The groundswell of political unrest sweeping the region has arrived in Kuwait, the fourth largest oil producer in OPEC.
On Tuesday, the Kuwaiti cabinet resigned in the face of an allegedly “aggressive” parliament that asked to question three ministers.
The lawmakers, according to pan-Arab satellite TV news network Al Jazeera, are the “most outspoken in a Gulf region mostly dominated by autocratic rulers.”
Just one week ago, the Kuwaiti cabinet had praised United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which imposed a no-fly zone over Libya in an effort to block military air strikes by dictator Muammar Qaddafi loyalists against opposition forces.
A parliamentary source told the Reuters news agency Thursday the ministers submitted their resignations en masse to the prime minister, “who will refer it to the emir.”
The emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, is expected to reappoint the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah. Al-Sabah, who is also the nephew of the emir, will then be asked to form another cabinet.
Such a move may not satisfy the masses, however, as protesters earlier this month took to the streets to demand the prime minister's ouster after five years in office.
The “Fifth Fence” youth group used Twitter feeds to organize and rally supporters to join a demonstration against the government earlier this month. “The best solution is your [prime minister's] departure,” the group tweeted. “Kuwait deserves better.”
Direct and Indirect Challenges
The three ministers who were to be questioned are all members of the ruling al-Sabah royal family, which has ruled the oil-rich emirate unchallenged for more than 250 years.
According to Al Jazeera, the questioning constitutes a series of challenges to the government that repeatedly has delayed economic reforms.
It is also being seen by analysts in the region as an indirect challenge to the emir.
The Islamist Ummah Party has called for “legalizing political parties, approving political pluralism and peaceful rotation of power, and the principle of elected government.”
Five of the U.S. ally's past six cabinets have been forced to resign and the parliament was dissolved three times since Sheikh Nasser's appointment in 2006.
Iran Stirring Up Trouble?
Kuwait announced Thursday it will also expel a number of Iranian diplomats accused of having links to a suspected spy ring.
A Kuwaiti court on Tuesday condemned three men, two Iranians and a Kuwaiti national, to death after they were convicted of being members of the ring.
A spokesman for the Shi'ite nation's Foreign Ministry denied the charges in a statement to the state-run IRNA news agency, saying “This claim is a lie and baseless.”