Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/867/21228

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 August 2015

25 years since invasion of Kuwait

Gulf War 'unfinished business' remains today

25 years ago, Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded neighbouring Kuwait. Western powers responded with a build-up of forces that led to the Gulf War the next year. Niall Mulholland of the Committee for a Workers' International looks back.

United States F-16 fighter plane, photo Torch Magazine (Creative Commons)

United States F-16 fighter plane, photo Torch Magazine (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

The "New World Order" proclaimed by triumphant American imperialism after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was rudely interrupted by the Gulf War.

Iraq was recovering from a devastating Western-backed eight-year war with Iran, and was burdened by national debts from the conflict. But President Saddam Hussein still commanded an army of one million.

Most of Iraq's routes to the Persian Gulf are through Kuwait. During the summer of 1990, Saddam threatened Kuwait over coastal access.

Iraq claimed Kuwait was stealing from Iraqi oil reserves by 'slant drilling'. It also blamed Kuwait for depressing oil prices by producing more than its agreed quota. This was costing Iraq $1 billion a month, and threatened to bankrupt the country.

Breakdown

Talks broke down. In late July, Iraqi armed forces amassed on Kuwait's border, and on 2 August they rolled in. The Amir of Kuwait and his cronies fled to Saudi Arabia. A week later, Saddam declared the annexation of Kuwait as Iraq's 19th province.

Saddam believed he had the 'green light' for his invasion from long-time ally the United States. But Western powers feared Iraqi forces would proceed to Saudi oil fields, giving Saddam control of more than half the world's oil.

As Militant, forerunner of the Socialist, commented at the time, the imperialist powers could not tolerate Saddam gaining even a "finger-hold on the lifeline of Western capitalism".

Western imperialism could intervene directly because of the changing balance of world relations. The Stalinist states, previously a counterbalance, were in their death throes. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev acquiesced. The United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions against Iraq, blocking foreign trade and freezing its foreign assets.

George Bush

Republican US president George HW Bush readily agreed to Saudi Arabia's request for troops to "defend the kingdom". A huge build-up of naval, land and air forces - totalling around 600,000 personnel - was amassed, primarily by the US, but with considerable British and French contingents.

54 other countries gave military or financial aid, including Egypt, Syria and Morocco. But the Arab League was divided, with some member states worried about the consequences of an influx of Western armies.

Saddam played on poor Arabs' resentment of the feudal sheiks of Kuwait and other autocratic Gulf regimes. The Iraqi dictator cynically portrayed himself as a modern-day Saladin, the 12th-century sultan who united Arabs against European crusades.

He contrasted the West's rapid military response with their acceptance of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Despite his secular regime, Saddam called for a jihad against the Western invaders. But the brutality of his dictatorship meant he could not overcome the hatred and suspicion of many Arabs.

Opposition

Militant in Britain, and its co-thinkers across the world, were to the fore in the anti-war movement. We opposed the massive Western war machine in the Gulf. It was not assembled to defend 'democracy' or the peoples of the Middle East. It came to reinforce the power of the ruling classes of the US, Britain, France and others.

In no way did Militant's "implacable opposition to imperialist intervention" give the slightest support to the Saddam dictatorship. We called instead for support for "Iraqi workers and peasants in fighting for a socialist and democratic Iraq".

The US obtained UN Security Council authorisation for force if Saddam failed to leave Kuwait by 15 January 1991. Shortly after the deadline, it unleashed devastating air assaults. Saddam could only respond with largely ineffective Scud tactical missiles against Saudi Arabia and Israel.

After five weeks of Western coalition bombing, the Iraqi army was routed. It is estimated that 60,000 to 200,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed overall. Many of the Iraqi conscripts were mercilessly bombed as they retreated in a 20-vehicles-wide traffic jam. Estimates for civilian deaths, as a direct result of the war, range from 100,000 to 200,000.The coalition recorded some 300 losses.

The collapse of Iraqi forces indicated the internal weakness of Saddam's regime, and opposition from Kurds, Shia Muslims and others. But the US had no intention of entering Iraq. Bush feared it would see the coalition crumble, and embroil the US in a drawn-out conflict.

Western imperialism also preferred dealing with Saddam to possible destabilising alternatives. Just weeks after the war, Saddam was free to brutally supress Kurdish and Shia risings with the remaining half of his army.

Reparations

Defeated Iraq was forced to agree to stringent terms by imperialism, and paid heavy reparations. Cruel UN sanctions, including on medicines, led to the death of up to half a million children.

But Saddam remained a thorn in the side of imperialism's interests in the region. Following the 9/11 attacks and invasion of Afghanistan, Bush's son, President George W Bush, returned to complete unfinished business.

