The Kuwaiti Factor


 Not only has Kuwait been an essential ally in Iraq by providing the access to bases and support for the initial invasion of Iraq and the stabilization efforts since then, it has also been a leader in the reform movement needed to allow the region a peaceful future.  While the America’s relationship with Kuwait is one of the few bright spots of its policy in the region, there are a few things that can be asked of Kuwait to continue its journey down the right path.
 The first priority is the effort to defeat Al Qaeda and associated organizations.  While Kuwaitis are not showing up very much in the foreign fighters in Iraq considering their proximity, there have been Kuwaitis among Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan who were recently killed in clashes with American forces.  This suggests the continued presence of an Al Qaeda recruitment structure in Kuwait.  The country once saved by the US from extinction should not be used as a supplier of terrorists’ funds and manpower.  With oil at $70 a barrel, resources to compact terrorism should not be an issue for Kuwait.  The government should step up its efforts to root out all terrorist elements and ideologies within its society.  The U.S. government should be ready to offer technical and security assistance that’s needed to eliminate the Al Qaeda threat in Kuwait.

 Although Kuwait has helped the US on Iraq, it could do much more. Kuwaiti role must be expanded to include the cancellation of all Iraqi debts, and aggressively participating in the reconstruction of southern Iraq, that was decimated during Saddam’s rule. The stability of southern Iraq is especially essential to Kuwait because of the historical ties it enjoys with its people. Kuwait oil revenues have jumped from $19 billions in 2003 to $44 billion in 2006. Some of these revenues can be used to fund the cancellation of Iraq’s debt and investing in its reconstruction, a move that will contribute to safeguarding Kuwait itself, and the region in general.

 In regards to President Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom,” Kuwait has served as a leader of the Arab Gulf states in being the only country among them with a fully-elected parliament that holds real legislative and oversight powers. While it is nowhere near the status of full democracy, Kuwait made a forward stride recently by allowing women, for the first time ever, to vote and run for office in the last elections. However, democracy is much more than just elections. Kuwait must move forward further by allowing the parliament, instead of the Emir, the power to choose the Prime Minister.  Electing a prime minister opens, for the first time, that office to non-royals in the Gulf sheikdoms, making the government more accountable to the people.  Sharing power with the people of Kuwait will strengthen the legitimacy of the al-Sabah ruling family, and solidify the Kuwaiti home front against external threats.

 President Bush might benefit from Sheikh Sabah’s insights to advance his freedom agenda in the region. The Kuwaiti ruling family has been the most responsive to its population among all Arab countries, and Sheikh Sabah maybe the most popular Arab ruler. Sabah can surly offer the President important advice on solving the Middle East puzzle.

 As President Bush and Sheikh Sabah discuss the future of American-Kuwaiti relations there is reason to be optimistic because Kuwait is moving in the direction that the U.S. wants.  Sheikh Sabah, a seasoned politician in the region,  might be criticized by some in the region for his close relationship with America, but he is will reminded that a small country like his is situated in a rough neighborhood and still needs the security offered to her by America. 

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