clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Nothing works - not water, power or sewage systems.

Wrecked cars, blown-up buildings and broken glass are everywhere. Rancid smoke from 800 burning oil wells makes noon look like twilight.People have little food - but all the weapons they can carry or hide. Seventeen resistance groups threaten to compete for control. The people hunger for democracy that the ruling al Sabah family may not give. Many groups have new hatred for each other.

Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, says all those problems he found in Kuwait this week could add up to a potential crisis: "Kuwait could become a new Lebanon."

After Owens, a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, returned Wednesday from Kuwait with a delegation of House leaders, he said Kuwait's ruling family must act quickly and wisely to avoid a civil war.

"The movement toward building democracy in Kuwait is very important. The parliament had only minimal powers before, and none now. The crown prince promised (in response to a question by Owens) they would move fast to restore it and give it some real power and even hinted that women would be given the right to vote," he said.

"Those are revolutionary changes, which revolutionary times probably demand if he is to avoid `Lebanonization.' "

On Wednesday, the crown prince temporarily resigned as prime minister to reorganize a new government and give hope of more democracy.

Owens said, "There are 17 resistance groups in Kuwait City. And a number of them are trying to assert some preeminence among the groups of fighters. Some of the others are trying to sustain the (ruling) al Sabah family.

"Right now on the surface, they all accept the al Sabah family's pre-eminence. But if they cannot restore water and power fast and get more food on the shelves, it could rapidly turn into a struggle against the al Sabah family."

Adding potential fuel for a crisis is that all people have many guns left over from the war, and many groups are expressing bitterness toward each other, Owens said.

"There is weaponry everywhere," he said. "The people who stayed hate the people who left. Everyone hates the Palestinians, even though probably only 10 to 15 percent of the Palestinians were collaborators."

Owens said that while 4,000 U.S. troops are in Kuwait City, they are not there to sustain order and the ruling family. "The only function of American troops is trying to return normal functioning of utilities and to protect the Palestinians," Owens said.

"It's very worrisome what's happening to the Palestinians. Even though 80 to 90 percent of the Palestinians who stayed are totally loyal and were supportive of the resistance, they are now being discriminated against."

Owens said such trouble between ethic and other groups and dissatisfaction with the government likely did not erupt before the invasion by Iraq because Kuwait had the second-highest per capita income of any nation in the world behind only the United Arab Emirates.

"There was not a revolution in waiting before the invasion. There certainly is now," he said.