Site hosted by Build your free website today!


The Persian Gulf War and  The Changing Middle East Order








The Period of Coup d’Etat In Iraq. 12

Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party. 13


Iraq’s Grievances with Kuwait 16





 The Persian Gulf War and  The Changing Middle East Order



In fact, the Middle East has always been an important center of world politics and international relations since the beginning of history. This is firstly because of its geographic setting between the three continents - Europe, Africa and Asia - which make the Middle Fast the crossroads of the world, and secondly, because of its resources which are of such importance to the world, namely water, oil.

The Persian Gulf Crisis, occurred in the Middle Fast on August 2 1990, and later developed into the Persian Gulf War in January 1991, became the focus of attention of world politics.

The international system of post-World War II is a balance of power system in which power is polarized in two rival power centers.  In the arguments of Kenneth N. Waltz, the bipolar system is accepted as something more stable than multi-polar systems for the prevention of the occurrence of war.[1] The World War II showed that more durable world order was necessary to prevent another such conflict. The United Nations and international law were the results of twentieth century efforts to improve world order.

It is obvious that international relations prevailing the world since 1945 have undergone a genuine revolutionary transformation in recent years, Gorbachev's opening and restricting of the Soviet Union (Perestroika), the global system has moved away from a bipolar system dominated by the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.  The world is no longer under the grip of the Cold War or fearful of the threat of communism. The new era which we are entering is named as "new world order" but its framework is not yet clearly defined.

The Middle East is one of the critical regions of the world because of its unique strategic location and rich petroleum resources.  In the international political system the Middle East is a subordinate system[2] which contains a configuration of international relations which results from its particular political structure.

Iraq has an important role in the Middle East and its role in the region increased by the end of 1970s. Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq, has probably been the most powerful Iraqi ruler during the past half century concentrating in his hands exceptional political power became the presidency in 1979. He has been effected by the dizzying transformation of world politics. He feared that the changing world order would allow the US to dictate in the Gulf and thwart his own ambition to power as a regional actor. Saddam wanted to make a bid for leadership in the Arab world. The decline of the two superpowers gave him considerable freedom to pursue his own interests. Saddam wanted to be an Arab great power with the end of Cold War.

The Persian Gulf War occurred after the end of the Cold War because it was a transition period for a new world order and Saddam had not realized the characteristic of the new world order. He saw the changing world order would allow him to act more freely and to invade Kuwait. He knew that during the Cold War years, the Soviet Union would not have tolerated such ’’adventurism’’ for fear that Baghdad’s action might draw the two superpowers into conflict. From Saddam’s point of view, the decades of the Cold War had ensured Soviet support against the West and the expansionist Zionist state.  But the situation had now changed.

At a time when it seemed that both the United States and the Soviet Union were occupied with the reconstruction of Europe and the Soviet Union, and with their attention diverted from the problems of the Middle East, Saddam saw an opportunity for himself to fill the power vacuum in the region.

However, it is not a simple matter to evaluate the Persian Gulf War which was so complex in its commencement. An analysis of the historical background of the war is essential for such an evaluation. After the World War I, the region was in absolute control of Britain and France. The official status of Iraq, Syria and Palestine was determined in 1920s. Iraq became the mandate of Britain. Later on the management of Iraq was transferred to State Council of Arabia, King Faisal became the ruler of Iraq. Iraq gained her independence in 1932. Monarchy regime lasted until 1958 Coup D’etat. In 1968 Baath Party made a coup and started to rule Iraq, and in 1979 Saddam Hussein became the President of Iraq. After the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, the relations with Iran get worse and in 1980 the war between Iraq and Iran broke out. The war lasted 8 years. To examine Saddam’s ’’mood’’ during the pre-Persian Gulf (1988-1990) period was important in order to clarify his reasons for the invasion.

As a means of seeking legal justification for his actions Saddam Hussein put forward a list of his grievances with Kuwait.  These will be looked at in the contexts of before, during and after the Iran-Iraq war. In the process of this thesis finally the attitudes of the Arab Governments, the United States and the United Nations require study in order to evaluate the effects of the changing world order on the outcome of the Persian Gulf War.

 The Persian Gulf War was a test case for a ’’new world order’’ from the point of George Bush. He described the idea of a ’’new era’’ which is full of promise, on age of freedom, a time of peace for all peoples and which would be risk if there was a failure to resist aggression.



A study of order in world politics must begin with the question of what it is. Hedley Bull explains in The Anarchical Society what he means by order[3] in social life generally, and continues with what it means in the system of states and in world politics in general.

By international order Bull means a pattern of activity that maintains the elementary or primary goals of the international societies[4]. These goals are secured by the rules which are expressed in International law. In order to maintain international order the great powers see themselves as its guardians or custodians.

 By world order Bull means those patterns of human activity that elementary or primary goals of social life among mankind as a whole. Order among mankind as a whole is something wider than order among states. World order is wider than international order because to give an account of it, one has to deal not only with order among states but also with order within the wider world political system of which the states’ subsystem is only a  part.

At the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union, a new class of power called superpowers, superior to the traditional European great powers, appeared in international politics. The emergence of the U.S.  and the Soviet Union minimized the status of Britain, France and Germany as great powers. They were capable of undertaking the central, managerial role in International politics, which the European great powers had traditionally played. The predominant European states no longer stood as leading world powers. Germany had been defeated and divided between East and West. Britain, though one of the victorious ’’Big Three’’ powers, with the U.S. and the Soviet Union, was drained economically and militarily. France had been defeated and occupied, its political institutions discredited and also gave up its own imperial possessions[5].

In short, three centuries of European world primacy had come to an end. In the post-1945 world, the power and primacy belonged to the superpowers –the U.S. and the Soviet Union-.  They were in the front rank of military powers and recognized by other states to have a certain status in the international hierarchy they were expected to take a leading part in the affairs of the international system as a whole.

