Until the first World War Iraq an Kuwait had both been part of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, Kuwait, with its tiny land surface of just over 10,000 square miles, had been part of the Iraqi vilayat (administrative district) of Basra. In 1913, while the rumblings of war were growing louder in Europe, the British and the Turks had signed an agreement making Kuwait an autonomous district. In the middle of the war, with the Turks fighting on the side of the Germans, London recognized the Emirate and its borders as totally independent of the Ottoman Empire.
This partition, which gave the British an important strategic ally, was never accepted by the Iraqis, who felt frustrated at being denied access to the Gulf and at losing an area of land that, as far as they were concerned, had never had an independent existence.
Iraq, which became a British mandate in 1918, had another cause for resentment. In 1925 the government in Baghdad was forced to sign an agreement with a giant oil consortium, the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC). the agreement stipulated, in particular, that the company should remain in British hands, that its managing director should be a British subject, and that the concession should remain in force until the year 2000. The IPC had carte blanche to exploit the most fantastic petroleum deposits in the history of the oil industry as it saw fit and to make colossal profits.
In point of face, in a region where the borders were very imprecise Iraq was just as much of an artificial creation as Kuwait. Following the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, which divided the spoils of the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France, Iraq had been formed out of three former Turkish provinces: Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. This state of affairs has been summed up brilliantly in one sentence: "Iraq was created by Churchill, who had the mad idea of joining two widely separated oil wells, Kirkuk and Mosul, by uniting three widely separated peoples: The Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shi'ites."
Perhaps because of this difficult and uncertain birth, modern Iraq has had a consistently violent history. In 1958 the pro-Western monarchy was overthrown, King Faisal was murdered, and his Prime Minister, Noury Said, was stoned to death by a mob. Two years later the new leader, General Kassem, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. Among the would-assassins was a twenty-two-year-old named Saddam Hussein who, although wounded, managed to escape to Syria.
In 1963 Kassem's head was paraded through the streets on a pike by an angry mob. In 1968 the Ba'ath Party came to power..."
SECRET DOSSIER: The Hidden Agenda Behind the Gulf War by Pierre Salinger and Eric Lauren -Penguin Books 1991.