This article is part of a multi-part series on Arab Gulf security.
In terms of strategic western interests, Kuwait is geopolitically the most important in the northern Gulf. It stands as a bookend to the position occupied by Oman in the south. While its petroleum resources are important, since 1991, Kuwait has become a critical staging area from which the United States can leverage adversaries and support allies. In addition, this powerful military presence enhances the stability and survivability of the pro-western Al Sabah regime in a region marked by political instability and external threats. Western security arrangements, particularly those with the US, shield Kuwait and the Al Sabah against foreign threats, while at the same time bolstering internal intelligence and security forces. Given the fractious nature of the Kuwaiti political system – a hybrid monarchical authoritarian system coupled with an elected Majlis or National Assembly – the ability of the Al Sabah to impose its will on the various factions and groupings found in Kuwait is a critical existential issue.
Since 1991, Kuwait has become a critical staging area from which the United States can leverage adversaries and support allies.
Given the fractured and politically unstable – even irresponsible – elements represented in the Majlis, the Al Sabah constitute the focal point for state identity. Viewed within the historical, and arguably the contemporary political, context as well, without the Al Sabah, there would be no Kuwait. Given the political frictions and raucous debates between factions, none of the competing societal, sectarian, and ethnic groups offer an acceptable and thus realistic alternative to the Al Sabah. This discussion of state formation, survival, internal political discourse, and Kuwait’s ongoing role is not limited only to the Gulf but extends into broader regional security. Since the 18th century, the nature of Kuwait and the role of the Al Sabah has remained remarkably consistent – the contemporary media descriptions of conflict, crisis, and dysfunction in politics and security viewed in the context of the last 30 years is misleading. The contemporary criteria for political crisis, dysfunction, and corruption could have been applied to Kuwait and the Al Sabah at virtually any point in the last 250 years – the deeper context is sorely lacking. For this reason, any understanding of contemporary Kuwait must be refracted through the prism of Kuwait’s past because the problems of today are blurred reflections of that past.
The Al Sabah and Kuwait to 1914
The Al Sabah as well as the Al Khalifa were a part of the Utub tribal confederation, a subgroup of the “Great Aniza confederation” of the central Nejd. During the late 17th and mid-18th centuries, the Utub migrated to the northern coastal regions of Arabia, including modern day Kuwait, an area controlled by the Bani Khalid tribe.[i] By the early 18th century, the Al Sabah had gained a degree of independence at “Grane” – also known as “little fort” or Kuwait.[ii] In 1756, The Al Sabah defeated their Bani Khalid overlords and emerged as the independent rulers of Kuwait under Sheikh Abu Abdullah Sabah ibn Jabar Al Sabah.[iii] Still facing Bani Khalid hostility, Sheikh Sabah quickly journeyed to Basra and met with the Ottoman governor, pledging his loyalty to the Sublime Porte.[iv] The Ottomans provided a degree of protection from the Bani Khalid, the Wahhabi-driven First Saudi State (1744–1818), and Persian ambitions in the Gulf. The Persian occupation of Basra 1775–1779 also brought the first formal relations between the Al Sabah and the British East India Company (BEIC) with the BEIC rerouting its Indian overland mail through Kuwait. In 1793, the BEIC placed a British resident at Kuwait and supported the Al Sabah’s successful attempts to repel Saudi expeditions.[v] In addition to the external threats, the ascendant role of the Al Sabah created friction with their Al Khalifa allies. The Al Sabah assisted the Al Khalifa in leaving Kuwait and finally settling at Zubarah on the northern Qatari peninsula, ultimately establishing themselves in Bahrain.[vi] Al Sabah policy was “to ignore the [Ottoman] claim on most occasions, to deny it on others, and to tolerate it when danger threatened from another quarter.”[vii] Despite existential threats – both internal and external – the Al Sabah used alliances and a balancing act to maintain their independence and survive.
The British pressed for a new Anglo-Ottoman agreement on the entire Gulf that recognized the Al Sabah as the independent rulers of Kuwait.
