Kuwait splits between conflicts of sheikhs, and sheikhs of conflicts
The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah arrived in London last week, leaving behind a political crisis and an outbreak public anger back home.
The Emir headed to his Al-Sabahiyah palace in the suburbs of London to rest and recuperate - for medical reasons - away from the commotion in Kuwait. He is well aware that it is not only him who needs recreation and medical examination; the Kuwaiti political system needs to be carefully examined by constitutional experts and wise politicians.
Differences have been escalating, and opposition to the prime minister has been gathering pace. Day after day, Prime Minister Nasser Al-Mohammad raises the rage of the Kuwaiti people to the extent that Kuwaitis - for the first time - took to the streets by the thousands to make it public in peaceful marches and through eloquent speeches calling for the removal of Nasser Al-Mohammad.
|The "battle" of democracy|
What is taking place in Kuwait are conflicts between influential figures, classes, races and different political forces; conflicts between Arabs and Persians, between Sunnis and Shiites, between the Bedouins and the urban population, between the Al-Sabah family and the people, and within the Al Sabah family itself.
Researcher Abdalaziz Alkhamis reviews such conflicts in this analysis. Inter-regime Conflict
"When there is one person, peace prevails, and when there are two, conflicts arise, and when there is more than two, alliances start".
This is an old saying that applies to the political conflicts in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti political culture is influenced by tribal traditions, in contrast to the popular view of it being more sophisticated than that in the neighbouring Arab Gulf states.
|Future sheikhs The conflict between the sheikhs of Al-Sabah over power is between four individuals; they represent an important power, and they have eligibility for rule, along with family and political alliances within the Kuwaiti society. These individual figures are: Muhammad al-Sabah Current Foreign Minister since 2003 and Deputy Prime Minister since 2006. He is the son of former Sheikh of Kuwait who is affiliated to the branch of Al-Salem, namely part of the branch that was recently excluded in the order of the royal family. But he works now to strengthen the branch of Al-Salem and build a strong front within of the family, by having an alliance with the grandchildren of Saad Al-Abdullah, the former emir, who ruled for just days. Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah left only one son, Fahad, who has Muhammad, Saad, Jaber, Khalied, and Abdullah. They are expected to play an important role in the future of the family which sees that the influence of its Al-Salem branch is declining. Those are expected to get in alliance with their cousin Mohamed Al-Sabah, to prop him up in the succession conflict. Nasser Al-Mohammed Prime Minister since 2006, but if it not for his closeness to the emir of Kuwait during his work at the royal cabinet, being in charge of it, and for his strong relations with him, he would not have taken this post. Some of the Al-Sabahs considered his appointment as a gamble and one of the mistakes of the current emir, while some see him as part of the political balance not only within the family but also to please the forces with which the sheikh maintains strong relationship with, including Shiite and Iranian forces. The scandalous points during the era of Nasser Al-Mohammed which are raised by the Kuwaiti opposition figures includes the following: - Increase in cases of arrests and imprisonment of oppositionists to the royal family in criminal lawsuits. - Although the income of the country grew from the rise in the prices of oil, this has not suitably reflected on the status of Kuwaiti citizens. - Keeping away from the Gulf, Arab stances and his insistence of throwing himself into the arms of the Persians. - In his era, MPs were beaten, in an insult to the constitution and the assembly rights. - Also in his era, citizens were killed by the security forces, in a country known for its tolerance and kindness in dealing between the security and the people. - He is accused of supporting the ‘escape’ of Yasser Al-Habib, who has been provoking sectarian seditions by insulting the caliphs and the wife of the prophet, and also he stands accused of facilitating his travel to Britain with a special travel passport. - Releasing and pardoning those behind the explosion of the Kuwaiti cafes and behind the attempt on the life of the emir of the country. - The appointment of the former National Assembly member, Fadil Safer, as minister of public works and minister of state for municipal affairs, and he is supported by Sheikh Nassr Al-Mohammed al-Sabah. Safer was arrested in connection with the case of eulogizing Emad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah leader who planned to assassinate Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahamed Al-Sabah, the late Emir of Kuwait. Ahmed Al-Fahad Minister of State for Housing and Development Affairs Ahmed Al-Fahad relies on the history of his martyr father Fahad Al-Ahmed who was killed