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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

16 - Countdown to a deadline



War was probably inevitable once the UN Security Council had passed Resolution 678 on 29 November 1990. Saddam Hussein had no intention of withdrawing from Kuwait by the deadline of 15 January (16 January Kuwait time) as it would result in an unbearable loss of face in the Arab world, while President George H.W. Bush and his advisers believed that nothing short of armed force would compel Saddam to comply. War was the only way that this impasse could be resolved. But it did not seem so certain at the time, especially when, on 30 November, Bush suggested direct talks with Iraq, offering to send his Secretary of State, James Baker, to Baghdad. Bush's offer caused much consternation to his advisers and allies, who initially feared that he was weakening in his resolve. But Bush knew that he needed to persuade the US public, the American allies in the United Nations and pro-Western Arab nations that all options had been exhausted. As Baker later explained: ‘If force ends up being used we owe it to the American people and to others to show that we left no stone unturned in the search for peace.’

Saddam followed this by releasing the remaining hostages, but he prevaricated over making a date for Baker's visit. Meanwhile, the leaders of Jordan, Yemen and the Palestine Liberation Organisation met Saddam in Baghdad.