Gulf War

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1990 Aug 4 - 1991 Jan 15

Diplomacy

United Nations Headquarters, E

Within hours of the invasion, Kuwait and US delegations requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, which passed Resolution 660, condemning the invasion and demanding a withdrawal of Iraqi troops. On 3 August 1990, the Arab League passed its own resolution, which called for a solution to the conflict from within the league, and warned against outside intervention. Iraq and Libya were the only two Arab League states that opposed the resolution for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait; the PLO opposed it as well. The Arab states of Yemen and Jordan – a Western ally which bordered Iraq and relied on the country for economic support – opposed military intervention from non-Arab states. Separately, Sudan, also an Arab League member, aligned itself with Saddam.


On 6 August, Resolution 661 placed economic sanctions on Iraq. Resolution 665 followed soon after, which authorized a naval blockade to enforce the sanctions. It said the "use of measures commensurate to the specific circumstances as may be necessary ... to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping in order to inspect and verify their cargoes and destinations and to ensure strict implementation of resolution 661."


The US administration had at first been indecisive with an "undertone ... of resignation to the invasion and even adaptation to it as a fait accompli" until the UK's prime minister Margaret Thatcher played a powerful role, reminding the President that appeasement in the 1930s had led to war, that Saddam would have the whole Gulf at his mercy along with 65 percent of the world's oil supply, and famously urging President Bush "not to go wobbly".Once persuaded, US officials insisted on a total Iraqi pullout from Kuwait, without any linkage to other Middle Eastern problems, accepting the British view that any concessions would strengthen Iraqi influence in the region for years to come.


On 29 November 1990, the Security Council passed Resolution 678, which gave Iraq until 15 January 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait, and empowered states to use "all necessary means" to force Iraq out of Kuwait after the deadline. Ultimately, the US and UK stuck to their position that there would be no negotiations until Iraq withdrew from Kuwait and that they should not grant Iraq concessions, lest they give the impression that Iraq benefited from its military campaign. Also, when US Secretary of State James Baker met with Tariq Aziz in Geneva, Switzerland, for last minute peace talks in early 1991, Aziz reportedly made no concrete proposals and did not outline any hypothetical Iraqi moves.

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Last Updated: Fri Jan 05 2024