Power is the ability to influence or change the behavior of others in a desired direction.  States use power in order to serve their interests or achieve their objectives. What a state can do in international politics depends on the power it possesses.

According to the realists approach, the struggle for power among states is at the core of international relations[6]. In the words of Morgenthau, ’’international politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power. Whatever ultimate aims of international politics, power is always the immediate aim’’[7] Although ’’power’’ is the core concept for realists they do not have general agreement on how to define it. Some realists understand power to be he sum of military, economic, technological, diplomatic and other capabilities at the control of the state.  Others see power not as some absolute value determined for each state as if it were in a vacuum but, preferably, having capabilities relative to the capabilities of other states.[8]

The contribution of the superpowers to international order derives from the inequality of power between the states that made up the international system. The political relations of them with one another in the interest of the international order traditionally have been explained by the theory of balance of power.



The concept of ’’Balance of Power’’ is subject to various discussions different interpretations[9] within its different connotations, different pretatlons, as well as with its mechanism and operation.  In fact, the analysis of the term ’’balance of power’’ extends as far back as the periods of Thucydides in Ancient Greece and of Kantilyo in Ancient India. In other words, the study of the balance of power is as ancient as international relations. The trouble with the balance of power says L. Claude Jr. Inis, ’’is not that it has no meaning, but that it has to many me manning’’[10].

Morgenthau[11] reasserted the importance of the balance of power which he elevated to a ’’universal concept’’ determining the behavior of any society sovereign entities. He also identified the balance of power as a self regulating mechanism.

The main points of the theory of the balance of power can be set forth as follows: Given a large number of nations with varying amounts of power, each one striving to maximize its own power, there is a tendency for the entire system to be in balance[12]. That is to say, the various nations group themselves together in such a way that no single nation or group of nations is strong enough to overwhelm the others, for its power is balanced by that of some opposing group.

The main objective of the balance of power is not to preserve international ’’peace’’ but instead to preserve the security or ’’independence’’ of states particularly the big ones[13]. In sum, the main purpose is to preserve the international ’’stability’’.

Morton Kaplan, who produced one of the first major works using the systems approach, established six different models of international system[14]. Two of them, the balance of power and the loose bipolar, can be discovered, in history but four of them purely hypothetical. Kaplan's balance of power system resembles the international system that Morgenthau describes[15].

The second of Kaplan's models, the loose bipolar, resembles in many ways the international system of the post World War II period[16]. The balance of power of Europe was no longer the center of world politics around which local balances would group themselves. Kaplan's bipolar model is a balance of power system in which power is polarized into two rival power centers. The superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union became the main weights of the world-wide balance. In the bipolar model states are forced to commit themselves to one side and join together within the power configuration dominated by either of the two superpowers[17].  Bipolarity characterized the balance of power system that emerged after World War II.

Kaplan's model includes major bloc actors such as NATO and the Warsaw Pact, a leading national actor within each bloc such as the U.S. and the Soviet Union and universal actor such as the United Nations[18]. The two superpowers dominated the rival military, political, economic and social camps, - the ’’Free World’’ and the ’’Communist bloc’’.

The monopoly of nuclear weapons held by each superpower within each bloc forced all others into a position of dependence for security and polarized the determination of questions of peace and war. Neutral states were under constant pressure from both sides to submit to superpower hegemony through alliances for protection against the al1egedly aggressive designs of the rival bloc.

 The relationship between the distribution of power and the incidence of war in the international system has been the object in both traditional and contemporary writings[19].  Kenneth N. Waltz argues that bipolarity which characterizes the contemporary period is favorable for the working of the­ balance of power[20].  Both superpowers, following their instinct for self preservation, try to maintain a balance of power based upon capabilities, including military and technological strength.  Military power is most ective when it deters an attack.

The United Nations was born out of the ashes of World War II.  After the World War II the UN reflected the desire of the victorious states to maintain world peace and to attack the conditions that appeared to encourage war. The creation of the UN was supported for the benefits of collective security in a global system. The imperatives of international law for maintaining order in world politics is nowhere clearer the Article 2 (4) of the UN Carter. This prohibits the use of force by states.

All members should refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations[21]. The United Nations could be effective in resolving superpower only to the degree that both superpowers wanted it to be so. They could veto any action they disapprove of.

International law has been created to help states interact smoothly with each other[22]. It has been used to regulate conflict - including the use force - to help promote conflict resolution and to restrain behavior considered undesirable.

Order in the great society of all mankind has been attained through general acceptance of the principle that men and territory are divided into states, each with its own authority, but linked together by a common set of rules[23].

The role of law in relation to order in world politics is to identify the principles of universal political organization and proclaim its supremacy over all competitors. Another role of international law in relation to international order has been to state the basic rules of coexistence among states and other actors in international society.

Neither international law nor the United Nations exist by themselves in order to maintain the international order. Indeed in many ways the bipolar Cold War provided stability in the world order[24].  Although, the Soviet-American conflict created both a unique and dangerous potential, it paradoxically provided a structure and order to the conduct of international relations. With the fear of nuclear warfare, the competition would ensure a stable order.  The international order which was assumed after 1945 entered a transition period in the 1980s. International relations since 1985, however, have undergone a genuine revolutionary transformation when Gorbachev’s recent reforms in the Soviet Union have ended the Cold War.



Iraq has an important role in the Middle East. It is important because of its war with Iran, the size of its oil reserves and oil revenues and its historical role in the region. Iraqi role in the Middle East increased by the end of 1970s.  When Saddam Hussein became the President of Iraq in 1979, he was the man who had the Iraqi political power in his hands[25]. He not only controlled the Baath Party but also the parliament.  While establishing his internal authority Saddam also wanted to reclaim Iraq's role as the leader of the Arab world, dominant power in the Gulf[26]  Following Egypt's decline as the most influential Arab state after Nasser's death, opportunities increased for Iraq.

