On July 20, 2017, the Kuwaiti government ordered the expulsion of three-quarters of Iran’s diplomatic staff, including Ambassador Alireza Enayati, as well as the closure of the Islamic Republic’s cultural, trade, and military missions in Kuwait City. Kuwait’s decision followed last month’s Supreme Court ruling that found 21 Shiite nationals and one Iranian citizen guilty of plotting “hostile acts” against the state, smuggling explosives and weapons, and receiving training and support from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Following the conviction, sixteen members of this “Abdali cell” (named after the border town where the cell members gathered) escaped from prison to Iran.
Despite evidence to the contrary, the Islamic Republic dismissed allegations of support for the Abdali cell as “baseless,” blaming the expulsions on “the pressure of Saudi interventionist policies.”
The eviction order for Enayati and his staff also caught many Gulf watchers off guard. Kuwait had never expelled an ambassador before and, irrespective of the Abdali conflagration, has consistently strived to balance its loyalties to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with a policy of constructive engagement with Iran.
Authentic Kuwaiti identity
Strategic policy component
IRG espionage cell
The Emir’s call for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue was repaid with the uncovering of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard espionage cell. Following the discovery, Kuwait expelled three Iranian diplomats, recalled its ambassador, and sentenced three of its own residents to death. But, in keeping with its policy of peace through negotiation, Kuwait restored full diplomatic ties with Iran just three months later.Ali Shihabi
Even after the discovery of the Abdali cell, Kuwait responded reasonably, dispatching its foreign minister to Tehran with a handwritten note from the Emir to President Rouhani. Upon delivering this message, the foreign minister said that the Emir believed “it’s necessary that the differing views and misunderstandings between the countries of the region should come to an end in a calm atmosphere and through frank dialogue.”