Nowadays, no one can deny the significant Iranian role in regional crises, with Iran’ regime intervening in Arab affairs without hesitation. Iran has, specifically, paid more attention to the Arab Gulf states as an extension of its ancient Persian imperialist ambitions and in an effort to impose its geopolitical influence abroad by addressing the Shiite populations of these states under claims of supposedly ‘supporting the oppressed.’
Following the severe restrictions placed on Iran by the new US economic sanctions, along with domestic unrest and global efforts to eliminate its regional role, the ‘Islamic Republic’ is now focusing on reactivating its sleeper cells in the Gulf states.
Kuwait as the major example
In 1979, Kuwait formally recognized the new-born Islamic Republic as it does all regional states, as a gesture of good faith, although this revolution was and still is hostile to Kuwait and the Gulf States.
Cooperation between Iran and Kuwait continued up till the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war in 1980, which continued for another eight years. Kuwait initially expressed its neutrality in this conflict and its willingness to be a mediator between the two states; throughout this period, the nature of Iran’s major project in the Arabian Gulf began to emerge.
During the 1980s Iranian-Kuwaiti relations thereafter vacillated between terse hostility and periods of calm convergence and coexistence; efforts at maintaining positive diplomatic relations were severely damaged by Tehran’s targeting the ‘Umm al-Aish’ oilfield with a missile.
The next flare-up between the two states during this period came in 1985 with the uncovering of an Iranian assassination plot against Kuwait’s then-Emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, along with a number of bombings in Kuwait; while Iran didn’t claim responsibility for these incidents, all the indicators suggested that the Iranian leadership and its regional proxies were behind them. Other incidents, including the bombing of the French and American embassies and of Kuwait International Airport, were also attributed to Iranian-backed Lebanese organizations.
In 1988, an aircraft belonging to Kuwait’s Jabriya Airlines was hijacked, while Kuwaiti oil tankers were attacked in the Arabian Gulf; once again, all these incidents bore the fingerprints of Iranian involvement, with the Tehran regime apparently attempting to undermine the security and stability of the Gulf states in general and Kuwait in particular.
A couple of years after the Iran-Iraq war ended, Tehran tried to adopt a conciliatory tone with Kuwait following the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, urging Baghdad to withdraw its armed forces from Kuwait as a means of appealing to the Kuwaiti people by posing as an ally.
Relations thereafter remained relatively calm up till 2010 when Kuwait discovered an Iranian espionage cell operating in the country, with two Iranians subsequently convicted, along with a number of other individuals, on charges of spying for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). In 2011, Kuwait expelled Iranian diplomats for involvement in espionage operations.
The Iranian espionage network uncovered in Kuwait was discovered to be part of a wider regional network of sleeper cells operating in all the Gulf states as part of Tehran’s strategy to lay the groundwork for achieving its expansionist objectives and prepare the way for launching its colonialist project. Undercover Iranian agents have intermittently been apprehended whilst attempting to penetrate the regional defense and intelligence headquarters to obtain sensitive information in order to plan for disruptive acts.
Iran as a reality
Iran has tried for the past 40 years to export its crises abroad, becoming a serious threat to the Gulf states’ national security. According to UN Security Council Resolution No. 51, any state that feels that its national security is threatened by a hostile neighboring state has the right to intervene in this country until the UN Security Council issues a resolution proposing a solution.
Just as Turkey and Israel intervened in Syria to maintain their national security, Kuwait and the Gulf States now have the right to intervene in Iraq in order to curb the Iranian-affiliated groups and militias which pose a clear existential danger to the Gulf states’ own geopolitical and demographic entities.
Kuwait is not Iraq
In Kuwait, unlike Iraq, despite having a large percentage of Shiite citizens amongst its population, the leadership has adopted a position of steadfastly rejecting any internecine sectarian hostility or sedition. Kuwait also maintains strong ties with brotherly Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, whose continuous resolute support was demonstrated most recently through the latest visit by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman; this followed disturbing reports from many respected political analysts and intelligence experts warning that Iran may be attempting to incite unrest in Kuwait.
Kuwait is currently engaged in trying to maintain its own stability and to preserve what remains of its diplomatic relations with Iran as a neighboring state. When it comes to Kuwait’s national security, however, Iran should remember that the Gulf Cooperation Council member states share a mutual commitment to maintaining their national security which is impossible to breach. It should also be noted that any effort to damage Kuwait’s stability will lead inevitably to a far wider conflict between Iran and Arab states.