Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A review of the Persian Gulf War

Persian Gulf War, conflict beginning in August 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait. The conflict culminated in fighting in January and February 1991 between Iraq and an international coalition of forces led by the United States. By the end of the war, the coalition had driven the Iraqis from Kuwait.

Causes of the War
The Iraqi-Kuwaiti border had been the focus of tension in the past. Kuwait was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire from the 18th century until 1899 when it asked for, and received, British protection in return for autonomy in local affairs. In 1961 Britain granted Kuwait independence, and Iraq revived an old claim that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully Iraq’s. Iraq’s claim had little historical basis, however, and after intense global pressure Iraq recognized Kuwait in 1963. Nonetheless, there were occasional clashes along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, and relations between the two countries were sometimes tense.

Relations between the two countries improved during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), when Kuwait assisted Iraq with loans and diplomatic backing. After the war ended in 1988, the Iraqi government launched a costly program of reconstruction. By 1990 Iraq had fallen $80 billion in debt and demanded that Kuwait forgive its share of the debt and help with other payments. At the same time, Iraq claimed that Kuwait was pumping oil from a field that straddled the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and was not sharing the revenue. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing more oil than allowed under quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), thereby depressing the price of oil, Iraq’s main export.

Iraq’s complaints against Kuwait grew increasingly harsh, but they were mostly about money and did not suggest that Iraq was about to revive its land claim to Kuwait. When Iraqi forces began to mobilize near the Kuwaiti border in the summer of 1990, several Arab states tried to mediate the dispute. Kuwait, seeking to avoid looking like a puppet of outside powers, did not call on the United States or other non-Arab powers for support. For their part, the U.S. and other Western governments generally expected that at worst Iraq would seize some border area to intimidate Kuwait, so they avoided being pulled into the dispute. Arab mediators convinced Iraq and Kuwait to negotiate their differences in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on August 1, 1990, but that session resulted only in charges and countercharges. A second session was scheduled to take place in Baghdād, the Iraqi capital, but Iraq invaded Kuwait the next day, leading some observers to suspect that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had planned the invasion all along.

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