The fall of Shah of Iran in 1979 with the revolution and the declaration of Islamic Republic perceived as a chance for Saddam’s aim. He sought to ways to fill the power vacuum left by the Shah and to assume the leadership of the region[27].  The fall of the Shah provided Saddam the chance of a fruitful partnership with the West. It seemed to Western powers that his ambitions were in line with their own interests. These were: avoiding the Islamic Revolution to be advanced; securing the flow of oil and preventing Iran from threatening the pro-Western Gulf states.

In 1980, he decided to re-establish Iraq's hegemony. On 22nd September,1980, suddenly and with no warning, Iraq invaded Iran. The excuse which he had put forward for invading Iran was to cancel the ’’unfair’’ 1975 Algiers Agreement. Indeed, he wanted to reclaim Iraqi domination of the Shatt al-Arab and several border and Gulf islands from Iran. At this point Saddam faced with the Western sympathy and support. Iraq assumed the role of regional policeman[28], with the West supplying arms and its technology.

Iraq has an important role in the Middle East because of its oil reserves.  Iraq’s oil reserve is proven to be 31 billion barrels which is estimated ranging above 100 billion. This may be second only to those of Saudi Arabia in the world. The estimated reserves increased during the 1970s with the improvement of technological advances in oil exploration in addition to the political demands to increase the search. According to an estimate made in 1981, the forty-four known oilfields in Iraq contain some 274 billion barrels of which 93 billion barrels are recoverable[29]. Iraq’s minister of oil stated on February 20, 1983, that Iraq’s proven reserves 50 million barrels and that there are an additional 46 billion barrels of estimated reserves. Before the Iran-Iraq war Iraqi production was about 5 percent of world production. Iraq is one of the few Arab oil producers that gradually increased productive capacity as well as production during the 1970’s, guaranteeing shipments to favored to Western European countries. Because decision on levels of production have been linked to ambitious Baathist plans for social and economic development.

It is obvious that parallel with increasing levels of production. Iraq’s oil revenues rose from $ 5.7 billion in 1974 to approximately $ 21 billion in 1979.  Before the outbreak of the war with Iran in September 1980, oil revenues for the year had already totaled some $ 25 billion. Despite rising government expenditures, Iraq's current account grew from $ 3 billion in 1977 to an estimated $ 21 billion in 1980, and its foreign exchange reserves from $ 6.7 billion in 1977 to around $ 35 billion in 1980 prior to the war[30].

The Iraqi government wished to modify its economic and political relationship in the latter half of the 1970’s.  For that reason it obtained Western technology in order to increase the productivity of its labour force. At the same time there was a shift in Iraq’s trading patterns. Although the Soviet Union was Iraq's largest trading partner in 1973, in 1975 it provided less than 10 percent of Iraq's imports.  In 1978 some 75 percent of Iraqi imports originated in countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) primarily Japan, West Germany, France and Italy, and 73 percent of Iraqi exports were bought by OECD countries.

Saddam had probably the most powerful Iraqi ruler during the past half century concentrating in his hands exceptional political power. He wanted to make a bid for leadership in the Arab World.  Saddam was seen as a bulwark against the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Western support ultimately enabled the Iraqi dictator to build his giant war machine and to invade Kuwait a decade later.



The twentieth century has witnessed several crises such as the two World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam, etc... Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 is the beginning of the Persian Gulf Crisis - the first ’’post-Cold War’’[31] crisis. The Persian Gulf Crisis is not the most important one among the others in terms of the scope and magnitude of damage inflicted to property and loss of lives. However, it differs from all of those in being the first major postwar crisis which is not determining East-West dimension. The framework of the new world order is not yet clearly defined and Saddam wanted to use the advantages of uncertainty in order to pursue his own interest. In attempting such an overview the historical background of the crisis have to be analyzed.



It should be very useful to go over the historical development of the status and flow of the events in the Middle East as far as to prepare a basis for making an evaluation from the point of view of the causes of the Gulf Crisis which began with the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq on August 2, 1990.

During the First World War the British Government tried to use Arabic Nationalism according to their own benefits. The short-term target of the British Government was to break off the Arabic elements in the Ottoman army and to gain their support. The long-term target was, by establishing independent Arab states or an Arab confederation in the region.

The long term foreign policy of Britain of that time played a very important role on the status of the states of the Middle East and on the Arabian Peninsula. During the World War I, Britain made secret agreements for sharing out the Ottoman territories with its allies. According to these agreements Mesopotamia and Mousul was given to Britain by the Sykes-Picot Secret Treaty.

Britain withdrew its forces from the coastal zone of Syria to Iraq in November 1919, and although France did not fight in this front, Britain left the control of Syria to the French forces commanded by General Gouraud. The first thing General Gouraud had done was to dethrone Faisal (younger son of Hussein the sheriff of Mecca) and take Syria under its control.


The Period of Coup d’Etat In Iraq:  After the Second World War, the acceleration of the Jewish migration to Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel have a great impact on Arab world. British position in the region started to shake. During this time Iraq ruled under the monarchy regime.

The revolution directed by General Kasım on July 14, 1958 the young King Faisal and his guardian Abdullah were killed. The military committee directed by General Kasım terminated the monarchy and proclaimed a Republic; it underlined an economic treaty accepting the support of the Soviet Union and closed the nationalist parties which are sympathizers of Egypt.

The self-sufficient economic policy followed during the period of General Kasım resulted in failure. General Kasım and his collaborators were executed in the coup d’Etat leading by General Abdusselam Arif. He promoted himself to Marshal in rank and became the head of the National Revolution Council. Upon the death of Marshal Arif in an accident on April 14, 1966, his brother Abdurrahman Arif took his place. Iraq joined in the Common Defense Pact of Egypt and Jordan on June 3, 1967 and declared war to Israel on June 5, 1967.

