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Why Did the Kuwaitis Seize an Iraqi Airplane? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Exactly twenty years ago, the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of violating an agreement on the use of the joint Rumaila oil well that was shared between the two countries. He requested large amounts of money in compensation from Kuwait and a few weeks later Saddam committed the crime of invading Kuwait. Today, based on the idea of compensation, legal institutions seized an Iraqi plane on the day Iraqis celebrated the launch of the national airline [service] to London for the first time in around a quarter of a century, which indicates the return of stability to the new Iraq.

The truth of the matter is that we were shocked because we believed that we had moved on from the old days and that we had turned a new page. It is embarrassing that Kuwait is part of this – even if it did happen in the name of legal and insurance companies – not because Kuwaiti Airways has no legal rights but because the political relationship is far too important to be left down to some company or some beneficiaries, bureaucrats or disgruntled parliamentarians.

Also, the storm of Iraqi and Arab protest over the Iranian occupation of the Fakka oil well, which is located on the Iranian-Iraqi borders, has only just settled, only for the Kuwaitis to come along and try to get their hands on an Iraqi plane.

We know that there are still a number of outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait; there are many controversial issues between all countries around the world regarding planes, real estate, individuals, and money and regardless of any legal rights, if political calculations exist, they have the final word. Kuwait is not a poor country, nor is it far away [from Iraq] and it is not a country that wants enmity with Iraq. There is no political dispute that justifies seizing a plane, and opening up old wounds between the two countries will cost Kuwait and Iraq and the region much more than what Kuwait Airways is asking for. More importantly, Kuwaiti-Iraqi disputes are not bilateral issues that concern the two countries [only], rather, the bigger threat is that they will affect the region and this is what happened in 1990 when nine Arab countries engaged in war against Iraq because of that conflict. Moreover, Kuwait has accumulated enough compensation from sales of Iraqi oil in order to partially compensate for the losses incurred during the invasion and to end this ongoing pursuit. The Iraqis have taken revenge for the Kuwaitis on the person responsible for the invasion, as Saddam Hussein was hanged and buried and what’s done is done. Today we are living a new Iraqi era, so where is the benefit in Kuwait and the Arab countries concerned reviving old conflicts for the sake of satisfying Kuwaiti Airways?

Twenty years have passed since the invasion and occupation of Kuwait; that crime that is still having repercussions on the region [in the form of] wars and blocs. It should be a lesson to us all in order to establish peace between the brotherly states, and not to fuel the conflict.

The officials in Kuwait must think about the level of shock on the Iraqi street, which was hoping to open its airline [service] to Britain after a quarter of a century of severance, only to find that there are people seizing their plane on behalf of Kuwait. Iraq is a major regional country going through political difficulties. There are currents within the country that love Kuwait and others that are against Kuwait that now have a pretext to incite and stir hatred towards it, Gulf countries and other Arab countries.

No matter what some people in Kuwait believe with regards to their right to compensation, they must bear in mind two facts that are more important than the 1.2 billion dollars that they are trying to get from the Iraqis in order to compensate for the destroyed airport and airplanes. The first fact is that Iraq is a neighboring country and Kuwait shares half of its territorial borders with it. The second fact is that Iraq is a big country, it is not enough to ward off problems with Iraq merely by seeking protection in international agreements; rather, a good relationship will prove more important.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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