The Abdali cell case in Kuwait reveals Iran’s true colours
In this newest rift — the one between Iran and its neighbours — lies the story of the Gulf. Even Kuwait, a traditional peace broker committed to coexistence with all in the region, has been targeted by Iran.
Kuwait has reacted to the confirmation by its courts of the involvement of Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, in a plot to commit acts of terrorism on its soil, by ordering the expulsion of 15 Iranian diplomats and shutting down Tehran’s cultural and military missions.
The case goes back to 2015. Huge arms caches were discovered in Kuwait near the Iraqi border. Twenty-six people, all Kuwaiti Shias except for one Iranian, were charged with spying for Iran and Hezbollah and with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism in Kuwait. The “terror and spying cell” is known as the “Abdali cell.”
Members of the cell were accused of smuggling explosives from Iran with the complicity of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah.
At the end of July, Kuwait delivered a memo of protest to the Lebanese government over the training allegedly provided by Hezbollah to operatives of the Abdali cell.
The memo, quoted by the Kuwait news agency KUNA, called on the Lebanese government, which includes representatives of Hezbollah, to “curb the disgraceful practices” of the Iran-supported Lebanese radical group. It also accused Hezbollah of involvement in “intelligence, coordination of meetings, payment of funds and provision of weapons and training on Lebanese territory… with the aim of destroying the basic infrastructure of the state of Kuwait.”
Unsurprisingly, the case added Kuwait to the list of countries that want nothing to do with Iran. Last year, Saudi Arabia severed ties with Tehran over attacks by Iranian demonstrators on its diplomatic missions.
For all Iran’s protestations of innocence when confronted with evidence of interference in its neighbours’ affairs, the reprehensible decades-old pattern of behaviour continues. Iran still violates UN embargoes on arming its proxies in Lebanon and Yemen. It continues to foment mischief in Iraq and elsewhere.
Then, there are reports from a multitude of sources, both regional and Western, of Iran finding ingenious ways to funnel arms shipments to Yemen’s Houthis. This is considered to be the handiwork of the IRGC, as confirmed by an Iranian official to Reuters. “No activity goes ahead in the Gulf without the IRGC being involved,” he boasted.
Despite protestations to the contrary, Iran is seeking to implement a radical sectarian, political and strategic agenda in the region. Radical forces within Iran have a huge stake in that and the state’s material and ideological investment in it is too substantial to be dismissed as mere propaganda. It is clear that Iran will brook no bounds — of neighbourliness, good faith or high principle — in pursuit of its agenda. This goes some way towards explaining the Gulf states’ and Egypt’s insistence that Qatar reassess its imprudent cosiness with Iran.
Iran needs to find another course if there is to be peace in the region. As the trial in Kuwait of the Abdali cell shows, Iran is testing its neighbours’ patience a bit too much.