Would Saddam Hussein have invaded Saudi Arabia?

As I recall the history of the Gulf War, the initial reason given for moving U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia* was to defend SA from Iraqi aggression – “Operation Desert Shield” – the assumption being that Hussein wanted to be the Sheikh of Araby, he wanted to conquer/unify a pan-Arab empire, and once he had Kuwait, SA was next in line. (In the Iran-Iraq war, Hussein’s claimed casus belli was liberating the Arabs of Iranian Khuzestan from Persian rule. And pan-Arabism was expressly at the core of his Ba’athist ideology . . . which means in theory the Syrians could not even have objected if he invaded them, as they’re Ba’athists too . . .) Was this fear well-founded? If the U.S. and allies had not interfered, would Hussein actually have tried to conquer SA?

*Solve one problem, cause another . . .

When? After the first gulf war, he was a joke. his army and economy were devastated. We asked Turkey to get involved in the Iraq war and they said he was a paper tiger. He was not a threat. he served a purpose. Kicking him out created a power vacuum.

Pardon me, I meant, if the Gulf War had not happened as it did in our timeline. If Hussein had annexed Kuwait, and the U.S. and allies had not intervened, would he then, immediately or eventually, have moved on Saudi Arabia?

Had he annexed Kuwait without opposition? Sure, I can picture him moving (or at least threatening to move as a means of gaining concessions) on Saudi Arabia within, say, ten years.

And had Uday have taken power by now, I’d be sufficiently confident in his irrationality to admit the likelihood of a Saudi invasion or Iran/Iraq II.

Eventually? Sure. No doubt that was his goal. But logistically Kuwait was as much as he could do at the time.


Probably not, no.

His goal in invading Kuwait was relieving the pressure of Iraq’s enormous war debt and, therefore, the pressure on his grip on power. Had the world allowed his to keep Kuwait, he would have entirely accomplished his goal.

The invasion of Kuwait was carried out based on the flawed assumption that he West wouldn’t intervene to stop him; it was a bad call, but a call it was. Even if the West hadn’t stopped him at Kuwait, there’s NO chance they wouldn’t have stopped him at Saudi Arabia and no chance Hussein would have thought otherwise.

He believed invading Kuwait was a good bet to get the debt relief and cash flow Iraq needed. He wouldn’t have thought the same of Saudi Arabia.

I can picture him treating Saudi Arabia the way North Korea treats South Korea - rattle some sabres now and then, a minor skirmish every few years, and generally try to get world attention when he feels lonely or forgotten. Repeat until bankrupt or deposed.

He probably wouldn’t have, there was some justification for his anger with Kuwait, and some historical aguments for annexing it, but in reality he wanted more money which Kuwait would’ve provided quite nicely.

Iraq would’ve gotten money, a wide open port and it would’ve come at the expense of a small country. Small countries usually don’t get much in the way of help, unless of course they’re full of oil :slight_smile:

Taking over Saudi Arabia woud’ve been do-able for him but keeping it would be another matter. Iraq had just gotten out of a long war with Iran and the Saudis would’ve been overrun but still fighting on.

The real issue was not whether he would have but whether he could’ve have. The price of oil can make or break an economy. Just the FEAR of a Saudi takeover could have driven up oil prices, even if no such action ever took place.

The Saudis have first rate weaponry and the newest jets. they have used their money to train pilots . they are ready for any middle east country that tries anything. Plus they have lots of oil. It would not take long for the US to intervene.

I hate to play the Godwin card here, but a lot of the same things were thought about Hitler and the Germans. They will probably be content with the Rhinelands. No, but maybe the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. Well, no…but surely Czechoslovakia will be enough? Ok, Poland but that’s really it…

The thing is, Iraq acquiring Kuwait would have given Saddam and the Ba’athists access to even more resources and put them in an even better position to expand…and I think it’s pretty clear that Saddam et al WERE expressionistic. Saudi would have been a next logical step, since obviously Iran wasn’t having any of it. In Saudi, Saddam and the Ba’athist would have found a better base…much better than Iran, had he been able to do it, since in Iran he’d have had the problem of even more Shi’ia to suppress.

You might say ‘well, that’s highly unrealistic…of COURSE the US and the rest of the western world would have risen up to prevent Saddam from taking Saudi’, and I’d agree…that’s perfectly logical. But then, if it was the mid-30’s I’d have said the same thing about Nazi Germany…no way they were going to take on the other Western European countries when they were hugely outnumbered, outgunned, out produced and out everything else. It would be suicide. And in Saddam’s case it would have been even more of a suicide course, since he wasn’t even in the same universe as the US military, let alone the Europeans or even the combined other ME and Arab powers. However, Saddam might have thought he had a chance, if he timed it right…or if he simply miscalculated. It would have been cold comfort if he was wrong in the end.


I pretty much agree with what XT wrote. Saddam probably had no plans on invading Saudi Arabia in 1991 but it was almost certainly high on his “to do” list.

Rationally it might not have made sense but Saddam was not always a rational man. He might have decided he could get away with it - that the west would protest loudly but not intervene militarily (especially if that had happened with Kuwait). Or he might have convinced himself that he could defy the west - that he was strong enough locally to defeat any invading army.

What xtisme said +1. It would not have been immediate, but Saddam had his eye on further expansion - especially if he had been allowed to get away with grabbing Kuwait.

With the oil wealth of Kuwait, and the intimidation factor of showing that he was ready to invade and use WMDs against neighboring nations, he was in a similar position to Herr Schickelgruber. He probably wouldn’t have invaded right away - first demand concessions and payments to build up his army. Sanctions against him for invading Kuwait would have done nothing - the French and Russians would have helped him get around or ignore those just like they helped him loot the oil-for-food program after the war. Then, Saddam moves in “to protect Mecca and Medina from the infidel”. Then continue the program to get nuclear arms, and form a coalition to move against Israel.

