On 2nd August 1990, Iraqi troops crossed the Kuwaiti border in a declaration of war.
In order to identify the motivations behind this invasion of Kuwait it is important to address both the events that led to the invasion and the more general issues such as the political and economic climate in the Arab world.It has been argued that the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait is deeply rooted in the action taken by the colonial powers directly after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, in that by defining the boundaries of the region arbitrarily they produced a fertile ground for conflict that was to remain tense throughout the century. In particular are the economic disputes between the two regions that I will address later in this essay.In addition the very nature of Saddam Hussein's personality, which has often been characterized by his intense paranoia and controlling nature could also be regarded as a contributing factor in the decision to invade.
There is also the argument that Iraq invaded Kuwait because it believed it could do so without intervention from the western powers. Saddam Hussein misjudged the importance of the region to the west to his own detriment.I will now refer to the particular or the direct causes of the decision taken by Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in 1990.In order to identify the root of the conflict I will begin by addressing the way in which the boundaries of the Middle East were determined and to what extent these decisions have affected the conflict. Firstly are the claims made by the Iraqi administration that Kuwait or at least some of Kuwait is in fact part of Iraq.
The claim is based on the premise that Kuwait was once an administrative sub-district of the Basra during Ottoman times and that it is therefore an integral part of modern day Iraq. This claim was initially made by King Ghazi in the 1930's and then again by the Iraqi president Abdul Karim Quassim in the 1950's. 1Although the Iraqi claim to all of Kuwait is regarded by most as dubious (The Baath Socialist Party renounced this claim in 1963) some historians and analysts do believe that there is a valid claim to be made in a small part of northeast Kuwait. Indeed even those within Iraq who do not support Saddam Hussain believe that Iraq has a valid claim to part of Kuwait.According to Sir Anthony Parsons, a former British ambassador to the United Nations'In the Iraqi subconscious, Kuwait is part of the Basra province and the bloody British took it away from them.
..we protected our strategic interests rather successfully, but in doing so we didn't worry too much about the people living there'2The fact that the Iraqi's was denied what was believed to be theirs can be seen as one of the causes of the invasion.A further grievance cited by Iraq that was a result of the arbitrary partitioning was the border disputes that have since developed.
At the end of World War, Britain gained control of Iraqi affairs and sought to determine the borders in a manner that protected their own interests in the region. Whilst Saudi Arabia and Kuwait accepted these borders, Iraq has maintained grievances regarding the injustice of the colonial shaped frontiers. In particular, Iraq objected to their lack of access to the sea, which was a direct result of the manner in which the Middle East was carved up by the colonial powers. As a result of the partitioning Iraq is virtually landlocked, with direct access to only 15 miles of coastline.This has undoubtedly become an extremely contentious issue for the Iraqi administration throughout the century. Therefore it is often argued that the motivations behind the Iraqi invasion involved greater access to coastal areas that would have been gained had the annexation of Kuwait been a success.
In support of this argument, A London based Iraqi political scientist, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes that the motivation behind the invasion of Kuwait was to gain control of the northeast strip and the islands of Bubiyan and Warba.3 Following this analysis, by invading the whole of Kuwait Saddam would be in the position to negotiate a settlement based on Kuwait ceding the islands in return for withdrawal.These islands have long been a source of contention between the two countries. Nouri el-Said, the prime minister in 1958 requested that the islands in question remained a part of Iraq as they are located in the Iraqi territorial waters. This was clearly not the action taken and Iraq's argument was that given its disadvantaged position Kuwait should concede these islands or at least lease them to iraq at a nominal rent.
The border dispute came to a head in 1961 when Kuwait declared independence. The Iraqi military ruler Abdul Karim Qassim gathered troops on the Kuwaiti border much like the action taken prior to the invasion in1990. Although they later pulled back, the border dispute was never settled and it has remained a defining aspect of the tensions between the two regions. By attempting to secure their own interests the British created a situation between the two states that has been extremely difficult to readdressI will now address the grievances that existed between Iraq and Kuwait prior to the actual invasion. Firstly, Iraq was concerned with the overproduction of the OPEC quotas that Saddam claimed had begun in early 1990 by a number of the Gulf countries. Saddam claimed that every one dollar drop in the price per barrel was costing Iraq one billion per year.
