The Associated Press reports: For Kuwait’s embattled rulers, clashes earlier this week with anti-government protesters were more than just a sign tensions may be mounting. The crowds themselves showed the widening nature of the Gulf nation’s political crisis: Stirrings of a rare alliance of convenience between liberals and Islamists against Kuwait’s Western-backed leadership.
While it’s not the first time Middle East protests have brought together political foes — Cairo’s Tahrir Square last year and Iran’s postelection unrest in 2009 had a full spectrum of voices — Kuwait’s tiny size means that the coalescence of such varied groups could make for an opposition that punches far above its own weight.
Despite the rising unrest, the ruling family appears in no imminent danger of an Arab Spring-style revolt such as Bahrain’s 20-month-old Shiite Muslim-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy.
But the emerging alliance underscores the complicated challenges for Kuwait’s ruling family as the oil-rich country moves toward Dec. 1 parliamentary elections.
Simultaneous pressure from liberals and Islamist conservatives could push Kuwait deeper into a political morass that has already disrupted the economy and raised questions about stability in one of Washington’s most critical military footholds in the region.
Kuwait’s importance to the Pentagon rose sharply after the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in December. It is now the hub for American ground forces in the Gulf, where the U.S. and its Arab allies seek to counter Iran’s military buildup.