The views expressed in FMSO publications and reports are those of the authors and
do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


by Professor Bernard Reich
and LTC Stephen H. Gotowicki, U.S. Army

This article was originally published in Royal United Services Institute and Brassey's Defense Yearbook, 1992, London: Brassey's (UK), 1992.

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 marked an important point in United States Middle East policy and in American thinking about the region. There was an abrupt shift of focus from the Arab-Israeli zone to the Persian Gulf-Arabian Peninsula sector that was unanticipated and resulted in a dramatic alteration in United States effort and involvement. 1 After the Gulf war cease fire, the Bush administration set in motion an effort to create a New World Order which constituted its policy reaction to the changed strategic circumstances of the world and the Middle East. Washington sought to implement a political strategy in search of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and a primarily military strategy to ensure security and stability in the Persian Gulf sector.

The Bush Administration took office in January 1989 with no apparent long-range strategic or even tactical plan for dealing with the Middle East and appeared not to have any particular goals or specific policies for the area. The end of the cold-war, the emergence of new democracies in Eastern Europe, and the military operations in Panama preoccupied the President and his administration as well as the Congress, and entranced the American public. These concerns overshadowed the Middle East and other international issues. These developments in the East-West relationship could be touted as policy successes for the administration, unlike the seemingly intractable, intricate, and highly complex problems of the Middle East that typically have shown little positive movement, although there were some minor successes (such as the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in February 1989). Nevertheless, within the context of the newly-structured international system which focused on the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and NATO/Western Europe, the Middle East diminished in priority and attention although the problems of the region remained.

The Bush administration focused initially on domestic concerns and did not move quickly in foreign policy, either in the Middle East or elsewhere.

The Gulf was not a matter of particular concern when Bush came to office. There were no immediate issues of concern or crises requiring response in the Gulf sector. Until the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Bush administration focused little high-level attention to the Persian Gulf sector of the Middle East, although a reassessment of policy to reflect changing developments in the region and the international system was underway (see page 4 below).

The policy and the policy process shifted abruptly in August 1990 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait which sought to eliminate an independent Kuwaiti identity and to incorporate Kuwait and its oil riches into Iraq as Province 19. The invasion and the broader crisis it spawned became the first post cold-war test of United States foreign policy. Unanticipated and unexpected, it forced a rapid decision-making process on the Bush administration. George Bush reacted quickly to the aggression against Kuwait and sought to portray the invasion as "a ruthless assault on the very essence of international order and civilized ideals. . . This is unacceptable" 2

A multifaceted policy was devised that included economic, political, diplomatic, and military elements. The basic goals of the policy were articulated by President Bush in an address to the nation on August 8, 1990: "First, we seek the immediate, unconditional, and complete withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Second, Kuwait's legitimate government must be restored to replace the puppet regime. Third, my administration ... is committed to the security and stability of the Persian Gulf. Fourth, I am determined to protect the lives of American citizens abroad." The United States mounted a strong diplomatic effort to isolate Iraq and to put further pressure on Saddam Hussein to comply with the international resolutions. Allied military, political, diplomatic and economic support was solicited and received. The United Nations, generally viewed as moribund in dealing with major international issues, proved to be a useful and even important element of United States policy. A series of United Nations Security Council resolutions condemned the Iraqi actions, called for their reversal, and established an internationally supported embargo of Iraq to help achieve those ends.

A large American military force, ultimately numbering more than 450,000 troops was deployed to the area, along with modern and sophisticated weapons. This force was joined by significant contingents from Great Britain and France as well as from Egypt and Syria which formed the core of an allied force which ultimately included more than thirty participating states deployed alongside American forces facing Saddam Hussein's large, well-equipped, capable military force. Deployment of forces to and cooperation with the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), reached levels never previously anticipated. The United States presence clearly prevented Iraqi efforts to extend its control to Saudi Arabia, an initial fear and concern of both the United States and Saudi Arabia. The early hope was that the combined international effort would achieve the stated objectives without the need to resort to force, but this proved to be an elusive goal. The military action began soon after the expiration of the January 15, 1991 deadline in United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 which authorized the use of force.

In Washington, the ultimate military outcome of a possible conflict with Iraq was never in doubt. The dominant question was the cost in terms of casualties. While Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a tactical surprise, it was not a strategic one. In early 1990, the Joint Staff's Defense Planning Guidance Document reportedly directed CENTCOM to shift its planning focus away from a Soviet threat to the Persian Gulf region to the threat from regional interstate conflicts. 3 CENTCOM had already prepared Operations Plan 1002-90, addressing the contingency of an attack on the oilfields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, before Iraq invaded Kuwait. This plan served as the blueprint for the rapid and massive deployment of US forces in response to the Iraqi aggression.

