Kuwaiti crown prince’s son named head of key security agency

Kuwait is struggling to regain stability in the absence of its emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has been in the United States receiving medical treatment since July.
Wednesday 16/09/2020
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (2nd-L) and crown prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (R) attend the opening ceremony of the 2018 legislative year in Kuwait City.  (AFP)
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (2nd-L) and crown prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (R) attend the opening ceremony of the 2018 legislative year in Kuwait City. (AFP)

DUBAI – Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah recently pushed for the appointment of his son, Sheikh Salem Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, to head the State Security Service, as a way to reduce conflict between members of the ruling family that had spilled into the service.

Sources in Kuwait, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Arab Weekly that political wrangling among members of the ruling family had worsened the country’s multi-prolonged crisis. In addition to health and economic concerns, Kuwait is struggling to regain stability in the absence of its emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has been in the United States receiving medical treatment since July.

Sheikh Salem’s promotion to head the state security apparatus by Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh came after the agency’s director-general, Brigadier Talal Al-Saqr, was removed along with seven senior officials.

The move came after it was revealed the agency had been spying on citizens, sending shockwaves through political and media circles. The scandal was linked to disagreements over power and a race to preserve personal interests that ended with some elders of the ruling family being implicated in major corruption cases, such as the issue of residency bribes and the Malaysian Fund case.

A Kuwaiti source said that Sheikh Nawaf chose his son to head the state security apparatus, an exceptionally sensitive body, based on advice and encouragement from some of his closest aides, including the head of one of the main institutions that make up the authority.

The same source added that Sheikh Nawaf had been reluctant to push for the appointment of his son while the Kuwaiti emir is away, fearing it would be seen as an attempt to consolidate power and protect his position.

The source noted that Sheikh Nawaf’s decision to appoint his son rather than a qualified sheikh from the ruling family or a senior officer or official, reflected his growing distrust in the sheikhs.

Security appointments made by the interior minister following the espionage scandal included that of Brigadier General Muhammad Al-Obaid, who was named director general of the State Security Service, replacing Brigadier Talal Al-Saqr, and that of Major General Aziz Sweilem, who was tapped as assistant deputy to the office of the minister of the interior. He previously worked as assistant undersecretary at the State Security Agency.

The spying scandal within Kuwait’s state security apparatus broke when a Twitter account published audio and video leaks showing officers in the agency talking about spying on citizens and MPs in the National Assembly, including monitoring their platforms on social networking sites.

The case further deepened instability in Kuwait, which was already suffering from health and financial crises and the illness of the emir – factors that required  Sheikh Nawaf to intervene and take charge.

Sheikh Nawaf, who has assumed some of the powers of the Kuwaiti emir as the latter undergoes medical treatment in the US, recently said that ensuring the country’s security and stability is everyone’s responsibility and remains the state’s “highest goal and top priority.”

He has also tried to reassure citizens, saying, “Kuwait is fine with the cohesion and cooperation of its people and is able to overcome all obstacles and challenges and will always remain a house of honour and safety that is moving with confident steps towards a promising and prosperous future for its children to enjoy security, prosperity and prosperity,” according to the Kuwait News Agency KUNA.

He called on the government and parliament to adopt effective measures and legislation to root out all forms of corruption, declaring that “in light of the efforts to confront the coronavirus pandemic, the manifestations of meddling, chaos and prejudice to the nation and its institutions, especially those related to recent leaks and other practices, are unacceptable.”

The crown prince pointed out that he is personally following the country’s espionage case and is confident a “just punishment” will be issued.

“This matter has gained my personal interest,” Sheikh Nawaf said, adding that the issue “in its entirety and all of its details” is under investigation.

“We will not allow a misguided few to drag our country into a state of division and chaos in the name of false freedom,” he warned.

The crown prince also said that members of the royal family are a “part of the Kuwaiti people, and the same laws apply to them. Whoever makes a mistake bears responsibility for that mistake,” he said. “No one is above the law.”

The Kuwaiti crown prince is 83 years old, and speculation over his health seems to have helped feed the ambitions of those engaged in the country’s power struggle.