4 He viewed this as an act of sabotage and claimed that given Iraq's post war economic position, this overproduction was an 'act of war' in that war can be fought in a variety of ways.'by sending armies across frontiers, by acts of sabotage, by killing people...
.but war can also be waged by economic means...and what is happening is war against Iraq'. Saddam Hussein5In a closed session of the heads of state in which he made these claims it was clear that if the situation were not conclusively rectified there would be severe consequences.
'I must frankly tell you that we have reached a stage where we can no longer take ant more pressure'. Saddam Hussein6Secondly was the issue of the debt that had been accumulated during the Iran-Iraq war that Saddam claimed should be cancelled given that the war was fought on behalf of all the other Arab states. Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister outlined this in a thirty- seven -page memorandum to the secretary general of the Arab League and although he did not provide a figure for this debt he nevertheless claimed that the money given should be regarded as assistance and should therefore be cancelled. In addition Iraq's rising internal debt of $80 billion would have been greatly relieved with the assets seized in Kuwait.Another source of tension was the oil that was allegedly taken by Kuwait from the Rumaila oil field. Aziz claimed that between 1980 and 1990 Kuwait pumped approximately 2.
4 billion dollars worth of oil that belonged to Iraq from this field and therefore Kuwait owed this amount to Iraq. Similarly to the claims made over the overproduction of the OPEC quotas, this 'theft' was regarded by Iraq as an act of war.However, given the fact that Iraq was bound by its membership to the Arab league and its recognition of Kuwait as an independent state, can it be argued that the invasion of Kuwait was merely a matter of leadership? This begs the question of how far Saddam Hussein manipulated these grievances to act as a shield whilst pursuing his own interests. I shall therefore consider the role of Saddam's personality in the conflictIt can be argued that Saddam Hussein had and continues to retain an overwhelming desire to dominate both the Arab world and the Persian Gulf and that success in the annexation of Kuwait would have greatly facilitated this desire. Saddam had already achieved this to some extent with his victory in the war with Iran.Under Saddam Hussein Iraq developed a new, Iraqi-centered and imperial brand of pan-Arabism.
Its main message was that, due to its heroic and rich history, starting with ancient Sumer and Babylon and ending with Saddam, Iraq is the natural leader of the Arabs. As a result, everything that benefits Iraq will eventually benefit all the Arabs. This message sought to legitimize political maneuvers that clearly contradicted Arab solidarity. The invasions of Iran and of Kuwait are two examples of such maneuvers.Saddam is a leader that is infamous for the brutality of his regime and has never been one to shirk away from the prospect of war.
It has often been put forward that Saddam regards or wishes to be regarded as one who will be remembered."He has believed for many years that he belongs up there in the pantheon of great socialist leaders: Mao Tse-tung, Castro, Tito. But until the Gulf crisis, he had been overlooked."(a state department expert, as cited on http://www.
biblemysteries.com/library/saddam.htm)The annexation of Kuwait would have enabled his desire in that military adventurism is a characteristic of many of these leaders. Furthermore was Saddam's fear of a conspiracy by the U.
S and the U.S.S.R that involved his removal, all of which could have contributed to his decision to invade. (F. Halliday 1996)So far, I have addressed the direct causes cited for the invasion.
I will now address the indirect causes of the invasion in order to provide a more analytical account of the motivations. As stated in Walid Khaili's account of the gulf war entitled 'Iraq vs Kuwait:Claims and Counterclaims' there are both profound and particular reasons as to why Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.The profound or indirect reasons include the failure of the Arab political order to establish notions such as power sharing and accountability in government as well as its failure in introducing concepts such as democracy in their political institutions. As a result of this failure countries within this region are increasingly susceptible to military adventurism and external aggression. It could therefore be argued that the very nature of Iraq's political system, which is characterized by the predominance of Saddam's personality and unchallengeable power, was a major factor in determining the events that led to the Gulf war in 1990.A further point of consideration is the absence of a moral center of gravity in the Arab world since the mid-1970's.
