Senior circles of the Thatcher and Bush governments had determined to create a pretext which would allow the U.S. and Britain to establish a direct military presence at the choke point of the world's, and especially Continental European petroleum supplies.
The domestic economic and financial plight, both in Britain and the United States, added a special note of desperation to the plan during early 1990. Thatcher's economic "revolution" was rapidly
collapsing after the October 1987 stock market debacle, and rising British interest rates forced the worst real estate, industrial, and banking crisis of the postwar period. In the United States, George Bush faced an out-of-control federal budget deficit, collapsing banks, soaring unemployment and an overall depression being privately likened by some inside the White House to the 1930's Great Depression.
Iraq, a nation of 16 million people, emerged from eight years of a fruitless war against Iran which had accomplished little more than provide western arms manufacturers a vast dumping ground to maintain enormous arms sales to the Middle East. Washington had secretely encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980, falsely feeding him intelligence data indicating early success. By 1989, the economy of Iraq was a shambles and investment in industry and agriculture was largely halted during the costly war, which cost an estimated one million or more lives on both sides.
But Iraq, unlike Khomeini's Iran, emerged from the war with an enormous foreign debt burden. In 1988, she owed an estimated $65 billion to various creditors. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were owed a large part of this debt, as were the Soviet Union and countries of Eastern Europe, which expected to be repaid in Iraqi oil. The remainder was owed largely to French, British, and American banks. France was Iraq's second largest supplier of arms after the USSR.
The Anglo-American gameplan was to lure Iraq's Saddam Hussein into a trap he could not resist, in order to provide a pretext for military intervention from the United States and Britain, professedly to secure world oil supplies. In June 1989, a top level delegation from an organization known as the United States-Iraq Business Forum, which included Alan Stoga from Kissinger Associates, senior executives of Bankers' Trust, Mobil Oil, Occidental Petroleum, and other large U.S. multinationals, came to Baghdad on the request of Saddam Hussein. He wanted to discuss an Iraqi postwar plan to develop his country's agriculture and industrial potential,
Iraq had a five-year $40 billion plan to complete the large Ba-dush Dam irrigation project, which would have enabled Iraq to become self-sufficient in food production; at that time, Iraq depended on U.S. government Commodity Credit Corporation grain imports for as much as $1 billion worth of grain in 1989. In
addition, Iraq proposed to the U.S. group major investments in building up its petrochemicals industry, agriculture fertilizer plants, an iron and steel plant, and an auto assembly plant as part of an effort to develop the country. The American businessmen told Saddam he must first restructure his foreign debts, and in return agree to privatize Iraq's national oil resources, or a major portion of it. According to best British and American geophysical calculations, Iraq was perhaps the largest unexplored oil region in the world, with the possible exception of the Soviet Union.12
Predictably, Saddam refused the American "offer" to surrender sovereignty over Iraqi petroleum in exchange for vague assurances on future loans. By late 1989, some $2.3 billion in Bush Administration-authorized credits for Iraq, which had been deliberately channeled through the Atlanta, Georgia subsidiary of the Italian Banco Nationale del Lavoro, were abruptly cut. The cutoff of credit followed a series of sensational allegations in the London Financial Times, which claimed that the monies were secretly being used by Iraq to build its war machine.
The combined effect of the talks with the Stoga group and the BNL exposes was a total western bank credit cutoff to Iraq by early 1990. Into this critical situation, the Emir of Kuwait, an ally of Her Majesty's Foreign Office ever since the end of the last century, entered the picture. London and Washington had previously instructed the Emir to funnel credits from Kuwait's vast oil revenues in order to keep Iraq from suing for peace during the Iran-Iraq eight year war. At that time, the cynical Anglo-American aim was to keep the Iran-Iraq war boiling at a stalemate, and to maintain a sufficient "strategy of tensions" to absorb large western arms deliveries to both Iran and Iraq, as later scandals were to reveal.