The five week allied air campaign against Iraq was decisive and unprecedented in the annals of modern combat, especially in that after the first few days it was relatively unopposed. The combination of stealth technology, precision guided munitions employed by US, British, and French aircraft, cruise missiles, and continuous heavy bombardment by American B-52s destroyed Iraq's air defenses, rendered its command and control network useless, and disrupted its logistic resupply efforts. The massive Iraqi Army was cut off and demoralized before the ground phase began.

On the eve of the ground campaign, the forward echelons of the Iraqi Army, deployed in the south of Kuwait along the Saudi border, generally were poorly trained reservists who had ceased being effective military units during the air campaign. The combat capability of the heavier Iraqi forces deployed behind these units, and the vaunted Republican Guard divisions was reduced by the degradation of Iraq's command and control network and the destruction rained upon them by the coalition air campaign. Once the ground campaign commenced, the coup de grace against the Iraqi Army was delivered.

In practically all categories of ground combat power, the allies were superior to Iraq. They possessed superior firepower with the American M1 Abrams and British Challenger tanks and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter; more accurate and lethal artillery which included the US Army's Multiple Launch Rocket System; high speed maneuver afforded by extensive use of helicopters; and the ability to effectively fight at night with extensive use of night vision electronics and thermal sights for weapons.

The end of hostilities inaugurated a period in which the salient issue was the shape of the Middle East as seen by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker as they tried to reconstruct the world based on the success against Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein had been vanquished and humiliated, thereby eliminating, at least in the short term, arguably the most significant Arab military threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Much of Iraq's massive offensive war machine was destroyed, albeit not totally eliminated, and its ability to wage war was significantly reduced. Iraq's non-conventional ( nuclear, biological, chemical) infrastructure was also damaged, and if there would be full implementation of the United Nations Security Council cease-fire resolution, it would be all but eliminated for the foreseeable future. 4

The aftermath of the Gulf crisis had clearly altered the Arab-Israeli, as well as the regional, military balance to Israel's advantage. No doubt the destruction of much of Iraq's military capability gave Israel something of a respite from its fear of war for some time to come. Arab military capabilities remain rather substantial, but without Iraq's participation, and given the new Arab order, the likelihood of a war is substantially reduced. Despite these alterations in the military balance, the ability of Saddam Hussein to survive and to reassert his authority in Baghdad remain a major concern to Israel and many of the Arab states and also is a worrisome factor in United States decision-making.

The strategic situation was also changed by the shattering of the concept (or myth) of Arab unity. The Arab world divided into two, mutually hostile, camps which was reflected in the division of the Arab League. Membership in these two groups was delimited by those states participating in the coalition against Iraq, nominally lead by Egypt, and those that did not. During the crisis, many of the previously pro-Western (and some of the less pro-Western) Arab regimes sought to expand their relationship with the United States (and the West more generally). Their previously allied-with-the-Soviet Union Arab counterparts seemed to face the dilemma of a doubtful future without Soviet sponsorship and no place to turn for the levels of support needed. Some, such as Syria, seemed to be shifting sides, at least on certain issues.

The war provided continuing "proof" of the United States' commitment to Israel and the proposition that the United States would protect Israel against Arab aggression threatening its destruction. If the United States was prepared to act this way for Kuwait, what might be possible given its more significant commitment to Israel? In the short term, both the PLO and the Palestinians suffered. Among its other negative accomplishments, the PLO clearly chose the "wrong" side -- at the cost of its Saudi and Kuwaiti financial aid and of its return to a more central role in the peace process. King Hussein alienated himself from many of the Arab states who participated in the anti-Iraq coalition (and lost their not inconsequential financial support in the process), but was embraced by the Palestinians and found renewed popularity and strength in Jordan because of his generally pro-Iraqi stand during the crisis.

The New World Order: Conceptual Framework

The general conception of the United States approach to the Middle East after the Gulf War was articulated by President Bush after the cease-fire, in an address to a joint session of Congress on March 6, 1991 in what was dubbed the "second half of the State of the Union address". Bush's perceptions were clear: "aggression is defeated. The war is over. This is a victory for every country in the coalition ... It is a victory for the rule of law and for what is right." He described the scope of the victory in these terms: "Tonight in Iraq, Saddam walks amidst ruin. His war machine is crushed. His ability to threaten mass destruction is itself destroyed." Clearly the scope of the military victory against Iraq was seen in Washington as overwhelming, but this type of conflict was expected to become the model for future regional conflict.