during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Sheikh Ahmed tries to rally followers of him within the royal family, and also depends on civil, national forces known for obdurately clinging to the idea of nationalism without any links to external forces. The sheikh has tried to find supporters within Islamic currents, but has not been much successful. The sheikh is currently working to support his tribal alliances, especially with Al-Awazims. The opponents of Ahmad Al-Fahad accuse the sheikh of being neither clear or bold in announcing his positions on the current political crises. Some of these opponents promote the idea that the sheikh is a sycophant and elusive, and does not want his name thrown into battles even if his name was stuck into them, and moves away silently so as not to become involved in positions for which he may pay a high price. Especially as he plans to be a key player in the race for the seat of the emirate. According to sources, Ahmed Al-Fahad has under his wing some MPs who did not vote against Prime Minister Nasser Al-Mohammed, which means that he, at present, is allied with Nasser. The MPs under his wing include Saadoun Hammad, Delaihi Al-Hajiri, Khaled Al-Adwa, Askar Al-Anzi, and Saad Znever. But a significant change occurred this week in the second questioning as his MPs supported the questioning, in a dramatic reversal. In spite of this, some believe that Ahmed Al-Fahad and Nasser Al-Mohammad are two sides of the same coin. However, Nasser Al-Mohammed is inclined to Iran, while Ahmed Al-Fahad is the Pan-Arabist version of the Al-Sabah coin, like father like son. The sheikh's supporters defend him as being a politician, not an employee in a charity, and he who plays politics must be good at the fundamentals of speech and take stances carefully and ably, and learn well from his mistakes and the mistakes of others, and not known for being a reckless man who makes unjustified statements. They maintain that Ahmed Al-Fahad is only a minister in a cabinet run by Nasser Al-Mohammed, the number one official, and Ahmed Al-Fahad has no right to enter battles on behalf of his boss. A lot of Kuwaitis bet that Ahmed Al-Fahad is the next Emir of Kuwait, and that he is an important political player who is good at working without noise, and that Kuwaitis should rally with and support him against Nasser Al-Mohammed, who does not deserve the cabinet. Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Mubarak Minister of Defence and first Deputy Prime Minister since 2001 He is considered to be one of the influential pillars of the Al-Sabah family, and known for his closeness to some of the nomadic tribes and strong Pan-Arabist leanings. He is one of those who are disgruntled at the closeness of Nasser Al-Mohammed with Iran, announcing this at his meetings frankly and without equivocation. He is expected to play an important role in halting the ambitions of Nasser Al-Mohammad in becoming the Crown Prince. Meshaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah The name of Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah appears strongly these days as an alternative candidate for Nasser Al-Mohammed, and a bet from the Al-Sabah family to improve its image and resolve future differences that may affect the status of the family. As Nasser Al-Mohammed drove the Kuwaiti youth and the opposition to the point of calling for the prime minister post to be elected, a lot of voices within the royal family say that he is leading the family to a political demise. Some may even imagine that the future will see the first Gulf republic being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially as most of the Kuwaiti popular forces express their sickness of the actions of the royal family.|
According to studies by Kuwaiti researchers (such as Ali and Al-Kazimi, 2005), there are traditions such as loyalty, as well as a non-official system which aims to coordinate between the forces in a way that would serve the system and create tools for monitoring, overseeing and encouraging the behaviour of the members of this system, similar to the Gulf states and their societies. These networks and tools play an important role in the arrangement of Kuwaiti conflicts.
The modern conflicts in Kuwait may have been sparked by the disintegration of the family’s power, the fact that the Emir was ill, with the Crown Prince refusing the risk of stepping in, also the prime minister’s advisers of Persian identity and inclination, and the family’s internal division.
The arrests by Kuwaiti authorities of a spy network, whose members were put on trial and sentenced, has provoked reactions that underlined the dangers surrounding Kuwait and the deteriorating conflicts.
But the issue was not limited to that extent of Iranian intervention in Kuwait, as the Iranian intelligence attempted to penetrate the country and provide weapons to extremist gangs. This became clear when the Kuwaiti customs authorities seized an Iranian ship loaded with weapons, some of which are used for remote assassination.
All this is taking place, while the Prime Minister maintains silence. Many of the Al-Sabah family are disappointed with the prime minister’s helpless demeanour and how considerably subservient he is to the Iranian agents in Kuwait.
