The Elusive Search for Arab Unity

October 19, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus

Introduction

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait has created deep divisions in the Arab world. Although many Arabs resent the presence of foreign troops in the region, they have not united behind Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. And no matter how the crisis is resolved, it is likely to leave the Arab states divided. Some observers even believe the Persian Gulf crisis could result in the dream of Arab unity being finally put to rest.

Go to top

Overview

On Aug. 2, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent his troops into Kuwait, he got little support from his Arab neighbors. It's not that they didn't have some sympathy for Saddam's economic complaints—that Kuwait had been conducting economic warfare against Iraq by draining more than its share of oil from a field that was mostly in Iraqi territory and by exceeding its production quota. Indeed, the poorer Arab countries like Jordan and Syria have long despised and envied the wealth of the gulf countries and were happy, in that regard, to see Kuwait get its comeuppance.

But the Arab world didn't buy Saddam's claim that he was only retaking territory that colonial powers had removed from Iraq decades ago. After all, the borders of most of the countries in the region, including Iraq's, were drawn in the same fashion as Kuwait's. So if the origin of Kuwait's borders justified aggression, then most states in the Middle East were vulnerable to similar predations. Accordingly, virtually every other Arab government initially condemned Iraq's invasion.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Israel, Palestine, and Middle East Peace
Jun. 21, 2013  Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
May 2009  Middle East Peace Prospects
Oct. 27, 2006  Middle East Tensions Updated
Jan. 21, 2005  Middle East Peace
Aug. 30, 2002  Prospects for Mideast Peace
Apr. 06, 2001  Middle East Conflict
Mar. 06, 1998  Israel At 50
Aug. 30, 1991  The Palestinians
Oct. 19, 1990  The Elusive Search for Arab Unity
Feb. 24, 1989  Egypt's Strategic Mideast Role
Apr. 15, 1988  Israel's 40-Year Quandary
Mar. 02, 1984  American Involvement in Lebanon
Nov. 12, 1982  Reagan's Mideast Peace Initiative
Apr. 23, 1982  Egypt After Sadat
Jan. 04, 1980  Divided Lebanon
Jul. 20, 1979  West Bank Negotiations
Dec. 01, 1978  Middle East Transition
Jan. 13, 1978  Saudi Arabia's Backstage Diplomacy
Oct. 29, 1976  Arab Disunity
May 16, 1975  Middle East Diplomacy
Sep. 13, 1974  Palestinian Question
Dec. 12, 1973  Middle East Reappraisal
Apr. 25, 1973  Israeli Society After 25 Years
Aug. 19, 1970  American Policy in the Middle East
Apr. 25, 1969  Arab Guerrillas
Aug. 02, 1967  Israeli Prospects
Jul. 06, 1966  Middle East Enmities
Apr. 14, 1965  Relations with Nasser
Aug. 17, 1960  Arab-Israeli Deadlock
May 27, 1959  Middle East Instability
Jun. 04, 1958  Nasser and Arab Unity
Oct. 02, 1957  Soviet Threat in Middle East
Sep. 18, 1956  Suez Dispute and Strategic Waterways
May 09, 1956  Middle East Commitments
Apr. 13, 1955  Middle East Conflicts
Mar. 31, 1954  Security in the Mideast
Oct. 23, 1952  Israel and the Arab States
Jan. 30, 1952  Egyptian Crisis and Middle East Defense
Mar. 17, 1948  Palestine Crisis
Feb. 18, 1946  Soviet Russia and the Middle East
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Regional Political Affairs: Middle East and South Asia
U.S. at War: Iraq