Liberal Kuwaiti Journalist Hassan Al-Juffeiri Praises the US for Its Middle East Policies and Slams Russia for Its Relations with Extremist Arab Regimes
Following are excerpts from a public address delivered by Kuwaiti journalist Hassan Al-Juffeiri at an Arab-Russian relations symposium, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on February 24, 2009:
Hassan Al-Juffeiri: I'd like my Arab brothers to realize that the interests of the Gulf states differ from the interests of the rest of the Arabs. This affects Arab-Russian rapprochement – including the rapprochement between Russia and the Gulf states.
Take, for example, the war of liberation of Kuwait. Kuwait was occupied by Iraq, and this occupation was liable to spread to all the Gulf states. As you have heard today, Russia always treats these things as domestic affairs, while the Americans intervened and liberated Kuwait. Some of the Arabs were also angered by Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons against the Kurds, and attacked the Shiites as well. I am Sunni, but I don't want anything bad to happen to my Shiite brothers.
The Americans have restored some stability to Iraq, and have curbed drug trafficking in Afghanistan. They helped the Muslims in Bosnia. Russia, in contrast, claims that all these are domestic affairs. Even with regard to human rights – today, you heard a Russian official say that human rights have been violated. If any Arab state were to return to Russia today, asking to buy devices with which to torture and hang prisoners, or electric chairs, or rods for beating political activists, like myself, Russia would sell these devices without a problem. Does this make any sense?
On the other hand, when Britain sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, the NGOs there exposed the Al-Yamamah deal. There is accountability there. We in the Gulf cooperate with the Americans, the British, and the French, so that they can establish military bases here in the Gulf, because we know that if they wrong us, they will be held accountable in their countries, by political parties, by the media, and by civil society organizations.
But if the Russians wrong us, who in Russia will hold them accountable? Everybody wonders why people from the Gulf do not invest in Russia. What is the extent of corruption in Russia? Why is Russia absent from conferences dealing with transparency and integrity, and why is it not a signatory on many of the agreements? There are many things. For example, Russia assists Iran in uranium production. Doesn't this constitute danger to the Gulf states? Aren't we nations as well? The same Iran still occupies the U.A.E [islands] and demands to [annex] Bahrain. It is Iran itself that creates the problems. Every day, the Iranian government puts liberal activists like myself in prison.