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The Islamist bloc in Kuwait’s parliament has expressed rare public opposition to a planned purchase of French-made Rafale warplanes and it warned it would grill senior officials if the deal were signed.

 

“Signing the purchase agreement means we will grill whoever is responsible for authorizing the deal,” spokesman for the Islamist Reform and Development Bloc Faisal al-Muslim told a press conference. Another of the bloc’s MPs, Jamaan al-Harbash produced what he said were documents from the defense ministry recommending that the purchase be dropped. “The reports concluded that the plane is not technically advanced, its price is very expensive and so are its spare parts,” Harbash said.

 

April 10, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The public reaction by the Kuwaiti opposition is another sign of the gradual edging of public anti-government sentiment into the defense arena. Kuwait, like all other GCC states, has purchased weapons from the West, including France for decades. Indeed, GCC states are amongst the highest spenders on defense budgets, almost all of which all spent in the West. There has been silent and often repressed accusations by local and pan-Arab opposition to what has been referred to as plundering of oil revenue. Accusations have also often hovered around commissions paid by and for the GCC governments and weapons’ manufacturers.

 

However, the vocal, public opposition to an arms purchase deal by members of parliament in Kuwait is a rare occasion when such opposition is public from within the GCC. This not only threatens opening up one of the last frontiers not yet tackled by the increasingly stronger Kuwaiti opposition, but also the rest of the GCC. If the purchase does go ahead and the grilling does indeed in made, the fallout is expected to be very serious, possibly leading to the dissolution of parliament to avoid embarrassment. The Kuwaiti opposition has chosen to grill the government on what is perhaps the most sensitive issue and it will be very surprising if the government chooses to answer the oppositions’ calls.

 

The figure below shows the current make-up of the Kuwaiti parliament. Although the opposition is not in the majority, the questioning on this very sensitive subject may be enough reason for the Emir to dissolve parliament, as it is getting very close to stepping into the Kuwaiti “Holy of Holies”: