Most of the Middle East countries have been characterized with economic, political and social conflicts which eventually lead to wars. Similarly, Kuwait and Iraq were involved in a major conflict during the last decade of the twentieth century which led to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq towards the end of the year 1990[i]. Although there are many factors that may have contributed to the conflict, economical and political reasons played a major role. As any other war, this resulted to a lot of grave consequences to both countries, but Kuwait was the most affected since it is the one which was invaded. Therefore, this paper will focus on the Kuwait-Iraq conflict, paying more attention to the contributory factors and its impacts.
2.0 Background Information
Studies of Ghareeb & Khadduri[ii] indicate that the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in the 2nd of August 1990 was unexpected since two years before that, the two countries allied against the Islamic revolution in Iran. The same studies record that during 1980s when Iraq was fighting with Iran, Kuwait and other Arabic countries that felt threatened by the war supported Iraq politically and financially. However, the two countries, Iraq and Kuwait, had differences for a long time and other Arabic countries were aware of the differences which resulted from the separation of the two countries from the Ottoman Empire after the 1st World War.
According to Jaco[iii], Iraq always claimed that Kuwait was part of their country since originally it was part of Southern Iraq. However, the same studies suggests that after Kuwait gained its independence in the year 1932, it went ahead to formalize its borders with Iraq. Nevertheless, after Iraq fell in a violent coup in the 1958, the new leaders started to claim Kuwait once again especially after it gained independence from Britain in the year 1961. Fortunately, the British sent some troops and prevented further invasion. Even though the claim by Iraq did not have any bases, it continued to cause further conflicts as the years progressed.
In the 1980s, Kuwait was one of the world richest countries since it had gained control over its oil reserves. At that particular time, Iraq led by Sadam Hussein was fighting with Iran and as a preventive measure, Kuwait took sides with Iraq. The war which can be likened to World War 1 lasted for eight years as it came to an end in the year 1988. Although the threats to Kuwait by Iraq came to an end after the war, the Rumilia oil field located at the border between Iraq and Kuwait caused some more conflicts. Moreover, in July 1980, Iraq started to force Kuwait to cut its oil production to enable it raise the oil prices and boost itself financially. Iraq also wanted Kuwait not to forgive the debt it had borrowed when it was fighting Iran but the proposal was rejected. Consequently, a conflict between the two countries resurfaced and it also started accusing Kuwait of slant drilling of oil[iv].
After Saddam Hussein found out that the United States was not willing to intervene in their conflict, he was more than glad because he was sure that there was no much opposition from the western powers. Much as it became clear that Iraq was planning to invade Kuwait, United States refused to take any action. The spy satellite and top intelligence agencies in the United States showed that Iraq was ready to invade Kuwait. On 1st August 1990, the three divisions of Iraq Republican guard that were already stationed at the northern part of Kuwait border started to move towards the southern side. In addition, the Iraq Special Forces troops were preparing to drop in the Kuwait City from the east using a helicopter. Both the United States and Kuwait were caught unawares. Kuwait did not ask for any assistance from United States and therefore, they were not provided with any. The same day of August 1st Iraq started moving into Kuwait and they were able to drive through the oil fields and through the city of Kuwait. All the resistance that Kuwait had put in place failed and Sadam Hussein was able to capture and control the oil in both Iraq and Kuwait. Moreover, he was prepared to take his troops in to Saudi Arabia as well. At that particular time, United States decided to intervene with an aim of protecting the Saudi Arabia oil and to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. It was particularly hard for the United States to achieve its goal since Saudi Arabia like Kuwait, had feared to ask United States for any help. The Iraq invasion led to the Gulf War, as the United States and other nations intervened eventually resulting into more terrorist attacks.
3.0 Some of the Factors that Contributed to the Conflict
As highlighted earlier, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq came as a surprise since the two countries were allies during the Iraq-Iran war. After the end of the war, the relationship came to an end due to several economic and political reasons. Since Kuwait used to fund Iraq as it was fighting Iran in the 1980s, the financial debt was not yet cleared after the end of the war given that Iraq was not financially stable. Since Kuwait refused to pardon the debt that Iraqi owed, major conflict and tension resulted between the two countries. Although the leaders from both countries met regularly with an aim of resolving the conflict, their efforts did not yield much[v].
Iraq was still determined to repay its debts despite the fact that Kuwait had refused to help in the same. Iraq tried to raise the oil prices with an aim of raising more money, but Kuwait frustrated its efforts since it increased its production, eventually leading to low prices of oil. To Iraq, this was seen as a form of aggression as it affected her economy even further. Such an act contributed greatly to the already existing conflict. Although Kuwait and other Arabian countries agreed to cut down their oil production, that did not help much because Kuwait was eventually invaded.
Kuwait was a relatively rich country not only because of oil production, but also due to the fact that its coastline was longer than that of Iraq and its ports was among the busiest in the region. On the other hand, Iraq economy was struggling to recover since most of its ports and oil fields were destroyed during the war. Moreover, Iraq had also lost its initial customers as it engaged Iran in war. Due to its financial status, it planed to invade Kuwait with an aim of solving its financial burden. The fact that Kuwait was a small country was also a contributory factor for the invasion.
The Rumaila oil field which was a dispute since the early decades of 20th century caused more disagreement especially after the Iraq–Iran war. Consequently, diplomats from both countries used to hold meetings with an aim of either solving or ending the dispute. As revealed in the studies of Tyson[vi], those meetings ended up creating more conflicts as the diplomats argued extensively. Moreover, Iraq still argues that Kuwait was part of their country which was removed from the region due to the British imperialism. They believed that the borders drawn were meant to prevent Iraq from accessing the ocean thus threatening Britain domination of the Persian Gulf. Although the boundary conflict was solved during the 20th century, Iraq was not satisfied and still believed that Kuwait was part of their country.
Though some of the allegation by Iraq toward Kuwait that created more conflict can be verified, some were mere theories. For instance, Iraq anticipated that Kuwait, United States and Saudi Arabia were conspiring in reducing the oil prices so that the Iraq’s military and scientific research could be affected. The fear of being destabilized economically was the main cause of invasion. Moreover, the fact that Unite States declared initially that they were not interested in the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait caused Sadam Hussein to think that he was justified in his invasion plans. The decision of the United States to exclude herself from the conflict between the two countries resulted to more conflict though indirectly.
3.1 Consequences of the Conflict
As any other war, the consequences of the Kuwait- Iraq conflict cannot be underestimated. Though the conflict persisted for along time since the first half of the twentieth century, a lot of its impacts were felt after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq during the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century. The impacts can be grouped in to different categories which include political, economic, social and environmental. However, people who were mostly affected include citizens from all the countries that were involved in the Gulf War which resulted directly from the conflict[vii].
At the time of the invasion, people started suffering from the effects of the war as most of them were killed, wounded, raped and others were taken captive. Although Kuwait citizens suffered greatly as they were the target, Iraq also lost some of its soldiers during the war and other countries that intervened latter like the United States equally suffered the loss. People were also affected by the environmental pollution which was a direct impact of the war. Since the war destroyed both the infrastructure and the peoples dwelling places of people, others ended up being homeless while others became the internally displaced.
The movement and transportation of troops across the desert in Kuwait resulted to a lot of land destruction. In addition, the desert vegetation was uprooted, trampled and destroyed as these troops were passing. The solid waste that accumulated did not only pollute the ground, but it was anticipated that even the underground waters may have been similarly contaminated[viii]. There was a lot of air pollution that resulted from the use of explosives and the smoke caused by the oil fires. History records that that during the invasion, Iraq troops burned over six hundred oil wells in Kuwait. The impact from oil fires was so great that it was even beginning to change the weather patterns. Moreover, the same resulted to an increase in the respiratory diseases.
Marine ecosystem particularly in the gulf region was greatly affected as a lot of oil was intentionally spilled in the region but the birds were the most affected since a lot of them died and others managed to escape to other regions. The wildlife that used to stay at, or near the gulf beaches that included the hawksbill, green turtles and marine turtles were greatly affected by the pollution that resulted from the oil spills at the region. Moreover, many ships did sink during the war and given that most of the ships were carrying oil, it resulted to extensive water pollution[ix].
Although the economic problem was among the prime causes of the conflict, the same was also the major impacts of the conflict. Although all the other countries involved like Kuwait suffered economically, Iraq was aversely affected. Studies of Krupa[x], record that the loss due to military equipment alone was had great financial implications. Kuwait also suffered economically since its oil installations were severely damaged. In addition, a lot of its infrastructure was severely damaged which added up to more economic problems. Saudi Arabia also experience economic problems as a result of the conflicts that occurred at Khafji which is her border town. It bears noting that since the environmental pollution was one of the greatest impacts, a lot of money was used to clean up all the mess from the oil slicks. On the same note, although the oil industry of Kuwait was able to pick up after a few years, it was initially affected since Iraq had burned a lot of oil wells in the country. Since the whole of the Gulfs region was affected by the conflict an economic imbalance was created in the region which was the main cause of the conflict[xi].