I think Bush literally prevented WWIII. I didn’t have much use for him overall, but he well heeded Thatcher’s advice not to go all wobbly. Good for him.

And fuck John Kerry and every other weak-kneed coward who voted against the first Gulf war.


I’m curious as to how the rest of the Muslim world would have reacted to Iraq taking over Mecca and Medina. Not well, is my guess.

But the point is moot; even if the US had let Kuwait slide (and let’s not forget Bush’s waffling gave Saddam the impression that they would), Saudi Arabia is too important a US ally to let fall into the hands of the Husseins. In the 1930s there were no military superpowers of a level of magnitude above the Nazis. In the 1990s the US could (and indeed did) kick the Iraqis all over the map. Iraq also would not have wanted to overextend itself militarily in Saudi with Iran still a recent threat from the other side. Unless there is any reason to think that holding Kuwait would have been a fast track to nuclear weapons (and there’s no reason to think so) I doubt it would have gone much further.

And fuck the Kuwaitis for sitting before the US Congress and selling a tissue of lies about Iraqi atrocities. The US had valid strategic reasons for defending Kuwait but that doesn’t mean I appreciate being treated like a sucker for a sob story.

I’m not sure the rest of the Muslim world is so enamored with the House of Saud that seeing them getting kicked out would be that big a deal, except to the House itself. Sure, there’d be some ruffling and posturing, but if Saddam actually made the Haj easier by building more roads to these cities and adding amenities, I wouldn’t be surprised to see outrage subside quickly.

And if the Saudis use violence to try to retake Mecca and Medina and pilgrims get killed, they’ll be blamed for stirring up trouble.

This isn’t really Godwinization, it’s a valid question.

The reason it’s wrong is not the tired Godwin thing, but that it’s just not consistent with the known facts. Yes, people didn’t see Hitler coming, but knowing what we know now (and what, in fairness, a lot of people did see at the tinme) Hitler’s entire thing was continual warfare. One of the centerpeices of Nazi ideology is endless violent struggle.

That’s not the case with Saddam Hussein. Hussein’s purpose in life was to be the dictator of Iraq, and the things he did centred around keeping that position in a place and situation where his grip on power was endlessly threatened by would be usurpers. “Ba’athism” isn’t really much of an ideology at all. So there wasn’t any ideology driving Iraq to invade its neighbours, and no strategic reason to invade Saudi Arabia at all in apposition to an enemy major power’s strategic interests.

You can point to Hitler; I can point to 100 nations who’ve invaded another and not continued on to the next country over.

I was thinking less the ousting of the House of Saud and more the military takeover of the two cities in general. Plus, if the US let them get that far there would be suspicion that the US was secretly pulling Saddam’s strings (again).

He attacked Kuwait and Iran, whatever his ideology. And he did have a strategic reason to attack Saudi Arabia - the same reason he had to invade Kuwait. He needed money to pay his war debts.

He attacked Iran in part because he was afraid of the Iranian revolution’s effect on his own Shi’ites. He attacked Kuwait because he wanted their oil. I’m sure he could come up with a reason to attack anyone he wanted.


And yet it was the ease with which Germany was able to acquire those early territories that accelerated Hitlers desire to grab more, and his confidence in doing so.

The Ba’athist party certainy did have a central ideology. They were Arab nationalists who’s central idea was freedom from Western influence or domination, but with an underlying theme of a united Arab superstate (under the dominance of the Sunni, of course). The main difference between Saddam and the Ba’athists and an organization like AQ hinges on religion, not goals. The Ba’athists are Arab Socialists (i.e. ‘secular’ Arabs who still have many of the trappings of Islam but without the same level of fundamentalist belief and structure).

Based on the fact that Saddam attempted to invade Iran and did in fact invade Kuwait, I’m not seeing any reason for him to refrain from invading Saudi Arabia, assuming he could convince himself he could get away with it. It’s a natural progression for the man, IMHO, and assuming he got Kuwait without the western powers or other regional powers attempting to stop him except by words, I’d say his confidence levels would be pretty high. He would also have the combined resources of Kuwait AND Iraq to play with.

Personally, I don’t think there was any way that Iraq was going to be allowed to keep Kuwait without a fight with the West and with the regional powers getting involved (which should tell you something right there about how much of a threat THEY saw in Iraq, and how expressionistic they believed Iraq could and would be). It just wasn’t in the cards. However, if it HAD happened and the West just sent some letters of protest and strongly worded diplomatic messages saying how disappointed we were, and had the other regional powers done similar things and left it at that, then yeah…I’d say that it would only have been a matter of time before Iraq tried it’s luck with Saudi Arabia in one way or another.

Can you? I can’t really think of many who foot the bill given similar parameters. In fact, I’d say that in general it’s more likely for such a country, with such a relatively large and powerful army (no Gulf War I to cut it back), with such resources, with such a party in charge (Arab Nationalists) and a dictator at it’s helm (a former military man and an extremely ruthless one at that) who has been basically allowed to annex another country possessing even more wealth and resources to just stop their expansion. Heck, I’m having trouble thinking of many examples of nations, once they start expansion, just being content to stop all on their own. All the examples I can think of where that happens it happens because of external threats that basically force them to stop…and even then, I can think of more examples than Germany of dictators or whatever deciding to throw the dice anyway and see what would happen.


I’d say the Saudis themselves were sufficiently worried that Saddam would eventually target them. They footed half the bill for the Persian Gulf War.

Exactly. And his other neighbors were sufficiently alarmed as well to join in, even if it meant being on the same side as the US.