In the 1890s, the regional and global situation changed, forcing the Al Sabah to reconsider their political calculations. The Ottomans attempted to reassert control at Kuwait City. Then, in 1896, a new Kuwaiti emir, Mubarak al-Sabah Al Sabah (r. 1896–1915) also known as Mubarak the Great, murdered his half-brother, and immediately petitioned the Ottoman Sultan for recognition as the new ruler, the qaim maqam (governor) of Kuwait. The recognition came, but it also defined the Sheikhdom of Kuwait as qaza (lesser district) in the sanjuq (a district) of the Nejd in the wilayat (province) of Basra – this designation would have significant ramifications for Kuwait into the 21st century.[viii] Paranoid, Mubarak feared removal by the Ottoman authorities given his unofficial relationship with the British, German, and Russian railroad interests maneuvering politically against him; attempts by the Al Rashid at Jabal al-Shammar to incorporate Kuwait into their domains; and Mubarak’s ongoing resistance to Ottoman control. Frederick Anscombe observed that at this point, “Mubarak began to display to the fullest degree his marvelous ability to get others to do for him what he could not do himself.”[ix] The Sheikh began to press the British for a “formal” relationship. British ambivalence evaporated when Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, pointed out, “Germany so far has the largest railway interest in Asia Minor; and there can be little doubt that one or another of those lines will ultimately be protracted to the Euphrates or Tigris, and will finally descend from Mesopotamia towards the Gulf.”[x] This sequence of events describes the history of Kuwait – the talent for making Al Sabah interests coalesce with those of a power willing to protect the Al Sabah and Kuwait.[xi] In 1899, the British pressured the Porte to recognize Kuwait as a political entity separate from the wilayat of Basra solidifying Mubarak’s position and allowing him to ignore Ottoman authorities.[xii] In 1913, with growing German influence in Istanbul, a proposed German railway to Kuwait, traditional paranoia about threats to India, and now the requirement to protect their oil interests in the Gulf, the British pressed for a new Anglo-Ottoman agreement on the entire Gulf that recognized the Al Sabah as the independent rulers of Kuwait. The 1913 Anglo-Ottoman agreement remained unratified when war broke out in 1914.[xiii]
The Al Sabah: Adjusting to New Realities 1914–1946
The First World War changed the political and economic dynamics in the Gulf. The British protected the Al Sabah against the Ottomans and their Al Rashid allies, the Persian Qajars, and the resurgent Third Saudi Emirate (1902–1932) in return for Kuwaiti loyalty and support for British policies. With an enhanced view of their prerogatives, the Al Sabah viewed the British much as they had the Ottomans. Mubarak died in 1915, replaced by Jabir al-Mubarak Al Sabah (r. 1915–1917) and then in 1917 by Salim al-Mubarak Al Sabah (r. 1917–1921). During the war, the Al Sabah attempted to play politics with the Al Saud and their rivals the Al Rashid; profiteer at British expense; and even trade with the Ottomans. In their defense, British performance in Mesopotamia, including the surrender of an entire army at Kut in April 1916, no doubt raised some concerns about the ultimate outcome of the war. For the Al Sabah, hedging their bets might have seemed prudent, but the British were not the Ottomans. The British instituted a blockade and occupied Kuwait, and then exacted their revenge at the Uqair Conference in 1922, reducing Kuwait’s territorial claims by two-thirds in favor of the Al Saud and Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud (Ibn Saud). Bitterly, the Al Sabah accepted because the alternative to British protection was absorption into the Saudi state.[xiv]
The 1927 discovery of the huge Kirkuk field in northern Iraq made the strategic position of Kuwait even more critical to the British.
