Rafale deal is huge mistake and Iraq must do more to assure Kuwaitis, prominent Kuwaiti activist says

May 14, 2010
By

Zayed Al Zaid was adamant: the deal to sell French Rafale planes to Kuwait is so flawed that it should not be allowed to go ahead.

“It is a huge mistake and a waste of money that it should not be approved despite all the assurances we hear and the pressure we get from the French,” said the Kuwaiti publisher and blogger as he reached out for a cup of tea in his diwaniya.

Al Zaid has been writing and talking against the deal, but insisted it was only to address the dark points.

“I have nothing against France or the people involved in the deal. But I resent being taken for a fool or being scorned by those pushing for the sale in both Kuwait and France. I cannot tolerate seeing someone flying all the way from Paris to tell us Kuwaitis here in Kuwait City that whatever we had said was useless because the deal would go ahead anyway. I also dislike the fact people are using the Emir’s name to put pressure on those who oppose the deal and make them change their minds,” he said.

His diwaniya is new, but has seen several heated debates and intense discussions. Al Zaid has recently moved to the new house in Al Fintas, an upmarket area alongside the coast in the suburbs of Kuwait City.

Talal, his oldest son, walked in followed by his younger brother Fawwaz.

“Lunch is ready. Please honour us,” said Talal.

We move to the dining room.

“This is the Kuwaiti national dish: machboos with chicken and daqoos. Please let me fill your plate.”

“Despite all the changes that have affected society, we cling to our traditions,” Al Zaid said.

Between mouthfuls, Al Zaid talked about Kuwait’s relations with Iraq.

“We want the Iraqis to admit what happened and take measures that it is never repeated. We want them to teach their sons and daughters about the invasion and explain to them the wrongs it caused. Regretfully, many Iraqis refuse this move and often come up with a multitude of excuses to avoid it. This hurts,” he said.

Brainwashed

“There is a lot of tension between Kuwait and Iraq and I believe that it is not addressed properly because the bottom line is that most Iraqis want us to apologise and pay for their invasion of Kuwait!”

For Al Zaid, the obvious paradoxes and contrasts in the Iraqi positions reflect hatred of Kuwait and Kuwaitis.

“One of the biggest paradoxes that we have seen is when the Iraqis ask us for compensation for allowing the US to use our land to launch their operations to get rid of Saddam the Tyrant. Yet, they not only do not say anything to the US the country that invaded them, but they rush openly to sign security and strategic deals with it,” he said.

Under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, Iraq is setting aside five per cent of its oil revenues to pay war reparations that resulted from the invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-1991. Iraq has said it owed $25.5 billion (Dh93 billion) in reparations, with $24 billion due to Kuwait alone.

But the Iraqis are pressing for a change in the deal, arguing they needed the extra cash to help fund rebuilding and investment projects

“We think that they should either forgive the compensation 100 per cent or reduce it to one per cent,” Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati said in April. “We can accept one per cent.”

But Al Zaid, like many Kuwaitis, disagree. “First of all, Iraq has to show it has good intentions,” he said.

He added that Iraqis had generally been so brainwashed into believing Kuwait was part of Iraq that the new governments would not take the bold step of fixing relations between the two countries upon the principle of mutual respect and non-interference.

The Iraqi issue remains, 20 years after the invasion of Kuwaiti by Saddam Hussain’s troops, highly emotional and deeply contentious.

When Kuwait’s foreign minister said in Washington on April 29 his country would use the compensation funds from the United Nations to develop the southern part of Iraq, a vociferous MP did not wait more than a few hours to launch a scathing attack and warned of strong action.

“We deeply regret the statement by Shaikh Mohammad Al Sabah about using the compensation funds that Kuwait will receive from the United Nations as a consequence of the Iraqi invasion to invest in Iraq’s infrastructure,” MP Musallam Al Barrak, the spokesman for the Popular Action Bloc, said.

Shaikh Mohammad recently said in Washington that Kuwait had indicated explicitly that it was willing to use the compensation that it received from the United Nations to invest in Iraq’s infrastructure.

“We are currently in discussion with the Iraqi government along with the British and the Turkish governments to develop the southern part of Iraq as an industrial zone. I know there are a lot of private Kuwaiti investors in Iraq.

However, Al Barrak said that the minister was wrong in making the statement.

“He might have wanted to absorb the fury of the Iraqis, but that should not be at the detriment of the Kuwaiti people and their dignity.”

Some residential areas in Kuwait do not have schools and some houses are still without electricity or water, Al Barrak said.

“There are areas that do not have proper roads and we have public employees who are not being treated fairly. But instead of looking at these issues, the minister wants us to help Iraqis,” the MP said. “Kuwait and Kuwaitis should be given absolute priority.”

Meanwhile at Kuwait airport, security is exceptionally tight.

“When it comes to the security of Kuwait and the safety of its people and residents, there is not the slightest compromise or lapse,” the security officer all in black said.

Developments indicated he was right.

On May 1, a local daily reported that security agencies had busted a multi-national spy cell working for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and collecting information on vital Kuwaiti military sites and the US presence in the northern Arabian Gulf country.

The paper did not however say when the arrests occurred and there were no immediate official comments on whether it was different from the busting of a terror cell reported by another Kuwaiti daily eight days earlier.

According to the report published by Al Qabas on its front page, security forces raided the home of one of the cell leaders in Sulaibiya and found maps for vital sites, highly sensitive and sophisticated communications devices and more than $250,000 in cash.

The military members of the cell were monitoring and taking pictures of Kuwaiti and US military sites and assigned to gather information about the joint exercises between Kuwait and military alliance forces.

The sources said members of the cell had confessed that their tasks also included recruiting members whose ideas and orientations were similar to those of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

In the last week of April, Kuwaiti daily Al Shahed reported that the security agencies had busted a terrorist cell that included Kuwaitis and Arabs and headed by a Yemeni national. According to the Kuwaiti paper, the cell had plotted to target foreign interests in the region.

Special security measures have been taken at Kuwait’s entry and exit points as part of the plan to thwart danger, the paper said.

But all the information and speculation by the Kuwaiti media about the cell came to an abrupt end three days after Al Qabas broke the news.

The public prosecutor imposed a gag, citing the need for investigations to be carried out in serene conditions and away from all allegations.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog, called upon the Kuwaiti authorities to lift the gag, saying that coverage of the alleged cell could not affect investigations.

“People say that we have the freest media in the Arab world, and I agree,” said Al Zaid. “But this distinction must not make us forget that we still have a long way to go.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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