(PERSIAN GULF WARS to 1991 – continued)

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PERSIAN GULF WARS to 1991 (3 of 8)

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Iraq Invades Kuwait

In July 1990, Saddam appeared willing to give up his long-standing conflict with Iran, but he wanted also to do something about the country being short of money. He stunned his fellow Sunni nations with a vitriolic speech in which he accused Kuwait of sucking up too much crude oil from the oil fields that straddled their two countries.

He accused Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states of catering to the wishes of the Western powers by conspiring to keep the price for crude oil low, hurting Iraqi sales. He demanded compensation for these "crimes" by canceling the 30 billion dollar debt that Iraq owned the Kuwaities, and he sent 100,000 troops to Kuwait's border.

Saddam Hussein demanded cash from Kuwait, and he raised the issue of Kuwait's independence. Kuwait had been ruled by Britain to 1961. After having granted Kuwait its independence that year, Britain had landed troops in Kuwait to defend that independence. Prime Minister Qasim had also claimed Kuwait to be a part of Iraq and had demanded its annexation. Now, in 1990, Hussein renewed that old claim.

The goal of the George H. W. Bush administration continued to be normal relations and expanded trade with Iraq. On July 24 tens of thousands of Iraqi troops deployed to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. On July 25 an American diplomat, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein. She spoke of US disapproval of settlement of disputes "by any but peaceful means," which to Saddam Hussein might have sounded like pacifist nonsense and hypocrisy. Then she told Saddam that "we have no opinion of the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." Saddam apparently believed that the United States would not intervene on the side of Kuwait. He viewed the US as still reeling from its experience in Vietnam. Hussein told Glaspie that the United States was not the kind of nation that could absorb 10,000 casualties in one day as Iraq had during the Iraq-Iran war.

Saddam also met with Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak. He knew that Mubarak was in close contact with the Bush administration. Mubarak asked him what his intentions were regarding Kuwait. Mubarak wanted reassurance from Saddam that he was not planning to attack Kuwait. Saddam was not about to confess his intentions, and Mubarak gathered from Saddam that he was bluffing the Kuwaities. Mubarak passed on to Bush his opinion that Saddam was bluffing and he advised the Bush administration to relax, that the Arab nations would sort things out among themselves.

Saddam also reasoned that he could accomplish what he wanted regarding Kuwait before the United Nations would respond. On 1 August 1990 Saddam Hussein withdrew from negotiations with the Kuwaities. At 2 am on August 2nd Iraqi time (8 pm, 1 August in Washington DC, he sent his tanks rolling into Kuwait. Some would compare it with Hitler sending his troops into Poland. Some others would just look on, puzzled or mildly disturbed. For many Kuwaities it was terror and death.


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