Fanack Home / Iraq / Past to Present / The Kuwait Crisis

The Kuwait Crisis

To remedy the economic problems created by the war, Iraq sought, after the cease-fire, to maximize its oil exports, but, unfortunately for them, oil prices at that time were low. Baghdad believed that over-production of oil – by its neighbour Kuwait, among others – was responsible for this situation. After verbal threats to the emir had no effect Saddam Hussein’s regime, on 2 August 1990, ordered the invasion of Kuwait. The occupation was followed by Kuwait’s annexation as the ‘Nineteenth Province of Iraq’, in accordance with old agreements from the Ottoman and Mandate eras, which Iraq now resurrected.

With the annexation of Kuwait, the regime of Saddam Hussein thought it had killed two birds with one stone: the moribund Iraqi economy would be stimulated by the wealth of the emirate, and the annexation once again gave Iraq access to the sea. Like the Iranian province of Khuzestan, Kuwait borders both the Iraqi province of Basra and the Persian Gulf.

Although Kuwait’s Armed Forces were no match for the large Iraqi forces – which had had eight years of combat experience – the invasion of Kuwait was ultimately a military catastrophe for Iraq, bringing a war with the United States and a large coalition of other countries, including erstwhile Western and Arab allies. Since the end of the war with Iran, these countries had been deeply concerned about the efforts that their former ally had undertaken to expand its arsenal of unconventional weapons, supplemented with booster rockets, long range rockets and a ‘super cannon’. Iraq’s attack on Kuwait gave those former allies an opportunity to reduce Iraq’s military capabilities, and they believed that Iraq had to be stopped from becoming the leading power in the Persian Gulf by its annexation of Kuwait’s oil reserves. Western propaganda also emphasized the necessity of restoring international law, which had been violated by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

During the Kuwait crisis the United Nations took a remarkably unified stand. Many saw in this a hopeful sign of new relationships – a New World Order – coming into being after the end of the Cold War. The reality was something less. During the crisis the United States largely succeeded in having the United Nations carry out policies formulated by the US Department of Defence. After United Nations resolutions requesting Iraq to withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Kuwait, the first of a dozen UN Security Council resolutions was passed on 6 August 1990 (Resolution 661) at the insistence of Washington, four days after the invasion, imposing a trade embargo on Iraq. A land, sea, and air blockade was imposed to enforce the embargo, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey shut down the Iraqi oil pipelines that had been built during the Iraq-Iran war. Iraq was left immediately with no source of income. In the following months the US was able to tighten the screws further on Iraq, and a multi-national military force was being assembled under US leadership, which included, in addition to several Western European countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Pakistan, and others. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia provided the necessary financing. In an attempt to guarantee peace on its eastern border, Iraq made its neighbour Iran the somewhat unconvincing offer of sharing the Shatt al-Arab again. Iraq also sent its fighter jets to Iran for safekeeping, ahead of the looming war with the US-led coalition. Iraq never got them back.

Ground Operation Desert Storm
Ground Operation Desert Storm

Further Reading

One day after the ultimatum on Iraq to withdraw expired on 15 January 1991 – by which time the military forces of the anti-Iraq coalition were at sufficient strength – the attack on Iraq began. The campaign, Operation Desert S...
The revolts by Shiites and Kurds were more than attempts to rid themselves of the oppressive regime: they were also an attack on the political structure of the state of Iraq, the stakes being a fundamental redistribution of politi...
After several months, in October 1991, they unilaterally withdrew from most of the Kurdish region, realizing that they could not control the area without incurring major costs. In August 1992 a second No-Fly Zone was established, ...

© Copyright Notice
Click on link to view the associated photo/image:

We would like to ask you something …

Fanack is an independent media organisation, not funded by any state or any interest group, that distributes in the Middle East and the wider world unbiased analysis and background information, based on facts, about the Middle East and North Africa.

The website grew rapidly in breadth and depth and today forms a rich and valuable source of information on 21 countries, from Morocco to Oman and from Iran to Yemen, both in Arabic and English. We currently reach six million readers annually and growing fast.

In order to guarantee the impartiality of information on the Chronicle, articles are published without by-lines. This also allows correspondents to write more freely about sensitive or controversial issues in their country. All articles are fact-checked before publication to ensure that content is accurate, current and unbiased.

To run such a website is very expensive. With a small donation, you can make a huge impact. And it only takes a minute. Thank you.