x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Iraq-Kuwait ties are long overdue

Baghdad and Kuwait City are back to talks about indemnifications, debts and stolen archives.

"In two months, two decades would have passed since the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and its repercussions on both countries and on the Arabs have unfolded," commented Khalifa al Shayji in an article for Qatari daily Al Watan. "The move established a new reality and heralded an age of breakup and fragmentation." However, current developments and positions held by both sides are overcoming this reality and Baghdad and Kuwait City are back to talks about indemnifications, debts and stolen archives.

Still, while the Kuwaiti government is constantly trying to reassure its people of the revived relationship with Iraq, it finds itself facing negative attitudes from Baghdad as well as opposition from the Kuwaiti parliament. Iraqi officials visited Kuwait and offered to convert the country's debts into Kuwaiti investments, but their efforts were obstructed by the Kuwaiti parliament's suspicions and categorical refusal. "Memories from the past are always present and conjured up at every occasion." The issues that are still hanging between the two countries are numerous and can only be solved through serious cooperation to build confidence and normal ties free of the past and looking forward to a future of partnership and development.

In an opinion article for the Emirati daily Al Bayan, Manar al Shorbaji commented on the new US national security strategy that was issued last week.

"The new strategy shows that America has decided to shift from the vision of former president George W Bush Bush, especially regarding US foreign policy." The document, which contained an introduction by the US president Barack Obama, expressly rejects the main principles adopted by the previous administration. It refuses to consider terrorism as the main threat to America. It dismisses unilateral foreign policies and reliance on brute force. The document was free of any "cowboy expressions" such as "war on terrorism" or "pre-emptive war".

In his introduction, Mr Obama was clear in describing his vision of the world as a place of opportunities and challenges. He said America's security in the long run "will not be achieved through our ability to intimidate the peoples of the world, but rather through our ability to address their hopes".  The strategy didn't contain any new information concerning the Middle East and especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. It stressed the message that the US will stop using "democracy" as an tool of extortion with foes and allies alike and it will work towards supporting cooperation and dialogue with all nations.

In its editorial, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi commented on Kuwait's reaction to the Israeli aggression against the Freedom Flotilla. After the deadly incident, the Kuwaiti parliament was the first to rebel against the Arab Peace Initiative (API), followed by Saudi Arabia itself, which drafted the original initiative. The Kuwaiti parliament strongly condemned the Israeli attack and filed a recommendation to the government to withdraw from the API and take a firm position toward countries that support Israel.

In Riyadh, more than 120 writers and scholars called on Arab states to reconsider the API as a response to the Israeli massacre, a request that was backed by key religious figures in the kingdom. Such an insurrection against a peace initiative that was, after all, met by Israeli disdain for eight years now reflects an important phenomenon spreading in the Arab world. "Arab citizens are angry with the repeated Israeli insults to their brethren in occupied Palestine." Gaza has been besieged for three years while the Arabs are silent." The Kuwaiti parliament's reaction is commendable and must be supported and duplicated by other Arab parliaments, as the support of the Palestinian cause might be the one and only cause that all Arab governments have in common.

Despite the appearances of luxury, generous spending and fashionable consumerism, Gulf populations are facing quite an uncertain future, wrote Ahmed Abdulmalek, a Qatari academic, in the opinion pages of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad. 

Low fertility rates are compounded by rising death tolls due to high blood pressure, diabetes and angina pectoris. These are contributing factors to the increasing minority status of natives in the Gulf countries. "The frightening influx of foreign workers in the millions is not only threatening to undermine the individual identities of the host countries, it also compromises their chances to acquire jobs and contributes to the flight of substantial amounts of wealth out of the Gulf."

Becoming minorities in their home countries, Gulf populations have to struggle to benefit from such basic services as public health. While considered to be among the wealthiest in the world, some Gulf citizens are suffering from low-quality healthcare. "Sure, we want our kids to learn English, but not at the expense of Arabic. Yes, we want them to be computer-savvy, but not to forget about Arab history and culture."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae