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Kuwait: Two Decades of Change - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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When US troops entered Baghdad in 2003, the front pages had headlines like “Victory Procession following Fall of Dictatorship” and “Troops Vanquish Tyrannical Regime” and “Tyrannical Leaders Falls at the Hands of Heroes.” It was hardly surprising that American, British, and even Italian and Spanish newspapers had such headlines, for these countries participated in the war on Iraq with troops and finance. However these headlines [mentioned above] were taken from newspapers published in Kuwait, and these newspapers reflected a predominant attitude of support for the US war on Iraq in Kuwait.

These papers showed an understanding for the Western position, policies, and military action, and provided justification and explanation for this. To be clear, the press and the media were only mirroring a general mood that was present amongst the people of Kuwait; a mood that reflected high feelings of betrayal and injustice from the effects of the Iraqi invasion on the country in terms of damage and destruction. Director of the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at the American University in Cairo, Professor Lawrence Pintak, witnessed this for himself, and he keenly observed the media landscape following the US war on Iraq.

After being liberated from Iraqi occupation, Kuwait adopted stances and positions of its own, and it chose its national security over other slogans, therefore its alliance with the US was a decision to ensure the country’s survival, and this is how the country’s politicians, parliamentarians and media figures have portrayed this. However over the course of two decades there has been a public, parliamentary, and media transformation with regards to Kuwait’s relations with the US. Increasing numbers of Kuwaitis were concerned over the unintelligent policies adopted by the neo-conservatives during the tenure of former president George W. Bush. These policies resulted in a chaotic Iraq that was being torn apart by doctrinal, sectarian, and ethnic divisions and rivalries, to the point that the country was practically divided. In comparison to this, Kuwait is a small country with a very sensitive and delicate political and social make-up, however when racism, extremism, and sectarianism erupted in Iraq, not to mention the violence and conflict that followed, this found fertile ground in Kuwait, and skirmishes broke out in the press, in governmental departments, at universities, on television, and even in Kuwaiti parliament.

Today we can safely say that certain currents within Kuwait have developed strong feelings against the country’s special relationship with the US. These currents believe that the failure of US policies in Iraq (which is a failure that will continue now that only 50,000 US troops remain in the country) will bring disaster upon Kuwait and the entire region and will open the door for Iran, after it has established its influence in Iraq, to expand its influence and attempt to practice the same policies in Kuwait.

It is important that US politicians investigate this opposition that has formed in Kuwait against US foreign policy. According to US politicians, Kuwait was and remains to be America’s closest Arab ally, therefore this Kuwaiti change of heart serves as a wake-up call [to American] and must be carefully observed. Kuwait has experimented with various political trends and some of these have found influence within the country, such as Arab nationalism, as well as Baathism, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Khomeinists, and finally the Americans. However the voices emerging from Kuwait today criticizing US foreign policy are worried about the future of their country, because what is happening in Iraq is tragic, and there is an Iraqi presence in the Kuwaiti political blend.

The Shiites, the Sunni, the Arabs, the Bedouins and the tribes represent a dangerous blend in this sensitive country. Kuwait has been through a lot over the past 20 years; [overcoming] psychological and political factors, and there has been significant social, economic and intellectual activity, as well as clashes and attempts of reconciliation. Perhaps what is happening now in terms of anti-American activity, reconsideration of and growing sentiment against US foreign policy is nothing more than another chapter in the political history of Kuwait. This is a transformation that calls for close scrutiny from politicians, both in Kuwait and the US.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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