In the 1980s, there was a lot of tension in the Middle East. There was a brewing conflict between Iraq and its neighboring countries. America played a huge role in the rising tension that led to the Gulf War. America had had a lot of interest in the Middle East as its demand for oil resources increased. Therefore, Americans wanted to develop economic ties with some Middle East states so that they would develop economic partnerships.
In early 1980s, the US had just failed to establish Iran as their main ally in the Middle East. This was after Shah Pahlevi had been overthrown by an Islamic movement. Ayatollah Khomeini had taken control of Iran, ending any hopes of America establishing a good relationship with the Iran administration hence; no economic advantages. The US’s failed policy in Iran continued when they decided to support Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. America Provided weapons and support to Iraq and Saddam Hussein so as to help Iraq beat Iran. Iraq and Iran tried to prevent one another from taking part in external trade by attacking ships and oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s war against Iraq resulted in Kuwait petitioning the international community to offer protection to its shipping. America was first to respond in 1987. The US Navy and its warships were deployed in the Persian Gulf to patrol the Straits of Hormuz. The main objective was to protect oil tankers and other Kuwait ships from possible Iranian attacks. On one occasion in May 1987, Iraqi air forces launched air attacks and bombed USS Stark, which killed 37 and injured 21 Americans. However, USA assumed the attack to be a mistake. With USA encouraging the Iran/Iraq war, there was massive destruction and tension between Middle East countries heightened. In 1988, American forces shot down a plane carrying 290 civilian Iranians. All 290 people, including 66 children perished. Americans apologized, claiming they mistook the plane for an Iranian F-14. US had developed antagonism with Iraq because they suspected that Iran sponsored terrorism activities.
In the late 1980s, the tide changed as America turned against Iraq. Initially, USA had supported Saddam during the Iran/Iraq War. However, when Saddam Hussein attacked and invaded Kuwait in 1990, America’s attitude changed. In less than a month after Iran attacked Kuwait, USA deployed forces in the Middle East to destroy Iraq. The Persian Gulf War, led by America saw the destruction of the Iraqi military and economy. The American policy in the Middle East was to build a close relationship with an ally nation in the Middle East for economic reasons. However, their plans to make Iraq their ally were terminated when Iraq attacked Kuwait.
America was at the center of the rising hostilities in the Middle East because they kept changing policies and approaching different nations to develop economic ties. America can be said to have had selfish interests while causing the tensions between Iran and Iraq. State department information indicated that American ambassador to Iraq did not do much to stop Iraq from attacking Kuwait because of America’s cordial relationship with Saddam in 1980s. On the other hand, America could have intruded into a legitimate conflict between Iraq and Kuwait after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. This is because Kuwait had illegally siphoned oil from Iraq’s shifting sands. Kuwait also owed Iraq remuneration for protection against Iraq during the Iraq/Iran war. America could have done better to arbitrate the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait rather than attack Iraq for a legitimate invasion.
Jones, C. F. (2006). Divide And Perish: The Geopolitics of the Middle East (illustrated ed.). New York: AuthorHouse.
Library Information and Research Service. (1999). The Middle East, Abstracts and Index. Northumberland: Northumberland Press.