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Over the last few days, we have been in anguish due to the devastating consequences of the earthquakes that hit Turkiye and Syria. The sisterly country Syria granted a lot of favors to Kuwait, unlike many other countries, which have been receiving loads of aid from Kuwait since the liberation in 1991. Syria’s Al-Assad is quite different from Iraq Saddam Hussein who brutally treated Kuwait. Nevertheless, one of the Kuwaiti writers praised Saddam Hussein. I pray that Allah Almighty put both of them in hell.
The late Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad was against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait from the beginning, without expecting any reward for himself or his people. I would like to narrate something I witnessed being recorded in history. I was appointed Minister of Oil after the election in 1992, when Kuwait’s share of oil exports was 1.8 million barrels per day. The share of Kuwait was divided among the sisterly Arab and Gulf countries during the invasion due to the suspension of production and the burning of most oil wells. After the liberation, I repeatedly called for restoration of the share of Kuwait – the same quantity before the Iraqi invasion.
At the time, I was assigned to chair the assembly of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC). At the OAPEC meeting held in Cairo, a decision was taken to hold the next assembly in Damascus. It was held later at the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus, as far as I can remember. We were informed about the desire of the late Hafez Al-Assad to meet with OAPEC. During the meeting with Hafez Al-Asaad, I told him that in my younger days, we depended on Damascus in terms of communication, because such devices were not available in Kuwait then. Al-Assad smiled as he responded: “Thanks to Kuwaiti aid, the communication systems in Syria witnessed positive developments.”
Indeed, the response of Hafez Al-Assad blew away my brother. Gloating, I looked at the then Iraqi oil minister who also attended the meeting. Kuwait provided enormous support to Syria. However, positions have collapsed since Bashar Al-Assad came to power through elections. At the time, I was in Beirut, at Concorde Hotel along Hamra Street to be exact, watching television. Lebanon was fully controlled by Syria then. The Syrian Parliament at the time amended the Constitution to reduce the required age for presidential candidates in a bid to accommodate Bashar Al-Assad. Anyway, it was their business and they were free to decide what they believe is good for their country.
Later, we saw some bearded men with short ‘dishdashas’, including a former lawmaker. They gathered in front of the Syrian and Russian embassies in Kuwait; calling for the preparation of 12,000 soldiers to fight against Bashar Al-Assad. I wondered why they did not call for such number of soldiers to liberate Palestine.
I also wondered about focusing Kuwaiti aid on Turkiye, more than Syria. It is true that Turkiye is a friendly country and the Turkish are our Muslim brothers, but why Syria is being ignored? A total of 56 countries have so far sent aid to Turkiye, compared to only six countries for Syria.
Syria has Hamidiya Souk, Ummayad Mosque and Damascus International Book Fair. Syria and Kuwait have special social and family ties. I would like to call on the government of Kuwait to assess the issue, and refrain from responding to the advice of those who were exiled from their own countries and could not even utter one word, except in Kuwait.
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil