Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kuwaiti diplomat attacked by mob in Iran

Who done it?

KUWAIT: Bruised and battered, a Kuwaiti diplomat attacked by a mob in front of the Kuwait Embassy in Tehran returned home to Kuwait yesterday. Mohammad Al-Zobi, third secretary to the Kuwait Embassy in Tehran, flew home on a government jet sent by the HH Amir after the Tuesday assault. Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Mohammad Al-Salem Al-Sabah slammed the assault and labeled it a political act.

"The assault on Mohammad Al-Zobi is not an attack on a person, but an attack on Kuwait."

Specifics about the incident remain unclear. On Tuesday, as he was returning the embassy, Al-Zobi was set upon by a pack of angry Iranians. An unconfirmed report claimed that the attackers were members of the Basiji, a hardline state-sponsored Iranian militia. However, neither the Kuwaiti nor the Iranian government has provided an official explanation of the attack.

Another unconfirmed report suggests that the attack was in response to an attack on an Iranian official in Kuwait a few weeks ago. No such attack was made public at the time and no details of any such incident were available.

Kuwait Times could not confirm either report yesterday. The Kuwait's Foreign Ministry summoned Iranian Ambassador to Kuwait Ali Jannati to complain yesterday morning and demanded an investigation and a written apology. "There should be an investigation and punishment to whomever is behind the incident," he said."Let me be blunt, we believe whoever is behind the incident who wants to damage Kuwaiti-Iranian relations also damages Arab-Iranian relations in general," said the foreign minister, noting the recent rise in Sunni-Shia tensions throughout the Gulf.

When asked if Kuwait would recall its officials from Iran or close the embassy, Sheikh Dr Mohammad replied, "No, but we are taking security procedures."

Kuwait and Iran, who were at odds during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War during which time there was at least one confirmed attack on the Kuwait Embassy in Tehran, have recently enjoyed good relations with First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Interior Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah recently stating Kuwait would not allow the US to use Kuwaiti territory to launch an attack on Iran.

Iranian Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel recently visited Kuwait during which time the states discussed regional issues. Regional tensions have flared since Iran's disregard for UN calls for a halt to its continued uranium enrichment programs.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Mohammed, who met Al-Zobi at the airport, said, "We thank with gratitude our Arab brothers that did good work during this problem and especially my brothers the Foreign Ministers of Bahrain and Syria who have made direct communications with the Iranian Foreign Ministry to resolve the problem."

Spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, Muhamed Ali Hosseini said, "We regret this incident," and furthered, "We are investigating the details. We are looking forward so that this will be an isolated incident and will be dealt with seriously by our friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

...Insert more diplospeak here...

Looks like the Kuwait street is getting restless.

But tensions remained high, with Kuwaitis demonstrating a palpable sense of fury across the country yesterday. "Kuwait is very angry about what happened," said Sheikh Mohammad. "It represents an assault on a diplomat from a country that has nothing but goodwill towards Iran and is always keen on improving relations between Iran and Arab states, and the GCC countries especially."