The end of the political, military, and commercial freewheeling that had marked the 18th and 19th centuries in Kuwait brought new internal tensions. The Al Sabah had adroitly maneuvered the sheikhdom between the Ottomans, various local rivals, and the British. As a result, the merchants were free to do as they pleased – smuggling, avoiding customs, and basically playing all sides of every dispute for profit. The Al Sabah now found themselves a cog in the British Indian imperial system. In return for protection, the British demanded adherence to British policies and were more than willing to enforce them. In turn, the Al Sabah were expected to keep their subjects in line including the merchant classes who focused their frustrations on the Al Sabah. In 1921, the merchants revolted demanding a “national charter” and what amounted to a majlis. That same year when Ahmad al-Jabar Al Sabah (r. 1921–1950) became emir, he agreed to the merchant’s demands and then ignored them, ruling largely without consultation or interference.[xv] Oil created another source of tension. The 1927 discovery of the huge Kirkuk field in northern Iraq made the strategic position of Kuwait even more critical to the British. Early evaluations by Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) downplayed the potential for significant reserves in Kuwait, and Emir Ahmad opposed concessions to the British, preferring to deal with American oil companies. In 1933, a compromise was struck. APOC would initiate exploration, but exploitation would belong to a new company, the Kuwaiti Oil Company in a 50-50 partnership with Gulf Oil.[xvi] In 1938, oil was discovered, and commercial shipments began in 1946. This development not only underpinned Al Sabah rule, and Kuwaiti stability at a critical juncture but it also provided the British an important financial resource.[xvii]
The discovery of oil could not have come at a more propitious moment. Multiple threats with the potential to undermine Al Sabah rule emerged in Kuwait. On the one hand, various British policies were at the root of problems in Kuwait; and on the other hand, British protection was an absolute necessity. In the 1930s, the Al Sabah faced serious internal political upheaval. British policy focused on India and ignored the problems of the Kuwaiti merchants even as the Depression crippled commerce. The government of British India had discouraged compromise on the part of the Al Sabah with any political opposition. Thus, the promises of 1921 became the political demands of 1937–1939.[xviii] Events in the Mandate of Palestine further complicated Kuwaiti domestic politics. Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws of 1935 brought a spike in Jewish emigration. In protest, the Palestinians called a general strike in 1936 that degenerated into a full-blown uprising (1936–1939) against British rule in the Mandate. The perception of pro-Zionist policies on the part of the British fed Arab nationalist ferment across the region. In neighboring Iraq, King Ghazi bin Feisal (r. 1933–1939) supported Arab nationalist policies and, given the strong ties between Iraq and Kuwait, Kuwaiti political views on the issue of Palestine mirrored those of Ghazi, Iraq, and the “Association of Gulf Arabs.” Kuwaiti donations to various Arab nationalist causes increased dramatically. Concerned, the British political agent went so far as to caution Sheikh Ahmad to avoid the issue of Palestinians. This instruction was simply impossible given that Ghazi announced an Iraqi claim to Kuwait through Sheikh Mubarak’s Ottoman arrangement making Kuwait a sub-district within Basra province and using Arab nationalism and the Palestine issue to undermine the Al Sabah.[xix]
The Al Sabah represented the only viable means of balancing the interests of Kuwaiti society.
In 1938, the collapse of the pearling industry, the Saudi embargo, the issue of the Palestinian revolt, and the British role in Kuwait itself forced Sheikh Ahmad to accept the long-ignored provisions of the 1921 agreement and establish a National Legislative Council or Majlis. Even the British recognized that some compromise had to be reached. In theory, the Majlis had executive, legislative, and judicial power and was controlled by the ‘notable’ families of the Sheikhdom. It lasted only six months before being abolished by Sheikh Ahmad, another provision in the 1921 accord.[xx] The ‘notables’ intent on running the state to the benefit of Sunni upper classes overplayed their hand illuminating the tightly coupled relationship between Kuwaiti identity and the Al Sabah. The so-called “Year of the Majlis” ended when the Bedouin, the poorer classes, and the Shia united to support the Al Sabah.[xxi] No single group was acceptable to the other elements in society to rule. The Al Sabah represented the only viable means of balancing the interests of Kuwaiti society, an identity that arguably would not have existed without the expertise and good luck of the rulers in creating an independent state. The almost simultaneous discovery of oi would provide the Al Sabah with the funds to seal the bargain.