But, in early.spring of 1990, Kuwait's "mission" had changed. The Emirate was told to flood OPEC markets with oil, in violation of agreed OPEC production ceilings which had been agreed in order to stabilize world oil prices following the debacle of 1986-87. By the summer of 1990, Kuwait succeeded in drawing oil prices from their precarious level of some $19 per barrel down to little more than $13 per barrel. Repeated Iraqi diplomatic efforts and those of other OPEC members to persuade the Emir, Sheikh Al-Sabah, and the Oil Minister Ali Khalifa Al-Sabah to stop the deliberate economic pressure on Iraq and other economically hard-pressed OPEC producers, fell on deaf ears. By that July, oil traders
were predicting a repeat of 1986. Price levels below $10 per barrel were in sight. Iraq was not even able to service its old debt or finance needed food imports.
Already the previous February, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein told fellow members of the Arab Cooperation Council in Amman Jordan, which included the presidents of those two countries plus Egypt and North Yemen, that the strategic implications of the collapse of the old communist order in Eastern Europe and the apparent emergence of the United States as the only military "superpower," presented the Arab world with special dangers.
With strong anxiety, Saddam pointed to the fact that, despite the clear end to the Iran-Iraq war one year earlier, U.S. military forces and warships in the Gulf had not shown any signs of pulling back. Instead, he noted with foreboding, "the United States makes many statements that it is staying." He noted the increasing preoccupation of the Soviet Union with its internal problems. "When the Soviet Union is involved with its own internal affairs, the [Iran-Iraq] war has ended, no direct threat exists, and the United States especially at this time is still repeating that it will stay, then this is something that warrants attention."
Saddam's conclusion in his remarks that February, was that Arab oil-wealthy countries should join forces and make use of their "possession of an energy source unparalleled in the world...I think we should forge relationships with Europe, Japan, and the Soviet Union in a manner that will make us benefit from this element as soon as possible." 13
If any statement had stiffened the resolve in leading Anglo-American establishment circles to go ahead with plans for a dramatic new Middle East military action, this speech of Saddam's was the one. On July 27,1990, when tensions between Iraq and Kuwait over oil prices were at a peak, the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, asked for a meeting with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad to discuss the tense situation. According to official Iraqi transcripts of the exchange, later released by the Baghdad government and confirmed by U.S. Congress almost a year later, Glaspie told Saddam that Washington would not take a position on the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait. Less than one week later, Iraqi forces occupied Kuwait City. The Kuwaiti Al-Sabah Royal family fled well in advance, able to escape with their Rolls Royces, their gold, and other valuables, because, according to one bitter former
Kuwaiti government official in exile in Europe, "the CIA informed the Royal family in good time to get out, but the Al-Sabah's 'conveniently' forgot to inform the country's military of their information that Kuwait was about to be invaded."
Within hours of the Kuwait occupation, the Bank of England and the U.S. Government acted to freeze all Kuwaiti assets held in what is believed to be the world's single largest investment fund, the Kuwait Investment Office, based in London. Its total asset portfolio is kept secret, but was reliably reported well beyond $100-150 billion in value.
What followed during the ensuing six months was one of the most cynical, calculated acts of recent history. Despite initial claims backed by Thatcher's British government, that the United States, would merely send military forces to defend Saudi Arabia against alleged Iraqi invasion threat (threats later revealed to have been fabricated in Washington), President Bush, who was together with Thatcher during the initial hours of decision in early August (appropriately at Aspen, Colorado), proclaimed what he soon referred to as his "New World Order."
On September 11, Bush declared, "Out of these troubled times a New World Order can emerge, under a United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders. We stand at a unique and extraordinary moment. This crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers us a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Today that New World Order is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we've known."
