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Saddam's Wars: Invasion Of Kuwait

Updated on October 24, 2016
Lloyd Busch profile image

Lloyd Busch is the author of "Passive Resistance", a book on non-violent action, and has been published in the "Journal of Theoretics".

War Begets War

By 1990 Iraq was facing severe financial problems, Iraq had $40 billion in debt which was borrowed to finance the war with Iran. Saddam attempted to have this debt forgiven or waived though to no avail. Kuwait also refused to loan an additional $10 billion to Iraq. Iraq also spent hundreds of billions dollars on the Iran-Iraq war as well as billions on building and modernizing his military to muscle his way into world politics and to make Iraq the dominate power in the Middle-East. Iraq's nuclear program alone cost at least $750 million.

Saddam tried to persuade other Gulf states to drive up oil-prices, Iraq's chief source of income, by limiting production. While Kuwait had made concessions on setting production ceilings Saddam still blamed Kuwait for overproduction. Iraq owed Kuwait alone $14 billion in war debt. Although Kuwait, a member of OPEC, increased its own production by 40% in defiance of OPEC quotas, nullifying production cuts in other countries and maintaining oil prices. Iraq also claimed Kuwait was slant drilling and stealing oil reserves from underneath Iraq, Iraq requested $1 billion in compensation.

Saddam soon figured that by occupying Kuwait with it's huge strategic oil reserves he could better control production and hence prices of crude oil. Saddam believed the occupation would be profitable, this was perhaps his greatest mistake.

The Highway Of Death


War Begins

On the 2nd of August Iraq invaded Kuwait. Saddam tried to justify the Kuwait invasion by claiming that Kuwait came under the jurisdiction of the Governors of Basra during the time of the Ottoman Empire, hence claiming that Kuwait was Iraqi territory. The invasion of Iraq was widely condemned internationally, coalition nations feared that Saddam would invade other oil-rich nations next, the most likely being Saudi Arabia.

Saddam's regime quickly became a serious security threat to America and as a result America's policy towards Iraq changed very rapidly. Saddam sent four of his top Republican Guard divisions and a division of the Iraqi Special Forces including commandos which attacked by helicopter and boat. The troops quickly invaded all the way to Kuwait City and seized the airports and two airbases within Kuwait. The invasion was aided by several squadrons of helicopters, including gunships, and fighter-aircraft, including advanced French built Mirage and Russian built MIG jets. Iraqi bomber planes struck multiple targets within Kuwait inflicting considerable damage and unknown civilian casualties. The initial invasion force consisted of over 100,000 Iraqi troops and 700 tanks. The Iraqi force was quickly composed of over one million ground troops, over 5,000 tanks, over 5,000 armored vehicles, as well as significant amounts of artillery. The Iraqi force was also well dug-in with an impressive Air Force for support.

Although the initial fighting was intense, the country fell in just five hours although sporadic fighting continued the small Kuwaiti army was overrun within two days by the elite Iraqi Republican Guard. The remaining forces escaped to Saudi Arabia. Many foreign nationals were trapped inside Kuwait after the invasion and were not allowed to leave and communications were cut, leaving the outside world unaware of the atrocities being committed. Most of the Government fled to Saudi Arabia before the Iraqi forces arrived, but several people stayed behind to defend their homes including Sheikh Fahad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a member of the royal family, Sheikh was eventually shot and killed. The remaining members who escaped to Saudi Arabia established a provisional government.

America's Obligation

Acting on the policy of the Carter Doctrine and the threat Iraq would invade Saudi Arabia President Bush announced Operation Desert Shield to defend the region from Iraqi aggression. The US deployed some 500,000 troops to the region in addition to the troops of other coalition nations. Despite the quick buildup of Armed Forces in the region had Iraq invaded Saudi Arabia the coalition had insufficient resources to stop the invasion until October of that year.

The threat to Saudi Arabia was real and grave, Iraqi forces were within striking range of the huge Saudi oil fields. Saudi Arabia was of huge economic importance to the world economy, if Iraq had come under control of these oil reserves they would be in the position to hold the world hostage with oil. Iraq also owed Saudi Arabia large debts stemming from its war with Iran, the country owed around $26 billion in war debt to Saudi Arabia. The border with Saudi Arabia was also a disputed matter. Shortly after invading Kuwait Saddam stepped up his rhetoric against the Saudi Kingdom.

Let me take a moment here to summarize the long standing position and obligation of America to ensure Saudi Arabia's security. On February 16th, 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that “the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States”, and on February 14th, 1945 Roosevelt met with the Saudi King Saud. In 1950 President Truman wrote to King Saud to state that “the United States is interested in the preservation of the independence and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. No threat to your Kingdom could occur which would not be a matter of immediate concern to the United States”, thus this became the Truman Doctrine.

The Eisenhower Doctrine called for US troops to defend the Middle East from Soviet aggression. Next was the Nixon Doctrine which provided military aid to Iran and Saudi Arabia to guard against Soviet invasion. This was followed by the Carter Doctrine, the Carter Doctrine was the policy declared by President Carter in his State of the Union Address in 1980. The doctrine stated that the United States would use military force to defend American interests in the Persian Gulf region. Carter stated that “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force”. Reagan extended the Carter policy to ensure that the United States would defend Saudi Arabia if their security was threatened by the Iran-Iraq war. This was the evolution of American policy towards the defense of the Middle East.

“It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.”—John F. Kennedy.