During a Kuwaiti political forum, Al-Anqari, a critic of the Al-Sabah family, said if Kuwait were a democratic country, the democratic regimes would not permit the monopoly of the premiership.
The prime ministers' decision to release Saad Abdul-Karim, the mastermind of Kuwaiti café bombings, who also plotted an assassination attempt on the Emir of Kuwait in the 1980s at the request of Iran, was - by all measures - a calamity to the Kuwaiti and Gulf milieus. This decision indicated that the Persian lobby in Kuwait was able to influence the prime minister and turn him into a channel for serving their ambitions.
What adds insult to injury is that the prime minister sought to get people, affiliated with Hezbollah, appointed in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). They could even occupy leading positions through which they could convey all the information of the GCC's meetings, and even decisions before they are issued.
Apart from the conflict with Iran and the lack of success in dealing with the issue, there are other conflicts and significant failures at the economic and development levels. These failures have been most obviously reflected in the case of the Kuwaiti citizen Ahmed Al-Arbeed who represents special evidence for the loss of balance in the Kuwaiti production sector.
Al-Arbeed was managing the project for northern oil fields' development in Kuwait. He and his boss, Ahmad al-Fahd, faced resistance and intransigence from the Kuwaiti National Assembly, which led him to stop working and travel abroad. He started to operate in Abu Dhabi as an official in charge of the Dana Gas project, where he and his colleagues made exceptional successes. This boosted the company's performance by more than 118%, and the company's profits reached 616 million dirhams in a short time.
Al-Arbeed did not agree with the problematic political and economic decision in Kuwait, so he went abroad to places where he was more welcome and valued. He represents an example of the departure of skilled and proficient Kuwaitis.
In the eyes of the people of the Gulf, Kuwait was an example of an open country in which investment could be put, and a country where the system dominates not the corrupt government environment that ruins economy. However, the significant decline in Kuwait's ranking among the world countries for the most welcoming for investment indicates that the current government, led by Nasser Al-Mohammad, has failed to present Kuwait as an investment-welcoming country.
We can see this in the "Doing Business" ranking. Kuwait was ranked 40th among the best world countries in terms of business environment in 2006 when Nasser Al-Mohammad took office. However, in 2007 Kuwait declined to the 46th rank, and moved down again to the 52nd place in 2009, and then to the 61st position in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Gulf governments progress forward to make their countries a better environment for business. Qatar is now ranked 39th, Bahrain 20th and the United Arab Emirates 33rd, while Saudi Arabia, which is a more complex environment, successfully reached the 13th rank worldwide.
Kuwait ranked low among the Gulf States in the Global Competitiveness Index for 2011 issued by the World Economic Forum. The Index takes into account several factors, including, amongst others: institutionalism, infrastructure, institutional business environment, health, education, higher education, training, effectiveness of commodity and labour markets, capital market growth, technology, purification, size of market, flexibility of business, and finally innovation.
In all these Kuwait ranked low among the Gulf States as it finished in the 35th place only followed by the resource-lacking Bahrain, while Qatar came 17th, Saudi Arabia 21st, the UAE 25th and Oman, which is impoverished in comparison to Kuwait, came 34th.
The index shows that internationally Kuwait ranked 83rd in the field of higher education and training.
According to figures published by the United Nations, Kuwait ranked low among countries attractive for international investment. In 2009, Kuwait was ranked last with investments amounting to 145 million USD. This is a scandal for a country with a huge market and purchasing power that should be enormous, owing to higher income and revenues. We can compare this figure with Oman’s revenues as the foreign direct investments reached more than 2.2 billion USD, while Saudi Arabia attracted more than 35-billion-dollar investments.
Certainly, Kuwait does not deserve this, as it was the beacon of the Gulf and at the leading level in the 1960s and the 1970s. But, the blame goes to the escalation of conflicts and the exploitation of development projects, either through freezing or bargains, in political battles between the royal family and the MPs.
Specialist reports confirm that the Kuwaiti government has utterly failed to improve the economic environment, not to mention the political one, and has not recovered from its crises yet. Conflicts between sheikhs
With every morning, Kuwaitis ask the questions: How things in the Al-Sabah family? Did the sheikhs sleep with no grudges or conspiracies in their hearts?
