How the USA Created the Gulf Crisis
Subject: How the USA created the Gulf crisis (was Re: HMS Invincible)
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997)
By Kirsten Cale
In February 1990, the Washington Centre for Strategic and International Studies advised Saddam to adopt a more aggressive stance in OPEC, and demand lower oil output and higher prices to offset Iraq's economic problems. The Americans suggested a target price of $25 a barrel, even though they knew that this proposal was bound to increase tensions with Kuwait, a low-cost, high-quota oil producer. The Iraqis took the American advice, and when Iraqi minister Saddoun Hammadi demanded higher prices in July, he proposed $25 a barrel. Sure enough, the Kuwaitis protested, precipitating rows over oil quotas and prices which culminated in the Iraqi invasion. In a meeting with the US charge d'affaires Joseph Wilson on 5 August 1990, days after the invasion, Saddam told the Americans 'You did this. We accepted $25 a barrel.'
As relations between Iraq and Kuwait deteriorated during July, America continued to show no concern over any threat to Kuwaiti sovereignty. By the end of the month, rumours of an imminent Iraqi invasion were rife in the Gulf region. On 25 July 1990 Washington responded by sending its ambassador in Baghdad, April Glaspie, to reassure Saddam that America would not interfere. 'We don't have an opinion on ... your dispute with Kuwait', Glaspie told the Iraqi ruler several times, adding that US secretary of state James Baker had 'directed our official spokesman to reiterate this stand.' The following week, as Iraqi tanks warmed up on the Kuwaiti border, both Bush's aide Margaret Tutweiler and assistant secretary of state John Kelly stated publicly and repeatedly that the USA felt no obligation to come to Kuwait's defence if it was attacked.
In April 1990, General Colin Powell overhauled US contingency plans for a Middle East crisis, scrapping battle plans based on a potential Soviet threat to Iran, and prioritising plans for the defence of the Saudi oilfields from regional threats. The following month, the US national security council produced a white paper which cited Iraq and Saddam Hussein as 'the optimum contenders to replace the Warsaw Pact' as the justification for major military expenditures.
In July, even as US spokesmen were anouncing that they had no interest in Kuwait, General Norman Schwartkopf ran staff exercises based on an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and another based on the American deployment of air power and 100,000 troops into Saudi Arabia. One officer later commented that the similarities between the exercises and what was really to happen were 'eerie'. 'When the real came, the only way they could tell the real intelligence and the practice intelligence was the little "t" in the corner of the paper - "t" for training.'
When Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990, America seized upon the opportunity to reassert its role as world policeman. Overnight, the Bush administration transformed Kuwaiti sovereignty from an issue on which it had 'no opinion' to 'the greatest moral issue since the Second World War'. Washington then set about militarising and globalising the Gulf crisis.
In these cynical foreign policy calculations, Kuwait itself was of interest to the Americans only so far as the Gulf provided a good focus around which to reinvigorate the Western alliance. Western sensitivities about the strategic and economic importance of the Middle East meant that it was much easier to pull the other capitalist powers behind an American crusade centred on Kuwait than one aimed at a less wealthy and well-placed country in the third world.
Throughout the Gulf crisis it became even clearer that America's war aims went far beyond Kuwait. The USA raised the stakes at every stage of the conflict, determined to maintain the initiative and to stamp its authority on international affairs. Each time someone mentioned peace, the Americans pushed harder with their policy of war ...
Understanding that the Gulf War was not caused by American concern for Kuwaiti independence is more than a matter of historical interest. The Gulf crisis has revealed the central dynamic in post-Cold War US foreign policy. This is the drive to demonstrate American leadership and hold the Western alliance together by militarising international affairs at every opportunity, even if it means turning little local disputes into major global crises ... As the issue of Kuwait fades once more into the back- ground, the question now is, where next?
[from 'The Cruellest Hoax' by Kirsten Cale, LM 30, April 1991]
[Ed. note: LM=Living Marxism, an internet magazine (http://www.informinc.co.uk/index.html), which is a collection of commentaries and fora with an interesting archive. One should be warned that much is strongly British-focused.]
Originally from: G.LANGELINK-GOE.comlink.apc.org