HISTORY OF IRAQ (late 1970'-late1990)
In July 1979 the president, Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakr, was replaced by Saddam Hussein, his vice president, chosen successor, and the true ruler of Iraq. Saddam then assumed both of the vacated offices and purged political rivals in order to assure his position. Once more the political situation flared into hostilities with Iran. On September 17, 1980 Saddam declares the Iraqi/Iranian borders agreement (Algiers Agreement) null and void, claiming the whole of Shatt el-Arab back to Iraq. The Iran-Iraq War, which began 5 days later on September 22, 1980, lasted for eight years and had a crippling effect on the economy of both countries; in which after eight years of war no territory had been gained by either side but an estimated one million lives had been lost. In July 1988, Iran accepted the terms of UN Resolution 598, and the cease-fire came into force on 20th August 1988. Before Iraq had a chance to recover economically, it was once more plunged into war, this time with its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The invasion was the result of a long-standing territorial dispute. Iraq accused Kuwait of violating the Iraqi border to secure oil resources, (on July 17, 1990 Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates of flooding the world oil market. In addition, he singled out Kuwait for the production of oil from a disputed supply, the Rumaila oil field), and demanded that its debt repayments should be waived. Direct negotiations were begun in July 1990, but they were destined soon to fail. Along with reassurance from the United States making a claim that they would not get involved (the famous meeting of Saddam Hussein with April Glaspie, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, on the 25th of July, 1990). This was the go ahead that Hussein needed. Arab mediators convinced Iraq and Kuwait to negotiate their differences in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on August 1, 1990, but that session resulted only in charges and countercharges. A second session was scheduled to take place in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, but Iraq invaded Kuwait the next day. Iraqi troops overran the country shortly after midnight on 2nd August 1990. The U.S. fell short on its claim to not get involved and instantly declared interest in keeping Saudi Arabia safe. The United Nations Security Council and the Arab League immediately condemned the Iraqi invasion. Four days later, the Security Council imposed an economic embargo on Iraq that prohibited nearly all trade with Iraq. Iraq responded to the sanctions by annexing Kuwait as the 19th Province of Iraq on August 8, prompting the exiled Sabah family to call for a stronger international response. Over the ensuing months, the United Nations Security Council passed a series of resolutions condemned the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, implementing total mandatory economic sanctions against Iraq. Other countries subsequently provided support for "Operation Desert Shield". In November 1990, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 678, permitting member states to use all necessary means, authorizing military action against the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, and demanded a complete withdrawal by 15th of January 1991.
When Saddam Hussein failed to comply with this demand, the Gulf War (Operation "Desert Storm") ensued on the 17th of January 1991 (3 a.m. Iraq time), with allied troops of 28 countries, led by the US launching an aerial bombardment on Baghdad. The war, which proved disastrous for Iraq, lasted only six weeks, one hundred and forty thousand tons of firearms had showered down on the country, the equivalent of 7 Hiroshima bombs. Probably as many as 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and tens of thousands of civilians. Allied air raids destroyed roads, bridges, factories, and oil industry facilities (shutting down the national refining and distribution system) and disrupted electric, telephone, and water service. Conference centers and shopping and residential areas were hit. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed in the attack on the Al-Amiriyah bomb shelter. Diseases spread through contaminated drinking water because water purification and sewage treatment facilities could not operate without electricity. A cease-fire was announced by the US on 28th February 1991. UN terms for a permanent cease-fire were agreed by Iraq in April of that year, and strict conditions were imposed, demanding the disclosure and destruction of all stockpiles of weapons.
A few days after the war had ended, popular insurrections broke out in southern Iraq and in Kurdistan in the north, where rebels took control of most of the region's towns. The United States (President George Bush) again fell short of its commitments in protecting the uprising, let the people exposed. Units of the Republican Guard that had survived the conflict acted with extreme brutality and gained the upper hand in the Basrah, Najaf and Karbala regions. In the southern cities, rebels killed Baathist officials, members of the security service and other supporters of the regime.
Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, Iraqi helicopters and troops regained control of the cities taken by the rebels and there was a mass exodus of Kurds, fearing a repeat of the 1988 chemical attacks, to the Turkish and Iranian borders. By the end of April there were 2.5 million refugees. In late April 1991, it was announced that there had been an agreement to implement the Kurdish peace plan of 1970. However, again, negotiations were stalled on the delineation of the borders of the Kurdish autonomous region with the Kurds insisting on the inclusion of Karkuk.
A military conflict was brewing between two Kurdish rival parties. Kurds had often disputed over land rights, and as their economic and political security deteriorated in the early 1990s, the conflicts became more extreme.
In May 1994 supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) clashed with supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), leaving 300 people dead. Over the next two years the PUK and KDP fought several more times, eventually devolving into a state of civil war. In August 1996, leaders of the KDP asked Saddam Hussein to intervene in the war. Hussein sent about 30,000 troops into the US-protected Kurdish region, capturing the PUK stronghold of Irbìl. The KDP was immediately installed in power. The United States responded with two missile strikes against southern Iraq, but in early September Iraq again helped KDP fighters, this time taking the PUK stronghold of As-Sulaymanìyah.
In October 1994, Iraq moved some Republican Guard units towards Kuwait, an act that provoked a large-scale US troop deployment to the Gulf to deter any Iraqi attack. The move was interpreted as a sign of Saddam's frustration with the continuation of UN sanctions, but afterwards he took a more moderate line, agreeing to recognize the existence and borders of Kuwait. In the months that followed his position appeared to become more precarious as dissatisfaction with his rule spread in the army and among the tribes and clans at the core of his regime. In June clashes broke out with the Dulaimi tribe, which supplied many of his senior officers after one of them was said to have been secretly executed by the regime. These culminated in the brutal suppression of demonstrations in the town of Ramadi by troops under the control of Saddam son, Uday, and in a subsequent attack on Abu Grein prison by a dissident military unit dominated by members of the Dulaym tribe.
In May 1995 Saddam sacked his half-brother, Wathban, as Interior Minister and in July demoted his notorious and powerful Defense Minister, Ali Hassan al- Majid, known popularly as "Chemical Ali" because of his role in gassing operations in Kurdistan. These personnel changes were the result of the growth in power of his two sons, Udai and Qusai, who were given effective vice-presidential authority in May 1995. They have been able to remove most of Saddam's loyal followers and it is clear that Saddam feels more secure protected by his immediate family members. In August Major General Hussein Kamil Hassan al-Majid, his Minister of Military Industries and a key henchman, defected to Jordan, together with his wife (one of Saddam's daughters) and his brother, Saddam, who was married to another of the president's daughters, and called for the overthrow of the regime. In response, Saddam promised full co-operation with the UN commission disarming Iraq (UNSCOM) in order to pre-empt any revelations that the defector could make.
The weakening of the internal position of the regime occurred at a time when the external opposition forces were as weak as ever, too divided among themselves to take any effective action. At the same time, France and Russia have pushed for an easing of sanctions. US determination to keep up the pressure on Iraq has prevailed however. In any case, the apparent weakening of the regime was illusory, not least when the two defectors returned home and were killed, apparently by other clan members, in an awful warning to other potential defectors. In fact, during 1996, the regime's grip on power seemed to have significantly strengthened despite its inability to end the UN sanctions against it.
(Source: History of Iraq, Saleh home achilles)