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Old 03-15-2010, 02:45 AM
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Default Ch 2, War in the Persian Gulf, Pt 1


Ch 2, War in the Persian Gulf, Pt 1


The period immediately after the Black Winter (’89-’90) was one of the most tense in Cold War history. The US President, George Bush, was deeply angered and frustrated by the turn of events in Eastern Europe. Though he was enough of a realist to know that he could not have done much to aid the Eastern Europeans without going to war with the Soviets, it was nevertheless bitterly disappointing to see the Iron Curtain so close to and yet so far from coming down.

Public opinion throughout the West was explosive. One poll in the US found that a majority of Americans were willing to go to war.* The Western press was filled with anti-Soviet vitriol, and vocal leaders in the legislatures of the NATO signatories soundly denounced the Danilov regime. The US Congress drafted and passed a measure to block all shipments of grain and other US products to the USSR. US leaders pressured other Western and Third World nations to follow suit.

[* It is noteworthy, however, that this poll stood out among other similar polls in making no mention of the prospect of nuclear war. Other polls showed that a majority of Americans still believed an outright confrontation with the USSR would lead to a nuclear exchange. Polls which included the nuclear issue showed a much smaller of the United States willing to risk nuclear war to liberate Eastern Europe.]

Behind the scenes, however, the Danilov regime was working to repair the damage to its relations with the West. Even as Soviet intelligence and security forces were locking down Eastern Europe, Soviet representatives were soliciting the United States and other Western nations for loans, credits, grain, and other products. Though the Eastern Europeans were handled brutally, Westerners caught up in events throughout the region were treated with great care by the Soviets.

Though his first act as leader of the Soviet Union to direct a brutal counter-revolution in Eastern Europe, Danilov was in fact a reformer. He understood why Gorbachev had made changes in the Soviet system. Danilov grasped the single overriding fact of Soviet existence at the beginning of the 1990’s: the Soviet Union could survive no longer as it had been operating for more than twenty years. The military budget had imposed a crushing burden on an economy that was much less productive than that of the United States. The pervasive presence of internal security was consuming nation resources at a rate that was small only when compared to the gargantuan military budget. Centralized planning, combined with the essential deceit of the Soviet system, had resulted in a national production situation that produced nothing so much as waste. State-run agriculture was a disaster. The Soviet Union possessed some of the most potentially productive agricultural land in the world, and yet the USSR imported massive quantities of food from the West. Even then, millions of Soviets existed at the brink of starvation.

Unlike many of his cronies in the new Kremlin cabal, Danilov understood clearly that the Soviet Union would implode without significant change. His problem was convincing the hard-liners who had overthrown and killed Gorbachev that some measure of reform was required. Danilov needed to convince his co-conspirators that their best option for holding onto power was to give up some of the immense power of the Party state before the state collapsed under its own weight.

Danilov’s initial efforts to restore the Gorbachev-era essence to Soviet-Western relations were soundly rebuffed. Bush and British Prime Minister John Major were under enormous pressure from the respective legislatures to find some means of injuring the Soviets. The West German Chancellor didn’t even want to meet with Soviet representatives. The brutality of the Soviet Communists towards other Communist peoples in the Eastern European satellites caused the large socialist segments of the French and Italian political structures to unite with the generally anti-Soviet conservatives of those countries. The smaller members of NATO had neither the resources to supply Soviet needs nor the inclination to buck the leadership of their larger partners.

In May 1990, Danilov sweetened his offers to the United States. He was willing to pay for grain, machinery, loans, and technology with oil. The Soviet Union possessed stupendous petroleum reserves, as well as a massive production capacity. Danilov silenced protests within his own government by pointing out that he was maneuvering the Soviet Union into a position of advantage. If the US (or other Western states) took the oil deal, the USSR would be edging out other vendors of oil. This could only hurt the oil-producing countries that were aligned with the West, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Venezuela. Moreover, the US would be further discouraged from military adventures with the USSR by the necessity of keeping the oil supply line open. If initial deals proved satisfactory, the volume of trade could increase. American dependence on Soviet oil would grow as a result.

Though sorely tempted, the Bush White House refused the deal. The conservatives understood the risks of becoming in any way dependent on Soviet oil. The grain embargo was hurting the Midwest farmers, but the general mood in Congress remained stridently anti-Soviet. The UK and other NATO states refused to deal with the Soviets for the same reasons.

Without outside intervention, this impasse might have kept Soviet-Western relations in a deep freeze for years to come. However, events in the Middle East would affect the situation between the Soviets and the West, as they had so many times before. This time, though, the outbreak of war in the Middle East would serve to bring the superpowers to an understanding.

On August 2 1990, Iraq invaded the emirate of Kuwait. Within days, the elite Iraqi Republican Guard overran the small but enormously wealthy country on Iraq’s southern border and stood poised to invade Saudi Arabia.

Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq, was confronted by a number of problems at home which he hoped to alleviate by conquering little Kuwait. Having seized power in Iraq in 1979, Hussein soon thereafter came to blows with his neighbor Iran. Iran, a long-time US ally, underwent a wracking revolution in 1979. The Shah of Iran was deposed, and a new fundamentalist Islamic government under the Ayotollah Khomeini took nominal control of Iran. At first, Khomeini’s grip on the country was shaky. Hussein decided to use this opportunity to settle a long-standing difference of opinion between Iran and Iraq over control of the Shatt-al-Arab, the waterway that was the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates River and which linked Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Iraqi forces crossed the Shatt-al-Arab, secured the eastern bank, and drove east. Hussein believed that the Iranians would not be able to respond effectively, giving him control over the southwestern corner of Iran.

The Iraqis moved quite slowly, however, while the Iranians responded with surprising energy. Within weeks, the Iranians had driven the Iraqis back across the Shatt-al-Arab. Hussein asked for a truce, but the revolutionary Iranians refused. For the next eight years, Iran and Iraq would engage in a war of attrition that would see widespread (if inept) use of chemical weapons, missiles, and human wave attacks by one side or another. Hussein built the Iraqi Army to more than a million men, with a robust park of tanks, APCs, artillery, trucks, and other materiel for mechanized war. Finally, in 1988 the Iraqis launched a series of counteroffensives that broke the back of the Iranians.

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