Common Ground on Iraq-Kuwait Reconciliation
by Sami al-Faraj and Laith Kubba
Washington: Search for Common Ground, 1998. 125 pp. $12.95.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
The Washington-based organization Search for Common Ground breaks new ground by bringing together Faraj, a Kuwaiti strategist, and Kubba, an Iraqi opposition leader, to explore the possibilities of resolving their countries' differences, post-Saddam Husayn. To ensure more than a casual conversation, the two men agreed "to engage in a yearlong process of facilitated consultation, "during which they repeatedly presented their results to seminars of specialists.
The seemingly cheery results of this project are premised on Kubba's willingness to concede Kuwait's right to exist as an independent state. After this, it's just a matter of working out the details. But, as in the parallel case of the Arabs and Israel, a quick acceptance of the enemy's right to exist is not enough. The Iraqi opposition, no less than the Iraqi population as a whole, needs to prove that it has thoroughly, explicitly, and permanently renounced its ambitions to destroy a sovereign state. Unfortunately, as in the case of Israel, so, too, in this one, much reticence remains, at least judging by Kubba's remarks. The reader must be very alert to find his brief and equivocal acceptance of Kuwait;2 the rest of his lengthy analysis consists in large part of demands on Kuwait (for access to the sea, economic aid, and a dismantling of its security apparatus). Even more alarming, Kubba finds that Kuwaiti connections to the United States "may irritate or even threaten Iraq" and so demands the removal of American troops. Overall, Kubba implies that Kuwait has as much responsibility as Iraq for past problems and so equal responsibility for their repair. Insofar as all this represents Iraqi oppositional thinking, it is not a good sign. His approach exudes reluctance and holding out until Iraq is again strong, when its rulers can at their leisure reassess their Kuwait policy.
The Middle East's twentieth-century experience suggests that conflicts there end not due to good will but exhaustion and misery. "Peace" means not harmony but mutual deterrence. Reading between the lines of Kubba's analysis shows that an apparent acceptance of Kuwait on further reflection in fact represents continued hostility.
Related Topics: Iraq, Kuwait | Daniel Pipes | March 1999 MEQ
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