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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03KUWAIT3536 2003-08-04 10:23:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

(C) POLITICAL ISLAM WORKING GROUP: KUWAIT SNAPSHOT

Tags:   KISL PREL PHUM PGOV KU 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 003536 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA, NEA/ARP, INR/NESA, DRL, S/P

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2013
TAGS: KISL PREL PHUM PGOV KU
SUBJECT: (C) POLITICAL ISLAM WORKING GROUP: KUWAIT SNAPSHOT

REF: STATE 205815

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



1. (C) This cable responds to reftel request for "brief
thumbnail descriptions" of Kuwait's "most influential or
prominent Islamist political parties, NGO's, individuals or
university campus activist groups." Formal political parties
are not permitted in Kuwait, but de facto parties exist, and
those with the strongest identity tend to be Islamist. The
most significant of the Sunni movements are:

- The Islamic Constitutional Movement: the political arm of
the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. ICM was the
strongest Islamist grouping in the National Assembly until
the July 5 elections, when it suffered major losses. The
reasons for this debacle are not yet clear, and may have a
lot to do with the nature of the balloting: single-round,
first-two-past-the-post in each of 25 constituencies, in
which it is possible to be elected with fewer than one
thousand votes. Prominent ICM'ers include Chairman Issa
Majed al-Shaheen and MPs Dr. Nasser al-Sane, Mikhlid al-Azmi
and Mohammed al-Bossairi. ICM MPs who failed to win
reelection were Mubarak al-Duwaila, Mubarak Snaidih, and
Abdullah al-Arada. The Social Reform Society (jam'iyat
al-islah al-ijtima'i) is the social welfare arm of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Kuwait, and is widely regarded in Kuwait as a
reputable charity. Nonetheless, its affiliate Lajnat
al-da'wa al-islamiya (LDI) was placed on the UN's terrorist
finance list at the request of France; ICM denies the charge
and has lobbied the French and US embassies to clear LDI's
name.

- The Salafi Call (al-da'wa al-salafiya), aka The
(Traditional) Salafis: strict Sunnis heavily influenced by
the Saudi Wahhabi brand of Islam. Generally seen as more
hard-line than ICM, but there is some overlap: Salafis claim
that many ICM members are increasingly following the Salafi
way. This bloc portrays itself as D (willing to engage in a
democratic, pluralistic process and respect the rights of
others as well as the principle of alternance of governance)
but its opponents view it as C (willing to engage in a
democratic, pluralistic process but, if given full power,
would not respect the rights of non-Islamists, secularists,
and/or minorities). Minister of Justice Ahmed Baqer is a
Salafi; until this month, he also held the Awqaf and Islamic
Affairs portfolio. Baqer was elected to the National
Assembly under the banner of the Popular Islamic Grouping,
along with Dr. Fahd al-Khanna and Jassem al-Kandari (Note:
Kandari is also variously described as Independent and
Scientific Salafi). MPs Dr. Adel al-Sar'awi, Faisal
al-Msallam, and Dr. Dhaifallah Bou Ramya, nominally
Independent, are seen as being Salafis (Sar'awi and Msallam
enjoyed the support of ICM as well). Ahmed al-Duaij lost his
reelection bid. The social welfare arm of this movement is
the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS, jam'iyat ahiya
al-turath al-islami), widely regarded in Kuwait as a
reputable charity. Its chairman Tareq al-Issa eschews
politics, though his predecessor Khaled Sultan al-Issa is
politically engaged. RIHS's Pakistan branch and Afghanistan
project office, now both defunct, were placed on the UN's
terrorist finance list more than one year ago; the parent
organization disavows any knowledge of improper use of funds.

- The Salafi Movement (al-haraka al-salafiya), aka The
Scientific Salafis: a hard-line offshoot of the Salafi Call.
Its Secretary-General Dr. Hakem al-Mutairi faces criminal
charges for falsely complaining of GOK torture of Kuwaitis
returned from Afghanistan. Other prominent Scientific
Salafis include MPs Dr. Waleed al-Tabtabaei, Dr. Awad Barad
al-Enezi, Abdullah Akkash. Kuwait University professor Dr.
Abdul-Razzaq al-Shaiji told Pol Chief last fall that he
condemned attacks on Americans in Kuwait but preached jihad
against the American forces in Afghanistan, and made no
secret of his admiration for the Taliban.

SIPDIS



2. (C) About a third of Kuwaitis are Shia. Some are very
liberal, but four Shiite Islamists were elected to the new
National Assembly: Dr. Hassan Jowhar, Saleh Ashour, Yousef
al-Zalzala, Salah Khorshid (Trade and Industry Minister in
the last Cabinet) and Hussein al-Qallaf, a sayyed (descendant
of the Prophet Mohammed) who wears the distinctive black
turban. Ashour and Zalzala are viewed as
"independent/government leaning." Khorshid was Minister of
Commerce in the previous government and generally responsive
to US requests. Shiite MPs who failed to win reelection were
Adnan Abdul-Samad and Abdul-Mohsen Jamal. Shiite Islamists
dismiss allegations that they belong to Kuwaiti Hizballah,
saying the only real Hizballah is in Lebanon. Kuwaiti
Shiites have by all accounts lost their enthusiasm for the
Iranian revolution and reacted to the Iraqi occupation by
gaining a greater sense of being Kuwaitis first. Although
overt discrimination against Shia is less pronounced in
Kuwait than in some other Gulf States, they still have their
grievances. For example, there is no independent Shia Awquf.
There is also no Shiite seminary in Kuwait; would-be clerics
must travel to Qom in Iran or Najaf in Iraq; the latter
opportunity did not exist for the past twelve years, but the
liberation of Iraq has changed that.