The Gulf war presaged very much the type of conflict we are most likely to confront again in this new era--major regional contingencies against foes well-armed with advanced conventional and unconventional weaponry. . . Iraq's forces were considerable, but not entirely unique: there are other regional powers with modern armed forces, sophisticated attack aircraft and integrated air defenses, anti-ship cruise missiles, and even modern diesel submarines. The problem will be exacerbated by post-Cold War phenomenons: transfers of Cold War surplus armaments, increasing economic pressures on international arms dealers, and growing indigenous technical capabilities in the Third World. 5

Having achieved an important and major military victory, the United States would now concentrate on the issues of reshaping the post-war Middle East. President Bush made this clear by saying, "Our commitment to peace in the Middle East does not end with the liberation of Kuwait." He identified four key challenges: (1) "create shared security arrangements" (although the regional states will bear the bulk of the responsibility the United States will work with them to secure the peace); (2) "control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missiles used to deliver them" (the idea was to avoid a new arms race and particularly to prevent Iraqi "access to the instruments of war"); (3) "create new opportunities for peace and stability in the Middle East." The goal was "to close the gap between Israel and the Arab states and between Israelis and Palestinians." "A comprehensive peace must be grounded in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of territory for peace". "The time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict;" and (4) "foster economic development for the sake of peace and progress." The idea was that these challenges if met would build a framework for peace and stability in the region. 6

With the end of hostilities, the Bush Administration began to implement its new policy. This policy took two directions: a diplomatic approach in the area of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a military-strategic orientation toward the Persian Gulf sector.

The Arab-Israeli Sector: Politics and Diplomacy

Although the Arab-Israeli peace process was moribund by the time Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the Arab-Israeli conflict became a tool in his efforts to split the United States-led coalition and to gain Arab world support. Saddam Hussein had some successes in achieving his objectives. Virtually from the outset of the Gulf crisis, Saddam Hussein sought to divert attention from his aggression by calling attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict as an abomination against the Arab Nation. He also cited the double standards employed by the US and UN in addressing aggression in the region, specifically as it related to the lack of an equivalent international response to Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Saddam Hussein clearly hoped to arouse the Arab masses, but also to embarrass the mainstream Arab leadership and, perhaps, to divide the coalition created to oppose his aggression against Kuwait.

The United States successfully opposed Saddam Hussein's attempts to create a linkage between the Gulf and the Arab-Israeli issues. It did this by avoiding giving credence to Hussein's argument that there was a parallel between Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the Israeli posture in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Although a direct linkage was avoided, a series of actions and efforts made increasingly clear that there would be a sustained post-crisis effort to deal anew with Arab-Israeli issues, even if there was no formal linkage between the two questions. This was increasingly obvious to Israeli decision-makers as the crisis developed in the fall and winter of 1990-1991. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on October 1, 1990 President Bush spoke of post-crisis opportunities that might develop to deal with other regional conflicts, including the Arab-Israeli one. United Nations Security Council Resolution 681 of December 20, 1991 seemed to clearly imply that an international conference focused on Arab-Israeli issues would be a logical and appropriate next step in the process. Although resolution 681 makes no explicit mention of a conference, its preamble references a statement made by the Security Council President on December 20, 1990, "that an international conference, at an appropriate time, properly structured, should facilitate" resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. 7

That the administration would make a major effort on the Arab-Israeli conflict after the war became immediately apparent when Secretary of State Baker, in testimony before Congress in early February 1991, outlined the Administration's conception of the New World Order and identified resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict as one of its cornerstones. 8 In a speech to a joint session of Congress on March 6, 1991, in which he proclaimed victory in the Gulf War, President Bush noted: ". . . we must work to create new opportunities for peace and stability in the Middle East. On the night I announced Operation Desert Storm, I expressed my hope that out of the horrors of war might come new momentum for peace . . . We must do all that we can to close the gap between Israel and the Arab states and between Israelis and Palestinians . . . A comprehensive peace must be grounded in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of territory for peace. This principle must be elaborated to provide for Israel's security and recognition, and at the same time for legitimate Palestinian political rights. Anything else would fail the twin tests of fairness and security. The time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeliconflict." 9 Bush also noted that "By now, it should be plain to all parties that peacemaking in the Middle East requires compromise." The latter observation was seen as one that foreshadowed American efforts to achieve resolution of the problem through compromises that might have to be achieved through American pressure on the parties, especially Israel.

The United States established a two-track diplomatic approach to the problem. On one track it sought to facilitate bilateral negotiations between the Arab states and Israel. The second track sought to encourage a meaningful dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians which would address Palestinian issues including their political aspirations. While US policy did not accept the concept of an independent Palestinian state, it envisioned, ultimately some measure of Palestinian autonomy. Washington's two track approach was grounded in the concept of land for peace as expressed in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and in its interpretation of the Camp David Accords.

Secretary Baker's visits to the Middle East in the spring of 1991 made it clear that there was little interest in compromise among the countries involved. Baker "went over differences in Arab and Israeli positions on a number of issues and made suggestions as to how to bridge the gaps in order to get a conference that would launch direct bilateral negotiations." 10 The issues in contention also included such matters as: where to convene a conference, whether in the region or elsewhere; what powers and authority it would have or would it be primarily ceremonial in nature; under whose auspices should it be conducted and whether the United Nations would have a major role; which Palestinians and other Arabs could and would attend; and what prior commitments were required by the participants. The options were varied. The areas of discord reflected both procedural and substantive points.

