WHY WAR WAS UNAVOIDABLE IN THE PERSIAN GULF AND WHY IT WAS INEVITABLE THAT IRAQ WOULD LOSE
War was inevitable in the Gulf and it was a war in which Iraq was inevitable to lose. There were several reasons why this was and became a reality. How, when, where did this process of self destruction begin? It was quite evident that Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, was becoming a military giant in the Middle East and therefore a threat to the stability of the entire region. His war with Iran was proof of this. The U.S. and other industrialized Western nations could not risk the loss of oil from the area. Kuwait is the second largest source of petroleum in the Middle East and so the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait sent the world oil market into a frenzy. Iraqi forces then gathered their forces on the border with Saudi Arabia, the second largest supplier of oil in the world. This in turn brought the military might of the United States into the conflict. There are several reasons why Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. After the eight year war with Iran over territorial disputes and religious rivalries between the Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Sunni factions, Iraq had a massive debt to many Arab nations including Kuwait. The rulers of these nations wanted some of their money back but Iraq thought they were ingrates and were ungrateful for defending the Arab emirs from the Iranian Islamic fundamentalism. The Arab emirs were afraid that the Islamic fundamentalists would rise against the government and eventually take over the government as they had Iran against the Shah. Kuwait was also afraid of this and so they supported the Iraqi Arabs against the Iranian Persians. The funds that the Gulf countries lent to Iraq were used to buy high tech weapons. These high tech weapons made Iraq one of the largest armies in the world and a force to contend with. Ironically much of the money and weapons came from the countries that united to fight against him. The Gulf countries bankrolled him while the Western nations, who had many defense contractors going out of business because of the end of the Cold War, supplied him with the weapons to fight Iran and later Kuwait and the Coalition. With a large army like his, it would be very easy to defeat the far smaller Kuwaiti army compared to his. Oil had made Kuwait one of the richest and most progressive countries in the world. This desert land is one of the world’s leading producers having over one-tenth of the world’s known petroleum reserves. This is all in 20,150 square kilometres, a little smaller than the state of New Jersey. Kuwait is one of the world’s wealthiest nations in terms of national income per person. It has free primary and secondary education free health and social services and no income tax. There was much to protect. All of this was attractive and irritating to Saddam who would and did use a fraction of his army to attack and invade Kuwait in which it only took the Iraqi army 6 hours to reach the capital city. After the invasion they had about 19% of the world’s known oil reserves. Historically Iraq had claimed that it had a right to Kuwait. Saddam was jealous that Kuwait was in control of the two islands needed for a deep water shipping port: the Bubiyan and Warbah islands. These islands along with some parts of Kuwait were a part of old Mesopotamia which the Ottoman Turks conquered. The Ottoman Empire was defeated during World War I and the British made their own lines in the sand, dividing up the land according to their own strategic needs and in the process recklessly dividing up ancient communities and boundaries that had been recognized for decades. Most of Mesopotamia became Iraq and some other parts to Kuwait. In 1961, Kuwait became independent and the Iraqis threatened to invade except that British troops kept the peace. This was to be the first of many border skirmishes which included Iraqi missiles fired at Kuwaiti oil installations and the reflagging of Kuwaiti oil tankers during the Iran-Iraq War in which U.S. ships patrolled the Persian Gulf and Kuwaiti tankers were reflagged with U.S. flags. The Iraqi government had also accused the Kuwaitis of stealing 2.5 billion barrels of oil from its Rumaila oil fields by sliding drills into Iraqi oil pipelines. They had also accused Kuwait of exceeding OPEC oil production, which had dropped the price of oil from $20 a barrel to $13 a barrel in the first six months of 1990. This meant one billion dollars less for Iraq everytime that price of an oil barrel went down by a dollar. Saddam said he would stop them from continuing aggressive action. Iraq?s foreign minister Tariq Aziz later said in a letter to the Arab league that Kuwait is “systematically, deliberately and continuously” harming Iraq by encroaching on its territory, stealing oil, and destroying its economy. ?Such behavior amounts to military aggression”. These were just signs of the Desert Storm to come.
