A build up of up to 80,000 Iraqi troops near the Kuwaiti border in the week ending 14 October prompted a storm of international criticism and a swift military response from the three main coalition partners which ejected Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. However, several divergent views have emerged about how to respond to President Saddam Hussein’s latest military manoeuvrings (see Cover Story).

The Iraqi advances south began on 6 October, and continued until 10 October. However, Iraqi forces had began redeploying to other areas of the country by 12 October in response to international pressure.

The US has committed almost 40,000 troops, about 600 aircraft and a naval task force to the area, which will operate alongside military forces sent by the UK and France. The US is also expected to push for the UN to approve a military exclusion zone in the south of Iraq, which would allow pre- emptive action by coalition forces if Iraq again moved troops back into the area. Madeleine Albright told US television on 12 October that the US was consulting with members of the UN Security Council about the plans.

However, France’s Defence Minister Francois Leotard distanced himself from US policy towards Iraq in a press conference in Paris on 12 October. He said Iraq was not violating any UN resolution by moving troops inside its own territory. He said the US response was influenced by domestic policy. On the same day, France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppe said his country would not favour an exclusion zone. However, both ministers said Iraq had made a serious error in moving troops to the south in such a provocative manner.

Russia responded to the Iraqi troop movements by announcing on 11 October that it would send members of its Foreign Affairs Ministry to Iraq and Kuwait to try to defuse the crisis by diplomatic means.

In Kuwait, foreign affairs ministers of the GCC states held talks on 12 October with US Secretary of State Warren Christopher and UK Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Douglas Hurd. The meeting was aimed at showing the UK and US commitment to defending the region against any military threat.

Jordan and the PLO who both suffered from their failure to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, issued statements on 10 October criticising the latest Iraqi troop movements. Egypt’s President Mubarak urged President Saddam Hussein on 12 October to withdraw his troops. Turkey, which was used as a base to attack Iraq during the 1991 Kuwait crisis, said on 12 October that it would support the Western allies if tension in the area led to war.

However, Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Iranian radio on 12 October that the US military build up in the Gulf was suspicious. ‘It is up to the regional countries to maintain Persian Gulf security, and global arrogance has no right to intervene in this region,’ he said.