Interpreting Middle East Economic News and Analyzing Market Trends

There is still tension on the Iraq-Kuwait border…

Nearly twenty-two years since the end of the first Gulf War, tensions between Iraq and Kuwait still exist.

 

Iraqi police said they shot in the air to disperse stone-throwing crowds protesting against the demarcation of the border with Kuwait on Monday, leaving some on the Kuwaiti side believing they were being fired at, according to media reports.

The protest, and the confusion over the shooting, underlined localized tensions over the position of the frontier that have persisted more than two decades after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Both Iraq and Kuwait agreed to map out the exact position of their shared border after the first Gulf War – when Iraqi strongman Hussein sent his troops into Kuwait in 1990 and was forced out by a U.S.-led coalition.

Iraq formally accepted a U.N.-demarcated border line in 1994. But many Iraqis in the area remain opposed to it, saying the line changed, robbing them of property and territory.

An Iraqi police source told Reuters that crowds gathered in the Iraqi border town of Um Qasr on Monday to protest against the position of the border.

Protesters threw stones at police officers and one activist was injured, the source added.

Read the full story from Reuters.

  While the Iraqi security forces are working to defuse these tensions, it is clear that it’s not going away any time soon.  As the economic situation in Iraq deteriorates, young Iraqis feeling frustrated at the lack of opportunities will resort to escalating the tensions between the two countries.

There is mounting pressure on the current government in Baghdad to do more for the residents in the south, but the central government in Baghdad has a host of other issues to deal with first.  There is increasing distrust of the Maliki government, especially among the Sunni and Kurdish minority.  Sunnis continue to feel left out of running the country and the recent departure of the Finance Minister highlights this frustration.  On the Kurdish side, the central government in Baghdad is trying to take control of the oil in the Kurdish-controlled north.  There will surely be an escalation here as the Kurds fought hard to gain control of oil in their territory and are unlikely to hand it over to Baghdad.  If this weren’t enough, there is rising tensions along the Syrian border as well.

Iraq is in a tough position.  The central government is looking more and more fragile as distaste for Maliki grows.  Tension in the north and south are not going away and there are still bombings and violence in Baghdad.  For now, the central government seems likely to honor the UN brokered border with Kuwait, but also note that this border was agreed to in 1994 during Saddam’s reign.  There are no guarantees that a new government in Baghdad will not let tensions rise again with Kuwait in order to divert attention away from dealing with real issues within Iraq.  A new government could easily and intentionally create a new dispute with Kuwait.  A small group of protesters throwing stones today may come back with military hardware tomorrow.