Further evidence that George Bush and Margaret Thatcher never intended anything other than a military "solution" to the Iraq-Kuwait crisis was given in the personal account of Soviet Special Middle East Envoy,, Yevgeni Primakov, some months later. In an extensive personal interview published in Time magazine March 4,1991, some days after the end of the devastating bombardment of Iraq, Primakov, personal envoy of Soviet President Gorbachev, recounted his meeting in Baghdad in the early days of October, 1990, with Saddam Hussein and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. Primakov was convinced that war "could have been averted." Primakov recounted for Time his subsequent mediation mission to Washington, where he met with George Bush, Secretary Baker and other top officials at the White House October 19. The Moscow envoy reported that Bush listened with apparent interest, but that some hours later
he sent the clear message to Primakov that Washington was not interested in exploring the new opening further.
As he was about to leave Washington, Primakov received instructions to stop over in London to deliver the same report to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Primakov's account was revealing. "The Prime Minister received us at her country residence, Chequers. She listened attentively to the information I presented her, without interrupting. But then, for a good hour, she allowed no one to interrupt her monologue, in which she outlined in a most condensed way a position that was gaining greater momentum: not to limit things to a withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait but to inflict a devastating blow at Iraq, 'to break the back' of Saddam and destroy the entire military, and perhaps industrial potential of that country."
After months of careful bribing and pressuring of key member nations of the United Nations Security Council, Arab states, Turkey and other nations, to impose not only total economic embargo against Iraq, but to authorize the use of force to liberate Kuwait, Bush told the U.S. Congress on January 29,1991, in his State of the Union address, "The world can therefore seize the opportunity of the present Persian Gulf crisis to fulfill the long-held promise of a New World Order..."
But, as the largest military buildup since the Vietnam War continued in Saudi Arabia, preparing for offensive saturation bombing of Iraq in the early days of January 1991, more than a few informed voices inside the Washington establishment began to voice grave doubts as to the ultimate wisdom of Bush's clear military intent. In a November 12,1990, television interview, former Reagan Administration Navy Secretary, James H. Webb, declared, "The purpose of our presence in the Persian Gulf is to further the Bush Administration's New World Order, and I don't like it."
Webb again took the occasion of a January 31 Wall Street Journal commentary some ten weeks later to state, "The Bush Administration aided by editorial onslaughts from many sides...has relentlessly maneuvered our nation into a war. One must reach back to William Randolph Hearst urging us into the Spanish-American War to find a parallel to the editorial pressure that preceded our present conflict. One must go even further, perhaps to the Mexican War, to find a president so avidly desirous of putting the nation at risk when it has not been attacked."
Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Akins, a respected Washington expert on Middle East affairs, also came out publicly against the Bush war plan against Iraq. Akins pointed out, in a signed article published in the Los Angeles Times of September 12, only days after Bush's decision to send U.S. troops to "defend" Saudi Arabia against threatened Iraqi invasion, that the White House had an "ulterior motive." Akins charged that U.S. Defense Secretary Cheney had deliberately misled Saudi King Fahd on the danger of such invasion in order to be allowed to station U.S. troops on Saudi soil, something fiercely resisted by the Saudis for decades. In 1975 Akins related, plans to find a pretext to send U.S. troops to occupy vital Mideast oil fields were encouraged by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He noted that Kissinger, then Akins' superior, had opposed Akins adamant attacks on such ideas. "Henry Kissinger, then U.S. Secretary, had another view, and my career in the Foreign Service did not extend much beyond that point...There are those in the Bush Administration who will point out that conditions are more propitious now than in 1975..."
Notably, in 1990, Lawrence Eagleburger, former President at Kissinger Associates, was Deputy Secretary of State under James Baker, and former Kissinger employee Brent Scowcroft, was Bush's White House National Security Adviser during this period. The Kissinger view was dominant in formulation of U.S. foreign policy during the Gulf war buildup. Furthermore, Kissinger editorially called for war against Iraq in this period. The domestic voices of opposition were effectively drowned out by the President's war mobilization in the media.