The government of Abdurrahman Arif was overthrown with a further coup on July 17, 1968. The Revolution Commanding Council appointed General Ahmet Hasan el-Bekir as the President.  Bekir, who was the Secretary General of the Baath Party since 1965, established the new government with the members of Baath Party. He re-organized the Ministries and not only became the Prime Minister, but also advanced to Marshal in rank and became the Commander-in-Chief on July 30, 1968.  As the result of internal disputes, the opposition of Shiite, the Kurdish problem and the continuous crisis in relations between Iraq and Syria, the government failed to provide stabilization. On July 16,1979, Marshal Bekir resigned from all his duties in the Baath Party and in the government because of his health problems and he turned over his place to his closest collaborator and cousin Saddam Hussein.


Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party: Saddam Hussein established an absolute dictatorship disguised as a republic in Iraq by holding the titles of the President, the Head of the Revolutionary Command Council and the Commander in-Chief[32]. In order to evaluate Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, it would be helpful to examine Saddam's character and his involvement with the Baath Party. It is also necessary to briefly look at the history of Baath.

Saddam Hussein was born in 1937 as the son of a poor family. After graduating from the secondary school, Saddam applied to the military school in Baghdad but, as his grades were insufficient; he wasn’t accepted. This failure affected Saddam very much and leads him to gain power and status by taking part in ideological terror acts. He participated in the unsuccessful coup action against King Faisal II in 1956 as he was only 19 years old and the following year he joined to the Baath Party and his political life began. Saddam took part in an assault against General Kasım in 1959. After this assault, by raking Kasım’s car with a machine gun, Saddam fled first to Syria, then to Egypt; as he continued to his political activities, he was arrested there two times. He could finish his highschool, education in 1961, entered to the Faculty of Law of Cairo. The coup, organized by the officers close to Baath against Abdul Karim Kasım, was successful in February 1963; therefore Saddam left his law education and returned to Baghdad for grasping a good position during the revolution. Then he suddenly became a fervent collaborator of the Baath Party. When General Ahmet Hasan el-Bekir, the cousin of Saddam, became the Secretary General of the Party in 1965, he appointed Saddam as the Vice-Secretary General the year after.  When Bekir became the head of the Revolutionary Commanding Council and the President on July 30, 1968, he appointed Saddam as the Vice-President of the Council responsible for the internal security. Probably as a result of the psychological effect of being refused entry to the military school and failure to graduate from the Faculty of Law, took the honorary doctorate of the University of Baghdad as the second man of the regime in Iraq in 1970.  He made himself entitled as Brigadier General in 1976, although he had nothing to do with the military, and he promoted himself to Marshalship in July 1979 when he became the President Secretary General of the Party and head of the Revolutionary Commanding Council.

The first deed of Saddam after being the President of Iraq was killing more than 20 opposing party members and ensuring his position with governmental terror. Saddam appointed his relatives and friends to the key positions in the government, killed his friends in case of a suspicion and became the absolute dictator of Iraq.



It will clarify our subject to examine Saddam Husseins "mood during the period between the ceasefire with Iran in August 1988 and the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1 990. His mood can be examined through his speeches and his diplomatic correspondence with the Arab League and Arab leaders in the weeks before 2 August.  The main themes what Saddam believed he achieved were as follows.

  • At enormous cost in both Iraqi lives and material assets, he blocked the "Eastern Gateway" to the Arab world In the face of Khomeini’s troops and thereby saved the other Arab Gulf states from certain destruction.
  • This heroic accomplishment against such overwhelming odds, justifies Baghdad's historic role as the regional capital and Iraq's predominance in the hierarchy of the Gulf States.
  • The other Gulf States were now morally and materially obligated to Iraq for the great sacrifices Iraq had made on their behalf. The outcome of the Iran-Iraq war (in resisting Khomeini) , thrust Iraq and not Syria or Egypt - to the leadership of the Arab world in the post-Cold War era.
  • This position (of leadership) imposes upon Iraq the duty of the deterrence of Israel, which other Arab states have shirked, and of which only Iraq is capable because of its wartime expansion of its industrial  technological infrastructure.
  • Leading Western countries, notably the U.S. and Britain, knowing Iraq’s intentions (regarding deterrence) had a secret agenda to neutralize and counterbalance Iraq’s post-ceasefire predominance.
  • In order to resist Western manoeuvres and maintain deterrent capacity against Iranian revenge and Israeli adventurism, Iraq urgently needed to reconstruct its economy and expand its industrial-technological infrastructure.
  • This could only be achieved by an increase in oil revenues through higher oil prices, by the cancellation of war debts owed to the Gulf States and by becoming the beneficiary of an Arab Marshal Plan put together by these states who owe their survival to Iraq and Saddam.

These were the elements of Saddam’s post-ceasefire mood which was summarized from his public utterances and in a speech to his Arab peers delivered in May 1990[33]. His foreign minister in the following weeks elaborated a lengthening list of grievances against Kuwait[34] By declaring such a list the Iraqi government tried to create a legal justification for its action because Iraq’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Kuwait was clearly a violation of Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter[35].  In the lights of this principle it is now generally accepted that a state cannot achieve legal title to territory by the illegal use of force.


Iraq’s Grievances with Kuwait: What this list of grievances consisted of can be divided into three groups. These are the grievances that surfaced before the Iran-Iraq War; the grievances that grew during the Iran-Iraq War; the grievances that were started in the period between the cease fire with Iran in August 1988 and just prior to the invasion on 2 August 1990. The grievances that surfaced before the Iran-Iraq War were mainly three.


