Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi political leader, was born to a poor Arab family on April 28, 1937. Hussein studied law in Egypt after his attempt to assassinate the premier of Iraq, Abdul Karim Kassem, in 1959. In the summer of 1968, the Baath party returned to power and named Hussein as deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. Hussein has been described by many as the most powerful person in Iraq because of his intimidation of enemies, careful control of his political power, and his military purges. Saddam finally gained control of the Iraq presidency in 1979. His many goals as President included attempting to increase industrial production, reorganizing government policies in agriculture, and improving education and the status of women.
Hussein first began a successful development program of Iraq’s huge petroleum resources. However, this development and economic and social advances were at risk when Iraq went to war with Iran from 1980 to 1988. Hussein started this war to control Arab-inhabited areas and especially for oil resources. Hussein is also known as a ruthless leader who used chemical weapons on Kurdish people seeking freedom in the 1980’s.
In August, 1990, Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait for violating oil production laws set by the Organization of Petroleum Exports Countries(OPEC). (Kuwait had lowered the price of oil.) The Iraqi forces killed many Kuwaiti people and stole or destroyed much property. Hussein apparently wanted to use Kuwait’s vast oil resources to help Iraq’s economy.
Many people believed that Iraq would next invade neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia. Some of the countries that opposed Iraq’s invasion and that sent forces to this region were the United States, Canada, and several Arab and Western European nations. These countries formed an allied military coalition that caused a worldwide embargo against Iraq. The United Nations Security Council condemned Iraq’s occupation and approved the use of military force on Iraq if their troops did not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991. Hussein ignored this demand and refused to withdraw. The consequence of this decision was to go to war. On January 16, 1991, the allies bombed military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. Iraq, in return, launched missiles against Saudi Arabia and Israel. The U.S.-led military coalition drove Iraq’s armies out of Kuwait. This war, called the Persian Gulf War, lasted only six weeks.
On April 11, 1991, the U.N. Security Council made Iraq promise to pay Kuwait for war damages. Hussein also had to destroy all chemical and biological weapons, as well as the facilities that might produce nuclear weapons. In March of 1991, the Shiites in Southern Iraq and in the Kurdish areas in the north rebelled and opposed The Iraqi government. As a result, Hussein began air attacks against these rebels. In August, 1992, the U.N. had to step in to protect the Shiites. Allied planes patrolled this area, and the allies placed a “no fly zone” for Iraq over Kurdish regions.
In October, 1994, large numbers of Iraq troops moved to the Kuwaiti border again. The U.S. sent thousands of troops to this area, fearing another Iraqi attack. Finally in November of 1994, Hussein formally recognized the independence and boundaries of Kuwait.
Hussein has been closely watched from 1996 until today. The Washington Post learned that an anti-Saddam operation by the CIA has cost $100 million dollars without reaching its goal of helping Iraqi resisters overthrow Saddam. The CIA reports that Iraqi armies are half as strong today as in 1991. Hussein is considered vulnerable but is still in control.