3. (C) Kuwait is a rich country; we do not believe that
external funding plays any significant role in any of the
above Islamist groups, with the possible exception of
Shiites, some of whom clearly have ties to the Iranian
regime. All of the above groups portray themselves as
falling under reftel category D (willing to engage in a
democratic, pluralistic process and respect the rights of
others as well as the principle of alternance of governance),
but their opponents say they all really fall under category C
(willing to engage in a democratic, pluralistic process but,
if given full power, would not respect the rights of
non-Islamists, secularists, and/or minorities). All have
shown willingness to form tactical alliances with those who
do not share many of their views, in order to achieve a
particular shared purpose. In theory, all oppose the
existence of the State of Israel, and most (at least the
Sunnis) oppose political rights for women. To varying
degrees, and with some exceptions, expressed significant
reservations to the US invading Arab/Muslim Iraq, though they
loathed Saddam's regime. (One notable exception was Khaled
Sultan al-Issa, former Chairman of RIHS and a prominent
Traditional Salafi: having been imprisoned and tortured by
the Iraqis during the 1990-91 occupation, he had no problem
with the idea of American infidels destroying Saddam's regime
by force.) All profess to accept the legitimacy of the
Kuwaiti regime and the presence of US forces in Kuwait as
invited guests and protectors. That said, they are deeply
suspicious of US pressure for western-style reforms, and can
be expected to try to delegitimize any attempted reforms --
even if we have nothing to do with them -- on grounds that we
are trying to impose our alien ways.



4. (C) A few Kuwaitis, numbering perhaps several hundred,
are actively hostile to the US presence in Kuwait. They tend
to cluster around Kuwaitis who went to Afghanistan to support
the Taliban regime and/or receive training from al-Qaeda. An
influential figure for these (Sunni) extremists is the minor
cleric Jaber al-Jalahma; he was arrested after allegedly
praising as martyrs the terrorists who killed US Marine Lance
Cpl. Antonio Sledd in October 2002. That attack shocked the
Kuwaiti government and public, and led to an energetic
investigation by the security services.



5. (C) There are no pre-eminent Islamic religious leaders in
Kuwait. Salafis look primarily to Saudi Arabia for guidance,
but have not yet settled on a single spiritual leader since
the death of prominent Saudi Aalim Shaykh Bin Baz. The most
respected Sunni cleric in Kuwait may be Dr. Ajeel al-Neshmi,
who was the first to condemn the murder of Sledd as forbidden
by Islam. He eschews politics and has declined to meet with
Emboffs. The young Dean of the Faculty of Sharia at Kuwait
University, Dr. Mohammed al-Tabtabaei, took the initiative to
organize seminars to explain proper Islamic teaching in the
aftermath of the Sledd killing, and did meet with Emboffs,
but stressed that he was doing so at risk to his reputation.



6. (C) A number of Islamists who have studied in the West
are adept at presenting themselves and their agenda in
positive terms. In all cases that we have encountered,
however, they start from a different premise than we do:
theirs is not a pluralistic society, but a Muslim one, and
their goal is for Kuwait to adhere more closely to the tenets
of Islam as they understand it. Perhaps the most open-minded
Islamist figure we have met here is Dr. Ayyoub Khaled
al-Ayyoub, Secretary General of the Higher Consultative
Committee for the Finalization of the Application of the
Provisions of the Islamic Sharia (part of the Amiri Diwan).
Dr. Ayyoub studied in the US and England; he gives regular
talks on the radio, and in one that we heard, he described
instances in which the non-Muslim British displayed "true
Islamic behavior" by their honesty and neighborliness.



7. (C) Ever since the naturalization in the 1970s of large
numbers of Bedouin, Kuwaiti society has become more insular
and conservative -- fertile ground for the Islamists.
Kuwait's dependence on the US for protection against Saddam,
along with its role as the launching pad for Operation Iraqi
Freedom, has led to charges from other Arabs that it has
betrayed its Arab and Muslim identity. Kuwaitis at all
levels are clearly sensitive to such allegations which lead
to a feeling of cognitive dissonance on the part of all but
the most Westernized. The more the US role in the region and
the world seems overwhelmingly dominant, the more we can
expect Kuwaitis to assert/defend their identity in contrast
to us; almost by definition, the most socially acceptable way
for them to do so is to show Islamic fervor.



8. (C) By regional standards, there is a great deal of
freedom in Kuwait. The privately-owned press is vocal and
often criticizes the government; the same can be said of the
National Assembly. While not formally recognized as parties,
a number of political blocs do exist. Unity of perspective
and of agenda is perhaps easier for Islamists to achieve than
for secular liberals, who range from Marxists and
Pan-Arabists to pro-American free-marketeers. A major
challenge for the US in the months and years ahead will be to
avoid being perceived as the common enemy against which
Islamists and other conservative forces can unite.
JONES