Personally, Saddam Hussein had reasons to want to go to war against the Western nations. He grew up as a young boy hating the British for imprisoning his uncle that had cared for him. Later, he joined the Baath Party which was based on a platform of Arab unity and as a member was sent to try to assassinate General Abdul Karim Qasim who they believed to be very friendly with the Western nations. By going to war, he hoped to foster Arab unity against the Western nations, like an Islamic holy war against the “infidels”. He also believed that it was his destiny to fulfill the prophecy of ruling an Arab nation streching from Euphrates to the Suez. The Western and Gulf nations united together to form a coalition to fight against Iraq that followed the United Nations resolution that Iraq must pull out of Kuwait on January 15, 1991. They had several reasons for wanting Iraq out of Kuwait. The two main reasons are the vast amounts of oil in the region which account for 53% of the world’s known petroleum reserves and the stability of the nations that have the oil. The two biggest producers in the region are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Saudis were afraid that Iraq would invade Saudi Arabia just like Kuwait. The United States depends on Middle East petroleum for about 25% of its energy needs and other Western nations even more. Other sources of power are generally too expensive to be practical or are still under development. So any disruption of oil from this region would seriously affect the economies of the Western nations, just as they were slipping into a recession, which would not be very good for the leaders of these countries at the ballot box. However going to war or even the real possibility of it would give a big short term boost to the economies of these nations by increasing the price for a barrel of oil which would allow oil companies to make bigger profits and there would be more exploration in North America to discover new sources of oil. This would help boost the stock markets by increasing positive activity in the trading of shares. Also by going to war, it would create jobs in many sectors of the economy from the defense contractors to the service industries down the line. The main reason that the Coalition was formed was to protect the “vital interests” in the often unstable Middle East. The Middle East has been the source of many of the world’s wars after, sometimes almost to point of going nuclear. The Arab partners joined the Coalition so what had happened to Kuwait wouldn?t happen to them. The United States and the other Western partners wanted to ensure a steady supply of cheap oil and the invasion of Kuwait had risen the price of oil along with creating instability in the Middle East. The best way to restore order to the region and create some stability was to force Iraq out of Kuwait and severely weaken its government and military, which the Allies were successful in doing. Another reason that has been suggested is that Iraq was permitted to invade Kuwait just to give the U.S. an excuse to attack the Iraqis so that they would no longer be a threat to other countries in the region. This would also make the Arab nations dependent on the Americans for their defense so that they would not try to attempt hostile actions in terms of increasing the cost of the oil to them or limiting the production of petroleum as had been demonstrated by the OPEC nations in the 1970s. President Bush also had personal reasons as to why he wanted Iraq to leave Kuwait. As the youngest fighter pilot in the Navy during World War II, he flew in many missions before being shot down. These missions helped to shape his beliefs that the U.S. should be like a global policeman. He felt Saddam Hussein must be stopped just as Hitler should have been stopped from breaking the conditions of the treaties the Germans signed ending World War I. Another reason he felt he had to take military action was that there were American hostages held by the Iraqis after the invasion of Kuwait for a couple of months. Iraq would lose in the war with the Coalition because their forces were not as well trained as the Coalition forces, their weapons were technologically inferior, they had no air support and the Coalition forces were well prepared for moves against them. The Iraqi army was mainly composed of draftees, who are not well trained or equipped. Only the few Republican Guard units, that were the elite of the Iraqi army, were any match for the Coalition. The reason for this is that the Coalition forces were composed of mainly professional, well-trained volunteers. Also the Iraqi weapons were inferior compared to the Americans. The Iraqis had weapons mainly from the late 1970s to the early 1980s while the Allies had the most- advanced weaponry available including the AWACS system, the Stealth bomber and the Patriot missile. With this, they quickly achieved air and naval superiority over Iraq and Kuwait. The Iraqis had few planes that were of any threat to the Coalition and most of these never faced combat for unknown reasons. This made the Allies job much easier. The Coalition forces were also very well prepared as to the Iraq?s battle tactics. This was because they used the same tactics as the ex-Soviet Union which the Americans had studied for a possible invasion of Europe.
A Gulf War involving Iraq was unavoidable and in this war Iraq was defeated. The Iraqis were becoming a major military power in the Middle East and therefore a danger to the stability of the whole region. The United States and other industrialized Western nations could not afford the loss of oil from the region and therefore they were very willing to ensure that they continued to receive the oil. The U.N. and U.S. both wanted Iraq to leave but realized that Iraq did not wish to leave and had no intention of doing so unless they were forced out. Neither the Iraqis or the Coalition wished to back down diplomatically. And with no other useful options available, war was the only option left to the Coalition. In this war, Iraq would lose because it had inferior weapons, a poorly trained army and the Coalition was well prepared for the Iraqi tactics.
Bibliography CNN The Gulf War (Video), Atlanta, CNN News, 75 min., 1991 “Iraq”,World Book New York, World Book, 1990, Vol 10, pp. 260-261 “Kuwait”,World Book New York, World Book, 1990, Vol 11, pp. 354-355 Toronto Star: special sections from January 14, 1991 to March 8, 1991. (Many sections were used)