We all know that after the Iran-Iraq war ended, Saddam
pressured the Kuwaitis to cancel war debts, help fund Iraqi reconstruction, and
to effectively subordinate their nation to Iraq. We also know that the Kuwaiti submission came too late –
Saddam invaded and the Gulf War began. The
uncertain outcome of that war led to a perpetual stalemate in the gulf until
President Bush II broke it.
However you look at it, the Kuwaiti resistance was
foolhardy; Iraq out-massed Kuwait by an enormous margin and there was no
guarantee of assistance from outside. What
might have happened if they’d submitted earlier?
Saddam’s demands included fixed oil prices and an Arab
reconstruction fund for Iraq. Let’s
assume he gets both of those. Kuwait
also is forced to comply with Saddam’s foreign policy, accepts Iraq’s role
as the leading Arab country, and anything else Saddam might demand.
Kuwaiti submission would probably lead to Saddam attempting to force
Saudi to do the same – I suspect that the Saudis would submit provided the
position of the ruling family was not unshaken.
Question – would America interfere?
If the oil prices were stable, and it would be in Saddam’s best
interests to keep it stable, then the US would have no clear grounds for
intervention. The Saudis could be
cowered by Saddam from asking for US support; Iraq could overthrow them well
before US troops could arrive.
So Iraq is now the dominant power in the gulf.
One extremely likely outcome is that Iraq gets nuclear
weapons and at least some methods of launching them. Its possible that Saddam will deploy them against Israel, but
I don’t think he would; a nuclear war with Israel would end his rule – and
he could care less about the pan-Islamic demands.
It’s rather more likely that under the shield of his nukes he would use
them to blackmail the other Gulf States; exterminating the Kurds and extorting
danegeld from Iran. The Iranians
would start their own attempts to make a bomb, which would probably lead to the
Iraqis nuking them before they can complete it.
Even without that scenario, Iraq will not suffer the
economic shocks of 1990 that led to the invasion of Kuwait.
Saddam can reconstruct his country after the war without interference or
constant US bombing raids. Iraq
would become dominant for a long time to come…