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Kuwaiti MPs and officials have condemned a statement by Iraq's ambassador to the Arab League Qais Azzawi, in which he reportedly said that his country does not recognize the current border between Kuwait and Iraq. "Baghdad should take a clear stand on the borders issue in accordance with UN resolutions," insisted a number of MPs.

 

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry yesterday summoned Iraqi Ambassador in Kuwait Mohammed Bahr Al-Uloom over the remarks. The ministry said in a release it had handed the Iraqi ambassador in Kuwait a memo of protest over Al-Azzawi's statements earlier on Tuesday, casting doubts about UN Security Council resolutions on the demarcation of borders between Iraq and Kuwait.

 

In its memo, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry "emphatically condemned" such statements from an Iraqi government representative at the Arab League. It said: "Al-Azzawi's call for the demarcation of the border between both nations runs counter to relevant UN Security Council and international legitimacy resolutions." "The border issue has been finally settled through international legitimacy and both countries' governments," the ministry added. In its memo, the ministry asked for clarifications from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry over the recent remarks.

 

MP Musallam Al-Barrak said, "I do not find this statement strange, and we tell [Al-Azzawi] that neither you nor your government can change anything." He added, "Our Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah, who is dealing lightly and diffidently with others, should deal with them in a better way." Al-Barrak said that if the Iraqi ambassador had received a denial from Azawi, "he should explain that to the Kuwait media.

 

July 12, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The gradually increasing tensions between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi government have become an area for serious concern. Relations between Kuwait and Iraq have been essentially cut between the Iraqi invasion of the Kuwait in 1990 until the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime. Although relations have since been restored, there has been continuous mistrust between both countries. What has increased the mistrust is that fact that Kuwait, a Sunni country with a large Shiite community, has found itself neighbouring a large Shiite-run  country, in addition to Shiite Iran. So although relations between Iraq and Kuwait were extremely bad after the 1990 invasion, Kuwait was generally more comfortable dealing with Iraq as a Sunni-run country.

 

The recent spat carries risks to Kuwait on two fronts:

  1. Internally, statements have been made condemning the Iraqi position by both government and parliament. However, the Sunni Islamist opposition has criticized the government of being too lenient towards the Iraqi government. This could create another area of conflict within Kuwait.
  2. Although it is almost impossible for Iraq to attack Kuwait on this border dispute, the spat indicates that should a war break-out against Iran, Iraq will more likely use its border issue with Kuwait as a bargaining chip. The current Iraqi regime is staunchly pro-Iranian (though not necessarily pro-regime) and a threat against Iran will translate into a risk for Sunni GCC states, and this border issue with Iraq may translate into a point of conflict.

The figure below shows local Shiite populations in the GCC, including Kuwait, which has the second highest local Shiite population after Bahrain. Over a third of Kuwaitis are Shiite.