4.0 Conclusions and Recommendations
The conflict between Iraq and Kuwait which had existed for a long time resulted to major impacts. It reached its peak when Iraq decided to invade Kuwait. Since Iraq succeeded, it occupied the country for seven years, after which all the other nations were forced to intervene. The Invasion was condemned by some of the major world powers like the United States and other countries which were close allies of Iraq, like India and France. Most countries were forcing and negotiating with Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait but it was reluctant to do so. Consequently, the Gulf War resulted as the United States and other countries deployed their military troops in Kuwait to force Iraq out of the country. Eventually, after some months, Kuwait was liberated from Iraq[xii].
However, even though Iraq was finally forced to withdraw from Kuwait, the impact of the conflict was very severe and affected even the countries that were not initially involved. Much as there were economic impacts that resulted from the invasion, the environmental destruction that took place was so massive given that most ecosystems were affected. People animals and birds equally fell victim and in some cases, it was even fatal because a lot of animals were killed[xiii].
As some scientists forecast that the environmental problems that resulted from the Iraq-Kuwait conflict may have a long term effect, it would be important if research was conducted to investigate on the same issue. This would enable appropriate measures to be put in place in time to safeguards the people and the wild life from further effects. Moreover, due to the fact that conflicts are often dangerous, and do not solve problems, it would be important if the diplomats from conflicting countries can find ways of preventing and solving the already existing conflicts.
Bruch, C. E., & Austin, J., (2000). The environmental consequences of war: legal, economic, and scientific perspectives. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Cranna, M. Eavis, P. & Bhinda, N., (1994). The true cost of conflict. London, Earthscan.
Enzler, S.M., (2006). Environmental effects of warfare. Retrieved on 26th from: http://www.lenntech.com/environmental-effects-war.htm
Ghareeb, E., & Khadduri, M., (2001). War in the Gulf, 1990-91: The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and Its Implications. New York, Oxford University Press US.
Hassan, A. H., (1999). The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: religion, identity and otherness in the analysis of war and conflict. London, Pluto Press.
Jaco, C., (2002). The complete idiot’s guide to the Gulf War. Blacktown, Alpha Books.
Kostiner, J., (2009). Conflict and cooperation in the Gulf region. Wiesbaden, VS Verlag.
Krupa, M., (1997). Environmental and Economic Repercussions of the Persian Gulf War on Kuwait. Retrieved on 26th May 2010 from: http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/kuwait.htm
McNeely, A. J., Harrison, J. ; Dingwall, R. P., (1994). Protecting nature: regional reviews of protected areas. Ziarat, IUCN
Spencer, W., (2000). Iraq: Old Land, New Nation in Conflict. Breckenridge. Breckenridge, Twenty-First Century Books
Tyson, S.A., (2008). FBI Agent: Hussein Didn’t Expect Invasion. Retrieved on 26th May 2010 from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/25/AR2008012503052.html?hpid=sec-world
[i] Jaco, C., (2002). The complete idiot’s guide to the Gulf War. Blacktown, Alpha Books.
[ii] Ghareeb, E., ; Khadduri, M., (2001). War in the Gulf, 1990-91: The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and Its Implications. New York, Oxford University Press US.
[iii] Jaco, C., (2002). The complete idiot’s guide to the Gulf War. Blacktown, Alpha Books.
[iv] Jaco, C., (2002). The complete idiot’s guide to the Gulf War. Blacktown, Alpha Books.
[v] Hassan, A. H., (1999). The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: religion, identity and otherness in the analysis of war and conflict. London, Pluto Press.
[vi] Tyson, S.A., (2008). FBI Agent: Hussein Didn’t Expect Invasion. Retrieved on 26th May 2010 from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/25/AR2008012503052.html?hpid=sec-world
[vii] Spencer, W., (2000). Iraq: Old Land, New Nation in Conflict. Breckenridge, Twenty-First Century Books.
[viii] Bruch, C. E., & Austin, J.,(2000). The environmental consequences of war: legal, economic, and scientific perspectives. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
[ix] Enzler, S.M., (2006). Environmental effects of warfare. Retrieved on 26th from: http://www.lenntech.com/environmental-effects-war.htm
[x] Krupa, M., (1997). Environmental and Economic Repercussions of the Persian Gulf War on Kuwait. Retrieved on 26th May 2010 from: http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/kuwait.htm
[xi] Cranna, M. Eavis, P. & Bhinda, N., (1994).The true cost of conflict. London, Earthscan.
[xii] Kostiner, J., (2009). Conflict and cooperation in the Gulf region. Wiesbaden, VS Verlag.
[xiii] McNeely, A. J., Harrison, J. & Dingwall, R. P., (1994). Protecting nature: regional reviews of protected areas. Ziarat, IUCN.