Frank 1 Slick as Oil: U.S.

Action and Self-Interest in the Middle East On February 24, 1991, after five months of fruitless economic sanctions and six weeks of air raids, President George H.W. Bush ordered U.S. troops to spearhead a Coalition operation that would drive the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and end the Gulf War. This “wildly popular” and successful strike had relatively few critics.1 Yet recently released transcripts reveal that on February 23, Hussein agreed to withdraw his army from Kuwait, making Bush’s forceful measure unnecessary.2 Why then, did President Bush order a ground offensive? In his August 8, 1990, announcement of U.S. military force mobilization to Saudi Arabia, Bush cited three main reasons for U.S. involvement in the Gulf War. First, he had decided “to stand up for what’s right and condemn what’s wrong, all in the cause of peace.” 3 Next, the U.S. was “committed to the security and stability of the Persian Gulf.”4 Finally, the U.S. needed to protect the “economic independence” of a world reliant on oil and “vulnerable to Iraqi threats.”5 By February, 1991, sending ground troops to Kuwait seemed the most efficient way to win the war and accomplish these objectives. I, however, argue that the underlying reason Bush ordered a ground attack is not any of the three he named. I contend that Bush sent ground troops because the situation presented the ideal opportunity to accomplish his true goal – re-establishing U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. By soundly and forcefully defeating Iraq, the U.S. could eliminate its new rival for power and build a foundation to regain influence and control of the Gulf oil industry. Although the coalition victory may be viewed as accomplishing Bush’s three goals, these goals were merely pretexts for U.S. involvement. The real motivation for a decisive victory was ending an era in which the U.S. was subject to the will of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Middle-Eastern powers.6 I will describe how this U.S. goal originated during the formation of OPEC, and how the Gulf War developed. Then I will show why Bush’s three named reasons were merely pretexts for

Frank 2 U.S. involvement in the war. Finally, I will establish Bush’s real goal, explaining how the context of the Gulf situation provided Bush the ideal opportunity to achieve it, and how the aftermath of the war confirms Bush’s real motivation for the operation. To understand the Gulf situation in 1990-1991, one must consider some history. In 1960, the main oil-producing states (Venezuela, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia) met in Baghdad to form OPEC. Prior to this, U.S. oil companies comprised a cartel to coordinate profitable prices of foreign oil, which they could adjust according to fluctuations in supply and demand.7 The ability to negotiate competitive deals with individual oil-producing states put U.S. companies in control of price-setting and the oil industry.8 After a slow start due to inter-member disputes, OPEC gained control of the oil industry as its members realized that acting together was in their best interest. Suddenly the oil producers, rather than the companies, had the power to determine the prices.9 At the same time, an increasing reliance on foreign oil put the U.S. in the vulnerable position of being economically dependent on the Middle East.10 The goal to break free from this dependence would become the essential factor in U.S. involvement in the Gulf War years later.11 In 1980, the Iran-Iraq War began. After eight grueling years, Iraq emerged victorious, but was dampened by economic hardship due to war devastation. Although it benefitted from Iran’s defeat, Kuwait demanded repayment of its monetary grants to Iraq during the war, effectively considering them loans.12 In addition, Kuwait’s overproduction of oil caused prices to go down, sabotaging Iraq’s main means of earning the profit needed to rebuild and repay war loans.13 This sparked bitterness in Hussein that was starkly apparent in his talks with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie.14 Yet Glaspie and the U.S. made little effort to prevent the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. After the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. did not strongly support Iran or Iraq, hoping instead for a balance of power that would allow more freedom in Middle Eastern oil production.15 The U.S. offered Iraq some aid, but mostly ignored the building economic crisis and desperation in Iraq.16

Frank 3 By sending mixed messages which seemed to give Hussein the go-ahead to invade Kuwait, the U.S. appeared to be encourage, or at least condone, the Iraqi invasion. On July 25, 1990, only eight days before the Iraqi attack, Hussein met with Glaspie to express his grievances and frustration with Kuwait, alluding to the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute.17 Glaspie assured Hussein that the U.S. had “no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like [Iraq’s] border disagreement with Kuwait.”18 She went on to ask Hussein about his recent deployment of troops in the south, but down-played her inquiry, saying, “I received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship – not in the spirit of confrontation – regarding your intentions.”19 These remarks not only implied that the U.S. would not act against an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, but explicitly stated that it had “no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts,” specifically distinguishing the “border disagreement with Kuwait” as such a conflict.20 Glaspie conveyed a sense of “friendship” rather than “confrontation” between the U.S. and Iraq.21 Although she did question Hussein’s mobilization of troops, Glaspie’s reassurances suggested that the U.S. would not oppose an Iraqi invasion with military force. Given that the U.S. had not sent troops into previous “Arab-Arab conflicts” like the Iran-Iraq War, this seemed a plausible assumption.22 This is the history that led to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. That same day, the U.S. and the international community gave an explosive response. Bush ordered a ban on trade with Iraq and froze all assets of Iraq and Kuwait.23 Other nations followed suit, creating a coalition of countries that opposed Iraq, including the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Kuwait.24 The United Nations (UN) Security Council condemned Hussein’s actions and demanded his immediate withdrawal from Kuwait with its Resolution 660.25 On August 6, the UN placed a trade embargo on Iraq with its Resolution 661.26 The U.S. began its defensive Operation Desert Shield on August 7, when it started to deploy air and naval forces to Saudi Arabia.27 The coalition offensive, Desert Storm, began on January 17, 1991, with

