anti-american conspiracy in kuwait?

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    Mysterious Anti-American Conspiracy in Kuwait

    By Pierre Prier
    Le Figaro

    Thursday 06 January 2004

    Confusion around shootout between Islamist militants and government forces.

    Mystery hovered yesterday over a shootout between Islamists and government forces in Kuwait, illustrating the worrying atmosphere that obtains in the little oil emirate. Citing a Kuwaiti source, the Pan-Arab television channel al-Arabiya yesterday first announced an encounter between armed militants and the police followed by the arrest of two militants. This news was refuted by the government shortly afterwards. This confusion follows the revelation, this one official, of the arrest of several Kuwaiti officers, accused of preparing an attack against "friendly troops."

    Their target was "coalition forces; the American Army was certainly intended, since it's the most important," declared Kuwaiti Defense Minister, Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah.

    American troops in the emirate number around 25,000. Since the assault on the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the United States has advised its citizens to be vigilant. The Kuwaiti authorities were afraid they would see their big neighbor's violence spill over the border. The army and police were put on alert.

    Kuwait has already experienced several isolated attacks against the American Army, the latest about a year ago, when two American soldiers were slightly wounded by gunfire against their vehicle. The plot of Kuwaiti military, however, if confirmed, will exceed all fears. It's the first time that active duty officers have been implicated. The arrests announced Monday had been made a week earlier, according to General Headquarters, which indicated that eight men in uniform had been detained, as well as foreign civilians.

    Three men would still be under interrogation. The officers recognized as guilty of connections with the plot will face courts martial, added the GQ spokesman. Last night, the Kuwaiti Army confirmed that two soldiers would in fact be charged shortly.

    Tuesday, the daily newspaper al-Siyassah reported that the suspects were "ideologically" connected to al-Qaeda. The Defense Minister neither confirms nor denies, asserting that "it's impossible to draw any conclusions at this stage of the inquiry."

    Moreover, the conspirators' objectives seem more ambitious than preceding aggressions. According to the paper, plans of American Army sites in Kuwait were seized from the detained military men. Another daily, al-Rai al-Aam, asserts that the group was planning to attack American military targets during the Muslim Aid al-Adha holiday, planned around January 21. The paper, which cites security sources, adds that members of the group were linked to former soldiers who had fought in Afghanistan and in Chechnya and who had been dismissed from the Kuwaiti Army.

    If these facts are substantiated, they will throw a raw light on the hold of Sunni jihadism in the Gulf and on the fragility of the oil emirates' governments. Osama Bin Laden has often specified his objectives: expel the "distant enemy," the United States, from the region, and then the "close enemy", the "impious" oil state monarchies. As in Saudi Arabia, parts of the population and of the elites have shown themselves sympathetic to radical Islamist discourse. The infiltration of the armed forces represents the governments' ultimate nightmare. In an attempt to bypass this problem, Saudi Arabia is, at present, recruiting a large number of foreign officers. Up until now, at least, no cell had been discovered in any of the Gulf States' armies. The Kuwaiti investigation, beyond the parsimonious details so far dispensed, will perhaps allow us to measure the extent of the problem.

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