Alwaght- Since being elected as Iraq’s Prime Minister in May, Mustafa al-Kadhimi has embarked on highly active foreign policy and diplomacy. Particularly by visiting Iran and also the US in the past two months, al-Kadhimi showed that he has a serious resolution to activate Iraq in the foreign policy area.
One of the faces of the active foreign policy of the Green Zone head is the increased exchange of visits with the Arab countries, especially Kuwait. Over the past year, levels of Kuwaiti disputes with Iraq and demands for compensations remained high despite the Baathist regime collapse in 2003.
The root cause of the Iraqi-Kuwait differences is the Saddam invasion of neighboring Kuwait in 1990 that was faced by strong opposition and response from the international community and the United Nations Security Council. Greenlighted by the UNSC, the intentional military coalition forced Saddam troops to retreat from Kuwait under Operation Desert Storm.
Still, in the new conditions, al-Kadhimi seeks to improve relations with Kuwait. As a first serious step, on May 23, Iraq’s Finance Minister Ali Alwai traveled to Kuwait as al-Kadhimi’s envoy and talked to Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah. It seems that al-Kadhimi in the near future will make bigger efforts to promote the bilateral relations and perhaps in the coming months he will pay an official visit to Kuwait.
But why is Kuwait significant for al-Kadhimi? Why does the PM especially seek to bolster ties with the Persian Gulf state?
Kuwait war reparation claims
The core point in the post-Saddam Iraq-Kuwait relations has been the Kuwait compensation claims due to the damage Kuwait suffered under the Saddam campaign. When the Iraq forces were forced out of Kuwait by the US-led alliance in 1991, the UNSC approved a string of resolutions holding Iraq responsible for the war and thus reparation payments to Kuwait. A commission was formed by the UN to make arrangements for compensation payments from Iraq to Kuwait and other damaged parties. After the cost inquiry and calculation, the commission ruled that Iraq had to pay $52.4 billion to the individuals, state organizations, and other Kuwaiti parties suffered from Saddam war.
Despite the fact that Iraq adopted a new political system in a departure from Saddam dictatorship, Kuwait never quitted its claims for reparation and even rejected Iraq’s demands for cuts. The payments to Kuwait are raised by allocating parts of the Iraqi oil incomes to this end. From 2014 to 2018, the payment process was suspended. Iraq paid $48.7 billion by 2019 and only $3.7 are left for paying.
Al-Kadhimi administration currently seeks to ease the tensions regarding the payment and perhaps they want to convince Kuwait to agree to a delay so that the government can free up money for home spending as part of the economic reforms, as Baghdad feels the pinch due to the coronavirus crisis and also the anti-ISIS war costs.
Fixing al-Kadhimi position at home
Yet another reason for the Iraqi PM to pursue ties with Kuwait is linked to his efforts in the past months to build himself a firm political base in Iraq’s politics. The reality is that only several months separate al-Kadhimi from the snap elections and he is struggling, using all instruments at his disposal, to prove himself as a successful manager and a choice for all political parties. Shoring up ties to the Arab states, particularly Kuwait with relatively independent stances related to Iraq, can guarantee al-Kadhimi’s position boost in the Iraqi politics. In other words, by his diplomatic accomplishments, al-Kadhimi wants to show to the political parties that he can be the architect of the post-ISIS period and the country’s return to stability both in home and foreign policy.