A Fatal Friendship? (IV)

Part I, Part II, Part III

As a result, Iraq brought charges against Kuwait and the OAU for violating the OPEC agreements on oil production quotas, saturating the market and lowering prices. Playing on the ambitions of the Iraqi leader, the Americans managed to seriously aggravate relations between Baghdad and Kuwait. At the same time, the White House showed concern to the world about the developments around the Kuwaiti emirate. So, during the negotiations in Baghdad on July 24, 1990 the ARE President H. Mubarak, citing his contacts with American officials, informed Hussein about the White House concerns about Baghdad’s hard line towards Kuwait and the UAE. Stressing that Washington did not understand Iraq’s “tactical maneuvers” in the Persian Gulf, Mubarak emphatically advised the Iraqi president to find an opportunity to explain his position directly to the Americans.

The next day, on the 25th of July S. Hussein met with the US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie and informed her about the reasons, which had made him to escalate the relations with Kuwait and the UAE. At the same time, the Iraqi President stressed that in his actions he took into account the multifaceted relations that the US has with those countries, as well as Washington’s role and place in the Middle East in general. Asked by Hussein how the U.S. would feel about Iraq’s attempt to resolve the territorial dispute with Kuwait, Glaspie replied that it was an “intra-Arab affair” and did not give him a hard warning about the consequences of using force.

On July 27, during a one-day visit to Baghdad, Mubarak’s political adviser, Osama Al-Baz, briefed Hussein on the contents of his patron’s telephone conversation with J. Bush Sr. in which the U.S. president expressed satisfaction with the “Iraqi clarifications” and stated that Washington would “take a wait-and-see approach to Iraq’s dispute with Kuwait and the OAU and have no intention of increasing its military presence in the Persian Gulf”. According to the recollection of former U.S. Undersecretary of State and now CIA Director William Burns, the U.S. president sent a letter to Saddam on July 28 that “was not much harsher in tone or content than Glaspy’s conversation with the Iraqi leader”.

In fact, in Baghdad, this “neutral position” of Washington was perceived as a kind of carte blanche to settle the problem with Kuwait on Iraqi conditions. At the same time, the Iraqi leadership was confident that the Americans would condemn the annexation of Kuwait at the UN demonstratively, and then everything would be put on hold. On the other hand, if the White House really wanted peaceful solution of the Kuwaiti problem, then, according to former Special Assistant to President Reagan on National Security Affairs Constantine Menges, after the report of CIA Director Webster in the morning of August 1 on the timing of the invasion of Iraqi troops in Kuwait, J. Bush Senior still had time to personally call Hussein with a strong warning, and there could be no invasion. Thus, the American “trap” for S. Hussein had closed.

Cpl. Edward Chin covers the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag before toppling the statue in downtown in Bagdhad in 2003.

The development of the further events has shown that all the state structures of the USA were ready to such predictable actions of the Iraqi regime, that’s why the mechanism of mobilization of the world community with condemnation of Iraq has been started by Washington at once after the beginning of the invasion. The U.S. president called the Iraqi aggression treacherous, and the next day the U.S. Congress approved the decision of the head of state – to apply strict economic sanctions against Baghdad. At the same time, U.S. diplomacy forced the UN Security Council to take tough, ultimatum decisions.

In order to involve Saudi Arabia in the anti-Iraqi coalition which was being created, the Americans provided Riyadh with intelligence information about the alleged plans of S. Hussein to seize the Saudi kingdom and the UAE and divide their territories between Iraq, Jordan and Yemen, which King Fahd voiced in his speech at an extraordinary meeting of heads of Arab states and governments in Cairo in early August. U.S. Secretary of Defense R. Cheney, who arrived in Riyadh in those days, announced that a combat squadron headed by the aircraft carrier Wisconsin had been sent to the Persian Gulf and that units of the 82nd Airborne Division and two squadrons of tactical aviation had been moved to Saudi Arabia.

According to Western experts, the economic sanctions imposed by the UN against Iraq, first of all the seizure of its currency in the international banking system, the termination of exports of Iraqi oil through Turkey and Saudi Arabia, could put the Iraqi economy on the verge of economic collapse in 6 months. However, even such a term did not suit the American administration, and it began to make rapid preparations for the operation to free Kuwait.

On 8 November, George Bush Senior ordered to send another 200,000 troops to the conflict zone. This decision was regarded as a turning point in the U.S. line and the final bet on a violent resolution of the conflict. In January 10, 1991 the Director of the CIA Webster in his closed-door report to the US Congress drew the main conclusion: the economic sanctions alone were not enough to stop the occupation of Kuwait. A massive missile and bomb attack on the Iraqi grouping in Kuwait and on targets inside Iraq was needed. As a result, Congress gave the president permission to use American forces against Iraq. At the same time, the congressmen were not confused by the fact that the CIA forecasted the losses of Iraqi civilians in the air strikes to be at least 500-700 thousand.

In retrospect, when estimating the policy of Washington towards Iraq and the all-around combination around Hussein, one can make a conclusion that the bloody scenario of the US operation “Desert Storm” could hardly be realized without the “help” of the Iraqi president himself. According to current CIA director W. Burns, the Iraqi leader did not take into account the characteristic feature of modern American diplomacy: “not to thank other countries for actions that, in the opinion of the United States, contribute to the common good. Thus, contrary to Baghdad’s expectations, Washington took for granted Iraq’s help against Tehran and the sacrifices made by the Iraqi people and economy.

Hussein’s manic belief in his destiny and his exclusivity; his lack of information, which led him to overestimate the negative Arab reaction to military strikes on Iraq; the constant admissions by his entourage of his strategic genius and political sagacity; and the belief that the US would not dare to go to a land war with Iraq: all this played a cruel joke on him and predetermined the tragic fate of Iraq and its people at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, and his sad fate on the scaffold.

As an afterword I would like to quote the famous prophetic dictum of the American foreign policy metric and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal”.

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