Despite the consolidated notion of state sovereignty, there still exists a concept of resonance in the Arab world that transcends state frontiers and encourages intervention in conflicts within the region. An example of this is Nasser's intervention in the civil war in Jordan. Therefore, had this concept of a moral center of gravity remained, the surrounding Arab countries could have engaged in a process that would perhaps have diminished the hostilities that were evident between Iraq and Kuwait a number of years prior to the actual invasion.The reasons listed above are what the historian A.J.
P. Taylor has in a different context referred to as profound causes, in that they are not the direct causes of a situation. Rather these circumstances have played an influential role in the build up to the eventual outcome.Further support of this approach can be found in the arguments put forward by Fred Halliday. Firstly, he argues that it is important to consider the ideology of the ruling Arab Ba'th Socialist Party. Among some of its ideology are notions of the Arab nation and its use of harshness as a method of government control.
In addition its cult of war as the means does much to explain the political climate in Iraq during this period and thus helps to understand the circumstances under which the invasion took place.Secondly, he claims that to concentrate solely on the internal, economic causes of the invasion is not sufficient in understanding the motivations behind it. He goes on to argue that the crisis may not have begun with the negotiations in Jidda prior to the invasion but with the death of Iman Khomeini, the Iranian revolutionary leader. During the Iran-Iraq war but particularly after the ceasefire in 1988 Saddam consistently assumed that that Iran would submit to Iraqi pressure and concede to its position as the dominant power in the Middle East.
However as a result of Khomeini's death and the emergence of a new effective government in Tehran, this was not the case, therefore the argument follows that success in Kuwait would become a substitute for this failure.A further point to be made is the distrust shown by the U.S towards Iraq after the war with Iran. During this period two schools of thought emerged regarding U.S foreign policy in the Middle East.
The first advocated cooperation with Iraq that prevailed over the White House and the State Department until early 1990. However the other view advocated by the Defence Department and was supported by the Congress argued that Iran would over the years become more moderate and cooperative with the United States. Iraq however, was viewed with mistrust that was continuously articulated in numerous press reports of which Saddam was said to be extremely displeased with.7'The United states must have a better understanding of the situation and declare who it wants to have relations with and who its enemies are'Saddam HusseinIn hindsight had the U.S responded more favorably to Iraqi interests, Iraq may have thought twice about acting in a way which would provoke U.S mistrust, which in turn may have prevented the invasion of Kuwait.
Finally, Saddam invaded Kuwait because he believed he could without the threat of western intervention. Saddam assumed that the U.S would not intervene in its affairs. This assumption was based on the premise that the U.S would not want to enter another war given their experience with Vietnam in 1973 and in Beirut in 1983. In addition some indication was given that U.
S was not interested in Arab-Arab conflicts. In a conversation with April Glaspie, the U.S ambassador to Iraq she stated just that.'we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflict, like your border disagreement with Kuwait'.
She was later criticized for this comment but it was nevertheless an indication of non-intervention in Arab affairs. In addition he assumed that the surrounding Arab nations would support the action taken. These assumptions are ultimately what led to his failure as he underestimated the importance of Kuwait to the Western and Arab worlds. If Saddam had succeeded in the annexation of Kuwait, a large proportion of the oil economy would have been under his control, which was perhaps another motivation for the invasion and something that the West in particular was not prepared to accept.In order to conclude this account of the motivations behind the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 I would argue that whilst the long running disputes between Iraq and Kuwait were undoubtedly a major factor, the international and domestic climate of this period as well as relations with the U.
S also played a huge part in the decision made by Saddam to actively declare war on Kuwait. Those who have studied this conflict have advocated a number of motivations behind Saddam Hussein's actions all of which are well documented and supported by much evidence. None of these arguments can be deemed correct or incorrect as in my opinion it was a combination of all the factors voiced by these commentators that contributed to the tensions that existed in the region prior to the Gulf war. Therefore, whilst the direct causes of the invasion can be seen as Iraq's dissatisfaction with its position in the Gulf, the indirect or profound reasons are equally credible and useful in understanding Iraq's motivations in invading Kuwait.