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Jordan and the Gulf War

In a recent piece sent to the discussion group, Abbas Alnaswari refers
rightly to the importance of the Iran/Iraq war. It should never be forgotten
that the suffering we are inflicting on the Iraqi people, for reasons that
are essentially trivial, comes on top of a ten years war which was more
terrible for them than the Second World War, which lasted only five years,
was for us ('us' in this case being the British).

In this context I thought members of the group might be interested in the
following article which I found recently in a collection of old newspaper
cuttings. It comes from the Guardian, 12/2/1991 and in it, Crown Prince
Hassan, who was generally assumed at the time to be King Hussein's
successor, explains Jordan's refusal to join the war against Iraq.

Both Jordan and the Yemen were severely punished for their efforts to find a
peaceful solution to the Kuwaiti crisis. They were punished economically by
the United States and there were massive expulsions of Jordanian and Yemeni
workers from Saudi Arabia and from Kuwait. This should be remembered when we
read, as we did in the Guardian 16/6/00 (News for 12 June '00 to 18 June
'00), that a claim 'from the Egyptian government sought $491m for 915,000
workers but was eventually settled (ie presumably stolen from the Iraqis
through the Oil for Food scam ­ PB) at just $84m.' Were these workers
expelled from Iraq? Or perhaps even from Kuwait (remember that at the time
of the invasion we were told that no-one supported the Iraqis and then when
the Kuwaiti government got back all the migrant workers were expelled on the
grounds that they had supported the Iraqis).

Jordan and the Yemen of course did not go to war against Kuwait; but Egypt
did go to war against Iraq. It played an important part in giving the
impression that there was Arab support for the war and was well rewarded for
its efforts by the United States.

Jordan, of course, has since made amends, admitted its errors, and been
allowed back into the 'International Community' (ie the US and its
courtiers). Yemen is still out in the cold. Indeed, not long after the
Kuwaiti crisis, there was a Yemeni crisis. Saudi Arabia wanted an oil rich
piece of Yemeni territory, marched its troops to the Yemeni border and
threatened to invade. The Yemenis, riven by civil war (largely fuelled by
the Saudis), could not resist and gave them what they wanted. The similarity
to the Iraq/Kuwait crisis was flagrant, but the 'International Community'
chose to look the other way.

But enough of me. Now savour Jordan, in the last moment of its moral and
intellectual integrity:


There is no contradiction between "conscience" and "legitimacy".  The flag
of Kuwait still flies, as it should, on the Kuwaiti Embassy in Amman.  We
have repeatedly affirmed our total opposition to the acquisition of
territory by force.  Jordan has assiduously implemented UN Security Council
sanctions against Iraq at a great cost to its own economy.  What Jordan did
not do was to send its forces to join the coalition and fight in the war.
Our critics conveniently forget these facts and many others.  Our allegiance
to peace does not put us in any camp except in that of peace.

No effort was spared by Jordan to warn about the destruction, both physical
and psychological, that war will bring to the region. There are those who
did not understand or did not like our message.  Jordan was successively
demoted by its critics from, initially, an apologist for Iraq, to tilting
towards it. Then to moving firmly into Iraq¹s camp. And finally to having
its allegiance to Iraq.

Since August 2, Jordan has consistently worked for a peaceful solution to
the Iraq­Kuwait crisis within the framework of international law and UN
resolutions. Alas, such contributions were thwarted.  As the recent speech
of His Majesty [King Hussein] suggested, there is no contradiction between
international legitimacy and an Arab contribution to peace.  In fact, any
regional settlement based on justice has to address all the people

Throughout the period since the outbreak of the crisis, Jordan's sole
allegiance has been to peace. His Majesty King Hussein's latest speech is a
cry of conscience.  We helplessly see the ineluctable course of events that
may very soon visit the horrors of weapons of mass destruction upon the

³The dignity of truth is lost with too many protestations.² His Majesty's
speech has been criticised for omitting references to Kuwait.  Jordan has
repeatedly stressed the need to mobilise all efforts in the search for a
diplomatic solution based on international law. The very notion of finding a
diplomatic solution based on legitimacy implies an Iraqi withdrawal from
Kuwait. This has always been Jordan's official position.

As long as the Iraq-Iran war lasted, President Saddam was seen by the West
as the party deserving support. That seems clear in the review of Iraq¹s
relations with the west over the past decade.  The United States Human
Rights Country Reports are instructive.  Up until last year, allegations of
human rights violations in Iraq were passed over with bureaucratic
skill.  Positive developments were highlighted, eg the rights of minorities
and the rights of women and secularism.

At the UN, meanwhile, Iraq was shielded from exposure to the rigours of the
organisation's charter.  Early resolutions on the Iraq-Iran war were
classics in equivocation and abandonment of principles. Restoration of the
status quo ante and the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by
force, so prominent as justification for the collective punishment currently
being inflicted on the Iraqi people, were not even mentioned at that stage.

The use of chemical weapons in that war was documented as far back as 1983.
Yet no meaningful condemnation was made by the Security Council or any human
rights group within the UN system.  It was only after the Iraq-Iran
ceasefire came into place, a period in which chemical weapons were not used,
that President saddam¹s image as a ruthless ruler who will not hesitate to
use chemical weapons was being carefully6 nurtured.

