Factors that Led to the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait
Any discussion of the Gulf War must begin with the nation of Iraq. She once was a part of the Ottoman Empire, then a British protectorate, then a kingdom and finally a totalitarian state. Saddam Hussein became "President" in 1979 and maintained power through ruthless purges (including even members of his family). The country was also beset by internal strife. In the north the Kurds yearned for independence and in the south, the Shi'ites looked to Iran. The state and the army grew over time to consume most of the GNP. Today, the military alone takes up 35 percent of every dollar earned.
Saddam's expansion of the state's military apparatus was frightening to his neighbors. His investment in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and corresponding delivery systems even prompted a 1981 attack by Israel in an effort to set back his weapons development program. With the expansion of his military, Saddam attempted to gain hegemony over the Persian Gulf Region. In the 1980's he fought a long, bitter struggle with Iran (basically to a stalemate).
As a result of the war with Iran and the heavy investment in arms and training, the Iraqi military became the dominant force in the region. Led by the Republican Guard it could formidably challenge any of its neighbors. The price of keeping this force active was exorbitant. Iraq borrowed heavily from its oil producing neighbors. The debt coupled with continued investments brought on a 40 percent inflation rate and a stagnant standard of living.
Although Iraq had considerable oil reserves of her own, revenues were not sufficient to meet the demands of her creditors. This problem was exacerbated in 1990 when Kuwait and other oil states began to lower oil prices and increase production beyond agreed upon levels. Iraq was forced to follow suit or lose even more revenues. To make matters worse, Iraq suspected the Kuwaiti's were drilling diagonally from their side of the border to tap Iraqi oil reserves. See map of region.
Thus Saddam Hussein was now in a precarious position. It was getting more and more difficult to maintain his military power (which he needed to keep down internal opposition as well as to keep up national prestige). He seemed there was an expeditious solution to his problems, a solution involving a foreign adventure...