“The Americans wanted to hurt Iraq by hurting its army. Its army would get destroyed. Such an opportunity was to be … taken advantage of by all the greedy people or the hateful ones or those who had beforehand evil intentions against Iraq, whether they were from outside or inside Iraq. The entire siege, the air bombardment until the land attack began, they were all methods to create the appropriate environment for the operation that took place.”
- Saddam Hussein, April 3, 1991
Starting in March 1991 southern and northern Iraq rose up in rebellion against Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi army had just been defeated in the Gulf War and angry soldiers in the south started a revolt in Basra that quickly spread across the entire south. A few days later the Kurds begin rising up as well seizing the major cities in the north including Kirkuk. By the start of April the government had recovered and most of the Kurds were fleeing to Turkey and Iran, while southerners were driven into Iran and the marshes of Basra and Maysan.
To Saddam this was all part of a plan by the Americans to undermine his rule. On April 3, as the last vestiges of the uprising were being put down in Sulaymaniya, Saddam met with his advisers. He called the revolt “The Page of Treason and Treachery,” and claimed that it was a result of the Gulf War. He declared that the war was really meant to destroy the Iraqi armed forces so that his opponents could take advantage of the situation. He blamed groups based in Iran, probably referring to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq that deployed its Badr Brigade during the period, for starting the fighting in Basra. At the same time, he did acknowledge that there were opponents in the south, but they didn’t want a rebellion. According to him that idea was completely sprung by outsiders. Saddam had a different view of the Kurds. There he said the Kurdish parties wanted revenge for being defeated in the Anfal campaign during the 1980s. The meeting revealed some of the thinking of Saddam. The 1991 revolt solidified his belief that the main threat to his rule came from domestic forces, namely the Shiite Islamists and the Kurds. At the same time, his other major nemesis was Iran, which he had painted as the historical foe of Iraq since the Iran-Iraq War. Together these two groups were consistently plotting against him, and trying to take him down. Saddam saw the Gulf War through this prism, and believed the Americans were simply working with his longtime opponents, completely missing Washington’s response to the invasion of Kuwait.
Woods, Kevin, Palkki, David, and Stout, Mark, The Saddam Tapes, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City: Cambridge University Press, 2011
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