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Thursday, February 19, 1998 Published at 15:06 GMT

Special Report

Kuwait and Iraq - sworn enemies
image: [ The Kuwaitis had to turn to the West for their defence ]
The Kuwaitis had to turn to the West for their defence

No country in the region is a bigger critic of Saddam Hussein than Kuwait - no surprise given the events of August 1990 when Iraqi tanks rolled across the border into the small Gulf emirate.

The invasion highlighted Kuwait's vulnerability in the face of larger, more aggressive neighbours, and exposed the faultlines within Kuwaiti society.

Kuwaiti forces mounted only token resistance to the invaders. With a few exceptions, most of the Kuwaiti ruling family fled to Saudi Arabia before the Iraqis could reach Kuwait city.

After the Gulf war, Kuwaiti society went through a period of score settling which revealed deep anxieties within a society reliant on foreigners for much of its man-power.

Many Palestinians and Jordanians - some of them long-term residents of Kuwait - were forced to leave the emirate. Some were imprisoned on suspicion of collaborating with the Iraqis, and there were reports of the ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees.

Nationals of other countries began to feel less than welcome as well.

The scars from that time have yet to heal - to this day, Kuwait remains reluctant to normalise relations with other Arab states perceived as sympathetic to Iraq like Jordan and Yemen.

With Iraq still regarded as a threat, Kuwait feels little hesitation in endorsing US and British plans for military action.

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