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Why Iraq invaded Kuwait?

Iraq has a long-standing territorial dispute with Kuwait, the neighbouring country, which Iraq still claims to be its own part.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2005 15:14 IST

Iraq has a long-standing territorial dispute with Kuwait, the neighbouring country, which Iraq still claims to be its own part. It is this dispute coupled with economic problems precipitated by Kuwait's decision to produce surplus oil that forced Saddam Hussain to invade Kuwait in 1990.

Iraq says, Kuwait was a part of the Ottoman Empire that comprised of Iraq and Kuwait from the 18th century to 1899. In 1899 however, Kuwait asked for British protection in return of autonomy in domestic affairs. Eversince, Kuwait remained an autonomous British settlement.

In the year 1961, Britain granted independence to Kuwait. Soon after Kuwaiti independence and its existence as a separate state, Iraq revived its claim over it. Iraq claims that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully Iraq's.

However, in wake of strong international support in favour of Kuwait, Iraq gave in and recognised Kuwait as an independent state in 1963. Eversince, the relations between the two neighbours saw several ups and downs. There were occasional skirmishes between the two nations along their border.

After Saddam Hussain, took over as President of Iraq in 1979, he went into a war with Iran over territorial dispute in 1980. The Iran-Iraq war lasted almost eight years and ended in a stalemate with neither countries able to gain any territory. The bitter war left the economy and infrastructure of both Iran and Iraq crippled.

During the Iran-Iraq conflict, Kuwait sided with Iraq and helped with money as Iraq went into massive militarization. As debt on Iraq mounted after the war Iraq wanted that Kuwait waive its loan as protection money. Iraq says that its had defended Kuwaiti territory also, so it should also contribute to the war expenses.

In the same time another controversy cropped up with Kuwait over producing oil, than the limit agreed upon by the OPEC nations, and flooded the markets resulting in a sharp decline in crude oil prices. As the oil prices went down it devastated the already war ravaged Iraqi economy.

The loan controversy between Kuwait and Iraq unresolved, Kuwait allegedly drilled oil through the Rumaila oil fields of Iraq, which is one of the richest oil reserves in Southern Iraq. Kuwait refused to waive the loan to Iraq and tapped oil from Rumaila in a bid to get its money back.

This annoyed Iraqi president Saddam Hussain, who thought that Kuwait was acting as an agent of the West. Saddam's forces thus invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and declared it as its 19th province.

First Published: Nov 18, 2002 17:38 IST