Frank 4 air and missile attacks on Iraq.28 As the leader of the coalition, the U.S. had great power in determining how the confrontation would unfold.29 By late February, 1991, Bush was pushing to end the war with a coalition ground offensive. Phone transcripts of Bush and USSR President Gorbachev from February 21-23, provide key insight into the final opportunity for a diplomatic resolution before the U.S. ground attack. During a series of calls, Gorbachev steadily promoted a “political approach” and adjusted his negotiation proposal to meet U.S. demands, while Bush consistently cast doubt on the possibility of peaceful resolution and continually added more obstacles to the agreement.30 On February 21st, Gorbachev informed Bush that he had collaborated with the Iraqi Foreign Minister to outline an agreeable plan for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Gorbachev was adamant that he saw a “serious shift” in Iraq’s position.31 Bush skeptically expressed his distrust of Hussein and declared, “The idea of stopping and hoping he will follow through on a cease fire, I am certain will be unacceptable to the coalition, I am certain of that.”32 The next day Gorbachev presented a modified Iraq-coalition agreement, which had been revised to accommodate Bush’s demands.33 Bush, however, remained dismissive and skeptical of a successful negotiation. Then on February 23rd, Gorbachev jubilantly announced that Hussein had agreed to the withdrawal plan; yet Bush asserted that the coalition had no more time and needed to act with force. “George, let’s keep cool,” Gorbachev advised as the U.S. President argued for immediate coalition military action.34 Bush ended the conversation saying, ”I don’t want to mislead you. I don’t feel inclined to wait, [and I] don’t want to leave the impression that I can delay.”35 Transcripts of Hussein’s February 24th meeting with his advisors confirm that the Iraqi leader had agreed to meet Bush and Gorbachev’s latest demands. The conversation that unfolded as Hussein received news of the U.S.-coalition ground attack depicts a man confused and flustered by the turn of events, able only to conclude that Gorbachev had betrayed him. “He

Frank 5 tricked us; it was a trick,”36 Hussein declared. His aide then read aloud from a letter Hussein had sent to Gorbachev that same day: “We trusted you and . . . we have agreed [to] your peace proposal.” The letter continued, “Though we will keep our promise, Mr. President, we do know that the Americans, especially their president, have no honor and we do not trust them.”37 With this understanding of how the Gulf War developed before Bush’s ground offensive, each of his three reasons can be dismissed as the underlying motivation. Bush’s first reason was standing up for “right” and “wrong,” meaning that the U.S. would fight to protect “sovereign independence” and human rights from “brutal act[s] of aggression.”38 Yet the U.S. lacked the resolve to forcefully intervene in acts of wrongdoing during both Hussein’s 1987 genocide of Kurds and his attack on uprising Kurds and Shiites, whom Bush had encouraged to physically oppose Hussein, after the Gulf War.39 Bush’s second reason, U.S. commitment to the Gulf’s “security and stability,” is discredited by the fact that the U.S. had eagerly provided both sides with weapons in the Iran-Iraq War, purposefully arousing more conflict in the region in order to ensure that neither side could gain control of vital oil fields and exportation ports.40 In truth, the U.S. was committed to security and stability in the Middle East only as long as it was controlled by the U.S. instead of OPEC or a dominating Middle Eastern power. Bush’s third reason, that a world “dependent” on foreign oil needed to be protected from “Iraqi threats,” again is not the underlying reason for U.S. involvement in the war.41 Bush was primarily concerned with protecting only the U.S. dependency on oil from Iraqi threats.42 This is clear considering that after the war, the U.S. secured, through military bases and alliances, only its own influence in Middle Eastern oil, and not that of the UN or the world market.43 Bush’s lack of effort to prevent Hussein’s invasion and to address Iraq’s economic difficulties discounts all three of his claimed reasons. If the U.S. truly was devoted to upholding righteousness, peace, security, and stability then Bush would have tried to dissolve Iraq-Kuwait