People in the Gulf remain watchful of the power struggle within the Al-Sabah family, especially between its Al-Salem and Al-Jaber branches. Since 1915, that conflict has continued between Al Jaber’s and Al Salem’s, who descend from Mubarak Al-Sabah, the founder of Kuwait and the strongman who had enabled this emirate to stand on principles he had established for his three sons. Salem and Jaber made use of them, while his third son, Hamad, stayed away from power, though some of his (Hamad’s) sons assumed key posts. Perhaps the most important of these posts is that of the Defence Minister (since 2001) and the first Deputy Prime Minister (Jaber Al-Mubarak).
After the death of Kuwait’s founder, Jaber assumed power for two years until 1917, followed by Salem, who took over till 1921, when Al-Jabers restored the rule through Ahmed Al-Jaber, who maintained the post until 1950.
Given the young age and lack of experience of Ahmed’s sons, power returned back to Al-Salems, where Abdullah ruled till 1965, followed by his brother, Sabah, until 1977. In that year, Al-Jabers won the rule back, represented by Jaber Al-Ahmad, whose term had gone through several difficult points in time, the Iraqi invasion being the most remarkable.
When Jaber Al-Ahmed passed away, the Al-Salem branch insisted that the rule goes to the then-ailing Crown Prince Saad Al-Abdullah, even if nominally. Therefore, Al-Abdullah governed from his sickbed. After his death, Al-Jabers restored the throne through the current emir, Sabah al-Ahmad. The question raised is whether this game of musical chairs will continue, despite the fact that Nawaf Al-Ahmad, the brother of the current emir, and a descendant from the same family branch, is himself the crown prince? And what is the position of Al-Salems on the rule, or is it an expression of gratitude?
Al-Salems had ruled through Sheikhs Abdullah and Sabah. Therefore, it is not strange that two brothers govern respectively, but what is important is who is the third one to take over?
Any one researching the balance of power within the ruling Al-Sabah family will have to admit that there is a balance of power sharing between the family’s two branches. As for the Al-Salems, 11 sheikhs have held posts as ministers or emirs since 1956, assuming 78 positions, two of which were emirate ruler. On the other hand, Al-Salems filled 73 posts, three of which where emir ruler. Meanwhile, like the Al-Jabers, they occupied 11 ministerial positions.
The Al-Sabah family branches are not limited to Al-Salems and Al-Jabers; there are also Al-Hamad’s and Al-Abdullah’s, who introduced five sheikhs filling 26 posts, the most remarkable of which is that of the Defence Minister post which is still filled until now by Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. At the moment, the foreign minister and deputy prime minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem, a respectable, academically qualified figure, who obtained his P.H.D in philosophy from Harvard University in the US, only represent Al-Salems. He is expected to move far up the government ranks, but there is tough competition from different family branches. He is also expected to be one of the key rivals for Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed, should popular pressures to remove the latter succeed.
But Al-Salems did not put all of their eggs in Mohammed Al-Sabah’s basket, for there is an emerging power represented in the sons of Sheikh Fahad Ibn Saad Al-Abdullah, the former emir, who are expected to represent a strong pro-Mohammed Al-Sabah bloc that can balance the strength of Al-Jabers.
But the power struggle within the royal family is not only between Al-Jabers and Al-Salems, but also among Al-Jabers themselves. Nasser Al-Mohammed, who has been eyeing the rank of crown prince since Nawaf al-Ahmad took over, especially when the emir was ill and abroad, is facing strong rivalry from Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad, the deputy head of the National Guard, who surpasses him in age, eminence, and alliances.
While Nasser Al-Mohammed enjoys a great financial solvency that exceeds Sheikh Meshaal’s, and buys allegiances either in the Kuwait National Assembly or on the street.
Meshaal enjoys acceptance among the Kuwait’s tribal community, which sees him as a suitable alternative to Nasser Al-Mohammed. Meshaal also enjoys the backing of some branches of the Al-Sabah family, and even many of the Kuwaiti families that have not yielded to Nasser Al-Mohamed’s financial clout.
Kuwait’s intelligentsia is currently demanding immediate change before it is too late, arguing that the sheikhs’ prestige has been strongly shaken in the eyes of many of the public who are stunned by Nasser Al-Mohammed’s conduct.