1)      It was claimed that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq and that its existence as a separate state was an artificial consequence of British colonialism[36].  The essence of this claim is that Kuwait had been a subdistrict of Basra during the Ottoman Empire, and was later separated from Basra by the British in a secret treaty with the sheik of Kuwait in 1899.  Kuwait was later recognized as a separate state under British protection during the World War I. This argument was not new. Successive Iraqi governments have advanced similar claims over the years. This was first expressed by the Iraqi monarchy in the late 1930s by the nationalist King Ghazi (1935-1939) it was refreshed by the "revolutionary" Iraqi president Abdul Karim Kasım (1958-1963) soon after the declaration of Kuwaiti independence in June 1961 when Britain cancelled its protection over Kuwait. Kasım was discouraged from invading Kuwait at the time by the landing of British troops in Kuwait and by the opposition of the Arab League to Kasım. Iraq boycotted the Arab League from 1961 until the downfall of Kasım in 1963. Iraq returned to the Arab League after recognizing Kuwait’s independence and Kuwaiti membership in the UN in 1963.  In that year an agreement was concluded between the governments of Iraq and Kuwait which provided that: ’’The Republic of Iraq recognized the independence and complete sovereignty of the state of Kuwait with its boundaries as specified in the letter of the Prime Minister of Iraq (in 1932)’’[37]. Iraq’s historical claim to Kuwait remained dormant until 2 August 1990.

2)      The delineation of the international frontiers between Iraq and Kuwait. In 1973 Iraqi troops crossed the frontier and occupied a Kuwaiti military post. They subsequently withdrew from the post but the incident signal led the persistence of the issue of border frontier delineation.

3)      The issue of access to the Gulf. Geographically Iraq is virtually land locked with a coastline on the Gulf of only 15 miles. Its main port of Basra is linked to the Gulf by the Shatt al-Arab river which also constitutes the border between lower Iraq and Iran.  Under the Algiers Agreement in 1975[38] Iraq accepted the thalweg - the midpoint between the two banks as a frontier. They rescinded this when they invaded Iran but later returned to the original agreement after invading Kuwait.


However on the Iraqi border, is another Gulf estuary at the entrance to which are the two uninhabited islands of Warba and Bubiyan under Kuwaiti sovereignty. As early as 1973 (before the Algiers Agreement), the Baathist regime in Iraq had pressed Kuwait to lease to it these islands.

Why were they so important to Iraq? The acceptance of the thalweg in 1975 meant that Iraq would prefer an alternative to the Shatt al-Arab. In addition, they had in the meantime, built a naval port at Umm al-Qasr at the entrance of the western estuary and facing the island of Warba. These two circumstances increased Iraq’s interest in these two islands. Iraq had a plan to widen and extend this western estuary northwards to Basra and therefore provide themselves with alternative access to the Gulf.

              The grievances of Iraq with Kuwait grew during the Iran-Iraq war. Although the grievances just mentioned remained in practical abeyance because of Iraq's preoccupation with Iran, the last two were, nevertheless, being exacerbated below the surface.

            The issue of access to the Gulf became more acute as firstly, the outcome of Iran-Iraq hostilities was then still uncertain, and secondly, the blocking of Shatt al-Arab with war debts and silt increased Iraq’s interest in a post-war alternative and, therefore, in Warba and Bubiyan. At the same time, Kuwait started building new frontier posts and oil installations along the Iraqi border and Iraq saw this as Kuwait’s attempt to strengthen its case on the issue of frontier delineation. In addition to all this, a new grievance began to emerge. Iraq claimed that Kuwait was drawing more than its share from the common north-south Rumaila oil field.

Another group of grievances of Iraq with Kuwait were stated in the period between the ceasefire with Iran in August 1988 and just prior to the invasion on 2 August. There were seven main grievances, and all were new.

Over production of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quotas. Saddam’s policy involved manipulations of the world oil market to help Iraq’s financial needs. Early in 1990 some Gulf States had begun to produce oil beyond their OPEC quotas. It is an elementary law of economics that oversupply tends to depress prices while excess demand has the opposite effect. Following the war, Iraq demanded that the other members of OPEC reduce their quotas in order to enable Iraq to increase their own production without pushing prices down.

This demand was completely ignored. Even worse, instead of reducing their oil quota to make room for increased Iraqi production, some OPEC members, most notably Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), continued to go beyond their quotas by far, putting a downward pressure on world oil prices[39]. This occurred to such an extent that the price in certain instances had plummeted to $ 7 per barrel, although the agreed upon price was $18 per barrel. Saddam claimed that every one-dollar drop in the price per barrel of oil meant a loss of one billion dollars a year for Iraq[40]  He explicitly stated that in Iraq’s present economic condition the continued violation of oil quotas by some Arab states was “an act of war”, he said, could be waged by military means by “sending armies across frontiers, by acts of sabotage, by killing people and by supporting coup detats but war can also be waged by economic means... and what is happening is war against Iraq”[41]. He said he hoped the situation could be rectified and hinted that the price of oil could be raised to $ 25 per barrel. Saddam made it clear that he had reached the end of his limits. He did not mention any Arab country by name but expressed the hope that the future would produce agreement. Some six weeks later, his foreign minister, Tarıq Aziz in a 37 page memorandum dated 15 July to the Secretary General of the Arab League, explicitly named Kuwait and the UAE as the two "culprits" in overproduction. Aziz also mentioned in this same memorandum the six other new grievances.


The Iraqi debt to Kuwait.  In the summer of 1988, after eight years of bloody conflict, the guns in the Gulf fell silent. The general view was that Iraq had won the war; Iraq's military power was greater than ever, however the Iraqi economy had failed[42]. Unless Saddam could force the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, into forgiving their loans and raising further contributions to the Iraqi treasury. Aziz did not give a figure for his debt, but he stated that this ’’assistance’’ from Kuwait to Iraq during its war with Iran should not be considered a ’’debt’’ and should be cancelled.


The oil allegedly taken from the Rumaila field Aziz claimed that during 1980-1990 Kuwait pumped oil belonging to Iraq from this field, worth of $ 2.4 billion and which Kuwait owed Iraq.


Kuwait's ’’war’’ on Iraq. Aziz claimed that Kuwait's pumping of ’’Iraqi ‘oil from Rumalla was ’’tantamount to an act of war’’[43].  Kuwait's attempt’’ to effect the economic collapse’’ of Iraq (through over production) was ’’not less than an act of war’’.


