- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2012

SKILLFUL KUWAITI DIPLOMAT DIES

The Kuwaiti sheik whose skillful diplomacy as ambassador in Washington coaxed the United States into liberating his country from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein died over the weekend.

Saud Al Nasser Al Sabah was 68. The government-backed newspaper Al-Qabas reported that he died Saturday but gave no cause of death. It said a funeral was planned for Sunday.

Sheik Nasser was Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1992. He later served as Kuwait’s information minister and oil minister, while maintaining strong pro-American views and fiercely opposing Islamic extremism.

After Iraq’s invasion of his oil-rich country on Aug. 2, 1990, the dapper Kuwaiti envoy - who had been best known on the diplomatic social circuit and in dreary public policy circles - immediately became the public face of an occupied country.

He pleaded for the liberation of his nation in nearly nonstop appearances on network television news programs and in major newspapers. He won allies on Capitol Hill and the White House, where former President George H.W. Bush famously declared that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was “naked aggression” that “will not stand.”

Sheik Nasser was on the air within hours of the invasion.

“We appeal to all of our friends around the world, including the United States, to come to our aid,” he said at a news conference. “We don’t stand a chance if we don’t get aid from our friends.”

However, Sheik Nasser overplayed his public-relations campaign when he arranged for a young Kuwaiti girl, identified only as Nayirah, to testify before the congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990.

She claimed to have been a volunteer in a Kuwaiti hospital when Iraqi soldiers stormed into the maternity ward, stole incubators and dumped premature babies on the “cold floor to die.”

Her story electrified the news media and helped Mr. Bush win congressional and U.N. approval to liberate Kuwait with a coalition of 34 nations, including Arab League countries.

However, a year later, Nayirah was identified as the ambassador’s teen-aged daughter. Critics accused the Kuwaiti government of mounting a deceptive campaign, led by the firm of Hill and Knowlton, to manipulate U.S. public opinion on the conflict.

Sheik Nasser stood by his daughter’s testimony.

“If I wanted to lie …, I wouldn’t use my daughter to do so,” he told a reporter in 1992. “I could easily buy other people to do it.”

Mr. Bush on Sunday praised Sheik Nasser as a “trusted partner.”

“He was truly a good man and a joy with whom to work,” Mr. Bush said.

ANOTHER DIPLOMAT FOR ROMNEY

A sixth former U.S. ambassador is backing Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

David Wilkins, ambassador to Canada from 2005 to 2009, endorsed the former Massachusetts governor after his first choice for the nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, dropped out last week.

“Americans want a candidate they can believe in - one who can defeat President Obama and get our country back to work,” said Mr. Wilkins, a South Carolina lawyer and former speaker of the lower house in the state legislature.

Earlier this month, five former ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Mr. Romney: Democrat Raymond L. Flynn, who served from 1993 to 1997; and Republicans Thomas Patrick Melady, ambassador from 1989 to 1993; James Nicholson, ambassador from 2001 to 2005; Francis Rooney, the envoy from 2005 to 2008; and Mary Ann Glendon, who served from 2008 to 2009.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

• Ricardo Lagos, a former president of Chile who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue on the future of democracy in his South American nation.

• Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. She addresses the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washington times.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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