Atheer – Oman History
Nasr Al Busaidi
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was undoubtedly a day of despair for the people of the region, all of whom stood by Kuwait’s legitimate right to defend itself and demanded Iraq’s withdrawal.
The Sultanate, under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, played an honorable role in condemning the Iraqi invasion and calling for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, in support of the Kuwaiti people’s right to freedom. Oman’s policy was to attempt to resolve the Kuwaiti-Iraqi crisis in a peaceful manner so to avoid the scourge of war. The war that ensued ended up having devastating effects which still exist to this day, as witnessed by the current instability in Iraq.
The Kuwaiti press published a number of articles highlighting the role of the Omani government and its people in standing by and supporting Kuwait during the crisis, which resulted in the deaths of many innocent victims, as well as the destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Media published a book titled Personalities and Positions, on the occasion of Kuwait hosting the Twelfth GCC Summit, following its liberation from Iraq on the 26th of February 1991. The book discussed the role played by the Sultanate in supporting Kuwait. Below is a summary.
The Sultanate’s position has been clear ever since the start of Iraq’s brutal aggression towards Kuwait. In an official statement, the Sultanate condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanded that Iraq immediately and unconditionally withdraw, so that Kuwait may have its legitimacy returned back.
The Sultanate also participated in the emergency Arab summit held in Cairo, for Arab leaders to discuss the situation’s developments in the wake of the Iraqi invasion. The Sultanate unreservedly stood by Kuwait, supporting its legitimacy and demanding for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces.
Along with the Egyptian, Kuwaiti and Syrian delegations, the Omani delegation withdrew from the meetings of the Central Council of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions on the 28th of August 1990, in the wake of heated discussions on the draft recommendations prepared by the entrusted committee. The Sultanate of Oman and the aforementioned countries rejected the draft recommendations, due to the fact that the recommendations made no reference to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Upon this withdrawal, voting on the stated draft was deemed invalid given that only eight of the council’s 19 members approved it.
When Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi, visited Washington, he met with US President George H.W. Bush and a number of US administration officials to discuss the situation, in light of the brutal Iraqi occupation. Following his meeting with the president, bin Alawi said that he hoped Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be brave enough to withdraw from Kuwait.
Fahr bin Taimur Al Said, Omani Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defense Affairs, also discussed the invasion and the international efforts to end it, with British Minister of Defense, Tom King.
Following the failure of the efforts of the former UN Secretary General, Javier Pérez de Cuellar, to persuade Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, the Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs asserted that the Iraqis had missed a valuable one-off opportunity. He pointed out that “this initiative was not understood by the Iraqis as it was a great opportunity for them to save face.”
On the 28th of September 1990, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos reviewed the situation at an Omani cabinet meeting. His Majesty called for the need to reach a political and peaceful solution to the crisis, so to enable the return of solidarity and unity between the Arabs.
Haitham bin Tariq bin Taymour, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oman, also appealed to Iraq to respond to offers of a peaceful solution to the Gulf crisis and accept the international initiatives. The undersecretary stressed that all initiatives were available in order to resolve the crisis peacefully, adding that both Iraq and the Arab countries needed to reach a solution quickly so to prevent a devastating war.
On the 28th of September 1990, Abdul Aziz Al Rawas, Omani Minister of Media, made press statements in which he stressed that Oman was making every effort so that the legitimate Kuwaiti government could return to power following the withdrawal of Iraqi forces.
According to Thuwaini bin Shehab, Special Representative of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the Sultanate of Oman also expressed its full support to the Emir, the government and the people of Kuwait. Bin Shehab reconfirmed Oman’s support for Iraq’s withdrawal as soon as possible during his meeting with the Kuwaiti Ministerial Committee for Housing, headed by Kuwaiti Minister of Social Affairs, Sheikh Jaber Al Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah, at the end of September 1990.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said spared no effort during his meetings with foreign officials during the time of the crisis. He was successful in convincing them to accept the Arab position and denounce Iraq’s practices.
On the 18th of October 1990, His Majesty stated that as a result of the way in which the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait was continuing to pan out, a military solution was being weighed up. His Majesty was regretful that the economic sanctions on Iraq had not succeeded in forcing its withdrawal from Kuwait. His Majesty explained that should Iraq fail to withdraw then it would be difficult to find a peaceful solution.
On the 18th of November 1990, the 20th National Day of the Sultanate of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos called for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, based on international resolutions.
Minister of Media, Abdul Aziz Al Rawas, however stated that any initiative to resolve the crisis must come from Iraq itself. Al Rawas claimed at a press conference that Iraq should officially announce its withdrawal from Kuwait, going on to point out that there would be no benefit from holding an Arab summit without Iraq declaring its withdrawal from Kuwait.
In order to emphasise its position, the Sultanate of Oman decided to send Omani troops to Hafar Al Batin in Saudi Arabia, in compliance with the resolutions of the Peninsula Shield and in line with the belief that the Gulf states had a role to play in removing Iraq from Kuwait in any way possible.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos sent delegations to several Arab and Western capitals as part of the continuous consultation between the Sultanate of Oman and other world leaders to end the occupation swiftly. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi, conveyed His Majesty’s message to King Hussein of Jordan. Saif bin Hamad bin Saud, Minister of Diwan of the Royal Court, expressed a similar message to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. His Majesty’s envoys passed on similar messages to the GCC leaders.
Alongside the other GGC states, the Sultanate of Oman participated in the 11th GCC Summit in Doha. During the summit, the Sultanate made effective efforts to affirm Kuwait’s rights. This ended with a final statement expressing Gulf condemnation of the Iraqi invasion and demanding the full and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait’s territory.
Throughout the course of the Iraqi occupation, the Sultanate stood alongside Kuwait and its legitimate government, up until Iraq was defeated and legitimacy returned to the State of Kuwait.
Reference: *Personalities and Positions – GCC Council and Kuwait Liberation Cause, Ministry of Media – the State of Kuwait, 1991