Among the matters of some concern, was the participation of states other than those bordering Israel. Israel and some observers believed that the time was appropriate to involve Saudi Arabia and perhaps Kuwait and others, given the outcome of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis. The Saudis clearly opted out of any initial conference meeting. The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, made clear that Saudi Arabia would not be involved in any initial phase of a regional Arab-Israeli peace conference. "Participation in the meeting traditionally has been the countries that are involved directly in the peace negotiations, which are Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel." 11 He went on to say "I think this is a practical format and we will continue to support the initiatives in this manner." Further American efforts seemed to bring the parties closer to agreement, but by the first anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait no accord had been reached.

A New Defense Strategy for the Middle East

On 2 August 1990, coincidentally the same day Iraq invaded Kuwait, President Bush publicly set forth a new defense strategy for the United States. 12 This new strategy responded to two emerging realities: the end of the cold-war and declining defense budgets. 13 On one level, this new strategy sought to gain the initiative and to control the down-sizing of US forces rather than allow Congressional efforts to secure a `peace dividend' to divert defense funding to other national programs. On another level, it provided a realistic appraisal of defense needs in a post cold-war era. The new strategy focused American attention from containment of Soviet expansionism to regional contingencies and the sustainment of the forward military presence necessary to deter and respond to the outbreak of regional wars. 14 The strategic concepts underlying this new strategy were deterrence, power projection, forward presence, reconstitution, collective security, maritime and aerospace superiority, security assistance, arms control, and technological superiority. 15 Many of these concepts could be applied in the Middle East region in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

At the conclusion of Desert Storm, US credibility and influence probably had reached its zenith in the Persian Gulf region. Many policy-makers in Washington believed that the success of the Arab and international coalition against Iraq would serve to favorably change the political dynamics in the Middle East. This change would then provide the United States with a unique opportunity to implement the elements of its political and military strategy for the region. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney noted that five major premises formed the basis of the post-crisis US defense strategy toward the Persian Gulf and the Middle East: the security structure in place prior to August 2, 1990 failed -- a new structure was needed to maintain the peace; local states in the region would need to take the lead in security issues; the major interests of the United States in the region required its continued close involvement; the United States would need increased presence and the capability, through pre-positioning of heavy equipment, to quickly return forces to the region should the need arise; and the long-term presence of US ground forces should be minimized. 16

As part of its post-war strategy, the United States sought to encourage a collective security arrangement in the Persian Gulf which would prevent conflicts and deter aggression. This vision of a regional collective security regime seemed to gain support from the `Damascus Declaration' that espoused seven general principles, the most important of which was an affirmation of the importance of joint Arab action to prevent the repetition of aggression such as occurred in Kuwait. 17 While the declaration recognized and established the basis for joint Arab cooperation, it did not explicitly establish a defensive plan. The `Damascus Declaration' was welcomed by the Bush administration -- Washington had hoped that the GCC with Egypt and Syria (GCC+2) would form the core of the regional security arrangement. The establishment of the United Nations Iraq Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) also was welcomed in Washington as it provided an international dimension to regional security in the Persian Gulf.

Historically, American efforts in the Persian Gulf region have been directed to maintaining the balance of power between the two dominant powers -- Iran and Iraq. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait clearly showed that these efforts were unsuccessful. With the destruction of much of Iran's military power in the final months of the Iran-Iraq war, and the destruction of Iraq's offensive capabilities in Desert Storm, the US found itself in a position to attempt to establish a new balance of power in the Gulf zone focused on the Arab Gulf states. The Administration emphasized three levels of participation --- local, regional, and international. From the onset of the Gulf crisis, Washington has been committed to withdrawing US ground forces from the region subsequent to the resolution of the crisis. In Washington's view, local and regional states were to retain the primary responsibility for maintaining security in the region. Secretary Baker told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "We would expect the states of the Gulf and regional organizations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to take the lead in building a reinforcing network of new and strengthened security ties." 18 As regional dangers increased, the local forces could be augmented by extra-regional forces under the auspices of an international coalition such as that created for Desert Storm. Implicit in this approach would be the need to rearm and restructure local forces sufficiently to provide credible defensive capabilities. This formula of local forces, armed and assisted by the United States, protecting mutual regional and American interests, is very reminiscent of the Nixon Doctrine.

Security assistance programs and arms sales also were an important facet of America's new defense strategy. On August 2, 1990, it became apparent that the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council were incapable of defending themselves or each other. In the regional balance of power, the members of the GCC had always been individually and collectively inferior to the two dominant powers in the Gulf --- Iraq and Iran. In the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Bush administration sought to use the opportunity to bolster US security assistance programs in an effort to address regional imbalances and proposed large security assistance programs which would concurrently address the GCC's immediate needs during the Gulf crisis, and hopefully establish a more favorable balance of power in the Gulf region in the longer term.

