350. Telegram From the Consulate in Kuwait to the Department of State0
33. Despite somewhat alarmist foreign press reports, Kuwait three weeks after Iraqi coup d’état gives every indication being able safely survive latest ME upheaval for indefinite period with only minor changes in its internal and external policies. Prevailing mood is one of relaxation and business-as-usual with exception continued though less intense popular enthusiasm for new Iraqi regime and mild anxieties over their future harbored by at least two senior Subah Shaykhs. [Page 779] Cornerstone of Kuwait’s tranquillity is an internal stability founded firmly on widespread prosperity and on munificence and unchallenged longevity of Subah rule. Result is absence any substantial or cohesive opposition to government, potential troublemakers are deterred by Shaykhly law.
Leading figure in reformist-nationalist movement, Jassim Al-Qitami, informed Consulate two days ago he foresaw no important changes in Kuwait over next five years. He also disassociated himself and most Kuwaitis from group he characterized as minority of extremists. In this category he placed editors two local weeklies whose pronouncements, he said, are only “howa” (wind). Press is only local element reacting strongly to US landings in Lebanon.
Young Shaykhs privately expressing view Kuwait must sooner or later somehow pledge funds to Nasser cause but they share hopes of elder Subahs for keeping Kuwait neutral in intra-Arab politics. Kuwaitis formerly advocating Kuwait entry into UAR now appear less interested in UAR than in new Iraq. For moment eyes are on Baghdad and Abdul Qasim is currently stealing some of Nasser’s thunder.
By proposing Kuwait join Arab League (Consulate telegram 27),1 Ruler has taken initiative to alter Kuwait foreign policy in direction closer relationships with other Arab countries, especially Egypt. Whether he will make similar internal adjustments depends upon his advisors but Consulate has taken liberty suggest Political Agency encourage him at least partially satisfy erstwhile minor grievances of local reformist-nationalists (such as administrative reform) before in exasperation they become extremist and turn against regime itself.
Although Ruler has expressed desire retain special treaty ties with UK, his Arab League proposal may force UK modify terms of treaty relationship to conform with realities. For instance, Political Agency admits UK no longer formulates Kuwait foreign policy but acts more as foreign policy “agents” for Ruler. This may require spelling out and clarification to enable Kuwait qualify for League membership. Meanwhile, incipient campaign under way in local press for “limitation” of relations with UK. Latest issue Al-Fajr writes, “Our relations with Britain should be purely commercial.”
Today Political Agent informed me political Resident has reacted negatively to Ruler’s League proposal.[Page 780]
According to London Embassy, so has Foreign Office. If this type response persists, UK may be inviting eventual less palatable alternatives.2
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786D.00/8–358. Secret; Noforn. Also sent to London.↩
- In telegram 27, August 1, [text not declassified]. In addition, the Ruler proposed that Kuwait and perhaps Bahrein should join the Arab League. (Ibid., 786D.00/8–158)↩
In telegram 1448 to London, repeated to Kuwait, August 4, the Department suggested for British consideration the alternate plan of encouraging Kuwait to establish better relations with Iraq as a means of demonstrating that Kuwait supported intra-Arab ties. This might avert Kuwaiti attention from the appeal of Nasser to the more “natural relationship” with Iraq. (Ibid., 786D.00/8–358)
In telegram 54 from Kuwait, August 19, Consul Seelye reported that the Ruler agreed to drop his proposal to join the Arab League in return for British reaffirmation of its intention to protect Kuwait and to exchange advice and consult with Kuwait on its relations with neighboring states. The Ruler planned to strengthen Arab ties by an exchange of visits with certain Arab states. (Ibid., 686.86D/8–1958)↩