On 3 November, Kuwait hosted international talks to discuss how to counter the Islamic State’s (IS) online efforts to attract recruits and raise funds. The conference was attended by representatives from Gulf Cooperation Council states, the US, UK, France, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. During the talks, the US stressed the need for the Gulf states to restrict IS’s fundraising activities and halt the flow of fighters to Syria and Iraq.
Washington is now likely to put increased pressure on Kuwait to bolster its efforts to tackle jihadist fundraising. Consequently, in the coming months we expect the regime to seek to demonstrate to the US that it is taking firm action on this issue by targeting the assets of businesses, charities and individuals that are suspected of being used to finance militant groups. Indeed, on 6 November authorities arrested nine people they accused of being “affiliated” with IS, including four accused of raising funds for the group.
However, the Government remains concerned that a concerted campaign to disrupt jihadist fundraising networks could spark a popular backlash that would stir Islamist anger and lead to opposition protests. The authorities’ efforts to tackle jihadist financing will therefore remain limited. Nonetheless, the Government’s decision to host the talks does demonstrate its ongoing support for the coalition’s efforts against IS. This will be a source of anger among jihadist sympathisers in Kuwait, who could seek to strike Western military personnel in the country. Although the Kuwaiti security forces have proven effective in the past, any plots by individuals or small groups acting on their own initiative will be difficult to detect and disrupt.
Meanwhile, prosecutors again interviewed the former Speaker of Parliament, Jasem al-Khorafi, during this period over claims that he had sought to overthrow the regime. He was first questioned in April over allegations that emerged in December 2013 suggesting that former Prime Minister Shaikh Nasser Al Sabah (who was in power while al-Khorafi was Speaker) met with individuals linked to Iran to discuss a possible coup. Al Sabah is perceived to have close ties to the country’s Shia community, and the regime’s decision to question al-Khorafi is therefore intended to limit sectarian tensions, and with it the threat from IS sympathisers, by demonstrating that it is taking the coup claims seriously. However, al-Khorafi is unlikely to be brought to trial because of the risk that the opposition would then seek to embarrass the regime by demanding that the former Prime Minister – who is also the Emir’s nephew – should also be charged.