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Casting Doubts over Kuwait’s Liberation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People’s memory may be short-lived, but the invasion of Kuwait too big of an event that touched on everyone’s lives, not just Kuwaitis. Despite 27 years passing since, the fallout endures till this very day.

Kuwait today hosts an open platform for political and intellectual differences and debate, which would have been helpful had all partaking panels uphold principals of good faith.

Instead, pro-Muslim Brotherhood inciters and Iran backers have taken the to the podium allegations questioning whether Gulf and coalition countries, namely Saudi Arabia, have truly contributed to liberating Kuwait from the Iraq-led invasion in the 90’s.

It is nonsensical to believe that an army of 250,000 Iraqi troops can be defeated by a single power—the US has spent 16 years so far in Afghanistan, yet with no comprehensive victory.

Similarly, American troops took on an eight-year conquest to remove the Saddam regime. Despite the downfall of long-time dictator Saddam Hussein, US forces still failed to install a fully-functioning authority in Baghdad.

On the other hand, Gulf efforts, in the short window of six months, managed to clear out Kuwait and fully restore the country’s political institutions. Kuwaitis returned to the safety of their homes.

Speaking from a personal perspective, Kuwait’s liberation, in its speed, magnitude and conduct, stands to be a unique and huge success.

Everyone loves to claim credit in that victory, and rightfully so.
Freeing Kuwait demanded a huge multi-role to be played on political, diplomatic, legal, media and humanitarian levels.

Kuwait’s invasion left a worldwide impact, and not just a regional one.

Zooming back in time, eight months ahead of Kuwaiti borders collapsing, the eastern wall of Berlin fell followed by Yugoslavia’s federal lines dissolved.

Three months before Iraqi forces entered Kuwait, Lithuania’s announced its independence from the Soviet Union.

More so, the Soviet Union lost another vital confederate, Ukraine, only a month ahead of Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait.

Two months into the Kuwait invasion after Saddam claiming historical right over the gulf state, western Germany spread its influence over the east in the name of unity and historical right.

Reviewing chaos caused by abrupt and earthshattering regime changes in Eastern European countries and the Soviet republics in Asia, we can understand why Saddam did what he did. The fifth Iraqi president believed he was a part of the new historical movement.

While recognizing the roles and efforts of other contributors, it remains without saying that it was Saudi Arabia’s role which brought Saddam’s plans to a halt.

I say this because I consider myself a political history scholar, looking beyond one event without getting involved in conspiracy theories. To say the least, what happened in Kuwait could have ended in differently.

Contrary to some beliefs, Saddam was not a rival to the United States. He actually had a good relationship with them strengthened by military and intelligence cooperation in the war against Iran.

With that in mind, it was not unlikely that Washington, acting on personal interest, would allow for a partial settlement such as recognizing a puppet Kuwaiti government there or tolerate the occupation especially if it did not threaten its strategic interests.

For long, Saddam tried to push such a proposal to the Bush administration. He even sought to persuade the Saudis into the matter. Saddam mediators, most notably the late Jordanian monarch, who was close to Washington, called for a political solution.

Fortunately for Kuwait, the Saudi monarch, King Fahd, may his soul rest in peace, decided to stand up to Saddam and risk everything. Stars aligned even further with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, an extraordinary diplomat, being then the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

There was a race between Saddam’s allies and Kuwait’s allies, all of whom tried to persuade the US government. The Saudi diplomat then pressed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the matter. Thatcher then told Bush: “George, this is not the time to be soft.”

Political conflict between the two Arab groups in batted back and forth in Washington for five months– the US left the door open for a political solution.

By the time it was January 12th, 1991 –with no avail or signs of a settlement–Bush asked Congress to approve the war. Even then, only a small majority voted yes.

Liberation was one of the many alternative scenarios that could have taken course in Kuwait, most notably the possibility of Washington abstaining from war if Saddam persuaded it not to compromise its interests.

Saddam could have made a strong case in convincing the US with a partial solution or postponed the issue of Kuwait for years. The Americans were already preoccupied with the Soviet Union .

The Soviets at the Helsinki meeting tried to convince Bush of a political solution, as did France. Two days before the January 17th attack, Saddam announced his willingness to retreat but under certain conditions.

Iraq’s later deposed leader did not recognize the true threat of war until he saw it announced on CNN. Undoubtedly, it was Saudi pressure that made the war possible, which facilitated all that came after.