Even before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Bush administration had been successful in having two major sales of arms to Saudi Arabia accepted by Congress. The first was a $3 billion package consisting of 315 M1-A2 Abrams tanks, and the second a $4 billion package for M2 Bradley fighting vehicles, TOW anti-tank missiles and howitzers. 19 In the two previous years, the administration also had secured Congressional acceptance for the sale of 40 F/A-18 fighters to Kuwait in July of 1988. In the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war, Congress appeared more willing to acquiesce to the defensive needs of the Gulf states.

The President has made it clear that we are not interested in a permanent, long-term, large US ground presence in the Middle East. We don't think that would be helpful, that we want to work with our friends and allies, but we expect them to take the lead in terms of working with us to assess what their requirements are. 20

President Bush had repeatedly stated that the US had no intention of leaving a permanent force of ground soldiers in the Persian Gulf region. This principle led to the concept of "forward presence" in the new defensive strategy. General Powell stated that, "Forward presence can include, but is not limited to, stationed forces, rotational deployments, access and storage agreements, combined exercises, security and humanitarian assistance, port visits and military-to-military relations." 21 This concept was consistent with the stated responsibilities of local states for their own security, and America's interests and continued involvement in the region.

In the aftermath of the war with Iraq, the United States hopes to conduct periodic, large-scale combined air, ground, and naval exercises with the Arab Gulf states as well as Egypt as a means to maintain its forward presence. These could include major Marine amphibious landing exercises similar to those conducted during the buildup prior to the war with Iraq, significant ground combat exercises involving American forces operating jointly with Arab militaries, and rotating deployments of fighter aircraft squadrons to nations throughout the Arabian Peninsula. 22 As an element of forward presence, these exercises will serve multiple purposes. They will encourage increased co-operation and interoperability with the regional states as well as increase the proficiency of local forces. They should also facilitate American access to the region in a crisis and would allow American forces to train on the unique terrain in the region while demonstrating US resolve and commitment to the defense of the area.

In order to facilitate the speed of returning US combat forces to the region if necessary, Washington desired pre-positioning a heavy Army division, several tactical fighter squadrons, and marine equipment in Saudi Arabia. These would be in addition to those military stocks already maintained afloat and elsewhere. CENTCOM also hoped to establish a permanent forward headquarters element in the region. This element would serve to encourage joint contingency planning and interoperability with the regional Arab states as well as provide liaison to support US forces operating in the area.

The only US combat power which would be left in the region permanently will be the naval vessels of the Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR). Historically, this force has consisted of a flag ship and four surface combatants, except during operation EARNEST WILL 23 when it grew to as many as 40 vessels and DESERT SHIELD/STORM when as many as 120 US naval vessels operated in the waters of the region. After the cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq war, the US began to reduce the size of this force. In the aftermath of the war with Iraq, the size of the MIDEASTFOR will probably increase and increased patrolling by a battle group in the Arabian sea probably also can be expected.

The time has come to try to change the destructive pattern of military competition and proliferation in this region and to reduce arms flows into an area that is already very over-militarized. 24

As part of its strategy to reduce the sources of instability in the region, the Bush administration has strongly embraced the concept of an arms control regime which would remove the existing weapons of mass destruction and prevent the further proliferation of these weapons. President Bush has proposed a ban on the sale of ballistic missiles to the region with ranges over 90 miles as well as a ban on the construction of nuclear weapons research and processing facilities. 25

Implementing the Strategies

The US strategy for an Arab-Israeli peace in the Middle East moved slowly as American diplomacy could not overcome the basic positions of the parties, despite expending a great deal of diplomatic effort, which included numerous visits to the regional capitals by Secretary Baker.

By the first anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, many of the aspects of US military strategy in the region had not developed as Washington had envisioned. There were concerns about its vision of a regional collective security regime, Congressional opposition to its security assistance programs and the scope of arms control in the region, and there were difficulties and delays in the arrangements for pre-positioning equipment in the region. 26

The Bush administration's vision of the regional security structure has not been realized. Saudi-Egyptian cooperation was initially envisioned as a possible cornerstone of regional security efforts, but in early May 1991 Egypt announced the withdrawal of its military forces from Kuwait. 27 The calls to transform the GCC from a security alliance emphasizing substance, which were frequently heard during the crisis, disappeared. The essence of the GCC quickly returned to other areas of concern. Without a direct and overwhelming military threat from Iraq, the urgency to reform the GCC diminished.

