KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait has a complicated backstory. Especially since there are various underlying reasons not readily viewed to explain why Saddam Hussein and the Baa’thist ruling party of Iraq decided to invade Kuwait. The invasion of Kuwait came about after the long drawn out war against Iran, launched by Iraq due to the assertion that because of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the political, economic and military foundations of Iran were in shambles and would not be able to repel an invasion.
The assertion proved false in the long run, resulting in a war which lasted almost a decade and resulted in the deaths of millions of Iranian and Iraqi soldiers as well as civilians. With this, the ruling regime of Iraq, with Hussein at the helm, saw a new Middle East. The war, however, ended in a crushing defeat for Hussein’s Iraq.
Hussein saw himself as a savior of Iraq, routinely claiming he was descended from nobility, chiefly ‘the prophet Kuraishi Mohamedan.’ He also frequently considered and sponsored the perception that he could push the Arab world into a new golden age, perceptions which became the foremost factors in his cognitive reasoning behind starting numerous wars of aggression against neighboring countries, with the ultimate goal of ruling the Middle East.
Though his arguments consistently conflicted with each other, he contended that Kuwait needed to be saved and that the nation was a danger to Iraq. His paranoia also played a key role in how he ran his country domestically, which included various fear tactics such as announcing who were traitors while they were present in the room.
The Middle East, to Hussein, was essentially a small bubble that was of no concern to the outside world. He also believed that his aggressive military adventures would not be seen as important nor be decried by international powers outside the region. Hussein’s only concern was repercussions by Middle Eastern state actors.
The United States intervened in the war, however, which resulted in massive losses in Iraqi military personnel lives. Since Kuwait was a very rich oil producing nation, Iraq saw this as a way to gain revenue. Furthermore, Kuwait was one of the nations that financially supported Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and was demanding back the money it had provided during the war, which numbered into the billions. Despite this, Iraq had originally tried to solve the problem internally through various reforms in the private-sector and in domestic agriculture.
The various plans to help stimulate the economy had failed while ideas stalled as the deregulation of the market had left the economy stagnant. Even Iraq’s major export, petroleum, had decreased in price, resulting in a frustrated government. The rationale for invading Kuwait seemed more plausible given the dire events occurring domestically in Iraq.
As such, the invasion and absorption of Kuwait would have absolved Iraq of this massive debt, especially since the nation had dug itself into a figurative hole within the power structure of the Gulf region. Iraq saw its neighbors, namely Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as threats and detrimental to both their power in the region as well their own internal economic stability. With the amount of loans they had received from Kuwait, they had lost a foothold in Middle Eastern relations.
Iraq, at the time, was also dealing with massive social unrest and politically instability which threatened the ruling regime of the nation. As it stood, the ruling regime of Iraq, under the direction of Hussein, had viewed the main priority of the nation to be military development, which caused major problems for the economy. Soldiers returning from the Iran-Iraq war caused major disruptions in Iraqi society.
Soldiers were unable to attain employment due to a stagnant economy. The problem was hardly being solved domestically, as the repressive nature of the ruling regime dissuaded much investment in the private sector, which resulted in fewer jobs being available in the private sector and a displeased and underemployed population. A solution to the problem came back in the form of Kuwait, which was seen as a way to solve the economic crisis by adding Kuwait’s wealth to Iraq’s own.
– Joseph Abay
Sources: BBC, PBS, Israel Hayom, Huffington Post