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Shall we go even further back?

Posted by Thinker on April 03, 2003 at 10:25:35

In Reply to: Are we? posted by Thinker on April 03, 2003 at 10:01:04:

US Ambassador April Glaspie's green light certainly did not help, but the root causes to the conflict start even earlier, back to the colonialist days of the British empire.

At the end of WW1, the British created two kingdoms to reward Arab allies that had fought the Turks (The Ottoman Empire) with them during the war. These were Transjordan, now called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Iraq. The British, a world-class maritime power, needed to protect the sea lanes between the British Isles and the Indian subcontinent and S-E-Asia. Kuwait's excellent natural harbor served as a base for the Royal Navy. Kuwaiti-British relations dated back to a treaty signed in 1899, giving Britain responsibility for Kuwaiti defense and foreign affairs.

The Iraqis however, saw the creation of Kuwait as a British protectorate as an affront to their newfound sovereignty. They also felt betrayed by the British who had promised that "Iraq" would to include the entire former Ottoman province of Al-Basrah, which INCLUDED Kuwait. But for more than half a century, Iraq was powerless to challenge British influence and power.

In 1961, when Britain no longer needed Kuwait's harbor, it pulled out its forces, and granted the sheikdom its independence, and the State of Kuwait (Dawlat Al-Kuwayt) was born.

On the announcement of Kuwait's independence, Baghdad reiterated its claim on two Kuwaiti islands situated between Iraq and mainland Kuwait, Warbah and Bubiyan - important to Iraq because they control access to the Persian Gulf via the Khawr 'Abdallah - the only alternative to the Shatt Al-'Arab-the waterway that forms Iraq's border with Iran.

In the last 2 decades the need for this alternative waterway was made even more desperate - it was closed by sunken ships and unexploded ordnance since the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980.

The last Gulf war of 1991 was not the the first time the West has had to defend Kuwait against Iraq. In 1961, Iraq massed their forces on the border with Kuwait. The British who had pulled out re-deployed a professional well-trained, well-equipped army to Kuwait.

The last Gulf war of 1991 was not the first time other Arab nations took sides against Iraq. The Arab League responded to Iraq's threats of invading Kuwait, by deploying military units from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Sudan.

Iraq backed down. Eventually it recognized Kuwait's right to existence in 1963 (coincidentally at the same time an $84 million grant was made to Baghdad), but NEVER recognized the border as drawn by the British until 1994, after the gulf war.

On March 20, 1973, Iraqi troops seized Kuwaiti teritory, the border post at Al-Samitah, near the Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr (now shown almost daily on CNN). The Arab League, under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, mediated the withdrawal of Iraqi forces.

In 1983, Iraq threatened to invade again, but Saddam decided not to pursue the matter, since Iraq needed access to Kuwait's ports and Kuwaiti money (in the form of loans).

In 1990, Iraq claimed that Kuwait was illegally extracting oil (valued at $2.5 billion) from the Iraqi side of the de facto line of demarcation between the two countries. This claim, is believed by many to be TRUE, but may also have stemmed from Iraqi frustration over Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Jabir Al-Ahmad Al-Jabir Al Sabah's (that's one loooong title, but the King of Thailand's is the longest!) refusal to forgive Iraq's $10 billion debt from the Iran-Iraq War. Once again, Iraq voiced its claim to the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah, as well as Kuwait itself.

The story of the Iraq-Kuwait confrontation that led to the Gulf War is well known. Following months of Iraqi demands for debt relief and Kuwaiti refusals to forgive the debt, Iraqi forces moved again to the northern border of the tiny sheikdom. This time there was no mediation; On (mistaken?) signals from April Glaspie, Iraq seized Kuwait and a few weeks later declared it annexed as the nineteenth province of Iraq. Foreign diplomats were ordered to close their embassies and move all representation to Baghdad. A few months later, Iraq fought and lost a gulf war where the Americans used tactics contravening the Geneva Convention (but so did Iraq) such as burying entrenched Iraqi soldiers alive as bulldozers led the charge through the desert.

In November 1994, after the first gulf war, Iraq was pressured by the United Nations to recognize the sovereignty, integrity and borders of Kuwait.

This means that Iraq has given up all (1-sided) legal arguments and claims over Kuwaiti territory. My Kuwaiti friends however, do not feel the slightest bit assured until Saddam is removed.