Nasser Al-Mohammad, on his part, has not taken any steps to respond to the accusations, instead remaining utterly silent, leaving his media machine to answer back on his behalf.
But the latest development, in which the National Assembly members allied themselves with Ahmad Al-Fahad, another emir post seeker, against the decision to refer the questioning of Nasser Al-Mohamed on Tuesday, confirms that blows are continuing against Nasser, who travelled out of Kuwait, an action described by some of his opponents as an escape from confrontation.
For the time being, Ahmad Al-Fahad’s bloc appears very strong within the National Assembly, acting smartly, like a young dancer facing ageing competitors. It sometimes backs the prime minister when the opposition speaks up (22 May 2011), but turns against him when it seeks to weaken him and subject him to increased pressure to escape from his post (31 May 2011).
With an obvious relish, Ahmed Al-Fahad subjects the prime minister to parliamentary and popular pressures, showing this off among his guards and supporters, who are considered to be one of the largest blocs that is similar to an armed militia. The Balance of People’s Power
The influence of some families can be recognized through their ability to introduce representatives, get them into the National Assembly, and convince Kuwaiti decision-makers to select ministers from those representatives. There are of course also some families that are economically important, but yet have different political influence on the popular level due to their affiliations to the Al-Sabah family, and their preference to acquire gains through that family rather than ballot boxes.
Until today, the number of families that introduced ministers and representatives stands at 108.
Some of those belonging to Kuwaiti families reiterate that Kuwait, politically, is embodied in the familial powers behind the fence, denying the outstanding role played by tribal forces in the country’s political life. Those believe that the families represented in the Shoura Council in 1921 are the skeletons of Kuwait's political life, including the families of Al-Mudaf, Al-Khaled, Al-Humaidi, Al-Saqer, Al-Ghanim, Al-Saif, Al-Naqib, Al-Rasheed, Al-Bader, Al-Khodair, Hilal Al-Mutairi, and Al-Qenaei. Some add other families to the list, like Al-Kharafi, Al-Mutawa, Al-Khamis, Al-Nafisi, and others.
Al-Ghanim family is considered politically important in Kuwait, as it had introduced nine representatives, thus becoming the leading parliamentarian family, in addition to four ministers, throughout electoral battles for which it nominated 18 candidates since the establishment of the Kuwaiti National Assembly.
Al-Ghanim family is known for its sense of nationalism and Pan-Arabism. It has always engaged in battles for its Pan-Arabism and political commitments. The most renowned Pan-Arabist, nationalist figures descending from the family include Abdul Latif Mohammed Al-Thanyan Al-Ghanem in 1962, and Marzouq Thanayan Al-Ghanim, who joined the opposition in 2006, and was famous for pushing against the drift of Kuwait’s detachment from Arab issues. Al-Ghanims are of course quite known for their commercial and financial strength, both on the local and international levels. The family stands by the Al-Sabah’s, especially Crown Prince Nawaf Al-Ahmad, whose wife is a member of Al-Jasims, which is a part of Al-Ghanim family.
Al-Ghanim family descends from the Anza tribe; and the family’s alliance with Al-Sabahs is clear, given that it belongs to the same tribe.
Al-Ghanims estimate their numbers by 3000, which makes the family a key electoral and political power.
The Al-Adsani family ranks second after Al-Ghanims in terms of the number of representatives and ministers, introducing 8 of both. Al-Adsani’s belong to Aqeel Ibn Abi Talib, a descendant from the house of Prophet Mohammed. They came to Kuwait from Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia. The most well known figure of the family is Mohammed Bin Yusuf Al-Adsani, who was considered to be one of the most important pillars of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. He used to adopt firm stances against some orientations by the Al-Sabah family.
The Al-Khaled family too represented a key political weight during the 1960s, introducing 8 representatives and ministers as well. Its representatives have nationalist and Pan-Arabist orientations and are also members of the Arab Nationalists’ Movement. Some of their stances were embodied in achieving a parliamentary presence and then quitting their seats.
Several families follow al-Khaleds with a notable political presence such as Al-Kharafi and Al-Saqer, which derive their power from their economic dominance.
AL-Kharafi reflects a reformist role, but the family does not take the side of the opposition at the present. Rather, they consider themselves as arbitrators and mediators in the event of differences between the traditional families and the royal family.