The British, Oil, and the Rise of Arab Nationalism 1946–1961
In 1946, the first oil shipments dramatically increased Kuwait’s revenues. Shortly after Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah (r. 1950–1965) became the emir in 1950, the rise of Gamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt and the near fall of the Shah in Iran placed Kuwait in a precarious position. The close relationship between the Al Sabah and the British made Kuwait a prime target for radical Arab nationalist agitation. Iraq called for Kuwait to enter a “defensive” alliance that would allow the basing of Iraqi troops in Kuwait while the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nuri Said (1888–1958), argued that Kuwait was an Iraqi province. The Al Sabah now used part of its new-found riches to buy off Arab nationalist opposition groups and finance a new balancing act between Arab rivals. The situation for Kuwait was complicated enough and then came 1958. In February, Nasser announced the formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR), a union between Egypt and Syria. Although ultimately ill-fated, the formation of the UAR initially shocked the region and world. On July 14, while scrambling for a response, the Iraqi monarchy blundered into a coup by nationalist army officers, and to quote Harold Macmillan, “The coup in Baghdad destroyed at a single blow the whole system of security which successive British governments had built up.[xxii] In a classic move, Sheikh Abdullah met with Nasser in Damascus on July 20 to discuss “Arab League” issues and bilateral relations.[xxiii] Already unnerved, the British Foreign Office viewed the Emir’s meeting with Nasser in Damascus as a threat that raised the possibility of formally reoccupying Kuwait.
“It is essential in the interests of the maintenance of our economy and standard of living to maintain our control of British oil interests in the Gulf, more particularly Kuwait. A separate paper is being prepared on this. Hold the Gulf States… If say, the Ruler of Kuwait returns from Damascus and announces his intention of breaking off his association with us and joining the U.A.R., we are faced with the dilemma of either deposing him and more or less occupying and running Kuwait as a colony, or acquiescing in the loss of the remaining most important source of Middle Eastern oil. We should presumably choose the former alternative, but to do so would run us into serious difficulties with the rest of the Arab world and make our task of returning to normal relations with Iraq more difficult. Nevertheless, these difficulties would have to be faced.”[xxiv]
On returning to Kuwait, Sheikh Abdullah, now viewing the British conduct of foreign policy “as less than brilliant,” merely wrung another security guarantee from the British and increased his control over Kuwait’s own foreign relations.[xxv] The Emir had concluded that he was more talented in navigating the dangers of the Gulf if he had a British security guarantee. For the British, this represented a crisis averted. In 1959, under Arab nationalist domestically, Sheikh Abdullah disbanded political clubs and punished activists while announcing solidarity with the “cause of Arab unity” and promising reforms to curb corruption and the abuses of Al Sabah family members.[xxvi] The ideological and group labels change; the problems and the promises remain the same. The approach to Al Sabah rule and political, diplomatic, and security policy has been nothing if not consistent.
Conclusion: Independence and the Way Forward 1961–1962
The centralized authority of the emir would continue to provide the cohesiveness that Kuwaiti society and its nascent political institutions lacked.
On June 19, 1961, the Anglo-Kuwaiti treaty of 1899 was terminated, and Kuwait gained full independence and sovereignty. Within days, Abd-al-Karim al-Qasim’s revolutionary government in Baghdad claimed Kuwait as an Iraqi province. To back up the claim, Qasim moved armor and infantry to the Kuwaiti border. Under the provisions of a new treaty of friendship and at the request of Sheikh Abdullah, the British immediately moved forces to Kuwait.[xxvii] The Iraqi threat had multiple positive outcomes for the Al Sabah and Kuwait. First, the Kuwaiti population rallied around the emir creating an atmosphere which allowed the promulgation of a constitution. Second, Nasser, who hated Qasim, had no choice but to support Kuwait in the crisis. Chagrined, in an Al Ahram article titled “A Bad Day for All Arabs”, Mohammed Heikal, who was Nasser’s spokesperson, blamed Qasim and described the Kuwait crisis as “Suez in reverse.” He stated Arab League troops “were standing shoulder to shoulder with British Imperialists who had returned with no bloodshed and no shots fired facing an Arab army.”[xxviii] Third, despite labelling Kuwait a feudal regime, Nasser supported Kuwait’s admission into the Arab League, and finally, independent or not, the British demonstrated a willingness to defend their interests in the Gulf and Kuwait’s continued place in the British Gulf security system. Lastly, it demonstrated to the Al Sabah and the Kuwaiti ‘street’ the precariousness of their geopolitical position and that survival necessitated Western support. Independent or not, Kuwait survived because the British were prepared to defend their interests.[xxix] In 1962, the Iraqi crisis garnered sufficient support allowing Sheikh Abdullah to obtain an agreement with his Arab nationalist opposition, which resulted in a new constitution and National Assembly on the emir’s terms. The constitution banned political parties and made the emir supreme with the ability to appoint governments and more importantly dissolve the Assembly. The Al Sabah had created a constitutional monarchy of sorts (or perhaps a traditional authoritarian government with constitutional attributes), nevertheless, the centralized authority of the emir would continue to provide the cohesiveness that Kuwaiti society and its nascent political institutions lacked. From the 18th century, the Al Sabah had provided the necessary ingredient that allowed Kuwait to develop and maintain its identity and independence.
