Did Saddam Hussein ever dream of expanding elsewhere?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
13,833
SoCal
#1
I know that Saddam Hussein waged wars against Iran and Kuwait (and also against an international coalition which fought to liberate Kuwait during the Gulf War) in order to acquire more territory for Iraq. However, I'm wondering if Saddam ever aimed to expand Iraq in other directions as well. I'm presuming that Turkey would have been completely off-limits due to it being a NATO member, but what about Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia? Did Saddam ever seriously consider or even merely think about invading those countries in order to acquire more territory for Iraq?
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,196
Crows nest
#2
I would think no at least in the case of any attempts on Saudi Arabia. If he wanted KSA it would have been better to invade them before, or concurrently with, Kuwait, so keeping the element of surprise, and not least, either achieving victory over KSA or making major progress before hundreds of thousands of co-alition forces turn up. That after he completed the invasion of Kuwait he made no serious move against KSA shows that he was not sitting waiting to see if he would get away with Kuwait, and then attack KSA, but probably knew he had stirred up a giant hornets nest and had no intention of doing anything other than trying to defend his position in Kuwait. I felt that what was said by politicians and the media at the time about Saddam going to invade KSA were rather an insult to our intelligence. Nobody waits until such an array of forces, mostly far more superior to his in all respects, deploys, and then you attack, that's madness, and he was not mad.

Kuwait was attacked due to territorial claims on the entire country by Iraq, there are no such claims against Jordan or Syria, and attacks on either of those countries would have been met with a great deal of hatred from the rest of the Arab world. We see how they reacted to just Kuwait, and any invasion of Syria or Jordan would not have met with overnight success, but with a bloody nose and a protracted war that would not help anybody in the region except Israel.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
13,833
SoCal
#3
I would think no at least in the case of any attempts on Saudi Arabia. If he wanted KSA it would have been better to invade them before, or concurrently with, Kuwait, so keeping the element of surprise, and not least, either achieving victory over KSA or making major progress before hundreds of thousands of co-alition forces turn up. That after he completed the invasion of Kuwait he made no serious move against KSA shows that he was not sitting waiting to see if he would get away with Kuwait, and then attack KSA, but probably knew he had stirred up a giant hornets nest and had no intention of doing anything other than trying to defend his position in Kuwait. I felt that what was said by politicians and the media at the time about Saddam going to invade KSA were rather an insult to our intelligence. Nobody waits until such an array of forces, mostly far more superior to his in all respects, deploys, and then you attack, that's madness, and he was not mad.
Excellent analysis of this situation.

Kuwait was attacked due to territorial claims on the entire country by Iraq, there are no such claims against Jordan or Syria, and attacks on either of those countries would have been met with a great deal of hatred from the rest of the Arab world. We see how they reacted to just Kuwait, and any invasion of Syria or Jordan would not have met with overnight success, but with a bloody nose and a protracted war that would not help anybody in the region except Israel.
Did Iraq also have long-standing territorial claims on Iran?

Also, what about having Saddam help the Syrian rebels in the Syrian Civil War but without directly annexing any Syrian territory? I mean, why not settle for a Syrian puppet state if you could?
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,196
Crows nest
#4
Did Iraq also have long-standing territorial claims on Iran?

Also, what about having Saddam help the Syrian rebels in the Syrian Civil War but without directly annexing any Syrian territory? I mean, why not settle for a Syrian puppet state if you could?
The bone of contention between Iran and Iraq is ownership of the Shatt al-Arab waterway and the Iranian province of Khuzestan along it's eastern banks.

If Saddam was still in control now I'm not sure he would have gotten involved in Syria, and I doubt there even would be a problem in Syria, as while there are real grievances held by some Syrians, daesh infected the country only because Iraq is a basket case since 2003. There is also the Kurdish problem which Iraq has just as much as Syria and Turkey. A Kurdish state on the east bank of the Euphrates is probably not something that Saddam would have welcomed as it would give encouragement to Kurds in Iraq, and of course the Turks would, as they have in reality, take action. It's all best left alone I think as there is no solution that suits all parties, except those with ill will towards Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Any sort of "Empire" forming in that part of the world will be attacked by USA/Israel during birth anyway. The First Gulf War can be seen as a precursor to this, with 2003 making sure that Iraq would not become a threat again.
 