The chairman of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Jassim Al-Kharafi, finds himself in an undesirable situation, as he took the side of the prime minister against his opponents. This has made him lose important ties with Kuwait’s opposition, and his family has thus now lost its neutral and balanced stances among Kuwaitis. At a time, the family stood by the opposition and Pan-Arabists through Mohammed Abdel Mohsen Al-Kharafi. On the other end of the extreme, Al-Saqer family is currently with the opposition. Mohamed Jassim Al-Saqer plays a remarkable role in engaging Kuwait’s urban communities in the conflict with the present government. Urban families, along with tribes, participated in a noticeable rally on last Friday night 3th June 2011 where opponents to the prime minister provided evidence of their strength and capability of mobilization. In unique organization, they staged a sit-in, listened to speeches, and walked in a massive march to the Kuwaiti parliament to voice their demands for reducing the powers of the prime minister and electing him directly by the people. What they did is considered to be the first demand - in action not words - for challenging the royal family and reducing its influence. Tribal forces
In Kuwait, there are large tribal extensions, mostly into the Saudi depth. But these tribes are not considered to be loyal to the Saudi regime, given what is known about some of them historically - being in alliance with Al-Sabahs, supporting them and fighting battles against Iraq and Al-Saud on the Kuwaiti side.
Eleven tribes played a major role in the political life of Kuwait. Al-Awazems had the biggest political presence, as its members won 109 seats, and in the current National Assembly it occupies six seats. The members of the tribe are concentrated in the fifth constituency (4 MPs) and the first constituency (2 MPs).
Perhaps the most important political figures of the tribe include Mekhled Ibn Rashid Al-Azmi and Ghanim Al-Mae, but the tribe introduced a current Muslim Brotherhood MP. This MP is Falah Mutlaq Al-Azmi, perhaps the only one who made it to the assembly from the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait.
After Al-Awazem comes the two tribes of Mutair and Al-Ajman equally with 61 seats, but Mutairis have five seats in the current assembly, while Al-Ajmanis have three.
Mutairis now stand strongly against the prime minister, and they represent the voice of strong opposition against Nasser Al-Mohammad ‘s monopoly of power.
MP Muslim Al-Barrak is considered to be the most popular in elections. He represents a power to be reckoned with on the Kuwaiti people’s level, and he is the MP who won the highest votes in Kuwait. The number of voters he received reached 18,779, followed by 16602 votes obtained by Falah Al-Azmi.
Al-Rashaida tribe comes fourth in terms of the number of MPs, as since 1962, it has won 51 seats.
Perhaps MP Ali Al-Deqbasi is the most famous of them now. He received death threats from the Syrians because, as Speaker of the Arab Parliament, he denounced the killing of civilians by the Syrian regime.
He is an opposition MP, currently on the list of MPs voting against Prime Minister Nasser Al-Mohammad.
Tribes have a great importance and play a growing but changing political role. The norm in Kuwaiti politics was that tribes were inclined to be in alliance with the royal family. But, currently, with the prime minister taking up his post, most of the tribes’ MPs kept off the royal family and joined the rank of the opposition and rights advocates.
Many people believe that tribes have become part of the battles within the royal Al-Sabah family, and take the side of parties against others. Conflict of Islamic forces
Kuwait is not in a desirable position, and can not - with all its great wealth - choose a location closer to Switzerland in order to get rid of the fact that it is situated in the midst of the growing Sunni-Shiite conflict, and between Shiite forces to the north and east and Sunni forces to the south.