Kuwait’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate with Iraq. Aziz claimed that in June 1988, even before the ceasefire with Iran, Iraq informed Kuwait that it was ready to settle all unresolved issues amicably but that Kuwait had prevaricated. Aziz did not raise the issues of Iraq’s historical claims to Kuwait or of access to the Gulf and to the two islands. However he referred to the issue of frontier delineation that remained unsolved in spite of all attempts at a settlement during the sixties and seventies.


Iraq recognized Kuwaiti independence in 1963 and was obliged to respect this independence, being one of the members of the Arab League and the UN.



The Middle East has long been a region with immense military imbalance between countries and of democratic checks and balances. There was an immense disparity of power between the Iraq and Kuwait before the invasion took place on 2 August 1990, Iraq had a long list of grievances about Kuwait’s handing of oil resources and about he Kuwaiti extraction of oil from the Rumalia oil field. The origin of Iraqi resentments about Kuwait, go back, in fact, to 1961 when Kuwait became independent on the Persian Gulf with the help of the British as a realization of a historical attempt to have a neutral zone on the opening of the Gulf. Since then Iraq has had a dispute with Kuwait, occasionally denying its legitimacy and claiming it as a part of its own territory.

A few days before the invasion the 13 oil producing countries of OPEC met in Geneva on 27 July to readjust oil prices and quotas against a background of the continuing Iraqi accusations that Kuwait had stolen $2.4 billion worth of oil by drilling into the Rumaila Field. In the meanwhile, Iraqi had moved 30,000 troops to the Kuwaiti border while there were several aircraft and warships deployed by the US in the Gulf to assure freedom of navigation. However, on account of the Egyptian leader Mubarek’s optimistic remarks after his visits to several Middle East countries coupled with the assurances of April Glaspie, the American ambassador to Iraq the Western world and Kuwait itself were convinced that Saddam H. Was only trying to put pressure on Kuwait to achieve its aims at the OPEC meeting. When the meeting came to an end with an agreement to pull the up the price up to $21 from $14 a barrel as opposed to the Iraqi offer $25, all delegates including Shalabi, the Iraqi delegate, seemed to be pleased with the outcome. However, the Iraqi troops on border of Kuwait had more than tripled and there was no sign of them retreating.

On 31 July 1990 at Jeddah, between two countries direct negotiations began. The aim of resolving disputes over territory and borders, and Iraq’s debts to Kuwait. Kuwait was expected to accede to Iraq on draft treaty concerning the border and Iraq was expected to clame the strategic islands of Warbah and Bubyan[44].

On 1 August Prince Saad, the Kuwaiti minister and Izzat Ibrahim, a close aid to Saddam H. Met in Jeddah but found no solution to the Rumaila oil field issue. Kuwait did not intend to make any territorial concessions despite all this when Iraq invaded Kuwait 2 August 1990, it cought the Western world with surprise. When the Iraqi tanks moved into Kuwait, the western world was taken wholly by surprise despite the warnings and threats of Saddam H. In a few hours Saddam achieved a very quick and efficient victory.

The cooperation between the superpowers was exemplified by the fact that at the time of the invasion the US secretary of State, James Baker was, visiting his opposite number, Edvard Shevardnadze, in Moscow and they had produced a joint statement condemning the invasion. Moreover, the Soviet Union agreed to halt its arms sales. The financial centers of the West froze Kuwait’s assets with the same speed denying Iraqi access to them. The UN Security Council also met on 2 August and approved Resolution 660 condemning Iraqi aggression and colling for its with drawl from Kuwait. Consequently, within 24 hours an international response was achieved. The second Resolution 661 to Iraqi, set the ’’measures to secure compliance of Iraq’’ and these measures included a ban on the imports originating from Iraq and Kuwait and the sale or supply of commodities twelve Resolution were adopted within four months, aimed at producing a peaceful solution to the conflict. However, they culminated in Resolution 678 which provided the mandate for the use of force. Resolution 678 states that the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, ‘’demands that Iraq comply fully with Resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions’’. The Resolution also allows Iraq a final opportunity for an unconditional withdrawal until 15 January 1991. however the Resolution provided the mandate ’’to use all necessary restore international peace and security in the area’’.

On the day of the invasion, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the UN called for the necessity of urgent American intervention in the crisis for Kuwait’s restoration. The US, immediately dispatched additional warships to the region at the request of Kuwaiti ambassador. The American stance, also backed by Resolution 660 demanding the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, narrowed the room for manoeuvre for negotiations and a peaceful resolution which would have been the preferred option of some members of the coalition. On the other hand, some Europeans, including France, try to find a compromise for a peaceful solution. These face saving attempts to find a peaceful solution was not accepted by Saddam.

Finally, the troops of the international coalition started the attack against Iraq on 16 January 1991 despite the criticism that the sanctions had not been given enough time to work because of the fear of the risking the solution of the coalition. The war effort lasted for sex weeks and a swift victory with surprisingly few numbers of casualties was achieved. The Iraqi representative at UN declared that they accept UN resolution, decline all of their claims on Kuwait and will withdraw from Kuwait on 27 February 1991.The operation against Iraq ended when US President Bush declared it on 28 February 1991[45]. The ceasefire had been signed at Safwan at the end of February.



The UN role in the field of international security has been dramatically expanded. The Soviet Union had made a clear turn adopting a useful policy on the UN and reflecting the new thinking in international politics of Gorbachev. For that matter, both superpowers were acting to reduce their global military commitments and to support UN efforts to deal with regional disputes outside Europe.

When the US turned first to the the UN in an attempt to resolve the crisis, the UN rapidly condemned the Iraqi invasion and put economic sanctions into action. The organization served as the principal focal point for diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. When the Security Council passed Resolution 678 on November 29, allowing members to use all necessary means to remove Iraq from Kuwait[46] war became inevitable. Then the United Nations was pushed from the stage and all the attention shifted to politicians in Washington and US Generals in Saudi Arabia. It was not until after the fighting ended that the United Nations again had a role to play peacekeeping on the Iraq-Kuwait border, maintaining security and assisting in the reconstruction of two completely destroyed cities.

