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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.  Now what?

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…


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