Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Kuwait: The audacity of the protesters | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Kuwait’s heated political situation and the tense relationship between the government and the opposition there has taken on a new and worrying dimension in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions. I say worrying because given Kuwait’s geographical location it is indirectly connected with the tense situation in Syria. Iran, which is locked in a life or death war for its political and ideological influence over Syrian territory, possesses a stockpile of devastating sectarian weapons that it is poised to use as the Syrian regime moves closer to collapse. Should Iran taste defeat in Syria, it will use these weapons against the secure and stable Gulf States as a means of revenge.

Iran’s latest vile threat [about intervening to protect the Kuwaiti Shiites] is akin to Tehran brandishing its knife to Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf States. This is what the Kuwaiti opposition must be aware of and take into account, for it does not make sense to raise the ceiling of their demands amidst such heated regional conditions. One cannot expect to put forth the same demands as they would in more stable conditions, or more precisely, less heated conditions.

I understand that some people would object to this and say that the Kuwaiti opposition should not raise or lower their demands in accordance with the situation in our volatile region, where conditions are never stable anyway. Although this argument may seem logical at first glance, it is not correct. Our region, although it has never been absolutely calm since the end of the era of Western colonialism, has certainly gone through intermittent periods of tranquility. These are the times when demands should be raised, for example in the period that followed the Iran-Iraq war and the period that followed the occupation of Kuwait.

At the same time, the Kuwaiti leadership must understand that the current heated Kuwaiti political situation is far different than anything it has experienced in the past. In the wake of the Arab Spring, political opposition groups are mobilizing like never before. I remember visiting Kuwait last winter and my friend driving me to Al-Erada Square, where I witnessed an unprecedented mass gathering. I said to my friend that even though I follow political movements in Kuwait with interest, and there is often a push and pull between the government and the opposition there, this gathering – of more than 70,000 people, a greater figure than the million who assembled in Tahrir Square if relative population figures are taken into account – could not possibly be considered separate from the Arab Spring revolutions.

When I say that a country ruled by a stable and prosperous monarchy, like Kuwait or elsewhere, cannot be considered separate from the Arab revolutions, I do not mean that we will see a repeat of what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Rather, I mean that Kuwait will be affected to some degree. The degree and method of regime change in Yemen was different to that in Egypt, which in turn was different to Libya, and the same goes for the extent of impact and response that these changes have had.

In the Kingdom of Morocco, the leadership has successfully absorbed the variables of the Arab region. The King noticed the warning signs with demonstrations in key Moroccan squares, and said: “It is up to me”. Subsequently, the leadership brought in Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party and one of its fiercest political opponents, and appointed him Prime Minister. Morocco extinguished the revolutionary sparks in their infancy. This is what the Kuwaiti leadership must pay attention to, for it is not a sign of weakness for political leaders to meet with their opponents in the middle of the road in order to defuse a problem that could grow and develop into something far worse.