Iraq's potential for weapons of mass destruction was eliminated under the 1991 peace terms. Despite this, Washington concocted the "imminent" threat from Saddam to justify the 2003 invasion and occupation.

Consequences

Like the Gulf War, this was to safeguard oil supplies and enhance imperialism's geo-strategic interests. Enormous marches across the world against the impending war were not enough to stop it. That would have taken strikes and general strikes as well.

The Iraq War was disastrous, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. Iraq's infrastructure was destroyed. Imperialism's 'divide and rule' tactics led to sectarian bloodletting. The Western-backed, corrupt and repressive Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad antagonised Sunnis so much that reactionary Isis was able to make sweeping territorial gains.

After 25 years of war, poverty and dictatorships, it is more than ever the case that only class politics can show a way out in the Middle East. United working class action with socialist policies can bridge sectarian, national and ethnic divisions, and end the madness of capitalism and war.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 19 August 2015:


Socialist Party features

The Labour Party, Militant and 'infiltration'

Gulf War 'unfinished business' remains today


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Subscribe to the Socialist!

Fascists caged, humiliated and driven out of Liverpool

We won't pay for their crisis!

Anger at bus service cuts in Sheffield

TUSC by-election boost in Grimsby and Cleethorpes


Socialist Party news and analysis

Corbyn stand: A welcome upheaval in British politics

Solidarity with the Polish workers' strike

Government discrimination against EU workers

Kids Company closure

Them & Us


Workplace news and analysis

Socialist challenges right winger for Unison leadership

National Gallery all-out strike goes on as bosses sell off jobs

London tube's summer of strikes joined by First Great Western

Probation and courts union Napo needs socialist leadership

Uni unions ready Manchester jobs fight

Retail union must fight Sunday trading deregulation

Workplace news in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Greece: Building a new left alternative after Syriza capitulation

Ireland: drop the prosecutions, scrap the water charges

US: Kshama Sawant leads Seattle primary elections count on 50%


 

Home   |   The Socialist 19 August 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

War:

triangle70 years since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four: "But if there was hope, it lay in the proles"

triangleSri Lanka - Ten years after the brutal end of the war

triangleWhat lies behind the US-China trade war?

triangleMay 1649 - the Last Stand of the Levellers

Invasion:

triangle15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

triangleOpinion: British imperialism can take no credit in fight against Isis

Iraq:

triangleAssange arrest: US and allied governments seeking revenge for exposing dirty wars

Imperialism:

triangleRatcheting up of Iran-US tensions

US:

triangleImperialist tensions escalate as world economy teeters

Oil:

triangleOil firms spend $1bn fighting climate laws: 'Green New Deal' needs socialist policies

Occupation:

triangleHarland and Wolff occupation

Militant:

triangleFar right makes gains in Germany

Saudi Arabia:

triangleInternational solidarity with the struggle of the Sudanese people

Army:

triangleFiction: Tombland "The power of common people fighting for justice in the 16th century"

Sanctions:

triangleLib Dems backed benefit sanctions to win 5p carrier bag charge

Middle East:

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Naqba Day and the Middle East

Mikhail Gorbachev:

triangleUSSR 1989 - the collapse of Stalinism

Arab:

triangleRevolution and counter-revolution in Sudan

Historic events

Historic events

14/8/19

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, August '69: 'Battle of the Bogside' and British troops on the streets

14/8/19

Peterloo

The Peterloo Massacre 1819: When a fearful ruling class tried to crush working-class political aspirations

17/7/19

Leicester

The 45th anniversary of the strike

17/7/19

US

50 years since Apollo 11 - 'One giant leap': how political conflict launched the moon landing

3/7/19

LGBT

Stonewall riots' legacy shows need for socialist struggle to win LGBT+ liberation

26/6/19

Orgreave

35th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave

5/6/19

Tiananmen Square

The Tiananmen Square massacre - 30 years on

3/4/19

Nuclear power

40 years after Three Mile Island disaster

27/3/19

Visteon

Visteon: when factory occupations stayed the hands of the bosses

27/3/19

Miners

Lessons of the heroic 1984-85 Miners' strike

6/3/19

Trotsky

Leon Trotsky's struggle against Stalinism

6/2/19

Iran

40 years since the Iranian revolution: Learning the lessons for today's new working-class struggles

23/1/19

Cuba

Cuban revolution at 60: defend the gains and fight for workers' democracy

16/1/19

Winter of Discontent

The 1979 'Winter of Discontent'

9/1/19

Rosa Luxemburg

Heroic martyrs of German Revolution

triangleMore Historic events articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999