A Fatal Friendship? (I)

The U.S. invasion of Iraq has long been a trope for discussion. Marking the event year after year, commentators usually try to examine the background to it, to draw comparisons and find similarities and differences with other armed conflicts. This year, the 19th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies was marked against the background of the events in Ukraine. All the attention of analysts was focused on the causes and legitimacy of the actions of the parties, the scale of hostilities, casualties and destruction. These are certainly important aspects to consider, but the Ukrainian conflict makes one look at the fate of Iraq from a different perspective.

Generally, commentators compare the U.S. invasion of Iraq to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Most interesting, however, is the similarity of the U.S. role in the fate of these two countries: Iraq and Ukraine. After all, it was the “friendship” with Washington that was fatal for Saddam Hussein and, indeed, for all the long-suffering Iraqi people. In the case of Ukraine, it may be objected that its troops did not invade the territory of a neighboring state. Fair enough. But as we see now, the U.S. and NATO have been preparing Kiev for an armed confrontation with Russia for a long time, which for some reason did not begin.

Rumsfeld with Hussein
Donald Rumsfeld, later George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense during the 2003 invasion, shaking hands with Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1983

The U.S. finally got its way, and Ukraine is fighting against the neighboring state. But, precisely because Washington has no interest at all in the peace, security and well-being of Ukraine, both for the Kiev regime, which the Americans are supporting so actively, and for the rest of the Ukrainian population, who are hostages of this strange relationship, the “friendship” with the United States is likely to prove fatal. The way this will happen is well illustrated by the recent history of the Iraqi crisis.

Desert Storm

After the failure of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti negotiations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Baghdad entered Kuwaiti territory on the night of August 1 to 2, 1990. After overcoming focal resistance of the small Kuwaiti army, the 120,000-strong Iraqi army occupied the entire country by the evening of August 2.

The international community reacted with unprecedented speed and severity to the blatant violation of international law and the principles of the UN Charter, to the capture of a neighboring sovereign state. On August 2, the Security Council at an emergency meeting adopted resolution 660, which condemned the invasion, demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi troops to their original positions, and reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait. In response to the continued build-up of Iraqi troops and measures taken by Baghdad to break the state and administrative system of Kuwait, the UN Security Council imposed comprehensive trade and economic sanctions on Iraq on August 6, by resolution 661, which forced Baghdad to suspend oil exports, the main source of its foreign exchange earnings.

However, the sanctions and numerous appeals of the world leaders to Baghdad to reconsider its policy on the Kuwaiti direction had the opposite effect on the Iraqi leadership: speaking to the Iraqi people on August 8, 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announced the “historic victory” of the Iraqi revolution over the feudal regime of Jaber al-Sabah in Kuwait, and “the complete and final fusion of Iraq and Kuwait”.

What guided Baghdad in launching the Kuwaiti operation? What was the basis of the strategic calculations? How was it possible that such an experienced and clever political leader as S. Hussein allowed himself to be lured into a “trap” set up for him? Did the Iraqi leader seriously believe that the world community would lump this action as a fait accompli and would accept a unilateral forceful abolition of a small sovereign state on the sole ground that in the historical past its territory was part of Mesopotamia, or because Kuwait together with the UAE, exceeding the OPEC quota for oil production, thereby contributed to the reduction of world oil prices, undermining the Iraqi economy. Now, after the death of S. Hussein, it is difficult to give a definite answer to this question. However, we can still try to understand the motives of his actions and the cause of his miscalculations, based on the documentary evidence of those times and the opinions of the participants in the events.

Desert storm mapThe possibility of Baghdad’s annexation of Kuwait was not as unexpected as it was presented by some Western media, and the preconditions for it were observed at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq armed conflict. At that time Iraq, which had unleashed a bloody war with Iran for many years, was not called an aggressor neither in the UN resolutions, nor, moreover, at all-Arab summits. This unprincipled position of the international community, blinded by the rejection of leadership in Iran, mainly influenced by the United States and its allies, created an illusion of impunity for S. Hussein and clearly pushed him to violate international law again.

The Iraqi regime’s apparent encouragement was the international community’s insufficiently strong condemnation of Baghdad’s use of chemical weapons against both Iran and the Kurds (the destruction of the village of Khalibji in 1988). The U.S. simply “turned a blind eye” to these crimes, and the Western media ignored information about these events. Despite Kuwait’s support for Baghdad in the Iran-Iraq conflict, including material support in the amount of $40 billion, Iraq, since the independence of that state, has constantly presented it with territorial claims, the implementation of which, as feared in Kuwait, was postponed till the right time.

to be continued

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