[i] Ahmad Mustafa Abu-Hakima, The Modern History of Kuwait, 1750-1965 (London: Luzac & Company Limited, 1983): 1–5. The Aniza Confederation of the Nejd also included the Al Saud.
[ii] Ahmad Mustafa Abu-Hakima, History of Eastern Arabia: The Rise and Development of Bahrain and Kuwait (Beirut: Khayats, 1965): 51–54.
[iii] Abdul-Reda Assiri, Kuwait’s Foreign Policy: City-State in World Politics (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990): 2.
[iv] Michael S. Casey, The History of Kuwait (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000): 28, 144.
[v] Abdul-Reda Assiri, Kuwait’s Foreign Policy: City-State in World Politics (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990): 2.
[vi] Willem Floor, The Persian Gulf: The Rise of the Gulf Arabs – Politics of Trade on the Persian Littoral, 1747–1792 (Washington, D.C.: Mage Publishers, 2007): 96–98, 223, 249, 262–263. See also, Ahmad Hasan Joudah, al-Massalih al-Britania fil Kuwait hata 1939 (Basra: Center for Arab Gulf Studies, 1979): 37. See also, Ahmad Abu Hakima, History of Eastern Arabia: The Rise and Development of Bahrain and Kuwait (Beirut: Khayats, 1965): 84–89. At the same time, the departure of the Al Khalifa enhanced the value of both the Al Sabah and the Al Khalifa to the Ottomans as erstwhile naval allies to oppose the Persians and their Arab surrogates in the Gulf.
[vii] Husayn Khalaf al-Shaykh Khazal, Tarikh al-Kuwait al-Siyassi, Volume I (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub, 1962): 138. Al Sabah rule was predicated on the ability to feign allegiance to a superior power and yet pursue their own interests, which were often in conflict with those of the very power that guaranteed their political survival.
[viii] J. B. Kelley, Arabia, the Gulf, & the West (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Limited, 1980): 168-–169. The Ottomans attempted to establish a customs post at Kuwait City to stop the Kuwaiti practice of avoiding customs at Bara and trading directly with Iraq and other ostensibly Ottoman areas.
[ix] Frederick F. Anscombe, The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997): 115.
[x] Memorandum by Curzon, November 19, 1898 in the Political and Secret Home Correspondence quoted in J. B. Kelly, “Salisbury, Curzon and the Kuwait Agreement of 1899,” in Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J. B. Kelly, edited by S. B. Kelly (London: New English Review Press, 2013): 260.
[xi] Anscombe, The Ottoman Gulf, 122-123.
[xii] J. B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf 1795–1880 (London: Oxford Press, 1968): 836. See also, Isam al-Taher, Kuwait: The Reality, (Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Press, 1995): 65–66. In 1903, over Ottoman protests, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, visited Kuwait and established a Permanent British Resident. In 1902, the British ambassador in Istanbul, no doubt frustrated in trying to work with the Ottoman government over issues related to Kuwait, argued that Mubarak was “impossible” and “untrustworthy,” and that British support for the “status quo” with regard to Kuwaiti territorial claims and its actual status vis-a-vis the British was embarrassing given that nobody “really knows what the status quo is.”
