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“Conspiring Bastards”: Saddam Hussein's Strategic View of the United States




  • This article was written at the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) as part of a project sponsored by the Department of Defense. This paper represents only the authors’ views; it does not represent the views of the CRRC, IDA, the Department of Defense, or any command or agency of the Department. The authors thank Kevin Woods, Judith Yaphe, James Kurtz, Don Mosser, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts. They also thank Laila Sabara and the National Virtual Translation Center for providing most of the translations used in this article.


This article uses captured Iraqi regime records to trace Saddam Hussein's strategic view of the United States from the time of his political ascendancy in the 1970s to his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. What is remarkable about Saddam's view of the United States is how consistently and virulently hostile it was. From early on, Saddam believed that the United States was unalterably opposed to his Baathist project and that Washington was seeking to marginalize and weaken Iraq. These sentiments were rooted in Baathist ideology and the key personality traits that shaped Saddam's worldview, but they were repeatedly reinforced by Washington's policies in the Middle East. Tacit U.S. support for Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war aided Saddam's war effort but did little to ameliorate his fears. By the late 1980s and 1990, Saddam worried that American operatives were trying to assassinate him, and he saw the United States (and its ally, Israel) as the foreign powers most dangerous to his regime. This view of U.S. policy, in turn, seems to have had an important influence on Saddam's decision to invade Kuwait.