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03KUWAIT1105 2003-03-26 18:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

(C) HOW THE WAR COULD AFFECT KUWAIT POLITICALLY

Tags:   PREL MARR MOPS PGOV SOCI KISL KU 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 001105 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ARP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2013
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS PGOV SOCI KISL KU
SUBJECT: (C) HOW THE WAR COULD AFFECT KUWAIT POLITICALLY

REF: KUWAIT 974 EXDIS

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RICHARD H. JONES; REASON 1.5 (D)



1. (C) INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY: Reftel examined how a
US-led war against Saddam's regime could affect US relations
with Kuwait. This message looks at the closely-related topic
of the political effects the war could have on Kuwait itself.
In both cases, the answer is highly scenario-dependent. If
we win quickly and relatively cleanly, and the new Iraq
rapidly emerges as a friendly, responsible state, Kuwait will
probably come under relatively little pressure to change
course, and liberal, pro-American elements may be
strengthened. On the other hand, if stiff Iraqi resistance
drags out the conflict and produces massive civilian
casualties, Kuwait will face widespread condemnation as a
traitor to the Arab/Muslim world for having served as our
main launching pad. The regime could feel compelled to
bolster its Arab and Muslim credentials by promoting more of
the Islamist agenda. We assess that the Kuwaitis will not
break with us no matter how the war goes, unless they were to
conclude that we were about to leave them at Saddam's mercy.
Even if the war goes well, though, the Kuwaitis will feel
more vindicated than beholden to us. END INTRODUCTION AND
SUMMARY.



2. (C) PERCEPTIONS RULE: The outcome of the war to remove
Saddam's regime and eliminate its WMD programs will
eventually make itself clear, but in the meantime, we can
expect perceptions to range all over the map, mostly in
negative directions. No matter how inaccurate or unfair,
perceptions determine reactions. Kuwaitis' perceptions may
be vulnerable to change because of unrealistically high
initial expectations: they have been telling themselves that
the Iraqis hate the dictator so much they would not fight,
and that our military might is so overwhelming that we would
sweep into Baghdad in no time, with negligible casualties.
This Embassy is tracking not only the Kuwaitis' own
perceptions about the war, but the effect on them of
prevailing perceptions in the wider Arab world. There, if
not here, we expect to see an inverse relationship between
the degree to which the Iraqis put up a fight and the
credibility of our claim to be liberators (never mind that
this equation is a fallacy as long as only the regime
resists, not the population). We also expect to see (in the
larger Arab world, but not here) a direct relationship
between the amount of perceived harm the Iraqis do to us and
Saddam's standing as a warrior hero.



3. (C) OPTIMIST'S SCENARIO: If the war ends well, Kuwait
will be adequately insulated against criticism in the
Arab/Muslim world. In the best case, US influence in Kuwait
will grow, liberals in this country will be strengthened, and
they may increase their representation in the National
Assembly (elections are due by mid-July). This optimistic
scenario offers the best chance for progress on women's
rights (Kuwaiti women can neither vote nor run in National
Assembly elections; in 2000, the Assembly narrowly rejected
an Amiri decree enfranchising them). However, even
spectacular success in the war will not guarantee liberal
ascendancy. Liberals are disunited, and they are -- almost
by definition -- vulnerable to being stigmatized as
anti-Islamic.



4. (C) How Iraq evolves after the war will also affect
Kuwait. If the new Iraqi government is seen as democratic,
successful, and friendly, the advocates of democracy and
women's rights in this country will be heartened. At the
moment, with everybody in crisis mode, we detect no
groundswell of demand for greater democracy in this small
oil-rich emirate. Indeed, by Gulf standards, Kuwait is
exceptionally open, with a lively private press and
rambunctious National Assembly. Even so, it is not only
women who are disenfranchised: most male citizens also lack
the right to vote. While Iraq does not have much of a
democratic tradition, its women do already have the right to
vote, and that could serve as a positive example for Kuwait.
In fact, more than one young Kuwaiti including members of the
al-Sabah, have told us that they are hoping to be able to use
a newly democratic Iraq as an example to spur reform in
Kuwait.