The massive arms sales proposed by the Bush administration during the crisis, also faced an uncertain future. On August 29, 1990, the Bush Administration approved a $2.3 billionemergency arms package for Saudi Arabia that included 24 F-15 fighter aircraft, 150 M60A3 tanks and 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. 28 Utilizing a presidential waiver permitted in times of emergency, the Bush administration proceeded with the sale without formal Congressional consideration. Subsequent to this emergency sale, the Bush administration was reported to be considering a $21 billion arms package for Saudi Arabia which included 24 additional F-15 fighters, 385 M-1 Abrams tanks, 400 Bradley fighting vehicles, 12 Apache attack helicopters, between 20 and 28 Patriot air defense missile systems, TOW II anti-tank missiles, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and thousands of tactical vehicles. Congress quickly indicated that it was uncomfortable and unwilling to approve a sale of this magnitude without an extensive review of Saudi Arabia's long range defensive needs. Representative David R. Obey (D-Wis) called the package ``wildly large. . .grossly oversized.'' 29 Facing mounting Congressional opposition the administration notified Congress of a proposed sale worth $7.3 billion that included 150 M-1 Abrams tanks, 200 Bradley fighting vehicles, 10,000 tactical wheeled vehicles, nine MLRS, and seven Patriot air defense units. 30 The additional F-15s were not included, and the sale cleared Congress in late October 1990. The remainder of the original list, worth perhaps $14 billion, was never submitted for Congressional consideration.

In postponing Congressional consideration of further major arms sales, the administration recognized that if realistic defense strategies for the Gulf and other regional states could not be convincingly presented to the Congress, future arms sales to the region would be in jeopardy. The Pentagon constituted a joint Saudi-US security study team to determine the security needs of the Kingdom over the next five to ten years, including identification of potential threats. 31 The study was begun in Riyadh late in April 1991 and was expected to be completed by the end of the summer of 1991. In the opinion of the authors, one of the primary purposes for forming this security review, was to find convincing justifications for Congressional acceptance of the additional $14 billion worth of arms sales. With the destruction of most of Iraq's offensive combat power, finding sufficient justification for such a large arms package could be a difficult undertaking.

In the final analysis, as a result of DESERT STORM, at least for the short-term, military threats to the Persian Gulf region are greatly reduced. This lowered threat environment in the Gulf region will not have been missed by Congress. Congressional acceptance of future arms sales to the region, especially of the magnitudes requested by the Bush administration, are questionable. In any case, massive arms sales to the Gulf states may have little positive impact on security in the region. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait highlighted the fact that despite their riches, the Gulf states have never been able to buy security. Even with large arms purchases, the countries of the GCC face major problems in absorbing and utilizing effectively modern military arms. Despite their proclaimed intentions to greatly increase the size of their armed forces, their low population bases probably will preclude them from doing so. On the negative side, large infusions of arms on the Arab side of the Gulf may initiate a drive to rearm on the Persian side of the Gulf as well.

Throughout the Bush administration, there was a strong consensus on the need for regional arms control of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation. It is on the question of conventional arms control that major disagreements are emerging. Both the Administration and Congress proposed major controls on conventional weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction. Some members of Congress have called for a moratorium on US arms sales to the region. As one State Department Official stated, "A new world order requires a new world arms control policy." 32 At the same time, the Administration is committed to providing the Gulf Arab states as well as Egypt the means to defend themselves. The Administration contends that the issue is controlling levels of conventional arms that exceed legitimate defensive needs not of embargoing all conventional arms. The Pentagon argues that continued arms sales to regional allies are necessary to provide a minimal level of defensive capability as deterrents against aggression and as `leverage' to promote US interests in the region. 33

We simply can't fall into the trap of . . . [saying] that arms control means we don't provide any arms to the Middle East. 34

The concept of arms control is not a new policy approach in the Middle East, having first been suggested in the late 1940s. Various efforts have been discussed over the decades but few limitations have proven successful for more than a short period of time. Nevertheless, in keeping with the Bush-Baker conceptions of a New World Order applied to the Middle East, President Bush, on May 29, 1991, announced a series of proposals intended to curb the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the Middle East, as well as the missiles that can deliver them. The Bush proposal also sought to restrain destabilizing conventional arms buildups in the region. The proposal sought cooperation from both the providers and the purchasers of weaponry. The focus would begin with the suppliers -- especially the big five arms sellers (the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France) that together account for more than 80% of the arms sold to the Middle East. They met in Paris in July 1991 and "pledged to observe 'rules of restraint' when transferring conventional arms to their allies in the region" and maintain "stringent national and, as far as possible, harmonized controls" on transfers of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or technology that could be used to develop them. 35 As in the past, the problem was complex with buyers and sellers having strong motivations to concur in the idea in principle and to undercut it in practice. For the purchasers, the realities of the Gulf war and the lack of a seemingly viable peace process, either in the Gulf or in the Arab-Israeli sector, suggested the need for additional weapons and Desert Storm provided the field test of the weapons they needed and desired. For the suppliers there is the very lucrative aspect of the arms sales to the region which they are reluctant to lose as well as the political influence that arms sales engender.


American disappointment in these setbacks, in part, may be attributed to the Bush Administration's optimistic predictions of a change in the political environment of the region as a result of the Gulf crisis. Reflecting the views of many observers, and of the Bush administration, a New York Times editorial on April 25, 1991 suggested "The opportunity is extraordinary . . . The Persian Gulf war has dramatically transformed strategic and political thinking across the Middle East." This perspective provided much of the impetus for optimistic evaluations of the regional situation and the prospects for peace and undergirded United States policy.

