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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lack of Arab Support Riled Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan -- President Saddam Hussein's unexpectedly belligerent move toward the Kuwaiti border was due in part to anger over a failed attempt to rally Arab support through Egyptian mediation for lifting painful UN sanctions against Iraq, according to Arab diplomats.


The bid for a united Arab stand on the sanctions fell through largely over Saudi insistence that Iraq cannot be trusted as long as Saddam remains in power, the diplomats said. It has now apparently been dropped completely in the aftermath of this weekend's deployment of thousands of Iraqi troops toward the border area and the strong U.S. and allied troop buildup in response.


Saddam's isolation was underlined in Jordan by King Hussein, who in an interview published Monday warned the Iraqi leader against repeating the mistakes of 1990 -- a reference to the invasion of Kuwait that touched off the Persian Gulf war. The warning marked a sharp contrast with Hussein's attitude then, when he sought to resolve the crisis diplomatically through friendly contacts with Baghdad that were widely criticized in the United States and Saudi Arabia.


"Let it be known that we are against the use of force by any Arab against an Arab brother," Hussein said in the interview with Al Siyasah newspaper in Kuwait. "We will stand in the face of any use of force by an Arab against another Arab and we are with the party that has been subject to aggression. We have had enough losses, enough sins and we hope that Iraq will not repeat its previous mistake. We are for solving issues with the logic of negotiations and not with the commission of sins."


Saddam launched his diplomatic offensive about three weeks ago by sending a special envoy to Cairo with a letter for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, according to the Arab diplomats. In the letter, Saddam requested that Mubarak lead a drive toward Arab rapprochement that would end the bitterness with neighboring countries left over from the war, they said.


With Egyptian help, the Iraqi leader specifically hoped to win backing from his fellow Arabs for a reconciliation with Kuwait that would lead to support for a UN Security Council vote to end the four-year-old sanctions that have prevented Baghdad's oil exports and crippled the Iraqi economy. The council is scheduled next month to consider renewing the sanctions for another six months.


Saddam, according to the diplomats, told Mubarak in the letter that he would recognize Kuwait's internationally delineated borders and renounce all claims to it as a province of Iraq in return for promises that the sanctions would eventually be lifted. Mubarak and his foreign minister, Amre Moussa, made extensive statements at the time to the Egyptian press backing the lifting of sanctions, while the president was also reportedly lobbying quietly for an Arab summit meeting to be held in Cairo to discuss the issue. The diplomats said Saudi Arabia, nervous about Saddam's real intentions and the effect on oil prices of resuming Iraqi oil production, put pressure on the Egyptian president to reconsider his moves.


In the face of the Saudi opposition, Mubarak revised his position and declared, in statements published in the semi-official Al Ahram, that there could be no Arab reconciliation as long as Saddam refused to revoke his claim on Kuwait in a public, official way.


Egypt's position in UN discussions on lifting the sanctions has been that the Iraqi government must openly declare its recognition of Kuwait's borders before the Security Council. But Egyptian, French and Russian leaders have been less insistent than Saudi Arabia and the United States on Saddam's removal.