Jul 2017
111
Europe
#5
Israel, along with the U.S. would not allow Iraq to create a superstate and gain control over the vast oil resources in the region and in turn strengthen its economic and military power. Israel, in order to defend itself efficiently against its bellicose neighbours, has to remain the only dominant superpower in the region, and they would try to thwart any expansion ambitions of the neighbouring countries, especially Iraq and Iran as they are the the most influential in the region and thus the biggest threat to Israeli interests.
 
Jul 2016
7,758
USA
#6
I would think no at least in the case of any attempts on Saudi Arabia. If he wanted KSA it would have been better to invade them before, or concurrently with, Kuwait, so keeping the element of surprise, and not least, either achieving victory over KSA or making major progress before hundreds of thousands of co-alition forces turn up. That after he completed the invasion of Kuwait he made no serious move against KSA shows that he was not sitting waiting to see if he would get away with Kuwait, and then attack KSA, but probably knew he had stirred up a giant hornets nest and had no intention of doing anything other than trying to defend his position in Kuwait. I felt that what was said by politicians and the media at the time about Saddam going to invade KSA were rather an insult to our intelligence. Nobody waits until such an array of forces, mostly far more superior to his in all respects, deploys, and then you attack, that's madness, and he was not mad.

Kuwait was attacked due to territorial claims on the entire country by Iraq, there are no such claims against Jordan or Syria, and attacks on either of those countries would have been met with a great deal of hatred from the rest of the Arab world. We see how they reacted to just Kuwait, and any invasion of Syria or Jordan would not have met with overnight success, but with a bloody nose and a protracted war that would not help anybody in the region except Israel.
He did position troops to attack KSA, Operation Desert Shield was called that for a reason, the US essentially sent in a Marine battalion and a brigade from the 82nd, had them dig in on the Saudi border, that was enough to discourage attack as it meant war against the US (there was no indication immediately that the US would militarily liberate Kuwait, that occurred months later after a massive build up of a giant coalition, called OP Desert Storm).

Later, Iraqi forces actually invaded into KSA, the battle of Khafji happened inside Saudi borders when numerous divisions attacked, stopped by KSA forces but mostly US Marines.

It must be remembered that the invasions by Iraq weren't just a land grab, they were attempts to deal with massive debts. Saddam borrowed I believe $16 billion from Kuwaiti Emir, about the same from the KSA royal family, to fund the Iran Iraq War, and those debts were called in early 90s to be paid back. Saddam couldn't pay them back, so he planned to wipe the dents by invasion.
 
Likes: Edratman
Jul 2016
7,758
USA
#7
Israel, along with the U.S. would not allow Iraq to create a superstate and gain control over the vast oil resources in the region and in turn strengthen its economic and military power. Israel, in order to defend itself efficiently against its bellicose neighbours, has to remain the only dominant superpower in the region, and they would try to thwart any expansion ambitions of the neighbouring countries, especially Iraq and Iran as they are the the most influential in the region and thus the biggest threat to Israeli interests.
Iraq had been one of numerous Arab countries that had fought Israel in '48 and in '67 and '73, and while the Egyptians made peace with Israel, nobody else did. They were a strategic enemy of Israel, a very real one.
Israel was more worried about the fact that Saddam's Iraq were planning on building that massive super gun to fire at Israel, and also that they were building a nuclear reactor clearly for nuke production. Its participation in the early 90s was only because Saddam attempted to defeat the coalition by bringing Israel into the war by hitting them with SCUD missiles, with the idea that the numerous Gulf State coalition members, which gave it legitimacy, would never ally with Israel. Which is why USAF Patriot air defense forces were sent to Israel to help shoot down incoming ballistic missiles, and why Coalition Special Operations Forces were sent on deep recon into Western Iraq on SCUD hunting operations.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,196
Crows nest
#8
He did position troops to attack KSA, Operation Desert Shield was called that for a reason, the US essentially sent in a Marine battalion and a brigade from the 82nd, had them dig in on the Saudi border, that was enough to discourage attack as it meant war against the US (there was no indication immediately that the US would militarily liberate Kuwait, that occurred months later after a massive build up of a giant coalition, called OP Desert Storm).

Later, Iraqi forces actually invaded into KSA, the battle of Khafji happened inside Saudi borders when numerous divisions attacked, stopped by KSA forces but mostly US Marines.