[xiii] By 1913, the issue of Persian Gulf oil and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company had become paramount. British geologists believed that Mesopotamia possessed potentially massive oil reserves. In addition, between 1904 and 1910, First Sea Lord John Arbuthnot Fisher, First Baron Fisher, had not only been the driving force behind introduction of the HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun battleship, but he had also ordered the Royal Navy to switch from coal-fired ships to oil. Kelly, Arabia, the Gulf & the West, 170.
[xiv] Kelly, Arabia, the Gulf & the West, 171.
[xv] Rosemary Said Zahlan, The Making of the Modern Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman (Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, 1998): 35–36.
[xvi] Kelley, Arabia, the Gulf, & the West, 171.
[xvii] Simon C. Smith, Kuwait 1950–1965: Britain, the al-Sabah, and Oil (London: Oxford University Press, 1999): 16–18.
[xviii] Paul Rich, Creating the Arabian Gulf: The British Raj and Invasions of the Gulf (Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2009): 42–43. Paul Rich argued that the “public school-dominated Viceregal establishment” within the Indian Political Service (IPS) fostered policies that ignored the interests of the merchant classes and encouraged autocratic rule creating unnecessary frictions within Kuwaiti society.
[xix] Zahlan, Modern Gulf States, 36–37.
[xx] Helen Chapin Metz, ed., Persian Gulf States: Country Studies (Washington, DC: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1993): 75.
[xxi] Zahlan, Modern Gulf States, 39.
[xxii] Smith, Kuwait 1950–1965, 90–91.
[xxiii] Smith, Kuwait 1950–1965, 93.
[xxiv] “Policy in the Middle East, Shuckburgh to FO for distribution,” August 24, 1958, Public Records Office (PRO), FO371/132545: 2. The British were nothing if not consistent: the only issue that really mattered in London was oil, because of its direct implications for British finances. In addition, the FO document rationalized its position, “It is militarily feasible. It is expected of us by the American[s], who will probably take parallel action themselves as regards Dhahran if need arises. It is perhaps even desirable to hold Kuwait in the interests of our relations with the new regime in Iraq; if the Arab nations control completely all the sources of Arab oil, they can hold us to ransom, but so long as the Iraqis know that we can do without Iraqi oil if necessary, by relying on Kuwait, they have a strong inducement to come to terms with us.”
[xxv] “Letter from FO (Burrows) to Kuwait (Beeley),” December 3, 1957, PRO FO371/126905: 7.
[xxvi] “Letter from Halford to R. A. Beaumont on Kuwait,” June 25, 1959 PRO FO371/140286.
[xxvii] “Telegram from British Embassy Baghdad (Trevelyan) to FO, June 30, 1961” (No. 690, PRO, FO371/156875): 1. The British embassy reported that on the night of June 30, railway flatcars loaded with British-supplied Centurion tanks departed the Baghdad area, along with various Iraqi army units for the Kuwaiti border. See also “Telegram from British Embassy Baghdad (Trevelyan) to FO, June 30, 1961” (No. 692, PRO, FO371/156875): 2–4, in which Trevelyan clearly attaches “overriding importance” to the ability to deal effectively with an Iraqi attack, but bluntly warns that the fallout from a military confrontation with Iraq would again excite anti-British sentiment throughout the Middle East.
[xxviii] “Telegram from British Diplomatic Mission Cairo (Beeley) to FO (Hoyer-Millar and Stephenson), July 2, 1961” PRO, FO371/156875: 1.
[xxix] Ritchie Ovendale, Britain, the United States, and the Transfer of Power in the Middle East, 1945-1962 (London: Leicester University Press, 1996): 228–237. See also, John S. Badeau, The Middle East Remembered (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1983): 205–206. About Iraq and Kuwait, John Badeau, the US Ambassador in Cairo, related a humorous conversation with Nasser. Badeau speculated that the Iraqi move against Kuwait was to compensate for the lack of financial success resulting from the IPC partial nationalization. Nasser said, “Yes, you are right, that is what people say, but I don’t think that is ultimately what the reason was. I think that one morning Qasim was in the men’s room and he met his Chief of Staff and one man said to the other, ‘Why don’t we take Kuwait?’ Then the other man said, ‘Wallahi, billahi, tallahi’ (By God that’s a good idea, let’s do it). That’s the way we sometimes reach decisions.”