Generally speaking, the Gulf War represented a failure on the part of the United Nations to organize the preventive diplomacy. The Security Council did not engage in conflict resolution.  This is its habit, which established itself during the decades of the Cold War.  As in the Gulf conflict, the Council has tended not to act until a problem has reached crisis point.

The first stages of the Gulf crisis demonstrated that the UN did not play an effective role in preventing the out break of hostilities between Iraq and Kuwait. It is necessary for the UN to improve its peacemaking capacities. It is necessary to establish research agency which is able to conduct satellite and aerial photography. If such measure had been operational at the beginning of 1990 than Saddam might have calculated quite differently the risks of his military adventure.

The second stage of the Gulf War demonstrated the weakness of UN enforcement capabilities. After announcing the use of force, the Security Council then stepped aside and the US as free to began and control the war.

The third suggestion corresponding to the present stage of the Gulf Crisis is the wars aftermath in which the United Nations played little or no role in resolving the deeper problems of the region. The United Nations must also become more involved in the control, rather than leaving it to the United States and other self-interested military suppliers.





            In the past, countries have engaged in conflicts over water or used the control of water resources to dominate an adversary. Today, access to freshwater is gaining higher importance globally day by day, as renewable water sources are being polluted and as the water demand is being pushed by population growth.

            The case of international shared waters in the Middle East can be understood within a realist framework. In each river basin there is a hegemon, such as Turkey in the Euphrates-Tigris river system, Egypt in the Nile river system, or Israel in the Jordan Basin. Within a realist framewor, riparian relations can be explained in terms of each country's capacity to project power. Israel has involved in a succession of water disputes with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as well as the Palestinian Authority within its own borders.

            The Middle East is the most water challenged region in the world with little freshwater and negligible soil water*. Jordan River Basin is in the center of water dispute in the Middle East, with the scarcest freshwater availability. Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria are the riparians of the Jordan Basin.

            There are environmental as well as political reasons of growing water scarcity in the Jordan Basin : the increasing population in the region, arid or semi-arid climate conditions, rapid urbanization, polution of water resources ( renewable waters, rivers, etc.) are some of the environmental reasons.  Approximately 80 % of the overall water usage belongs to agriculture and low water price implementation by the goverments is another factor causing non-effective usage of water resources.

            According to one approach, water has had everything to do with the conflicts of the recent past: The Six Day War was triggered by Egypt blockading the Gulf of Eliat at Tiran and similarly the Yom Kippur was a result of Israeli forces straddling Suez. It is also argued that Syria was drawn into the conflict for possessing Golan and the Mount Hermon watershed.

            Gaza is the most severely affected area in the entire region. According to a report published by World Bank (1996), the situation in Gaza is more acute than anywhere else in the world. The Palestinians  will be extremely short of water by the year 2025, with fewer than the 125 Cubic Meters / Person / Year considered by many as the Minimum Water Requirement for human survival. 

            One of the most significant effort for a solution between Jordan River riparians was the " Johnston Plan" in 1955. It was a plan of United States' President Eisenhower's special representative, Eric Johnston and the aim of this task was to seek a comprehensive program for the development of the Jordan River water sources "on a regional basis". Israel agreed to the basic terms of the plan that Johnston had drawn up but the ministers of the arab countries rejected it with a fear that their agreement would imply indirect recognition of the Zionist state.

            Following the Johnston plan, each riparian state adopted unilateral water policies, which exacarbated already tense interstate relations.The Six Day War completely changed hydro-politics of the Jordan Basin, The tributaries and springs of the Jordan all fell under Israeli control. Israel and Jordan had continuos informal meetings and arrangements during the twenty-five years following the 1967 War.

            In 1994, Jordan and Israel reached an aggrement over water, and Palestine and Israel launched the Oslo Peace Process. Since then, no significant project has been attempted in the region.

            Cooperation between the riparian countries is necessary for a durable peace in the region. Importing virtual water and sea water desalianation are other ways to meet the regions water necessity, which are already being used.




In sum, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is linked to the end of the Cold War. The bipolar system which is dominated by the conflict between the US and the Soviet Union in order to maintain the world order is moving rapidly towards multipolarity. The world is no longer under the grip of the Cold War or fearful of the threat of communism. The Soviet Union shifted from its balanced position with the US.

            Iraq’s role in the Middle East increased by the end of 1970s. Saddam Hussein who became the President of Iraq in 1979 was the most powerful Iraqi ruler during the past half century concentrating in his hands exceptional political power. He wanted to make a bid for leadership in the Arab World.

The Persian Gulf War was the first post - Cold War because it was a transition period for a new world order whose framework is not yet clearly defined and Saddam wanted to use the advantages of the uncertainty in order to pursue his own interest. He saw the changing world order would allow him a freer land to do what he wanted.

             However, Saddam, whose reasons for the invasion puzzled observers, had made gross miscalculations. Saddam saw himself as the champion of Arab nationalism and successor of Nasser. He relied too heavily on the Arab factor which did not materialize.

He exaggerated the Islamic factor and declared a Jihad against the West. He tried to turn the war into an Arab-Israeli conflict by attacking Israel in an attempt to unite the Arab World behind him. In this he also failed. The Palestinian cause did not evoke the automatic support he hoped for.

He underestimated the American resolve to defend UN interests which is oil in the area. The necessity of securing its supply meant that Western policy-makers would not be prepared to treat Saddam Hussein's invasion as a matter to be solved within the Arab family. Saddam also underestimated the cohesion of the UN coalition.  However, he over estimated the Soviet support and the strength of his armed forces. Finally he became a victim of his own rhetoric.

           Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait surprised the Arab world. Reactions in the Arab world to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent deployment of massive US military forces in the Arabian Peninsula have varied widely. The anti-Saddam coalition comprised of states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and the non Gulf countries of Egypt, Syria, Morocca, Lebanon, Djibouti, Somalia. These countries seem as supporting Saddam or at least who were not part of anti-Saddam coalition were Jordan, the PLO, Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria.

The strength of the international response to Saddam's challenge was not about Kuwait it was about the status of existing powers - particularly of the Untied States - in the new world order.  The threat of nuclear war between the superpowers might have receded but, as Saddam himself believed, military power still seemed the decisive factor in world affairs. Behind the rhetoric of President Bush’s call for ’’a new world order’’ lies the reality of the old system and old ways are no longer adequate to the security needs of member states.

[1] Theory of Internatıonal Polıtıcs (California:Addison,Wesley Publ. Comp., 1979), p123.

[2] Yalr Evron,The Middle East:Nations Superpowers and Wars, New York, Praeger, 1973,  p.192.

[3] The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order In World Politics Middle East Quertrly, (London, Macmillan Press Ltd., 1977,  pp.3-40.

[4] İbid., p.8 and see also Hedley Bull, ’’World  Order and the Superpowers,’’ in Superpowers and World Order, ed. Carsten Holbraad (Canberra: Australian National Univ. Press.1971) PP.140-154.

[5] Robert J. Lieber, No Common Power ( Boston: Scott, Foresman and Comp., 1988), p.24.

[6] Paul R. Violtti and Mark V. Kauppi, İnternational Relations Theory: Realism, Pluralism, Globalism ( New York: Mcmillan Publishing Comp., 1987), p. 34.

[7] Morgenthau, p.5.

[8] Viotti and Kauppi, p. 34,

[9] This concept Is used differently by various theoreticians. And yet one can not find a statement of the theory that is generaly accepted.  Ernst Haas (’’The Balance of Power: Prescription, Concept or Propanganda?’’ World Politics, V (July 1991), pp.442-477) discovered eight distinct meanings of the term, and Martin Wight (Power Politics (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1946)) found nine. Hans Morgenthau, in his profound historical and analytic treatment of the subject, makes use of four different definitions. Balance of power is seen by some as being like a law of nature, by others as simply an anger. Some view it as a guide to statements, others as a cloak that disguises their imperialist policies. Some believe that a balance of power is the best guarantee of the security of states and the peace of the world; others, that it has ruined states by causing most of the wars they heve fought.

[10] Power and İnternational Relations ( New York: Random House, 1992), p. 13.

[11] Morgenthau, p. 167.

[12] A. F. Organski, World Politics 2nd ed. (New York: Alfred A. Kropf, 1958), p. 274.

[13] G. R. Berridge, İnternational Politics: StatesPower and Conflict since1945 (New-York: St. Martins 1987), p. 148.

[14] These are ihe balance of power, loose bipolar, tight bipolar, universal, hierarchical, and unit veto. A. Reynolds, An İntroduction to İnternational Relations. 2nd ed. (New York, Longman inc., 1980), p.193.

[15] Morgenthau, pp.161-211.

[16] Robert L. Pfalzgraft Jr and James E. Dougherty, Contending Theories of İnternational Relations  (New York: Lippincott Comp., 1971), pp.125-130.

[17]The İnternational Relations Dictionary, p. 4.

[18] Pfalzgraft Jr. And Daugherty, p. 125.

[19] Pfzgraft Jr. and Daugherty, p.133.

[20] WaItz, ch.8, pp. 244-245.

[21] The United Nation in  The European World Year Book  V . !, 1991, p. 9.

[22] Bruce Russett and Harvey Starr, p.521.

[23] Bull, The Anarchical Society, p. 140.

[24] Robert H. Scrire, ’’Beyond the Cold War; Emergining İnternational Ralations in the 1990’s ’’İnternational Affairs Bulletin, 14, No 2 (1990), p 25.

[25] Frederick W.Axelgard. A New Iraq:The Gulf War and İmplications forUS Policy (New York: Praeger, 1988), p. 57.

[26] Don Peretz, The Middle East Today, 5th ed., ( New York: Praeger, 1988), p. 455.

[27] For further information see, Arı, Tayyar 2000’li Yıllarda Basra Körfezinde Güç Dengesi, İstanbul, Alfa Yayınları 1999.

[28] Parwish and Alexander, p.59.

[29] Hal Prafer, Dictatorship and Invasion, (New York: Monthly Prevtew Press, 1994),  p.54.

[30] Ibid., p. 196.

[31] Herman Frederick Elite, ’’The Persian Gulf Crisis’’, The Middle East,Jornal,45, No.1 (Winter 1991), p. 7 and Fred Halliday, ’’The Gulf War and Its Aftermath: First Reflections, İnternational Affairs, 67, No.2, (April 1991), p. 223.

[32] Arı, op.cit.

[33] These vere evaluated from the daily newspapers.

[34] Walid Khalidi, ’’The Gulf Crisis: Origins and Consequence,’’ The  journal of Palestine Studies,XX, No.2 (winter 92). p. 9.

[35] Christoper Greenwood, "Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait," The World Today, 47, No.3 (March 91), p.39.

[36] Greenwood, op.cit., p. 39.

[37] İbid., p. 40.

[38] Khalidi, op.cit., p.9.

[39] Efraim Karsh and İnari Raitsu, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography, (New York, The Free Press,1991), p.205.

[40] Ibid., KhaIIdi, op.cit.,  p.10.

[41] KhaIIdi, p.5.

[42] Efraim Karsh and İnari Rautsi, ’’Why Saddam Hussein Invaded Kuvait’’ , Survival, XXXII, No.1 (January/February 1991), p.29.

[43] KhaIIdi,  op.cit., p.11.

[44] Fisher, p 512

[45] Arı, Tayyar,’’Körfez Savaşı’’ Alfa yay.İstanbul 1994,p 239

[46] ’’The United Nations after the Gulf War’’, World Policy Jurnal VIII,  No.3, p. 537.