When Saddam Hussain’s Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the Arab political order was united and well equipped to undo it. Seven months later, Kuwait was liberated.
Today, the Arab world is completely a different one, politically. We might have learned a few lessons from the invasion of Kuwait 30 years ago. But the Arab world seems to miss an important one — the importance of a viable political order in the region that can defend its countries’ sovereignty, the region’s stability and the interests of its people.
Unable to sustain Iraq’s economy following eight years of war with Iran, Saddam invaded Kuwait despite assurances to several Arab and world leaders that the political crisis with Kuwait over disputed oilfields in the border areas would not escalate to a military one.
The Kuwaiti leadership was able to leave the country, which allowed them to rally international support. However, the Arab decision to stand up to Saddam’s unprecedented aggression was instrumental in assembling a global military coalition that liberated Kuwait. Without the Arab resolve, especially of the Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia and key Arab states such as Egypt and Syria, it would have been difficult to get the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Iraqi army and authorising the liberation of Kuwait by force, if Saddam failed to withdraw.
Today, the region is on fire, again. Non-Arab regional actors, like Turkey, Iran and Israel, are wreaking havoc in the Middle East. We are close to losing Jerusalem and a massive chunk of the Palestinian occupied land. Iran has become an undisputed ruler in such Arab capitals as Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus. Turkey has invaded Libya and continues to send arms and mercenaries that not only fuel the raging conflict in that country but also pose a direct threat to Egyptian security.
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One can easily see stark similarities between the arrogance of Saddam on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait and today’s behaviour of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Netanyahu, and Iran’s leaders. The difference is that our regional political system is virtually impotent.
The Arabs today need, more than any time in their modern history, to put their house in order. After half a century of the end of colonial powers, we are faced with different and more dangerous ‘regional imperialism’ that plays on the old colonial principle — divide and conquer. No Arab country can do it alone. A united Arab political front is essential to stop the chaos.