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.