The Kuwait Invasion… Was the House in Discord?

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Mon 2 January / Jan 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Fahed Khitan

The British government just declassified a bundle of confidential documents going back to the times of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in 1990. The London-based newspaper “al-Hayah” published in two episodes, the last was Sunday, summarising negotiations between British officials and diplomats on one side, and Arab leaders and officials on the other, especially late King Hussein and former presidents of Egypt and Yemen, Husni Mubarak and Ali Abdullah Saleh, alongside other kings and princes of the Arab Gulf.

These telegrams do not add much to what is more or less common knowledge, especially in regards to the leaders’ positions on the crisis, and the deep discords and divisions between the two opposing Arab poles on how to address late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s reckless adventure.

The importance of these documents, perhaps, lies in the details made available, which allow for a more thorough review of the crisis, as well as of the positions of Arab leaders; albeit in retrospect, in addition to some information inaccessible to the public at the time.

The report by Sir Anthony Reeve, British ambassador to Amman back then, speaking for Jordan, discloses that King Hussein and Crown Prince Hasan along with Foreign Minister Marwan Qasem were in discord on the position regarding Saddam Hussein. The Ambassador’s telegram states that the King intends to scale down the escalation and propose intermediary solutions, like organising and public survey for Kuwaitis to determine their country’s fate. On the opposing side, Prince Hasan and Minister Qasem saw it immediately pressing that Iraq implements Security Council Act 660 at once, dictating all Iraqi forces must withdraw from Kuwait.

The Ambassador, in the document, explains he had notices that Prince Hasan has become matured in the unravelling of the crisis, weighed by concerns of the implications of the economic crisis Jordan and the whole region had to endure following the occupation of Kuwait. Meanwhile, the King was dismissive of his regressing place in the eyes of prime Arab states which should be respected, the Ambassador said, more or less.

Other telegrams cite stinging criticism voiced by Husni Mubarak of the King’s discourse and “support” of Saddam Hussein, Husni described it. And they were just as stinging as his of Yemen’s Abdullah Saleh.

Likewise, Gulf princes were crazed by King Hussein.

A telegram by the forcefully outcast prince of Kuwait says he found it difficult to understand King Hussein’s position from Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, after all the billions Kuwait pumped into the Jordanian economy.

Late Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Faisal, was less hurtful in his criticism of Jordan, the documents show, as he explicitly said that whether Iraq wins or loses “Jordan is losing either way”.

This crisis, over a quarter a century ago, even with many of its figures passed in time, weighs heavy still on the whole of the region; so much that specialists and decision makers should test the validity of the hypotheses basing our positions back then.

The question here is: was the official Jordanian position the main reason why Jordan supported the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait? Or were the people, on the side of Iraqi, who pushed the formulation of the official position?

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