Frank 6 tensions and dissuade Hussein from invading before conflict broke out. Instead, the Bush administration ignored Iraq’s desperate situation, neither offering sufficient aid nor warning Hussein against his increasingly obvious intention to invade Kuwait. The Bush-Gorbachev transcript revelation that Bush could have diplomatically doused the sparks of the Iraqi invasion, but instead chose to fan the flames into a war requiring U.S. intervention, provides further evidence that Bush’s three claimed reasons were not genuine. Ordering military force while ignoring the possibility of negotiation does not promote peace and righteousness, ensure security and stability, or protect the world economy. The use of ground troops was unnecessary, but convenient for Bush to accomplish his true goal: regaining U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and ending U.S. vulnerability to OPEC and Middle Eastern control of oil production. After Hussein’s 1988 victory in the Iraq-Iran War raised the possibility of Iraq becoming the dominant force in the Middle East and pushing for higher oil prices, the U.S. turned against Iraq.44 The American media finally portrayed Hussein as villainous human rights violator and set Western public opinion against him.45 The Kurdish genocide that the U.S. had conveniently ignored in 1987 was suddenly exposed to the public as an atrocious act of aggression.46 The U.S. wanted a balance of power in the Middle East – one country in control of too much oil would have the power to raise the price – or better yet, U.S. control. The U.S. government had not expected Iraq to win the Iraq-Iran War, and immediately began working to keep the nation from dominating the Middle East, perhaps even waiting for the provocation that would allow the U.S. to put Hussein in his place.47 The Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy statement of 1990 asserted that “national security and economic strength are indivisible.”48 The goals to “promote strong, prosperous, and competitive U.S. economy,” “ensure access to foreign markets [and] energy,” and “promote an open and expanding international economic system with minimal distortions to

Frank 7 trade” were all listed under “[U.S.] Interests and Objectives.”49 OPEC’s repression of U.S. power in the Middle East had compromised U.S. control of the region’s oil, impeding the achievement of Bush’s economic National Security goals. If Hussein gained control of the oil fields in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. economy would be dependent on Iraq. Hussein’s progressively unpredictable and unruly actions transformed him from an ally in the Iran-Iraq War into a threat to U.S. interests in 1990. Bush’s realization of this threat was facilitated by the context of the time; therefore, Bush took the opportunity presented by the Gulf War to forcefully defeat Hussein and reassert U.S. influence in the Middle East. While the goal of re-establishing U.S. hegemony was Bush’s underlying motivation for sending ground troops to Kuwait, it was the context of the situation in the Gulf that enabled him to accomplish this goal with a ground offensive. Thus, opportunity played a significant role in why Bush ordered this action; by February, 1991, the U.S. had the ideal foundation, support, pretexts, and outlook for initiating a ground operation. During the period of economic sanctions, Bush deployed troops to Saudi Arabia and set up permanent military bases there, establishing a foundation for U.S. influence in the Middle East.50 The aforementioned foundation provided both a strong launching base for U.S. troops and a long-term source of U.S. influence in the Middle East (which allowed the Bush to end the conflict without having to withdraw all U.S. power in the region). The coalition alliance, consisting of UN members and many Middle Eastern countries, gave the U.S. the strong backing it needed to confront Iraq. Public support for using force against Hussein, triggered by both the American media campaigns and Bush’s pretexts of peace, security, and protecting sovereignty, made a U.S. ground operation seemingly justifiable. The outlook of a short battle that would end the threat of Iraqi dominance also contributed to the ideality of acting against Iraq at that time.51 Sending ground troops into the war would allow the U.S. to defeat its newest opponent for power and strengthen its alliances

Frank 8 with oil-rich Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. These aspects of the situation in 1991 provided Bush the opportunity to accomplish his true goal – regaining U.S. control in the Middle East – by ordering U.S. ground troops to Kuwait. Another element exposing Bush’s true reason for the ground operation is the action at the end of the Gulf War and afterward. Bush ordered American troops to stop at the Iraq-Kuwait border and did not try to remove Hussein from power because it would have upset his Arab allies and thus was not in the best interests of the U.S. concerning the long-term outlook of influence in the region.52 Once the war was over, the U.S. government retained the bases it had installed in Saudi Arabia, despite the call for U.S. departure from the region by some Arab groups, including Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda.53 Since 1991, the U.S. has continued to vie for control of Middle Eastern oil, utilizing the foundations laid down during the first Gulf War to launch military force in later conflicts, such as the second Gulf War.54 Today, the U.S. continues to maintain military bases in Saudi Arabia and fight the second Gulf War, despite facing fiery opposition from Islamic terrorist groups that want to end U.S. influence in their Holy Land.55 Understanding the reasons for U.S. action in the Middle East in 1990-1991 is important because it directly relates to these current U.S.-Arab relations and conflicts. U.S. action in the Gulf War was not about preserving principles, ensuring Middle Eastern security, or protecting the world economy. Bush’s decision to send ground troops into Kuwait was based mainly on the goal of gaining permanent power in the Middle East in order to control the Gulf oil industry. After the formation of OPEC in 1960, the foreign-oil-dependent U.S. had a driving desire to regain power and control in the Middle East. When Hussein invaded Kuwait and Iraqi domination began to threaten U.S. interests in the Middle East, Bush took the opportunity to achieve this goal by actively defeating the new rival for power with a ground offensive, and thus re-establishing U.S. hegemony in the Persian Gulf.

