On Aug 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to invade Kuwait, a historic moment that exposed the true fragility of Arab unity. It was a day that also proved to be the start of major changes in the Middle East. Saddam’s actions paved the way for turmoil in Iraq, and ultimately 16 years later, an execution verdict for himself. The removal of Saddam meant a new Iraq and a friendlier neighbor for Kuwait.
Twenty-five years later, we are reflecting on how much has changed for Kuwait. From a regional point of view, the removal of Saddam and the security forces of that era was like a huge prison break for dangerous criminals. I understand that Saddam was a dictator, but even in a dictatorship, there are criminals who deserve the prosecution they get and there were officers who genuinely loved their country and did not abuse their powers.
However, all the good and bad were released from prison or relieved from duty in the police or military. Personally, I would have kept the police and the military intact but replaced the hierarchy and prosecuted all those who abused their powers. At least that would have kept the good ones in the job rather than allowing IS to pay for their services and cause a sectarian division.
By now you must be thinking, well what does this have to do with Kuwait? Unfortunately, an unstable Iraq causes many problems for its neighboring countries and the threat of IS just makes it worse for everyone. Internally, Kuwait has failed to take advantage of the opportunity of a friendly northern neighbor.
In fact, our lawmakers still fail to realize that what they do and say can impact Kuwait’s relations across the region. Our neutrality and ability to maintain working ties with all our neighbors is a crucial element of our foreign policy. Worse, we’ve let sectarian strife and discord enter our local politics.
Instead of showing greater unity in the face of regional upheaval, some of our lawmakers do their best to promote division and discord. The region is embroiled in a series of interconnected conflicts that can destroy all our efforts to develop. Kuwait must be wise and diplomatic and navigate these issues without losing its internal strength – our unity.
Twenty-five years ago we faced a national crisis that brought us all together. Little more than a month ago, on June 26, we were reminded just how vulnerable we can be, and more importantly, how important our unity is. I hope 25 years from now, we can look back on today and be proud of how great Kuwait has become through our shared efforts and shared destiny.
By Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan