Iraqi-Kuwait relations deteriorate
Kuwaiti lawmakers strongly blasted their Iraqi counterparts for attacking Kuwait, with some urging the government to recall the Kuwaiti ambassador from Baghdad and at least one MP calling to sever ties with Iraq.
The Kuwaiti MPs’ strong reactions came after several Iraqi lawmakers launched a scathing attack on Kuwait for allegedly refusing an Iraqi request to the UN to exit from Chapter 7 of the UN charter which imposed sanctions on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait launched a diplomatic offensive last week when a senior Kuwaiti envoy handed letters to the five UN Security Council permanent members. Kuwait has insisted that it does not object to Iraq exiting Chapter 7 but only after fulfilling its obligations in full under Security Council resolutions. These obligations include demarcating land and sea borders, payment of billions of dollars of war reparations, returning stolen Kuwaiti property and remains of Kuwaiti prisoners of war believed to be killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Iraqi MPs urged a halt to reparation payments to Kuwait over the 1990 occupation, with some wanting the state to compensate Iraq for its role in the US-led 2003 invasion. Kuwait has already received about US $13 billion from Iraq, but a further US $25.5 billion remains unpaid.
The UN Security Council imposed crippling sanctions on Baghdad after Saddam’s 1990 invasion. Most were lifted in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but an arms embargo and some financial restrictions remain, aside from reparations. Five percent of Iraqi oil revenue is transferred into a special UN fund for compensation.
Iraqi MPs demanded that Kuwait pay compensation to Iraq for allowing US forces to use its territory to invade Iraq. Others rejected a UN Security Council resolution which demarcated the borders between the two countries, claiming that those borders were imposed by the United Nations.
3 June 2009
Analysis and forecast (↑ increasing risk)
Although Kuwaitis were the first to welcome the demise of the Saddam Hussein regime, the take-up of government positions by Iraqi Shiites has made many Kuwaiti politicians uneasy. There is a sizeable Shiite minority in Kuwait and, although it enjoys better conditions than their counterparts in other GCC states, the presence of a strong Shiite-controlled state in Iraq indirectly gives moral strength to Shiites asking for greater rights.
The recent exchanges between parliamentarians is likely to be the first in a long series of difficulties between the two neighbours. Although military action is very unlikely, the indirect effects of resuming long-running diplomatic disputes will undoubtedly affect intra-Kuwaiti relations as well as undermining Kuwait’s standing compared to other GCC states, who are more immune from direct diplomatic conflict with Iraq.
Opposition files for questioning Interior minister
Opposition MP Mussallam Al-Barrak carried out his election campaign threat yesterday by filing a request to grill Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, accusing him of squandering public funds, failure to prevent vote-buying and ordering the installation of cameras to spy on public rallies.
He based his grilling on three main accusations: squandering public funds by awarding a multi-million-dinar contract in violation of the law, attempting to damage the election process by failing to take action against a candidate who offered money to other candidates at the election department and finally for ordering the state security agency to install cameras to spy on public rallies.
Barrak’s grilling is the first in the new parliament and comes less than a month after the elections and barely one week after the inaugural session of the new Assembly.
A number of opposition lawmakers said they totally support the grilling while some other MPs raised suspicions about the possibility it may breach the constitution. Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi said the grilling has been placed on the agenda of the 23 June session for debate. Following the debate, 10 MPs can file a no-confidence motion. To pass, it requires the support of a simple majority of the members of the Assembly without Cabinet ministers, which means 25 votes. If passed, it would mean an automatic dismissal of the minister.
Analysis and forecast (↑ increasing risk)
The insistence of the opposition to grill the interior minister returns to the fore the tensions between the government and parliament, that has plagued the Kuwaiti political scene for over three years. Requests to question the prime minister have resulted in the resignation of the previous government and dissolution of parliament, as parliamentary questioning is seen as humiliating and the prime minister, or accused minister resigns. The latest request to quiz the interior minister confirms Political Capital’s prediction that the parliamentary elections held in May will not present a permanent resolution to the crisis, especially that Sheikh Nasser was asked to form the new cabinet. Although there will be deliberations on whether the questioning of the interior minister is constitutional, the fact that a request has been filed points to a potential clash between parliament and the government. The opposition have said that they would not quiz the prime minister himself until the Iraqi-Kuwaiti crisis are resolved, removing an imminent more serious clash. However, regardless of whether the prime-minister or the interior minister are actually quizzed, the filing of the request represents an abrupt and sudden end to the truce between the government and parliament.