Kuwait’s Invasion

The United Nations Authorization For The Use Of Force


By Clara Vecino Prieto


On 2 August 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded Kuwait. The international response to the Iraqi invasion marked a turning point in the UN Security Council's authorisation of the use of force. The international community jointly condemned the invasion. As a result, the UN demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. In the absence of a response, the Security Council passed two resolutions, 678 and 687, which would mark a new era in the authorisation of the legitimate use of force.  Therefore, throughout this article, we will first look at the causes that led Iraq to invade Kuwait, followed by an explanation of the UN Security Council's action, and finally, analyze that action to understand the extent to which the Security Council changed the way it acted in terms of collective security.





Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait on 2 August 1990. This decision was accompanied by the occupation and annexation of Kuwait in order to control its oil and gas reserves. Iraq officially annexed Kuwait on August 8, 1990. The two regimes had previously accused each other: Kuwait claimed Iraq's oil defaults, while Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing oil from Kuwait. An exchange of accusations ended with Iraq's military action on Kuwaiti territory. On February 27, Kuwait City was liberated. Iraqi representatives accepted allied terms for an interim truce on March 3, 1991, and a permanent cease-fire on April 6, 1991. For Iraq, accusing Kuwait of theft was the first pretext used. Baghdad claimed that Kuwait had expropriated oil in the territory of Rumaila, and asked Kuwait for 2.4 billion dollars to compensate it. Kuwait in turn accused Iraq of drilling its oil wells. These disputes increased the potential for conflict. 

After the war, the UN imposed harsh sanctions on Iraq, which were to be repaid as war sanctions and reimbursed to Kuwait. These sanctions reduced the quality of life in Iraq and created a situation of extreme poverty. The UN, feeling responsible for these consequences, set up the humanitarian program "Oil for Food", which gave positive results but also negative surprises: This program gave rise to the most important corruption case of the UN, where top UN officials were involved (Koshy, 1997).

The UN, as the international organization charged with preserving peace, passed a series of resolutions aimed at curbing Iraq. Iraq did not back down, however, and the UN Council passed Resolution 678, which indicated that member states could use all necessary means to achieve the objectives of the previous Council resolution, Resolution 660, which instructed Iraq to halt its invasion and military manoeuvres in Kuwait. The essential purpose of the United Nations, as set out in Article 1.1 of the Charter, is to maintain peace and security (U.N Charter art. 1 para.1). To achieve this, the UN must collectively confront threats.  In order to meet these purposes, the Security Council is given specific powers, the most important of which are contained in Chapter VII of the Charter, which differ fundamentally from the basic rules of the League of Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security. When the UN Charter was drafted, a different and essentially centralized system of collective security was established.

Military action is therefore clearly the "ultimum remedium" for the Security Council and can only be taken if the Council considers that measures not involving the use of armed force would be inadequate or have proved inadequate. Only in such cases may the Security Council take such action by air, sea or land as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security". One such case was the invasion of Kuwait. The use by the UN Security Council in Resolution 678 of "all necessary means" to achieve an end, which in this case is to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait, is curious. This generality implies that the use of force is authorized and will be legal (U.N Charter art. 1 para.3) (Koshy, 1997). The UN does not have its own army, so its recourse to the use of military means is to authorize countries to enter into conflict through collective force under international law and under the protection of the UN Charter.

Finally, this article shows how the UN Security Council, through the approval of Resolution 678, grants countries the authorization to use force. This authorisation of the use of force makes it legitimate. The invasion of Kuwait marked a turning point in the way the UN Security Council acted in terms of collective security and the authorisation of the use of force.Resolution 678 allowed the use of force by those countries that wished to go to war. The permission of member states to cooperate with the Kuwaiti government, and to do whatever was necessary to preserve the peace, by all means. The Gulf War brought about a change in UN strategy and led to a major crisis in the Persian Gulf.








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