Republican Guard tanks sealed off Kuwait city while Iraqi special forces seized government buildings. The advancing Iraqis met little resistance.
The Emir had stood down his army to avoid provoking Saddam. Many of his soldiers were taking their summer vacations. Saddam thought any reprisals would be limited and would tail off with time.
In the words of President Hafez Assad of Syria at a conference of Arab leaders at the time, “Kuwait has been occupied by Iraqi forces, who has the military might to expel them? Let him come forward and take command. Do not even mention foreign forces. Please come forward and tell us now”. There was silence by all Arab leaders.
Saddam thought that America’s defeat in Vietnam had badly damaged its willingness to use military power. He also assumed that King Fahd would never allow US troops into Saudi Arabia and that the Soviet Union would never allow the use of force against Iraq as it was geographically very close to Iraq.
He also thought that Kuwaitis were not internationally well liked and nobody would come to their aid. He was wrong on all these points.
For Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak it was shocking. He couldn’t believe that this could happen in the Arab world. He regarded Saddam Hussein as a friend and didn’t expect him to invade.
For the Americans getting the Soviet Union on board was imperative. US Secretary of State, James Baker, said that with Soviet support the US was able to marshal the international coalition that they were able to build up. He said it gave a completely different dynamic to the whole effort.
Now, instead of being an effort by the United States and the United Kingdom to eject Iraq from Kuwait, it was an effort by the entire international community.