Panetta’s Surprise Visit To Kuwait

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Context

KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT - DECEMBER 11: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talks with Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheik Ahmad Al-Khaled Al Sabah as he arrives at Kuwait International Airport on December 11, 2012 in Kuwait City, Kuwait. The Defense Secretary is due to meet with troops as part of the visit to thank them for their service. (Photo by Susan Walsh - Pool/Getty Images)
KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT – DECEMBER 11: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talks with Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheik Ahmad Al-Khaled Al Sabah as he arrives at Kuwait International Airport on December 11, 2012 in Kuwait City, Kuwait. The Defense Secretary is due to meet with troops as part of the visit to thank them for their service. (Photo by Susan Walsh – Pool/Getty Images)

While heading to Afghanistan, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made a surprise visit to Kuwait on December 12. As part of the US strategy for Middle East, Kuwait is an important country and houses about 13,500 troops. According to Panetta, there are close to 50,000 troops stationed in the region.

Referring to the 1991 Iraqi occupation of Iraq, Panetta stated: “We share a history of cooperation that goes back to the first Gulf War.” He has also called Kuwait an “important partner”.

His visit to Kuwait comes at a time when the country appears to be heading towards more protests. Demonstrators belonging to the opposition have demanded fresh elections due to the changes made to the electoral laws. Many fear that anger could trigger an Arab Spring style revolt.

Political parties are banned in Kuwait, and most candidates run in elections as individuals. In the recent elections, the Shia minority of Kuwait won 17 of the 50 seats. In the previous parliament that was dissolved in June, Shia’s had 7 seats.

Bahrain is one of the other Gulf State experiencing disturbances. The country hosts the US Navy’s 5th fleet.