As the world was buzzing with diplomatic activity--Iraq's games with weapons' inspectors and Washington's decision to turn the military heat on Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein--it was nail-biting time for the citizens of Kuwait, who had more reason than most to be nervous.
No one in the small oil rich state has forgotten the events of barely a decade ago when the `Butcher of Baghdad' as Saddam is known in the region, invaded their land. The brutality of one of the most uncivilised and savage occupations in modern history left its scars on thousands of Kuwaiti families, according to the committee of the missing Kuwaitis in Iraq, a charitable organisation that keeps the issue of over 600 Kuwaitis, kidnapped by the Iraqis as they were pulling out of Kuwait in 1991, alive.
Even Islamic fundamentalists--whose ideas are spreading among young people--and a few dozen Al Qaeda sympathisers who returned from Afghanistan, can't wait to see the back of Mr Hussein.
"We don't like the Americans being here," said an Islamist who confesses to supporting terror master Osama bin Laden, "they wouldn't be here if we didn't have oil, would they?"
He is equally distrusting of the Iraqi leader referring to him as an infidel--and "a thief who is terrorising us for our oil." He can hardly wait to see an end to the Iraqi regime. However, he, like other Islamists in Kuwait who have no love for Saddam, do not suggest how the end of the Iraqi leader might be brought about.
There is a unity of feeling among Kuwaitis from all factions that Saddam Hussein must be confronted. Kuwaitis--whether they are pro government, or supporters of the various left wing and Arab nationalist trends, or even hard-line Islamists who frustrate government efforts to reform by blocking most proposed bills in parliament--all agree the existence of the Baath Party regime in Iraq, with Saddam at its helm, and stability in the region are, in the words of Kuwait's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Al Sabah, "completely incompatible".
All are convinced that ridding Iraq of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD)--the American pretext for putting military, diplomatic and political pressure on Baghdad--is desirable, but in the long term, 'liberating the people of Iraq' from Saddam's rule must be the main aim of the international community if there is to be peace and stability in the region. A sentiment expressed by at least half a dozen leading Kuwaiti politicians, diplomats...