US knew Saddam was going to attack Kuwait: book


New Delhi : The US had prior knowledge about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein attacking Kuwait in 1990 but did nothing to stop him, says a former Indian diplomat in a new book.

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In his book “The Ultimate Prize: Oil and Saddam’s Iraq” (Allied Publishers), Ranjit Singh Kalha, former ambassador to Iraq, quotes the US envoy in Baghdad April Glaspie as telling Saddam on July 25, 1990: “We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflict, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”

This was barely a week before Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug 2, 1990.

The US envoy also told the Iraqi president, “We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods… All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”

Kalha, who retired as secretary in the ministry of external affairs in 2002 and was in Iraq around the time, notes in his book that is replete with unclassified documents: “If Saddam had any lingering doubts about the attitude of the US, these were soon cleared.”

According to him, on July 27, 1990, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US was called to the Pentagon and told, “Iraq is going to invade Kuwait.”

Even a day before the Iraqi attack on Kuwait began, Kuwaiti defence minister Sheikh Salem al-Sabah received a text from the US: “We do not want to alarm you unnecessarily, but we think the contingency plan should be put into effect… under no circumstances should the Emir be allowed to spend the night in Kuwait city. He should cross into Saudi Arabia and go to Khafji, 20 kilometers south of the border.”

Kalha’s book comes at a time when the US’ latest war in Iraq has sparked off a major debate in different parts of the world, particularly amongst Americans, many of whom are of the view that the war could have been avoided.

Many of the points raised by the former Indian envoy helps in establishing the link between the first Gulf War of 1991 and the US’ current armed engagement in Iraq.

According to Kalha, the US, which had thrown its weight behind Saddam during the Iraq-Iran war of 1980, grew apprehensive about the Iraqi president’s growing clout in the region. Initially, US officials had even thought that Saddam would only invade the oil producing islands of Kuwait and not take over the entire country.

“Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait,” the book quoted from an interview given by Glaspie to the New York Times on Sep 20, 1990.

Kalha thinks the US government decided to punish Saddam because he had gone beyond the agreed script and taken over entire Kuwait instead of a few islands and its main oilfield.

“What if he had confined himself to the two islands and the Rumaila oilfield? Was this the script that Saddam was to follow? Was he now to be punished for not sticking to the agreed script? Had Saddam over-reached himself? Had Saddam confined himself to what Ambassador Glaspie so casually confirmed later, the story of Iraq might have been different,” the Indian envoy writes.

Kalha is now a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).