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Security agencies in Kuwait have busted a spy cell allegedly working for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, feeding information on Kuwaiti and US targets, a local quasi-governmental newspaper reported today.

 

Citing high-ranking security sources, Al-Qabas daily said Kuwait arrested at least seven men, some of whom served in the interior and defence ministries, while others include bidoon, or stateless Arabs, and other Arabs. Security agencies are still hunting for six to seven other men suspected of being members of the cell, which was broken up in a coordinated effort between the secret service and army intelligence, the paper said.

 

Cell members have taken pictures of Kuwaiti military and other vital targets in addition to US military sites, Al-Qabas said.

 

Security forces stormed the home of one of the cell leaders in Sulaibiya, 25km west of Kuwait City two days ago and found maps for vital sites, highly sophisticated communications devices and cash exceeding $US250,000 ($269,570). The daily quoted the security sources as saying members of the cell confessed that they were assigned to recruit new members whose ideas are similar to the Revolutionary Guards.

 

Members of the cell have visited Iran frequently under the disguise of tourism, medical treatment or visiting religious places, the daily said.

 

Kuwait is home to several US military bases. The major base is in Arifjan, 70km south of Kuwait City and houses about 15,000 US soldiers. The emirate is also used as a transit point for US troops into and out of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

April 30, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The busting of the cell carries regional and local implications. The regional one is that Iran is allegedly looking at targets in the GCC, including Kuwait. This is not unexpected, but adds to the fear that a strike against Iran will almost certainly turn into a more regional conflict, involving GCC states, including Kuwait.

 

The local implication is that those busted include Kuwait civil servants. Although there is no indication on whether they are Shiite, Kuwait has a large local Shiite community whose allegiance to the Iranian or Kuwaiti regime has been questioned. The arrests therefore are likely to increase local tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, and may lead to a crackdown against Kuwait’s Shiite population. This, coming at a time of looming political crisis, could lead to it being exploited to inflame the situation and contribute to increasing the likelihood of civil unrest.

 

The figure below shows the make-up of the Kuwaiti population: