RealNews

A Boyhood on the Mean Streets of a Wealthy Emirate

For the most part, the streets of Kuwait’s capital are clean and well-lit, with shiny new cars, financed by the oil wealth on which this emirate floats. But those were not the streets of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Qaeda leader who was arrested over the weekend in Pakistan. He grew up on the dingy immigrant streets of Kuwait, in towns like Fuhayhil, Jahrah, Hawalli and Kaifan. These desert towns of split and cracking masonry and sand-swept roads house the working class from South Asia who work to support the oil industry and the wealth it has spawned. The workers who live on these streets are Egyptian, Palestinian or Pakistani, outsiders as Mr. Mohammed was. Their views about the possibility of war and about terrorism are not always what one would expect to hear in a country that remains one of America’s staunchest allies in the Arab world. For many of them, the overarching issue in the region is not the menace of Saddam Hussein’s military power, though they certainly fear Iraq and they still feel the anger of their loss from the invasion in 1990. These residents of Kuwait see the big issue in the region as the Arab-Israeli conflict, an issue that resonates with wealthier Kuwaitis as well, but not as strongly. Although the country is officially estranged from the Palestinian movement because it supported Iraq in the Persian Gulf war a decade ago, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is never far from their minds. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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