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The Iraq-Kuwait Border Dispute

Jim Horner

Abstract


The Iraq-Kuwait border dispute caught the world's attention on 2 August 1990 when Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait. The border dispute would fester over the next five months and ultimately manifest itself in a major war which began on 16 January 1991. The war ended six weeks later leaving monumental costs: (1) the death of 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, 100,000 Iraqi civilians and 124 U.S. soldiers, (2) 100 billion dollars in damage to the Kuwaiti economy, (3) 52 billion dollars in Allied war expenditures and (4) the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure. Much time and attention has been given to the immediate aspects of the conflict while less analysis has been given to the economic and political history of the border dispute.

The invasion in August 1990 was not the first time that Iraq positioned itself for the occupation of Kuwait. Iraqi forces invaded the kingdom in 1973 and occupied border outposts inside Kuwait. Nor is this the first time that Iraq has attempted unification with the oil-rich kingdom by absorption or annexation. Iraq attempted to forge a union of the two countries in 1939 and again in 1961. Some of these earlier border disputes and conflicts have been solved through Arab-Arab mediation. The most recent one was not. The purpose of this article is to explore the roots of the conflict starting from the inception of Iraq and leading to the present time. The first section explores the historical roots of the current border dispute by examining the border relations of both countries before Kuwait was granted independence from Britain. The second section examines border relations between Iraq and Kuwait after independence. The major elements of the current conflict are investigated in the third section of the paper.


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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229

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