Browsing 'kuwait' News

Qatar’s decision to offer Kuwait the Gulf Cup hosting rights is a goodwill gesture. It’s also an execution of sports diplomacy. While Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have been unbending in their resolve to isolate Qatar, Kuwait has steadfastly stood by the tiny, yet defiant Gulf State.
Had the prestigious tournament taken place in Qatar, where it was originally scheduled, nothing would have changed in terms of world opinion. Rather, Qatar would have received positive reception for maintaining its standards when it came to hosting international tournaments. And on the other spectrum, the standoff would have remained and Kuwait would have continued in its quest to find peace in a tinderbox that the region has turned into.

Sports diplomacy has the power to transcend political differences and bring people together, even at the Government level. It can revive hope where there was previously only despair. Qatar, by handing over the 23rd edition of the Gulf Cup to Kuwait, has shown that it is willing to share. Qatar has had the privilege to host multiple global sports events, but it also wants others in the neighbourhood to have equal recognition as sports hub.

Kuwait especially needed this tournament. The Kuwaitis have for long been deprived of opportunities to enjoy watching international football in the country. It has thrice been suspended by FIFA for political interference since 2007. Now, with the tournament set to kick-off on December 22 in the country, there is great anticipation and excitement. There is history attached to it. The first Gulf Cup tournament took place in 1970, and was won by the Kuwaiti team.

Qatar’s decision to forgo the tournament is aimed at leaving an impression on the Arab bloc, but they are likely to remain sceptical, which would be on expected lines. The blockading nations wouldn’t have joined in the tournament had it taken place in Qatar. So all’s well that ends well. The tournament will now see all the participating nations – Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen – come out in full strength and fight for the trophy. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has expressed gratitude, thanking Qatar for its laudable step and declaring it as a win for football lovers.

With the Gulf crisis as the backdrop, the tournament will be quite fiery, especially when the Saudis and the Emiratis lock horns with Qatar. Although the athletes don’t, and shouldn’t, really care about the political conflict that their respective countries are embroiled in, the Gulf Cup could see tempers flying. Good sense must prevail.

Expressing its full support for Kuwait, Qatar has denounced as a “criminal act” a suicide bombing that killed 27 people and injured more than 200 others during Friday prayers in the Gulf state’s capital.

The attack took place yesterday at one of the country’s oldest Shia mosques, Al-Imam Al-Sadiq mosque, and was believed to have been carried out by ISIL.

The bombing was the first of its kind in Kuwait, which has declared a state of emergency to manage the crisis, as well as a day of mourning to mark the tragedy.

In a statement, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said:

“This criminal act is contrary to all moral and human values and contradicts all religions and teachings of Islam and its principles of tolerance.”

MOFA also stressed its support for security measures taken by Kuwait to preserve stability, and expressed condolences to the victims and their families.

Several Qatar residents also expressed solidarity with Kuwait and the victims of yesterday’s attack:

According to Reuters, ISIL took credit for the bombing, saying in a statement that it had targeted “a temple of the rejectionists,” a derogatory reference to Shia Muslims.

Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah responded to the attack by saying, according to the state news agency:

“The blast was meant to tear asunder the fabric of the well-knitted Kuwaiti society by fomenting sectarian divisions and conflicts, but that would not happen as Kuwaitis value their unity and societal solidarity.”

Other attacks

Separately, CNN reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for a shooting spree that killed nearly 40 people, many of them tourists, at a beach resort in Tunisia yesterday.

And in France, a man was taken into custody after apparently beheading his boss and then ramming his car into a warehouse at a chemical plant, causing an explosion.

Qatar also condemned those attacks, saying it “rejects violence in all its forms and manifestations, whatever its motives and causes.”

It is unclear if the attacks on three different continents were related.

According to Reuters:

“ISIL had urged its followers on Tuesday to step up attacks during the Ramadan fasting month against Christians, Shi’ites and Sunni Muslims fighting with a US-led coalition against the ultra-hardline jihadist group.”

The Kuwait mosque bombing comes about a month after ISIL claimed responsibility for two attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia.

The first killed at least 21 people after a suicide bomber detonated explosives hidden under his clothes inside Ali Ibn Abi Taleb mosque in Kudeih in the eastern province of Qatif on May 22, Al Jazeera reported.

A week later, a suicide bomber killed four people in the parking lot of the Imam Hussein mosque in Dammam, which is also in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The proximity of the explosions, both of which occurred less than 200km from Doha, left some Qatar residents uncomfortable.

Despite Qatar’s largely peaceful and stable history in recent years, yesterday’s bombing of another fellow GCC state is likely to add to those fears.

Thoughts?

white house

Trevor McGoldrick/Flickr

Citing the increasingly “complex” situation between GCC nations, the White House has decided not to arrange a meeting of Gulf leaders during the US President’s visit to Riyadh next week.

The US had floated the idea of organizing a summit in Saudi Arabia to coincide with Barack Obama’s time there, but then pulled back on it due to strained relations between Qatar and its regional neighbors.

Qatar is home to the largest American base in the Middle East, and the two countries’ military relationship is growing as the Gulf state continues to order billions of dollars in weapons, equipment and training from America.

Last month, Saudi, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, citing concerns about their internal security. At issue appears to be Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a political Islamic group that other Gulf countries see as a threat to stability.

Reuters quotes US National Security Advisor Susan Rice as saying yesterday:

“The situation between and among the members of the GCC has grown more complex of late. And while we maintain very strong and cooperative relationships with each of the GCC countries, we didn’t think that from their point of view that the time was optimal for a collective meeting.”

According to the newswire, the decision to hold the summit will make it harder for the White House to negotiate with its Gulf allies about how to handle Iran and Syria.

No mediator

Though US officials have discussed Gulf tensions with Saudi Arabia, Americans are not actively mediating in the conflict, spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters during a US State Department briefing on Friday.

She did say, however, that the country has been encouraging GCC nations to “resolve their differences as soon as possible for the benefit of regional security and cohesion.”

Psaki denied Obama’s visit to Saudi was a sign that the US was choosing sides in the conflict, but she stopped short of urging the three countries to return their ambassadors to Qatar.

And in response to questions about whether the US shared the concerns of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE about Qatar’s policies, she said:

“Well, I know one of the issues that has been mentioned is the issue of private donations to extremists – and that’s something that some have mentioned – operating in Syria and elsewhere. It remains an important priority in our high-level discussions, and one that we also certainly raise with all states in the region, including Qatar, including the Government of Kuwait, wherever we have concerns.”

Qatar and Kuwait have denied funding extremist groups in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. However, in December, the US added a former Qatar University professor to its “terrorist” watch list for allegedly providing financial support to Al Qaeda, among other groups.

Abdul Rahman Bin Umair Al Nuaimi, 59, has denied the charges leveled against him, but shortly after the designation, he resigned from his position as president of Geneva-based human rights group Alkarama to “avoid any misinterpretation,” the group’s executive director said.

For its part, Qatar has responded to the withdrawal of Gulf envoys by saying it would not waver on its independent foreign policy. The stance comes amid rumors of threats from Saudi Arabia to close its airspace and land borders.

Analysts have said such sanctions are unlikely, but Doha is preparing contingency plans nonetheless.

Obama is set to meet with the Saudi King on Friday, March 28.

Thoughts?