Three Scud missiles flying from Iraq to Kuwait early Friday, Aug. 26 were launched by the Iran-backed Ketaeb Hizballah of Iraq, the first such attacks since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. It was also the first time any Middle East terrorist group had used Scud missiles.
They exploded on open ground, but DEBKAfile’s sources report that this round was meant as a warning for Kuwait to halt construction of the Grand Mubarak Port opposite the Iraqi shore – or else it would be followed by a massive volley.
In the second week of August, Kuwait massed troops on Boubiyan Island just across from Iraq to defend the huge $1.1 billion Grand Mubarak Port under construction there. The force was composed of Military Police of the Amoun Defense Organization, units of intelligence and air defense, the 35th Company, the 6th Brigade and naval forces.
This appeared to be rather a disproportionate reaction to Iraq’s demand that Kuwait freeze construction of the Persian Gulf port until guarantees were provided that the new facility would not hinder the operations of Iraq’s own planned harbor in the southern region of Basra. Iraq also fears it will block the main Persian Gulf gateway for its oil exports to reach the world’s shipping lanes from the Shatt al-Arb.
A government spokesman in Baghdad demanded assurances that free and safe navigation would not be affected by the Kuwait port which is scheduled for completion in 2016.
This dispute did not account for Kuwait’s heavy military deployment on its largest island.
What did is another factor DEBKA-Net- Weekly’s military and intelligence sources reported on Aug. 12: A threat from the Iraqi Shiite radical Ketaeb Hizballah, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al-Qods Brigades, trained by the Lebanese Hizballah, to strike the new port with Scud missiles, a threat they started carrying out this Friday.
This followed Tehran’s discovery that Mubarak Port was also projected to house a large naval base to serve the fleets of Kuwait, the US and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, a project Iran is determined to put paid to by any means.
Until Friday, there was no confirmation of the group’s claim to have recovered most of the inventory of 250 Scuds held by Saddam Hussein before the US invasion of 2003. But now, is clear to Kuwaiti and Western intelligence officials in the Gulf that the Scud cache has indeed fallen into the hands of the Ketaeb Hizballah of Iraq and that there is a real danger of Tehran using Iraqi Shiite extremists to sabotage the Boubiyan Island project.
Last week, Iraqi Hizballah activities staged a demonstration against the port on the Iraqi-Kuwait border. Kuwait warned it would show zero tolerance for any border incursions.