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The American University of Kuwait Hosts a Lecture by Ambassador Edward Gnehm

To commemorate the occasion of Kuwait's national and liberation days, the American University of Kuwait (AUK), in partnership with Embassy of the United States of America in Kuwait, invited H.E Former US Ambassador to Kuwait, Mr. Edward Gnehm, Jr., to recount his experiences during and after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 in a lecture entitled "Reflections on the Invasion and Liberation of Kuwait: A Talk with Former Ambassador to Kuwait Edward Gnehm.". The talk was moderated by the AUK President, Professor Nizar Hamzeh, who opened the talk saying, "while the national independence of Kuwait in 1961 ushered a new era of hopes and aspirations for building an independent sovereign nation state with all the rights, duties and privileges under customary and conventional international law, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and its subsequent liberation on February 26, 1991 marked the most significant turning point not only in the country's modern history but also in the relations between states in the Gulf region. It is in this context that our distinguished guest Ambassador Edward Gnehm will share with us his reflections on the invasion and liberation of Kuwait."

In his talk Ambassador Gnehm spoke of the days that led up to the invasion of Kuwait, his interaction with Kuwaitis in Washington, DC, USA, during the Iraqi occupation, and where Kuwait is now - 25 years following the liberation.

Ambassador Gnehm recalled the days prior to the invasion, during which he was still in Washington. There was an ongoing debate at the time regarding whether or not the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was going to proceed with the invasion of Kuwait. According to Ambassador Gnehm, most interpretations of the dialogue taking place at that time suggested the possibility of Iraq occupying the border regions of Kuwait without advancing to the city. When it became clear that Hussein intended to invade Kuwait in its entirety, Ambassador Gnehm recalled that Former US President George Bush Sr. asserted during a meeting with HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, that he will do everything in his power to restore Kuwait to its government and people. It was then, as HH Sheikh Sabah was leaving the meeting with the American President, that Ambassador Gnehm remembered the President turning towards him and instructed him to go to Kuwait immediately.

Ambassador Gnehm also recalled instances in which he empathized with the Kuwaitis who were abroad. He shared a memory he had of a short conversation he had with a young Kuwaiti boy during a press conference in Abu Dhabi, in which the boy presented the Ambassador with a small gift; a wooden door. The boy explained that the door reminded him of his grandmother's house in Kuwait and expressed that he wished to return home to Kuwait again and see his grandmother. Ambassador Gnehm assured the boy back then that he will go back to Kuwait and reunite with his loved ones. "I felt from the heart, from the Kuwaitis that I met, the tragedy, the fear, concern, and anxiety [they were experiencing]," he said.

In 2016, 25 years after its liberation, Ambassador Gnehm returned to Kuwait and met with HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who has since their last meeting become the Amir of Kuwait. Ambassador Gnehm compared Kuwait from when he was last there, to what it has become now. "I run past buildings that I knew were destroyed, or places where bad things had happened. Of course, today it's clean and it's nice, and the country has really come a long way in terms of its development," he said. On meeting with HH the Amir of Kuwait, he noted that the country has made significant advances in the 10 years under HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, explaining that the country has not only been developed and has a strong economy, but the role Kuwait now plays, globally and in the region, is remarkable.

Members of the audience had the opportunity to contribute to the event by commenting on the lecture and asking Ambassador Gnehm questions during a Q & A session following the talk. During that session, an audience member asked if Kuwait was at risk of being invaded again by Iraq. "The boundary between Kuwait and Iraq has been demarcated by the United Nations, it's the only boundary on the planet Earth, that is guaranteed by chapter 7 resolution of the Security Council, no other border has that kind of international commitment. I don't think it will happen again," answered Ambassador Gnehm.

Ambassador Edward "Skip" Gnehm had a distinguished 36-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service. He served as Ambassador to Kuwait shortly after the liberation, from 1991 to 1994, and was Director of the State Department's Kuwait Task Force. Before that, he had worked extensively in the Middle East. He ran the U.S. Interests Section in Damascus during then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy between Israel and Syria. As a former Deputy Assistant Secretary at both the State and Defense Departments, he was the Pentagon's point person on the five-man interagency coordinating committee during the 1987-88 deployment of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf. After his assignment to Kuwait, Excellency Gnehm served as Ambassador to Australia from 2000 to 2001 and Ambassador to Jordan from 2001 to 2004. He joined the faculty of the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University in August 2004 as a visiting professor and was appointed to his present position as Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs in August 2006.

Ambassador Gnehm has received two international decorations: Kuwait Decoration Medallion Special Class from His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Shaikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and the Order of Istiqlal First Class from His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.
 


Kuwait National Anthem


President Nizar Hamzeh (left) and Ambassador Edward Gnehm (right)


President Nizar Hamzeh (left) and Ambassador Edward Gnehm (right)

Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 9th March 2016

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2016



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