.S.-led force that invaded Iraq in March 2003 to remove Saddam from power. It is the key route through U.S. troops have been withdrawing from during 2009-2011.
Although Kuwait remains a staunch U.S. ally, it is troubled domestically. For the past five years, wrangling between the elected National Assembly and the ruling Al Sabah family primarily over the political dominance and alleged corruption of the Al Sabah has brought virtual political paralysis to Kuwait. Political infighting has tarnished Kuwait's reputation in the Persian Gulf as a model of protections of rule of law and human rights as the Al Sabah have turned to increasingly harsh measures to suppress dissent. These measures have included beatings of demonstrators and imprisonments of journalists. However, Kuwait's tradition of vibrant civil society and expression of opinion led to the resignation of the Interior Minister, held responsible for repressive measures, on February 7, 2011, in advance of a planned public demonstration.