It must be remembered that the invasions by Iraq weren't just a land grab, they were attempts to deal with massive debts. Saddam borrowed I believe $16 billion from Kuwaiti Emir, about the same from the KSA royal family, to fund the Iran Iraq War, and those debts were called in early 90s to be paid back. Saddam couldn't pay them back, so he planned to wipe the dents by invasion.
Though he had to deploy forces along the border with KSA as a defensive action at the very least. He was certainly tricked into thinking Kuwait would be invaded from the sea, but he cannot put all his forces on or inland from the coast and pay no heed to the long border with KSA. The battle of Khafji was, IMO, an incursion designed to throw co-alition forces off balance and to show that he was in fact willing to engage in real fighting, not just blowing hot air. But with no effective airforce, EW capability and crap equipment in general, he never had a chance of holding Kuwait, let alone marching into KSA with serious intent of invasion once the boots were on the line in the sand.

At the very start he probably thought that a quick and successful invasion of Kuwait would present a fait accompli, and while there would be a lot of screaming and shouting, sanctions and stuff like that, he would at the end of the day retain Kuwait. Compared to taking KSA, Kuwait is nothing, as it proved, so best to do the main job first and mop up Kuwait later, but as that did not happen, I don't think he ever intended to take on KSA, except if the response to Kuwait was weak, but was that ever going to be a thing, letting him take that much oil, no.
 
#9
Iraq has only a very small outlet to the Persian Gulf (she has half of the Shatt-al-arab river). Saddam's goal in invading Iran was to gain control over the entire Shatt-al-arab, which would greatly expedite Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf. But after that long drawn-out war, with immense casualties, the Iran-Iraq war ended as a draw, with both nations pushed back to their original pre-war boundaries.
Then, Saddam decided to invade and annex Kuwait. This would also greatly expand Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf, in addition to gaining Kuwait's oilfields. He didn't foresee how determined the American military response would be to preventing this occupation of Kuwait. It wasn't so much acquisition of additional territory, as access to the Persian Gulf, that Saddam wished to obtain.
 
Jul 2016
7,758
USA
#10
Though he had to deploy forces along the border with KSA as a defensive action at the very least. He was certainly tricked into thinking Kuwait would be invaded from the sea, but he cannot put all his forces on or inland from the coast and pay no heed to the long border with KSA. The battle of Khafji was, IMO, an incursion designed to throw co-alition forces off balance and to show that he was in fact willing to engage in real fighting, not just blowing hot air. But with no effective airforce, EW capability and crap equipment in general, he never had a chance of holding Kuwait, let alone marching into KSA with serious intent of invasion once the boots were on the line in the sand.

At the very start he probably thought that a quick and successful invasion of Kuwait would present a fait accompli, and while there would be a lot of screaming and shouting, sanctions and stuff like that, he would at the end of the day retain Kuwait. Compared to taking KSA, Kuwait is nothing, as it proved, so best to do the main job first and mop up Kuwait later, but as that did not happen, I don't think he ever intended to take on KSA, except if the response to Kuwait was weak, but was that ever going to be a thing, letting him take that much oil, no.
The battle of Khafji was absolute proof that Saudi Arabia was an invasion target for Iraq, because they did invade the country. Was he trying to conquer the country? Not at that point. Might it gotten into his head to do so? Maybe. He stationed a large force on the Saudi border, including numerous of his best armored divisions, and that is a bit odd if he had no intention of using them. Remember, at this point there were almost zero US forces in the region and the fledgling KSA National Guard was essentially on its own, it barely had the ability to protect itself, let forcibly liberate Kuwait alone.

Overall, my advice to anyone is to never try to truly figure out what Saddam was thinking, he was not a rational actor. He was not a thinker, he was a do'er. And by do'er, I really mean he was a killer, because that was how he made his name, as a thug willing to do great violence. He got involved in govt service by first being an assassin and an executioner, essentially being his uncle's "heavy" or "muscle" in the parlance of a gangster movie (which is very accurate way to describe the rise of Saddam Hussein and his family's control over Iraq). He crafted the internal security apparatus of his uncle's regime and then used his control of it it to usurp his uncle and all other powerful Ba'ath politicians too, in the infamous televised purge of the Ba'ath Party in 1979. The guy was a complete and total psycho.
 
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