Could Iraq conquer Saudi Arabia?

One of reason the Saudi royalty allowed US troops to station there after the invasion of Kuwait was that they feared that Saddam would continue to invade Saudi Arabia. Let’s assume Saddam decided to immediately attack Saudi Arabia after his conquest of Kuwait, would Saudi Arabia be conquered easily?

Saddam *did *attack and invade Saudi Arabia from Kuwait. It was thought that this was mostly an effort to get Coalition forces to bring on the ground war (since the air war was wearing his forces down), but it’s also possible that he was crazy/stupid enough to think he could capture and hold some Saudi oilfields. But I doubt he was crazy/stupid enough to think he could take the whole shebang. Anyway, you can see from the Wiki link above how that worked out for him.

But are you asking about if SA forces could have fought off an Iraqi invasion without help from the Coalition? The answer to that is they probably could not completely defend all their territory without outside assistance - at least not without a very messy and very long and drawn out war. If they thought they could, they probably wouldn’t have requested assistance in defending themselves.

At the time Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world. Almost all decent Soviet export equipment and a lot of troops. Saudi Arabia had much better US made equipment but in much smaller numbers. SA would have been in trouble. I don’t think Iraq could have easily outright won the war but it would have been extremely costly.

Yes, most certainly.

No, they couldn’t have, at least not quickly (even assuming the US would just sit by and watch). They didn’t have the logistics for it. They were at their limit just taking Kuwait, which is a much smaller country.

Without help, I think Saudi Arabia would have been quickly squished*.

*technical military term, complicated to explain.

Well, the logistics would be the long pole in the tent, so to speak. But in my professional judgement, the Saudi military would have fought at most one sharp battle, followed by a political collapse of the Saud government. The various tribes would then have adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward the invaders. Iraq could have bought off these groups with promises. This done, it would just be a matter of finding enough diesel to drive to Jeddah and Riyadh.

Without looking it up, hasn’t the Saudi royal familiy been in and out of power since
the 1700s, and in power continuously since ~1920? I would think its resilience and
longevity would make it a good bet to be better than a one-campaign pushover, and
that it ought to have developed significant loyalty among the tribes of the country
in all those years.

Also, Hussein’s deserved repution for treachery, and his secularism might have made
it hard for him to buy any Saudis off, especially since they would have to be bought
off with what in effect had been their own money.

Well, that is the thing about “what ifs,” isn’t it?

It’s complicated (a phrase you hear a lot in discussions of the Middle East).

There is a lot of opposition to the Saudi regime. But the opposition is mostly fundamentalist Muslims who feel the Sauds are too secular. As you point out, these people were not going to welcome Saddam’s much more secularized regime with open arms.

Complicating things further is the fact that the Arabian fundamentalists are Sunni. Saddam and his regime were predominantly Sunnis but the majority of Iraqis are Shia. (This relationship would also preclude Saddam attempting to subvert Saudi Arabi’s Shia minority.)

So overall, I agree that Saddam couldn’t have counted on any Fifth Column support in Saudi Arabia. More likely, his invasion would have united the Saudi regime and the fundamentalists in opposition to him.

Why bother taking Jeddah and Riyadh? Just take the oil fields - without oil, the Saudis are no longer a factor.

On the other hand, once you overthrow the government, the oil fields fall into your hands. You need to attack the enemy’s ability to resist, not just places on a map.

True, but just because you overthrow a government, that doesn’t mean that everything automatically becomes yours - especially as said government is basically the only reason the country is a country. Without the Saudis there is no Saudi Arabia, just a bunch of tribes.

As we’ve learned, holding a country can be much harder than taking it. Sometimes its best to take the small part you need, and let the rest go to hell on its own.

This applies to the so-called “civilized” countries only, who more or less abide by rules of engagement. Saddam would just bombard any place that show resistance activities to ashes, no civilians = no place to hide for freedom fighters/resistance/insurgents/terrorists/whatever to hide.

There’s night vision footage of US soldiers watching Iraqi military vehicles cross the Saudi border. The US soldiers, armed to the teeth and raring for an engagement, can be heard jokingly saying, “Oh man, King Fahd’s gonna be pissed!”