Saddam and the Gulf War
By 1979 Saddam Hussein had gained enough power to ask al-Bakr to step down. During the 1980s, using primarily oil revenue, he built a formidable military force and amassed modern weapons, doing research into chemical and nuclear weapons. Saddam stated his goal as surpassing even the United States, China, and the Soviet Union in world influence. To launch this brave new Iraq, Saddam Hussein ordered his army to invade Iran in 1980. This war became a brutal slug-fest that lasted eight years, mixing trench warfare with missiles, tanks and even chemical weapons. It was a war which cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Iraq, a nation of around 20 million could ill-afford the losses. The war also seriously depleted Iraq's capital reserves.
Victory would come to neither side. At a point at which it appeared the Iranians would overwhelm the Iraqis, the United States provided intelligence and training to Iraq. It was just enough to bring the war to a stalemate. One of the hallmarks of this struggle was Saddam Hussein's aggression, and second was his willingness to use chemical weapons against not only his military foes but his own countrymen, the Kurds in the north of Iraq. He had also been working assiduously on developing nuclear weapons. In 1981, the Israeli Air Force attacked his nuclear facility at Osiraq, which significantly set-back the Iraqi nuclear time-table.
In yet another aggressive move, in 1990 Saddam Hussein launched an attack on Kuwait largely in order to acquire that small country's oil reserves. He seems to have believed that, like Hitler's swift and well-nigh unopposed move into Austria prior to World War II, he could take Kuwait without any long-term opposition from the great powers. The Gulf War in 1992 was the result. The United States and its allies launched an air campaign that tore apart the Iraqi command and control structure. The subsequent ground campaign quickly pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Although Iraq was soundly beaten, it was in effect a local victory for the allies, local to Kuwait. The Saddam government remained intact along with its military apparatus. The allies failed to consummate their victory and eliminate Saddam as a threat.