Operation Desert Storm


Operation Desert Shield

Within hours of the invasion Kuwaiti and US delegates requested a meeting of the UN Security Council which passed Resolution 660, condemning the invasion and demanding the withdrawal of Iraqi forces. The Arab League also passed its own resolution on August 3rd. The Security Council passed Resolution 661 on August 6th placing economic sanctions on Iraq in response to their refusal to withdraw from Kuwait. The UN Security Resolution and the Arab League continued to pass a series of Resolutions, including Resolution 678 which was passed on November 29th to give Iraq a deadline for withdrawal by January 15th, 1991. The resolution authorized “all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660”. The UN Security Council called for the “immediate and unconditional” withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The invasion was condemned by many nations, including the US and the UK. Saddam threatened to turn Kuwait City into a “graveyard” if foreign countries tried to take back Kuwait by force.

Within one week of the Iraqi invasion the US began deploying Armed Forces to the area including to Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield. This buildup was to deter if possible, and defend if necessary, Saudi Arabia and its vast oil reserves from Iraqi aggression. Other nations began sending forces as well. The coalition to free Kuwait was vast, 12 different nations sent naval forces, the US alone deployed six aircraft carriers. Eight countries deployed ground troops for the operation including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the huge American presence massing in the region. Four countries sent aircraft to join Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the American Air Force in the region. Over 2,400 aircraft took part in the operation.

During Operation Desert Shield the US was busy building a huge coalition to oppose Iraq, the countries supplying Armed Forces was 34 different nations including Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. While Japan and Germany did not commit any troops they did make large financial contributions totaling $16.6 billion combined. By the time of Operation Desert Storm the troops numbered over 1.6 million from many nations.

Do you think the coalition should have continued the war until Saddam was removed from power?

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Operation Desert Storm

On January 12th, 1991, the US Congress authorized the use of military force to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Within days after the deadline of January 15th coalition forces began their attack under the name Operation Desert Storm. The war began with over a 1,000 sorties a day in the bombing campaign. The campaign also began with helicopters taking out radar installations, conventional air attacks on Iraqi air bases, and the use of Stealth bombers against other targets. Cruise missile attacks were heavily used by the US Navy. The initial goal of the war was to implement air superiority by destroying Iraq's Air Force and anti-aircraft facilities.

After these targets were communication, control and command targets, along with Presidential palaces, and suspected WMD facilities. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy were quickly decimated. Saddam in a cold calculation launched a Scud missile attack against Israeli cities, hoping for a retaliation and to draw Israel into the war. Israel remained neutral do to pressure by the United States, since their retaliation would harm the coalition and possibly unify Arab forces to the side of Iraq. No Arab state could join a coalition which consisted of Israel to attack another Arab state. Israel began using Patriot missiles to shoot down incoming Scuds and American forces conducted air-strikes and special forces strikes against Scud missile launch sites. The missile strikes against Israel began with the first days and continued for the duration of the six week war, despite the constant act of war and and barrage of missiles Israel remained neutral for the sake of the coalition. Some 39 Scuds fell on Israel during this time causing several deaths and extensive property damage.

The ground offensive took place on February 24th, with Kuwaiti troops leading the way back into Kuwait backed by a large American Force. Simultaneously troops began an offensive into the unguarded Iraqi Southern desert to perform a “left-hook”, this maneuver would place the Iraqi forces into a cross-fire with no where to retreat, their only option being surrender. The intensive bombardment over the past weeks had demoralized and decimated the Iraqi forces, the few troops who fought back did not last long, the Iraqis were quickly overwhelmed. Just 100 hours after the ground campaign began President Bush declared a cease-fire on February 27th as Kuwait had been liberated. By March of 1991 the Allied troops began withdrawing from the region. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait lasted seven months.

Oil Well Fires Set By Retreating Iraqi Soldiers


War Crimes

When Iraq invaded Kuwait there was widespread and systematic violence against the Kuwaiti citizens by Iraqi forces. Amnesty International has listed 38 different methods of torture that was used by the Iraqi forces, these include; beatings, extracting fingernails and toenails, breaking bones and limbs, mock executions, and inserting bottle necks into the rectum. Robbery, rape, and executions were widespread.

Civilians were dragged from their homes and placed into detention centers. Civilians were also forced to obey draconian laws, some civilians were arrested for wearing beards, while the death penalty was used on people accused of simple looting or for even “hoarding” food. Iraq also refused access to the Red Cross, preventing millions of affected civilians from receiving help. To prevent and deter an international attempt to liberate Kuwait the Iraqi government took hundreds of foreign nationals as hostages, including children while preventing thousands more from leaving. These actions are a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Many hostages were also held and used as human shields by placing them at strategic military and civilian sites. Knowing the International Forces wouldn't bomb these locations for fear of killing innocent civilians. In addition more than 600 Kuwaiti citizens and other prisoners of war are still missing and unaccounted for and the Iraqi government refused to comply with UN mandates to determine the fate of these individuals.

In a letter from General Hussein Kamil Hasan to Ali al-Majid, minister of the “localities”, Kamil stated that “The President and Leader (Saddam) has instructed the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization to transport from Kuwait all possible materials, plant and equipment that can be carried which could contribute to the reconstruction of the networks of public services and whatever is required to get them running again”. This letter offers proof of Saddam's systematic robbery of Kuwait and his attempt to hinder the reconstruction efforts of Kuwait.

In late January Iraq dumped some 400 millions gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, the largest oil spill in history. The act was deliberately done to discourage the landing of US Marines on shore. When Iraqi forces began fleeing Kuwait they were under orders from Saddam to set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells, some 1,160 oil wells were set ablaze. This created a serious environmental catastrophe as black smoke filled the sky and lakes of oil formed in the desert. The economic damage was also significant to Kuwait as the huge oil loss can never be regained. The environmental damage was significant and serious, some scientists believed that the 1994 cyclone in Bangladesh that killed 100,000 people was caused by climatic changes which were came about from the Kuwaiti oil fires.

© 2016 Lloyd Busch

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