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Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis

Auteur : Ofra Bengio
Éditeur : Tel-Aviv University Date & Lieu : 1992, Tel-Aviv
Préface : Pages : 212
Traduction : ISBN : 965-224-011-7
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 140x215 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Ben. Sad. N°2014Thème : Politique

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis

Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis

Ofra Bengio

Tel-Aviv University

Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in August 1990 and the Gulf war that ensued form a unique chapter in the history of Iraq and the world at large.

This book presents the crisis from two different angles: the onlooker’s and the player’s. The first part is an analysis of the aspirations and constraints that motivated Iraq in the war. The second is a selection of the speeches of its main protagonist, President Saddam Husayn. These speeches are indeed an indispensable source for understanding not just the crisis itself but also the political culture of Iraq and the man at its helm.

Ofra Bengio, Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University.



Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in August 1990 took the world by surprise. No less surprising were its positions and policies in the aftermath of the occupation, which led it into a head-on confrontation with friend and foe alike, trapped in a war of its own making. Iraq’s behavior became even more enigmatic when Iraq revealed itself prepared to defy an unprecedented worldwide coalition of 28 nations, led by no less than the largest power in the world — the US — and supported by other Western as well as Arab and Muslim countries.

In order to better understand this unique chapter in the history of Iraq and the world at large, it would be helpful to follow the speeches of the main protagonist — President Saddam Husayn — during the year of crisis: February 1990-February 1991. Until such time as the archives of this period are opened, these speeches will remain an indispensable source for understanding Iraqi moves and motives. They are of particular importance in the study of a totalitarian regime such as that of the Iraqi Ba'th where the president had the first and last say on every matter, big and small, and where he became Iraq's sole spokesman to the world. Beyond providing a general outline of the development of the crisis, they also provide a rare insight into Saddam Husayn’s personality, and even more important, into Iraq’s political discourse, which became part and parcel of the conflict itself.
Roughly speaking, the period can be divided into three major phases. The first phase, from the beginning of 1990 until the occupation on 2 August, was characterized by Saddam Husayn’s launching and developing what may be termed his grand strategy. What is peculiar about the speeches during this period is that they truly revealed Iraq’s aggressive intentions, camouflaging only the exact target, which turned out to be Kuwait rather than Israel.

The second phase, from the occupation until the beginning of war on 17 January 1991, can be described as the period of digging in. Here again Saddam Husayn’s speeches left no doubt as to Iraq’s clear and unequivocal intention of keeping Kuwait for itself. In the last phase, the period of the war itself, Saddam Husayn had to go on the defensive, though he did not give up his defiant posture altogether. He had to come to terms with a terrible military defeat while attempting to sweeten it with talk of a great Iraqi victory.

There are a number of points particularly revealing in Saddam Husayn’s speeches. For example, the extensive use of Koranic verses and Islamic phraseology, something which was quite rare at the beginning of his political career; the disproportionate emphasis on external issues at the expense of domestic ones; and the ambiguity and vagueness of some of his utterances. To a certain extent this last point could be attributed to problems of transmission and translation, but more often than not it was due to Husayn’s own purposeful or unintentional vagueness.

In order to enable the reader to better navigate in the maze of speeches, an introductionary essay is included, based on my chapter on Iraq in the Middle East Contemporary Survey of the year 1990. The introduction provides a general framework for the crisis and an analysis of Iraq’s motives and constraints. It does not however, discuss Iraqi domestic issues or other points not related to the crisis, for which the reader may consult the chapter on Iraq in that volume of the Survey.

This book was made possible through the encouragement and generous sharing of ideas on the part of my friends at the Moshe Dayan Center. I am especially grateful to Asher Susser, David Menashri, Ami Ayalon, and Bruce Maddy-Weitzman. Ety Faridian did a wonderful job as my right-hand in finding the sources; Lydia Gareh and Margaret Mahleb typed the manuscript with endless patience and care; and last but not least, Edna Liftman helped organize the whole enterprise.

Ofra Bengio

The Struggle for Kuwait: Vision and Reality

Saddam Husayn’s Grand Strategy

Twice in one decade Iraq took the world by surprise: in September 1980 it invaded Iran and in August 1990 it invaded Kuwait. At first glance, these two incidents seem to be separate, but deeper analysis reveals that they are closely interrelated. In fact, the second invasion was meant to correct the stalemate caused by the first.

There are similarities between the two invasions that have had far-reaching implications. In both cases, Iraq’s ruling Ba'th Party took a step no previous Iraqi regime had dared to take, despite the fact that both the border conflict with Iran and Iraq’s claim to Kuwait went back to the beginning of the modern Iraqi state. In each case, Iraq went to war against a country that seemed much weaker, hoping for a quick victory. Iraqi rhetoric prior to both invasions focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but the subsequent military activity was directed at the Gulf region. In the event, both invasions turned into challenges to the regional and world economic order, and became traps for Baghdad.

The invasion of Kuwait underscored paradoxes which appeared to be unresolvable. How was it that a country which was expected to devote itself to reconstruction after a bloody war embarked instead on yet another military adventure? How was it that Iraq managed to mislead and surprise a world presumably familiar with Iraqi rhetoric and methods? And how did a country which emerged from the Gulf War undefeated due primarily to aid from the Gulf states and the West, begin to challenge the West before first settling its conflict with Iran?

It appears that the key to understanding these paradoxes lies in ...


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