5. (C) THANKS, AND YOU'RE WELCOME: We assess that after the
war, the Kuwaitis will feel vindicated more than beholden to
us. After all, they contributed greatly to our preparations
for Operation Iraqi Freedom and have put their collective
neck on the line by allowing us to use their country as the
launching pad for this major, internationally controversial
war against an Arab state. The relative lack of cooperation
from Saudi Arabia and Turkey underscores both the value and
the courage of Kuwait's role. In addition, the GOK is
providing a very great deal of Assistance-In-Kind to our
military. The Government/ruling family will expect us to
recognize these contributions which are already approaching
USD one billion; and they will expect us to treat them as a
full partner. Unlike after the Gulf War, they will not feel
a need to make promises on internal political reform. We
also see no prospect of Kuwait becoming more active in the
Arab-Israeli peace process. Here as in other Arab states
friendly to us, the population is less supportive of the
peace process than the regime is. The GOK will look to us to
achieve real progress towards a solution satisfactory to the
Palestinian people (independent state with some part of
Jerusalem as its capital, knowing that that would help its
standing in the Arab world). We can expect it to play a
quietly supportive role within Arab councils if the situation
seems promising, but we anticipate that it will remain
reluctant to get ahead of Saudi Arabia with regard to
normalization with Israel. Financial support for any
Palestinian government involving Yasir Arafat would also be a
very tough sell here.



6. (C) PESSIMIST'S SCENARIO: If the war were to go badly,
Kuwait would find itself in a very awkward position: it
would feel great pressure to assert its Arab and Muslim
credentials, but it would also want to ensure our continued
protection. We expect Kuwait to stay as close as possible to
Saudi Arabia, its next-door neighbor to the south, the de
facto leader of the GCC and a state that has longstanding
strategic relations with us even though it does not share
some of our values. (Notwithstanding historical animosity,
since the Gulf War Kuwait has become closer to the Saudis
than any other GCC state.) The Islamists, particularly the
Salafis (first cousins of Saudi Arabia's Wahabis), would be
emboldened. Liberals would be on the defensive. The general
trend is already in that direction, even without the war. A
law requiring classes at Kuwait University to be segregated
by gender on the books for several years is being enforced as
of this academic year. Plans are afoot to move female
students off the main campus, even though they constitute 70
percent of the student body.



7. (C) U.S. RESOLVE: We assess that the Kuwaitis would not
break with us no matter how badly the war went, because the
more their partnership with us brought heat on them, the more
they would need protection, and no other nation but the US
will be there to provide it. The one thing that could split
them from us would be a perception that we were about to
leave them at Saddam's mercy. That would be their worst
nightmare (and Saddam's propaganda machine is working
overtime to keep it vividly before them). At this stage, we
do not sense much live questioning of our resolve, but
psychologists manning Kuwaiti hotlines reportedly already
have some callers expressing worries about it. Embassy works
overtime to counter such notions.



8. (C) TCNs: Under the "Optimist's Scenario," we did not
even mention the TCNs who constitute the majority of Kuwait's
population. They are normally quiescent; any involvement in
protests would jeopardize their job security. The TCNs
include hundreds of thousands of Arabs, with Egyptians
constituting by far the largest group. We certainly cannot
exclude the possibility of subversive agitation surfacing
within this community, which could further complicate
Kuwait's delicate relationship with the Arab world. Also, if
certain Arab governments become excessively hostile, the GOK
could retaliate by expelling large numbers of their
nationals. (Syria has already made some inflammatory
statements; it has tens of thousands of nationals here.)



9. (C) PARTING THOUGHT: The Kuwaitis are the one people in
the Arab world whose first-hand experience of Iraqi brutality
makes them impervious to the Saddam mystique. The more
Saddam becomes a hero to other Arabs, the deeper the rift
will be. The more successful we are, the less Kuwait will
have to do to mend fences, but the harder certain other Arab
states will find it to mend fences with Kuwait.
JONES