Frank 9 Endnotes 1. Haass p.8 and Northcutt p.128 2. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” and SH-SHTP-A-000-630, “Inside the Iraqi Command” 3. Sifry p.197 4. Sifry p.198 5. Sifry p.198 6. Pelletiere p.182 7. Pelletiere p.139 8. Pelletiere p.139-141 and p.144 9. Pelletiere p.131-143 10. Pelletiere p.182 11. Pelletiere p.227 12. Campbell p.44 13. Simons p.339-341 and Pelletiere p.212-213 14. Sifry p.123-127 15. Pelletiere p.200-201 16. Pelletiere p.213-214 17. Sifry p.122-128 18. Sfiry p.130 19. Sifry p.130 20. Sifry p.130 21. Sifry p.130 22. Sifry p.130

Frank 10 23. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College p.65 24. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College p.80-81 25. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College p.65 and Lauterpacht p.88 26. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College p.65 and Lauterpacht p.88 27. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College p.66 28. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College p.72 29. Gregg p.93-94 30. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” p.9 31. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” p.1 32. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” p.1 33. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” p.6-14 34. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” p.17 35. “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” p.18 36. SH-SHTP-A-000-630, “Inside the Iraqi Command” p.1 37. SH-SHTP-A-000-630, “Inside the Iraqi Command” p.8 38. Sifry p.197-198 39. U.S. Congress’s Chemical Weapons Use in Kurdistan: Iraq’s Final Offensive p.VIII; U.S. Congress’s War in the Persian Gulf: The U.S. Takes Sides p.14-17; Power p.185-187 and 237241 40. U.S. Congress’s War in the Gulf p.9 and Sifry p.198 41. Sifry p.198 42. Sifry p.198 43. Pelletiere p.234-235 44. Pelletiere p.200-201

Frank 11 45. Pelletiere p.200 46. Pelletiere p.203-204 and Power p.185-187 47. Pelletiere p.200-201 48. White House p.2 49. White House p.2 50. Pelletiere p.234-235 51. Haass p.123-125 52. Hunt p.99 53. Pelletiere p.234-235 54. Pelletiere p.238-240 55. Pelletiere p.234-235

Frank 12 Works Cited Campbell, David. 1993. Politics Without Principle: Sovereignty, Ethics, and the Narratives of the Gulf War. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Gregg, Robert W. 1993. About Face? The United States and the United Nations. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Haass, Richard N. 2009. War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Hunt, Courtney. 2005. The History of Iraq. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Lauterpacht, E., C.J. Greenwood, Marc Weller, and Daniel Bethlehem, eds. 1991. The Kuwait Crisis: Basic Documents. Cambridge: Grotius Publications Limited.

“Memorandum of Telephone Conversation: Bush and Gorbachev Talk About the Invasion of Iraq.” New York Times. 21 Feb. 1991. Transcript.

Northcutt, Susan Stoudinger. 1992. “An Analysis of Bush’s War Speech.” International Social Science Review 67:123-129.

Pelletiere, Stephen. 2004. Iraq and the International Oil System: Why America Went to War in the Gulf. Washington, D.C.: Maisonneuve Press.

Frank 13 Power, Samantha. 2003. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Perennial-HarperCollins.

SH-SHTP-A-000-630, “Inside the Iraqi Command,” 24 Feb. 1991, Conflict Records Resource Center, Washington, D.C.

Sifry, Micah L. and Christopher Cerf, eds. 1991. The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions. New York: Times Books-Random House, Inc.

Simons, Geoff. 2004. Iraq: From Sumer to Post-Saddam. Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.

U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. 1991. “Tracking the Storm.” Military Review 71:64-108.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. 1990. Crisis in the Persian Gulf Region: U.S. Policy Options and Implications. 101st Cong., 2d sess., S. HRG. 101-1071.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. 1984. War in the Gulf. 98th Cong., 2d sess., S. PRT. 98-225.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. 1986. Middle East Trip Report February 5-26, 1986. 99th Cong., 2d sess., S. PRT. 99-121.

Frank 14 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. 1987. War in the Persian Gulf: The U.S. Takes Sides. 100th Cong., 1st sess., S. PRT. 100-60.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. 1988. Chemical Weapons Use in Kurdistan: Iraq’s Final Offensive. 100th Cong., 2d sess., S. PRT. 100-148. White House, The. 1990. National Security Strategy of the United States.