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Thorny regional issues amid Kuwait-US talks

Emir likely to advocate using diplomacy to boost stability during visit to Washington

Image Credit: The White House
Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah
Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah will travel to Washington on Monday and hold talks with US President Donald Trump, the state news agency KUNA announced on Sunday.

The visit by the Emir comes at a time when the US is boosting its military power anticipating an armed conflict in the region, and Iran is trying to flex its muscles in the Gulf and the broader Middle East.

According to the White House, the US-Kuwaiti talks will focus on trade, investment and security cooperation.

“The visit will witness the signing of several bilateral arrangements that will enhance the strategic ties and cooperation between our two countries,” US ambassador to Kuwait Lawrence Silverman wrote in an article in Kuwait.

Observers in the Gulf said that the regional issues would be high on the agenda as Kuwait, seeking to avoid another military conflict in the region, would stress the significance of using diplomacy to help boost the chances for stability in the region.

“Favouring rationality in the region is a formidable task as can be seen from the latest statements by Iranian officials,” Jasem Khalid, an analyst in Bahrain, told Gulf News.

On Saturday, military leaders in Iran were quoted as saying that “improving ballistic and cruise missile power in different ways, achieving new generation of fighter jets and ... long-range submarines, with diverse weapons capabilities, are among the new plans of the ministry of defence.”

In July, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned it could shut down international oil shipments in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The US dismissed the threats and vowed to keep the strait open.

In the ominous escalation between the two sides, Kuwait favours a diplomatic solution that would spare the region another armed conflict.

“Kuwait wants Iran to stop interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, particularly that Kuwaiti authorities had exposed attempts by Iranians to meddle in the Gulf state, too. Kuwait also wants an end to the sectarian discourse embraced and encouraged by Iran and the use of its proxies in Arab countries to destabilise them. Yet, Kuwait believes that diplomatic solutions should be fully exhausted to minimise negative effects on the region,” Jassem said.

Bahraini political analyst Hamad Al Amer ruled out, “for the moment”, a US option to launch war against Iran or even carry out a limited military attack.

“The US will continue to impose the economic embargo and sanctions and boycott the import of Iranian oil. It will also continue its fierce media campaign and threats to increase pressure on the mullahs and inflame popular sentiment so that the people might topple the regime,” he said.

“The US should have learnt the lesson from recent events ... like the war in Iraq, which was a terrible strategic mistake that has cost the US a political and intelligence defeat. This in turn resulted in the emergence of terror groups across the Middle East such as Daesh and Hezbollah, which has became Iran’s arm.”

While Khalid said the Qatar issue would be among the major topics in discussions between Shaikh Sabah and Trump, few other observers believe it would be given much consideration.

“Qatar is keen on any breakthrough that would help it out of the situation in which it has found itself, and this visit could offer a good opportunity,” he said.

However, for other observers, the failure to achieve any incremental progress despite the mediation efforts led by Kuwait and supported by the US, will push the issue down on the agenda.

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