Winning: Kuwaits Quiet Triumph

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March 26, 2007: One of the unequivocal winners in Iraq is, Kuwait. As long as Saddam controlled Iraq, Kuwait faced the threat of Iraqi invasion. Even before Kuwait became independent (in 1961, of British protection, which it had sought over the last few centuries), the newly formed (in the 1920s) country of Iraq insisted that Kuwait was simply a province of Iraq.

For thousands of years, who "owned" what is now Kuwait, was never an issue. There was no there there. Kuwait bay, however, provided a good anchorage at the head of the Persian Gulf, and Indians and Arabs established a trading post. Arab fishermen also developed a good business diving for pearl bearing oysters. Still, the Ottoman Turks never bothered to occupy the place, believing it not worth the effort. But once oil was discovered in the 1930s, Kuwait became a valuable place indeed. Saudi Arabia also had a claim, but never pushed the issue, because the ruling family of Saudi Arabia (the Sauds) had been assisted in their conquest of Arabia by the Kuwaitis. So, in a manner of speaking, the Saudis owned the Kuwaitis. Debts like this mean something in the Middle East.

But with Saddam gone, and the Sunni Arabs no longer controlling Iraq, Kuwait is much less likely to be threatened by Iraq. Partly that's because Kuwait was seen as an enemy of Saddam, and supporter of anti-Saddam Iraqis. Moreover, a third of Kuwaitis are Shia. The Sunni majority has learned to get along with the Shia, and the Shia majority in Iraq respects that. Thus, while many Iraqis still believe that Kuwait should belong to it, the presence of American troops in Kuwait (even after U.S. forces leave Iraq), makes it unlikely that Iraq would make another grab for Kuwait.

There's also the possibility that several brigades of American troops will stay in Iraq, after the Sunni Arab terrorists are eliminated. The main reason would be protecting Iraq from Iran. Although most Iraqis are Shia, asare most Iranians, the Iraqi Shia are Arab, while most of the Iranian Shia are ethnic Iranians (an Indo-European people, quite different in language and customs from the Arabs.) When Iraq fought Iran for eight years during the 1980s, most of the Iraqi troops were Shia. While these Shia Arabs didn't like Saddam, the disliked the prospect of Iranian rule even more.

Iraq might feel safe enough from the Iranians if they just had a mutual defense treaty with the United States, and American troops remained next door in Kuwait. The United States would not keep a lot of troops in Kuwait. Since 1991, there have been only a few thousand stationed there permanently, plus sets of weapons and equipment for several U.S. Army combat brigades. This pre-positioned equipment makes it possible to just fly in the troops and, within a week, have those brigades ready to fight. Before 2003, the troops were flown in periodically, just to test the system.

Meanwhile, Kuwait has prospered greatly by being the staging area for military operations in Iraq. Billions in contracts have gone to Kuwaiti firms, and terrorist violence in Kuwait has been virtually non-existent. Iraqi refugees are not welcome in Kuwait, so they head for Jordan and Syria. All this leaves Kuwait, long the victim of local politics, the big winner for once.

 


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