|Scenarios for the future of power The first scenario: Strong After the departure of the current emir, Nawaf Al-Ahmed takes over power. He is expected to nominate Nasser Al-Mohammed as Crown Prince. Because the Kuwaiti Constitution stipulates that the National Assembly must accept the emir’s nomination, and if the assembly rejects it, the emir must re-submit three candidates. In this case, we can see a hard battle over which the family will be divided because Emir Nawaf Al-Ahmed will present the three seniors: Meshaal Al-Ahmed, Fahad Al-Ahmed and Nasser Al-Mohammed. A family dispute is expected to occur that could lead to paralysis in the political life for some time, followed by compromises and pressures within the family, through which the strong figure, Ahmed Al-Fahad, will advance as he will be supported by the tribal and Sunni MPs and some Shiites. The second scenario: Average The current emir, Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, suffers from frequent health crises, which suggests changes in government can take place soon. According to evaluations, Crown Prince Nawaf Al-Ahmed will take over power and will settle the conflict over the crown prince post in favour of Meshaal Al-Ahmed, the deputy head of the National Guard, who has several advantages; he is older than his competitors, he is considered by some as the godfather of compromises in the family, and finally he is a solution to the dispute over the name of Nasser Al-Mohammed. The third scenario: Weak The crown prince post continues - smoothly - to be held by the prime minister, in this case Nasser Al-Mohammed, if he was not removed. But he must be able to get Ahmed Al-Fahd and Meshaal Al-Ahmed out of the conflict, and this needs huge support from influential forces in the palaces or in the street. But what weakens his chances is that this scenario would take place while the strong supporter of Nasser Al-Mohammed, current Emir Sabah Al-Ahmed has left the scene. Then Nasser Al-Mohammed will not find many stakes in his favour, but he may unite the family to support him, and this is one of the hardest tasks, if not Mission Impossible.|
Some may see Kuwait as a state with 100% Muslim population, but the truth is that it has Christians who hold Kuwaiti nationality. This unique reality is celebrated on the TVs of the emirate.
According to official reports, 70 per cent of the Kuwaitis are Sunnis and the rest are Shiites, but what is surprising is that the number of Shiite MPs is less than five. This gives a clear indication that the Shiite figure may be exaggerated, or that the distribution of seats according to regions is not fair, but it seems that the exaggeration is closer to the truth.
The Al-Sabah family follow the Maliki Islamic school of thought, but they are close to the Hanbalis of Najd and always find themselves surrounded by a structure that is Hanbali more than Maliki. As a result of the limited differences between the two schools and their proximity to each other, unless the hard-line Salafist groups stepped in, things would be quiet on the religious Sunni scene.
Conflicts are currently concentrated between the two wings of Kuwait - Sunnis and Shiites.
Observers can see that the differences and rivalry between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist have shrunk now because of the Iranian interference in the Kuwaiti arena. The Kuwaiti Sunnis may thank Iran as its actions acted as incentives that made the MPs of the Islamic Constitutional Movement, "HADS", join Salafist MPS against the prime minister and conduct organized sit-ins and protests together.
The Islamic political movement influence in Kuwait started in the 1970s when the government appointed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf Al-Hadji, the chairman of the Social Reform Association, as Minister of Awqaf. Following this, Islamic action started to gain momentum, strengthened by the state of frustration in the Arab world after the June 1967 defeat and the revolution of Wali al-Faqih in Iran.
A fierce battle began between Islamic trends on the one hand, and liberals, nationalists and leftists on the other, over the Ministry of Education.
Important factors became involved in this conflict, such as the tribal movement. There were heated calls for social justice from a variety of tribes and Bedouins living in the suburbs of Kuwait and suffering from political exclusion from decision-making.
The Islamic forces started to become clear in their purposes and objectives, and social-economic networks were established. Mosques were used to serve them; the finance house provided all the support it could, and victory was celebrated in 1981 when Islamists defeated the other forces and were able to control constituencies to make it to the National Assembly.
After Islamists had a free rein in the scene, division factors started to become clear, as concealed rivalry began between the Social Reform Association (Muslim Brotherhood) and the Heritage Society (Salafist). In the meanwhile, most Shiites lined up behind the Culture Society, which was treading in the footsteps of the revolution of Wali al-Faqih in Iran.
But like in the case of Sunnis, divisions also began among Shiites. There were other societies, such as the Human Message, a gathering of Shiites who emigrated from the Saudi Al-Ahsa, the Gathering of Justice and Peace, which faced splits in the last elections and is a gathering of the imitators of Ayatollah Shirazi. There was also the National Islamic Alliance, which is considered to be the important representative of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Kuwait. It is also an extension of the Culture Society which was active in the 1960s.
In addition, there were the National Covenant Gathering, imitators of Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon, and the Friendship and Peace Gathering.
The Shiite forces are considered to be close to the Al-Sabah family; indeed one of the Shiite officers was at some point the Chief of Staff. They now stand on the side of the Prime Minister Nasser Al-Mohammad and strongly support him. They do not have any complaints of discrimination, except that they want the Ashura day to be an official holiday. External conflict
One of the most important aspects of Kuwaiti conflicts is related to the country’s exterior. Nobody can forget how the Iraqi-Kuwait conflict has impacted the region, and indeed the world.
This conflict began in 1939 when King Ghazi broadcast his statement in which he said that Kuwait was an extension of Iraq after internal events in Kuwait and disputes between parties in the family and civil forces at the time.
But for Kuwait - in its modern shape after senior Mubarak founded it - this was not the first danger it faced, as there were previous wars with Saadoun Pasha, governor of southern Iraq and the leader of Al-Muntafiq tribes. There were also battles to stop the ambitions of Ibn Rasheed for Hail. The last of the battles with the depth of the Arabian Peninsula was against Ibn Duwayish and Matair tribe.
With the strong support from Britain, the Al-Sabah family continued to rule without problems, but history repeated itself during the reign of Abdul Karim Qassem, and then Saddam Hussein. Conflicts will not stop as long as there is wealth in the region.
But being in a conflict with exterior forces does not mean that Kuwait is always the oppressed and coveted party. We do encounter that some people from the Al Sabah family write history in an inaccurate way, sparking regional feuds. They deal with the situation on the border on the basis that the best way to defend is to attack; they say that the Kuwaiti territory stretches north to the borders of Basra and south to the Saudi depth. What Maymuna Al-Sabah wrote and what Suad Al-Sabah pointed out is enough. It is as if the task of Al-Sabah women is to defend the borders of the emirate.
On the other hand, Kuwait deals with Iran softly, and Kuwaiti historians do not talk about the ports, land and property owned by Kuwait and the Al-Sabah family on the mainland of Arabistan which have been invaded and controlled by the Persians. Indeed this property has become a thing of the past, while the dossiers of the border with Iraq and Saudi Arabia are opened whenever a sheikh or sheikha gets angry.
In depth, the issue of borders and their disputes is one of the types of conflicts always experienced by Kuwait, and is played when needed either by those surrounding Kuwait or within even the domestic political forces.
Dr Maymuna Al-Sabah told the Kuwaiti Al-Watan newspaper that Kuwait had lost large parts of its territory in the 1913 agreement, that was signed between the British and the Ottomans to demarcate the border in the north of Kuwait. She also said that Kuwait lost a part of Umm Qasr and other northern areas, which made Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah at the time to protest and reject this plan.
Of course, Al-Sabah’s statement was a response to the protest by the Iraqis against the building of the port of senior Mubarak on the Kuwaiti Bubiyan Island. It was considered as a threat to Iraqi sea outlets, particularly given the Iraqi plans to expand the port of Umm Qasr. Iraqis said that the Kuwaiti port violated international law, which prevents the construction of a port near another port that would undermine it and disturb traffic of ships in shallow, narrow waters.
The accusation against the Kuwaitis confirms that the construction of the port is nothing but an act of sabotage and harassment of Iraq and its interests, and contributes to the strangulation of Iraq. Iraq only has a small area on the Arabian Gulf and its ports suffer from narrow passageways and shallow waters. Kuwait can build its ports in better areas, especially as it has coasts that open more into the deep waters.
But are the boundary problems of Kuwait's borders only lies with Iraq? Of course not, because the parties collaborating with Iran in Kuwait, which are not pleased with the calm in the relations between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, always raise the question that the Kuwaiti-Saudi borders are not real, as they are now, and that the Kuwaiti borders extend to the Saudi city of Jubail.
An internal dialogue is under way in the circles of Al-Qallaf and other turbaned Kuwaitis to the effect that that Al-Sabah should ask Saudi Arabia for Kuwaiti territory that begins west from the outskirts of the emirate of Hail to the Jubail in the south into the Saudi depth.
Many Kuwaitis mock these claims and consider them part of the imagination, of Persian origin, and a political game to split the two brothers, the Kuwaiti and the Saudi. Indeed some of them reiterate that these claims are Iranian plans to trigger hatred and hostile tendencies within Kuwait against Saudi Arabia and, therefore, influence Kuwaiti public opinion, as part of the Persian plan for a united Persian Gulf under the turban of Khamenei.