In Kuwait, Protests Meet the Water's Edge

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Is Kuwait the next regime to experience uprisings?


By Michael Wilner

In an English class at Kuwait University, I was given the chance to ask local students what it means to be Kuwaiti. After testing the limits of my Arabic skills, I asked the class in English for their impressions of the revolutions rocking the Middle East.

“Forty years of anger!” one student responded.

“We want freedom,” another said.

Kuwait has certainly been quiet relative to its neighbors since Tunisia erupted in January. With no taxes on its citizenry, a 95 percent literacy rate and a parliament with real powers predating any other in the Gulf region, most experts expect that quiet to hold. But Kuwaitis are well aware of the pan-Arab uprisings that surround them, and some believe the small Gulf city-state may be the next stop for major protest.

“The potential for problems are there,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, citing political corruption, the illegal status of the Bedoun and the role of the emir. “The huge challenge for the U.S. is how we should assist the Kuwaitis to head off such a crisis,” Khalilzad added. “Additional reforms may be needed to head this off.”

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