In reality, the Gulf crisis has done little to change the entrenched views and political dynamics of the Middle East. Despite the levels of cooperation achieved in Arab efforts to oppose Saddam Hussein and Iraq, major ideological differences continue to exist among the Arab regimes. The polarization of the Arab League during the crisis is but one of the indicators of these ideological differences. Even though Washington appeared to believe otherwise, not all of the Arab participants in the coalition against Iraq entered the coalition out of a sense of moral indignation or visions of a new Arab consensus. In the coalition against Iraq, Arab interests conveniently converged in joint action, but these evaporated soon after the war.

In the Arab-Israeli arena, Arab enmity toward Israel continues. Official Washington's belief that this would have changed because both the Gulf states and Israel shared a common threat from Iraq and its missiles has proven to be wishful thinking. Similarly, its apparent belief that America's commitment to the defense of the Gulf Arab states, would somehow cause the Arab states to overlook America's long standing commitment to Israel, also proved inaccurate. In the final analysis, much (especially in terms of the prospects for peace) has remained the same, or has been altered in a negative manner. 36

As had Saddam Hussein at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, perhaps the United States, too, had expected more gratitude from the Gulf regimes for having saved them from Iraq than was realistic to expect. The states of the Arab world have not rushed to implement America's views of a New World Order in the Middle East. The Arab regimes in the Gulf appear only a little less uncomfortable with the prospects of close relations with the US than they were before the Gulf crisis. Some remain suspicious of American motivations and interests. Some of the senior princes in the Gulf monarchies have long believed that US actions in the Gulf were as much (or more) in America's interests as their own. Some may be concerned with a popular Arab reaction against the United States.

In the final analysis, Saudi Arabia is the key to US defense strategies in the Gulf region. With the successful resolution of the Gulf crisis, and the destruction of most of Iraq's military power, it is likely that the Saudis have recognized that there are no major military threats facing them or the other GCC states for the foreseeable future. The credibility of the US as the ultimate guarantor of the security of the Gulf states has been enhanced and the assurance of a US military response to future aggression in the region has established an effective deterrent in the region. Characteristically, Riyadh was generally quiet while Washington was discussing its visions of the post-crisis Gulf region and it was assumed that the Saudis agreed with these visions. Facing major cash flow problems, a horizon free from threat, and historical timidity in foreign relations, the Saudis may have decided to follow a course that would cost them the least and allowed them to rely on American security guarantees rather than guarantees from other Arab states.


1.See Bernard Reich and Stephen H. Gotowicki, "The United States and the Persian Gulf in the Bush Administration," RUSI and BRASSEY'S Defence Yearbook 1991, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, London, 1991, pp. 249-266.BACK

2. Address by President Bush to the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, August 20, 1990, United States Department of State, "America's Stand Against Aggression," Current Policy, No. 1294, August 1990, Page 1.BACK

3. The Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) is a classified publication which provides strategic planning guidance to the military services and the Joint Staff.See Patrick E. Tyler, "U.S. Finds Persian Gulf Threat Ebbs," The Washington Post, February 7, 1990, page A 1.; Michael R. Gordon, "Discount Soviet Peril to Iran, Cheney Tells His Strategists," New York Times February 7, 1990; and Patrick E. Tyler, "New Pentagon 'Guidance' Cites Soviet Threat in Third World," The Washington Post February 13, 1990, page A 1.BACK

4. Clearly full implementation of the Security Council resolution remained a concern. Iraqi responses to the various United Nations resolutions and to the inspection and reporting missions that focused on its non-conventional warfare capability in June and July 1991 raised additional concerns about the future of the region.BACK

5. Statement of the Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, March 19, 1991.BACK

6. Earlier, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 6, 1991, Secretary of State Baker outlined essentially similar challenges that should be addressed in constructing the New World Order. He observed that there is the need for "new and different security arrangements" to deter aggression and to prevent conflicts. Regional arms (both conventional and weapons of mass destruction) control must help "to reduce arms flow into an area that is already very over-militarized." Economic reconstruction and recovery must occur. A just peace and real reconciliation must be achieved for Israel, the Arab states, and Palestinians. There also was the idea of reducing United States dependence on imported energy resources.BACK

7. The text of United Nations Security Council Resolution 681 and the statement by the President of the Security Council on December 20, 1990 are in New York Times, December 21, 1990.BACK

8. In a statement delivered to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 6, 1991, Baker noted that there would be important challenges facing United States policy in the Middle East and one of these would be "to resume the search for a just peace and real reconciliation for Israel, the Arab states, and Palestinians." -- Secretary of State James A. Baker, "Opportunities to Build a New World Order," US Department of State Dispatch, February 11, 1991, page 81.BACK