Iraq received extensive economic support from the world community during its
war with Iran. By the end of the war, credits to Iraq are reported to have
reached $80 billion, provided mainly from the West and from Arab oil

Jordan is not an apologist for any, but there are certain pertinent facts
about the Iraq­Kuwait dispute that have to remembered:

€ Historically there have been no fewer than 22 active border disputes in
the Gulf region since 1900, and no fewer than 21 in which redress was sought
by military force.

€ While Kuwait's membership of the Community of Nations as an independent
and sovereign state is beyond dispute, it cannot be said that Iraqi
territorial claims on some Kuwaiti territory are not without foundation.
These claims predate President Saddam, and it is a fact that he had taken
more steps to finalise border delimitations than any of his predecessors.

€ There is no doubt that Iraq¹s complaints about Kuwaiti overproduction of
oil were genuine and bitterly felt. Evidence that the Kuwaitis were
overproducing in violation of existing OPEC agreements is incontestable. It
is equally incontestable that the catastrophic effects of such
overproduction on Iraq¹s economy ­ and ultimately on the very integrity of
the state ­ could not have escaped the notice of the Kuwaiti authorities.
Did greed prevail over good sense, or was there an international attempt to
weaken Iraq? If the latter is the case, as the evidence suggests, would it
be too inappropriate to speak of economic aggression, a notion which in our
interdependent world can be as destabilising as armed aggression?

On the occasions on which President Saddam was approached directly without
intimidation, he always complied. He promised His Majesty King Hussein to
withdraw from Kuwait immediately after the Iraqi invasion. That solution
would have prevented a local dispute from becoming an international crisis.
But it was undercut by Arab League and Security Council condemnation of
Iraq. That marked the beginning of the escalation.

No one can Say with a clear conscience that peaceful means were exhausted.
In the course of almost six months of crisis characterised by name calling,
military preparations and escalation of demands (for example Mrs Thatcher¹s
³Sanctions will not be lifted even if Iraq withdraws²) there was only one
direct meeting between the USA and Iraq ­ on January 9, 1991.  By then, it
was too late. The logic of war had taken on a life of its own and the
meeting was meant for different audiences, Congress on the one hand and the
Arab masses on the other.  No genuine negotiations.

Despite this, the Iraqis never completely locked the door against a peaceful
solution. Thus for example, in his January 13 meeting with the UN Secretary
General, President Saddam suggested that Iraq would be ready to "cooperate"
if there is a comprehensive application of international legality.

Jordan, although contiguous to Iraq, did not evolve significant economic
relations with Iraq until the 1980s.  Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been the
main regional economic partners of Jordan.  Both countries absorbed the
larger part of Jordanian migrant labour, and provided the main markets for
Jordanian agricultural exports.

Significant economic linkages between Jordan and Iraq were in fact a
by-product of the Iran­Iraq war. They began when Basra, Iraq¹s only outlet
to the sea, was closed, forcing the Iraqis to seek alternative ports for the
huge supplies needed to sustain the war.  Syria denied Iraq the use of its
Mediterranean ports which would have provided a second best to Basra, and
closed Iraq's only oil pipeline.  In the event, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
began pumping oil on Iraq's behalf, providing Iraq with credit to prevent an
Iranian takeover of the Gulf.

Meanwhile, Jordan's port of Aqaba became one of two main substitutes for
Basra (Kuwait being the other).  Road tankers were used to carry Iraqi crude
across the desert from Iraq for re-exportation through Aqaba.   Jordan
additionally provided a variety of supplies to Iraq on a credit basis.  All
these factors led to a sharp increase in the volume of trade between Iraq
and Jordan which was negligible prior to the Iraq-lran war.   As the war
progressed and Iraq could not meet its repayment obligations to Jordan, it
offered oil in return.  Jordan, which was hard-pressed for foreign exchange,
consequently took Iraqi crude in repayment of Iraqi debts.

But Jordan switched back to Saudi crude after the eruption of the
Iraq-Kuwait crisis in August 1990.  Imports through the Tapline shot up to
$22 million during September 1990.  But its closure by the Saudi authorities
forced Jordan to rely once again on imports from Iraq.   The Sanctions
Committee of the Security Council realised that Jordan had no other viable

Sanctions, imposed by the Security Council, severely disrupted economic
linkages between Jordan and Iraq.  Though those ties were triggered by the
Iraq-Iran war, they were based on a natural but long-forgotten pattern of
complementarities.   Through Jordan, Iraq can have access to the Red Sea.
Jordan's rapidly expanding agricultural and manufacturing sectors have in
Iraq a sizeable and nearby market of about 17 million people.  Iraq is a
major oil exporter whereas Jordan relies on oil imports.  Jordanian
contracting firms have a competitive edge in a market as close as Iraq.
Investment programmes in Iraq provide attractive job opportunities for
Jordanian surplus labour.

Despite the disruption caused by the sanctions, Jordan-Iraq economic
complementarities may be swiftly revitalised in a post-war scenario.  This
central spine of the Arab East, with its human and natural resources, can
become a major driving force in the reconstruction of the entire region.

The current tragedy unfolding in the Middle East has not stopped us in
Jordan from having a vision of peace and prosperity based on law and
justice.   During the 43 years of the Arab­Israeli conflict, we similarly
never did lose hope.

HRH El Hassan Bin Tahal is the Crown Prince of the Hashemite Kingdom of

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