At the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was close to bankruptcy because of President Saddam Hussein’s military spending and his attempts to build nuclear weapons. The U.S. had sided with Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran, but the American government was confident it could contain his ambitions.
As an oil-rich country, Saddam tried to re-fill his coffers by selling oil at the highest possible price, but he blamed the Emir of Kuwait of flooding the market with cheap oil, lowering prices and hastening Iraq’s descent into economic crisis.
The Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, said Iraq started to realize that there was a conspiracy against them by Kuwait, organized and devised by the United States. Saddam issued the Emir of Kuwait with a stark warning – “each dollar less in the price of oil means to us one billion dollars in revenue for a year. If you do not mean to wage a war against Iraq, please stop it.”
But the Emir refused and a month later, Saddam’s inner circle decided that unless Kuwait handed over $10 billion to Iraq immediately, they would invade. The way Iraq saw it, they had no choice but to act, either to be destroyed, to be suffocated and strangled inside its territory or attack the enemy on the outside.
The Republican Guard was ordered to move south toward Iraq’s border with Kuwait. These were the Iraqi Army’s elite divisions, equipped with Soviet tanks. No other Middle Eastern country except Israel had forces to rival them. Soon 30,000 Iraqi troops had massed on the border between Iraq and Kuwait.
With the crisis building, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rushed to Baghdad, sent by Kuwait and the Arab world to arrange negotiations. Mubarak, one of America’s closest allies in the region, was determined to discover Saddam’s plans. It was an encounter that would have far-reaching consequences.
The day after Mubarak’s visit, Saddam abruptly summoned the American ambassador, April Glaspie, to sound her out as to what the American position would be if the Iraqis moved against the Kuwaitis. And the response that he got was a very satisfactory one.
But the Iraqi threat was still building on the Kuwaiti border. The original 30,000 troops grew to 70,000 then 100,000. Arab leaders continued to insist it was all a bluff.
Then, on August 1st, the Iraqis walked out on talks when the Kuwaitis refused to meet their demands. Saddam issued his orders to invade.
Part one of a 6 x 50-minute documentary series on the first Gulf War told from the Arab perspective. These films can be bought individually or as a series.