Qatari officials visit Kuwait in damage control mission
KUWAIT CITY - Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani’s recent visit to Kuwait was a damage-control mission to defuse tensions over Kuwaiti accusations of Qatari interference in its affairs.
The Kuwaiti accusations are centred on Qatar’s support for branches of the Muslim Brotherhood movement globally and in Kuwait in particular.
The visit by the Qatari prime minister came after Kuwaiti activists launched a social media campaign accusing members of the ruling family — namely the nephews of the Emir of Kuwait Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah — of collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood to create political unrest in the Gulf Arab state.
According to Kuwait’s official news agency, the talks focused on regional security issues and boosting mutual security cooperation. The meeting between the Kuwaiti Interior minister and the Qatari prime minister also addressed methods of combating terrorism and organised crime.
The only part of the official statement that hinted at any rift was in comments by Kuwaiti Interior Minister Mohammad al-Sabah, who stressed the two sides’ “keenness on overcoming hurdles facing mutual cooperation as well as unifying views towards regional and international affairs of common concern”.
The Qatari prime minister also met with the emir of Kuwait and Prime Minister Jaber al-Hamad al- Sabah during his one-day visit.
Kuwaiti sources said the two governments discussed ways of sharing information on political Islamic groups to identify extremists and moderates, “who cooperation with would be acceptable”.
The move to screen the groups and vet their members comes when politically motivated Islamic groups are said to be seeking to destabilise Kuwait in light of the crisis between the government and two of its sporting bodies, the Kuwait Football Association and Olympic committee headed by Talal Fahad al-Sabah.
The dispute between the Kuwaiti government and its two sporting bodies, which resulted in Kuwait being suspended by the International Olympic Committee and world football’s governing body, FIFA, since October 2015, is a political disagreement over the position of the crown prince.
The crackdown by the government resulted in questioning the ousting of Talal Fahad al-Sabah.
Talal is the brother of Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, a former deputy prime minister who was once seen as a potential crown prince. Those chances evaporated after the “coup tape” scandal. In April 2014, a leaked video allegedly showed major politicians as well as members of the Kuwaiti royal family plotting against the government.
Ahmad and Talal are sons of the late Fahad Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, founder of the Kuwait Olympic committee, who died during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
This branch of the family enjoys strong support of a number of the Gulf state’s most powerful groups, including the al-Mutairi tribe, which is known for ties to political Islamic movements, such as the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Kuwaiti government has officially dissolved its Olympic committee and its football association over what it described as financial irregularities.
Talal released a statement through the Kuwait Football Association stating that he is still the head of the association and demanding that Kuwaiti prosecutors investigate accusations of financial violations. He said the charges were a part of a personal campaign against him.