The National reports: Ten days before sitting down for a leisurely evening tea recently on the outskirts of Kuwait City, Jamaan Al Harbash was in Aleppo talking with rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Al Assad from power.
It was the third trip to the war zones of Syria by the former Kuwaiti MP, who no longer escapes the Syrian regime’s notice. Following a journey to the front in October, Syria’s state news agency condemned him for “attempts to spread sedition among the united Syrian people”.
The regime’s censure has not deterred Mr Harbash, who scrolls through his iPhone to show recent pictures of shattered neighbourhoods and a hospital he said was rebuilt with the help of Kuwaiti funds. Amid the scenes of war is a photo of Mr Al Harbash standing with a half dozen fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“The reason I went to Syria was to observe whether the aid we are sending is reaching the general population,” he said.
To many observers, Kuwait’s decision to host a United Nations meeting last week to raise humanitarian aid for Syrians – and its pledge of US$300 million to the effort – were the most overt steps that the country has yet taken to get involved in the crisis.
Until then, Kuwait had appeared largely absent from regional diplomacy on the crisis, while Qatar has funded and hosted the political opposition to Mr Al Assad and Saudi Arabia has reportedly sent arms to anti-regime fighters.
Yet interviews with aid organisations and officials suggest Kuwait has played a no less pivotal role than its Gulf Arab neighbours during the 22-month uprising. This country of 2.6 million people has emerged as a central fund-raising hub for direct financial support to insurgents fighting the Assad regime and for humanitarian aid to rebel-controlled areas, which are said to encompass slightly more than half of the country. [Continue reading…]