America's Secret War
Saddam was 'quietly assured by the United States that it would have no objection to his claiming his prize - Kuwait'
by George Friedman
The United States had no use for the Iraqi regime and had supported the Shah's Iran in a war against Iraq in the 1970s, ending in a peace that had not been favorable to Iraq. With the Iranian revolution, the Americans were looking for a lever to control Iran, . . .
The Carter administration wanted to motivate Saddam to fight, but he had little to gain simply by fighting Iran. What Saddam wanted was to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. Absorbing Kuwait, which had historically been a part of Iraq under the Ottoman Empire until the British carved it our for their own interests, was a key goal, but so was dominating the region politically. He knew that if he defeated Iran, Iraq would be the dominant power in the region. He was also quietly assured by the United States that it would have no objection to his claiming his prize - Kuwait - once he defeated Iran. The assurances were very quiet and very deniable.
The United States then did everything it could to make sure that Iraq could never claim the prize, shifting its weight back and forth during the Iran-Iraq war, in classic balance-of-power style. The famous Iran-Contra affair engineered by Bill Casey was part of this strategy, with Americans delivering Hawk surface-to-air missiles and TOW antitank missiles to Iran in order to stave off an Iranian defeat - while also arranging for supplies to Iraq. Under the circumstances it was a clever move until better options emerged.
The Iran-Iraq war lasted nearly ten years and cost millions of lives. In the end, Iraq won - or, more precisely, was less exhausted than Iran. After some months of recovery, Saddam turned to collect his prize. In his famous meeting with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie on July 25, 1990, just before the invasion, Saddam calmly explained his intention to invade Kuwait, and Glaspie, not informed by the State Department that the policy had changed, proceeded to give Saddam the reassurance of American support that had been the U.S. policy transmitted by ambassadors and back channels for a decade. . . .
What Glaspie didn't know. and what Glaspie hadn't been told, was that the United States had never expected Iraq to win and certainly was not prepared to let Saddam collect his war prize.