What the Future Holds Kuwait likely to stay vulnerable for years WAR IN THE GULF

March 10, 1991|By Peter Honey

While Kuwait has been liberated in a forceful and definite manner, the country will probably never revert to what it was before the Iraqis made their ill-fated conquest last August, say Middle East analysts.

That the Kuwaiti leadership has the money to rebuild its smoldering and battered country is not in dispute.

Experts say it will cost about $50 billion -- probably no more than half of what the Kuwaiti rulers still have tied up in real estate and commercial ventures around the globe -- to heal the nation's still-open wounds, extinguish the burning oil wells, rebuild the blown-up buildings and resume revenue-earning oil production.

What the sheiks may not be able to restore, however, is national pride.

"The rulers have in effect blown their cover," said a military analyst of Middle East politics, who did not want to be identified. "For years they stood with their feet in both the Arab and Western camps. But now they have been forced to choose, and they will forever be objects of scorn and derision in the Arab world."

Kuwait will be vulnerable to agitation from Shiite Muslim fundamentalists in Iran and southern Iraq for years to come, he said, and could even face subversion from Baath Party members in an unstable Iraq.

Col. Ralph Cossa, Mideast specialist for the National Defense University, says Kuwait will want to strengthen its relationship with the United States by means of a security pact -- especially if faced with a vengeful neighbor on its doorstep.

The continuing instability and mood of retribution in Kuwait, Colonel Cossa said, will probably delay action on the emir's promise to permit a greater level of democracy in the country.

He predicted Kuwait would gradually move toward a parliamentary monarchy similar to that of Japan or England, but possibly with more direct royal control. Kuwait has been without electoral representation for almost five years.

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