9. The full text of the speech is in New York Times, March 7, 1991.BACK

10. Department spokesperson Tutweiler as quoted in New York Times, April 20, 1991.BACK

11. Quoted in New York Times, April 22, 1991.BACK

12. See President Bush's Aspen Address, 2 Aug 1990. cited in "In Defense of Defense," Defense Issues, Vol. 5, No. 31.BACK

13. See "Emerging Realities, Enduring Realities", Prepared statement of Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the House Armed Services Committee, Feb. 7, 1991 in Defense Issues, Vol. 6 No. 5, Page 2.BACK

14. See "Conflicting Trends and Long-Term Defense Needs", Prepared statement by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb. 21, 1991, in Defense Issues, Vol. 6 No. 6, Page 7.BACK

15. Gen. Colin L. Powell, "Emerging Realities, EnduringRealities," pp 3-4. BACK

16. Dick Cheney, "Conflicting Trends and Long-Term Defense Needs," Page 4.BACK

17. "Council of Ministers Considers Damascus Summit, Baker Talks," Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Middle East report, Mar 11, 1991.BACK

18. Secretary of State James A. Baker, "Opportunities to Build a New World Order," Page 83.BACK

19. See "Building Up the Armed Forces", (Special Supplement on Saudi Arabia) Middle East Economic Digest, 23 Nov 90, Page XV; Richard A. Clarke, "U.S. Sale of Abram Tanks to Saudi Arabia," Current Policy No. 1235, United States Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., December 1989; "Fact Sheet: Proposed Sale of the M1A2 Tank to Saudi Arabia," October 1989; "Background Information: Sale of the Abrams Tank to Saudi Arabia," 12 October 1989. Written and published jointly by the Department of State and the Department of Defense.BACK

20. `Aggressors Will Think Twice Now', Address by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to the Executive Council of the Petroleum Intelligence Group, Washington, D.C. March 5, 1991, in Defense Issues, Vol. 6. No.11, Page 3.BACK

21. Gen. Colin L. Powell, "Emerging Realities, Enduring Realities", Page 3.BACK

22. see Molly Moore, "Cheney Urges Arab-U.S. Defense Links: Arms Positioning, Exercises Sought," The Washington Post, May 7, 1991, page a25.BACK

23. Earnest Will was the operational name given to the American protection of re-flagged of Kuwaiti oil tankers in 1986-1987.BACK

24. Secretary of State James A. Baker, "Opportunities to Build a New World Order," Page 83.BACK

25. See Ann Devroy, "President to Propose Mideast Arms Limits; Partial Ban on Ballistic Missiles Included," The Washington Post, April 27, 1991, Page a14BACK

26. See Molly Moore, "Cheney Points to 'Progress' On Gulf Trip; Negotiations Likely to Take Months," Page a28; and "Cheney Finds Gulf Security Pacts Elusive," The Washington Post, May 12, 1991, Page a25.BACK

27. See Peter F. Sisler, "All-Arab Defense of Gulf Unravels," Washington Times, May 9, 1991, Page 1. and Molly Moore, "Cheney Finds Gulf Security Pacts Elusive," Page a25.BACK

28. See "Building Up the Armed Forces", Page XV; R. Jeffrey Smith, "Saudi Arms Proposal Raises Questions on the Hill; Many Items Not Immediately Available," The Washington Post, September 28, 1990, Page a21; and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Despite Misgivings, Congress Permits Persian Gulf Arms Sale," The Washington Post, October 29, 1990, Page a19.BACK

29. See R. Jeffrey Smith and Keith Kendrick, "Saudi Arms Sales May be Cut; Hill's Concerns Force Bush Aides to Revise Hugh Package," The Washington Post, Sept 20, 1990, Page A1BACK

30. See R. Jeffery Smith, "Despite Misgivings, Congress Permits Persian Gulf Arms Sale," Page a19BACK

31. See David B. Ottaway, "U.S., Saudis to Study Long-Term Defense Needs of Gulf Region," The Washington Post, April 21, 1991, Page a26 and "DOD to Brief Saudis on Arms Needs Next Month," Defense Daily, June 10, 1991, Page 395.BACK

32. See Ann Devroy, "President to Propose Mideast Arms Limits; Partial Ban on Ballistic Missiles Included," Page a14.BACK

33. Ibid.BACK

34. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, quoted from "U.S. to Extend Arms Supplies to Middle East: Cutoff 'Unwise' Cheney Declares," The Washington Post, June 5, 1991, Page 28.BACK

35. Alan Riding, "Big 5 Pledge for Mideast: Ban Devastating Arms," New York Times, July 10, 1991, Page 9.BACK

36. The perspective of Prime Minister Shamir and Yosef Ben Aharon, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, on the peace process and the relationship with the United States after the Gulf war is succinctly outlined in Yosef Ben-Aharon, "Why not just sit and talk to us?," The Jerusalem Post International Edition, week ending June 29, 1991, page 8 and the interview of Shamir by Dan Shilon in the Leshabat supplement of Yediot Aharonot, June 28, 1991, pages 1 and 2.BACK