The Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait: New Historical Perspectives
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait:
New Historical Perspectives

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a critical juncture in both countries' histories. With unprecedented access to internal Iraqi documents about the invasion of Kuwait, this article underscores how the Iraqi leadership perceived Kuwait, assesses the Iraqi regime's objectives in Kuwait, and analyzes Kuwaiti resistance to the Iraqi occupation. The article ultimately aims to show that Iraq's policies of violence and dispossession in Kuwait were similar to tactics the Ba'thist regime had used before against internal opponents.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, represented yet another violent chapter in the Ba'th Party's long history of bloody rule. While the military aspects of the Gulf War were on display to the world through 24-hour newscasts, the day-to-day violence Kuwaitis experienced during the seven months of Iraqi occupation could only be partially addressed until now, due to the inaccessibility of archival sources.1 Previous scholarship about the Gulf War has mostly focused on the military side of the invasion or on the political ramifications of the war. Even when some Kuwaitis wrote about the war, their works emphasized Arab countries' reactions to the invasion rather than experiences of the occupation from the inside.2 Questions about how the Iraqi regime viewed the people and property of Kuwait during the occupation could not be thoroughly examined until recently, with the opening in July 2015 of internal Iraqi Ba'th Party archives about the Gulf War.3 The newly opened Kuwait Dataset at the Hoover [End Page 607] Institution contains 725,000 Iraqi military and administrative documents from 1990 and 1991 that were seized by the United States and its allies after Iraq's retreat from Kuwait.4 In addition, our analysis draws on a collection of internal memos and audio recordings from closed-door meetings held between Saddam Husayn and his top advisors that were archived at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.5 With unprecedented access to internal Iraqi documents about the invasion of Kuwait, this article assesses the Iraqi regime's objectives in Kuwait, analyzes Kuwaiti resistance to the Iraqi occupation, and ultimately aims to show that Iraq's policies of violence and dispossession in Kuwait were similar to tactics the Ba'thist regime had used before against internal opponents.

Our article focuses on the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait that lasted from the invasion until the start of Operation Desert Storm on January 17, 1991, when the US and 39 coalition countries began a military offensive against Iraq (see Timeline in Appendix). Although Iraqi troops remained in Kuwait until Saddam's retreat order on February 26, 1991, the Iraqi administrative apparatus appears to have crumbled by early January. Very few bureaucratic memos appear in the archives after January 1991 except for those that deal exclusively with military operations. As a result, the Kuwait Dataset reveals little about how residents of Kuwait fared under Iraqi occupation after Desert Storm operations began. By focusing on the period of occupation, new insights are revealed into how Iraq viewed Kuwait, how those living under occupation fared, and how Kuwaiti residents responded to Iraqi forces—all before it became clear that Iraq would not be able to hold onto Kuwait indefinitely.

A previous work by one of this article's authors, based on the Ba'th Party archives, argues that Iraq was not just a "republic of fear"6 but that the system was based on rewards and punishments.7 While this is true, Ba'thist leaders had a pattern of first using crushing violence before later introducing a system of tarhib and targhib (terror and enticement) once their control was firmly established.8 The 1968 coup by the Arab Socialist Ba'th ("resurrection") Party in Iraq exemplified this policy of employing brutal violence against any opposition. They immediately launched mass arrests of anyone suspected of opposing the Ba'th Party and held public trials [End Page 608] of supposed enemies that culminated in public hangings. The purpose of these trials was to intimidate not only opposition factions but also ordinary Iraqi citizens. The regime claimed that "Zionist and...


pdf