The international relations between Iraq and Kuwait have been turbulent, fuelled by Iraqi debt and conflicts over oil.
Until 2004, Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations were characterized by total unwillingness on the part of the Iraqi government to recognize Kuwait as a separate state, As Iraq was composed of the three historical Willayets of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, and Kuwait was carved out of the Basra Willayet in 1921 by the British authorities. As a result, no diplomatic relations were established and the Iraqi government viewed Kuwait as a legal part of Iraq.
Ever since Kuwaiti independence in 1961, the Iraqi governments sought various opportunities to occupy and annex Kuwait. A short-lived crisis evolved in 1961, as the Iraqi government threatened to invade Kuwait and the invasion was finally averted following plans by the Arab League to form an international Arab force against Iraqi designs on Kuwait.
Another crisis evolved on 20 March 1973, when Iraqi army units occupied El-Samitah near the Kuwaiti border, which evoked an international crisis. The Iraqi forces eventually withdrew under Saudi pressure.
In 1990, Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil through slant drilling, however some Iraqi sources indicated Saddam Hussein's decision to attack Kuwait was made only a few months before the actual invasion. There were several reasons for the Iraq move, including Iraq's inability to pay more than $80 billion that had been borrowed to finance the war with Iran and also Kuwaiti overproduction of oil which kept oil revenues down for Iraq. The invasion started on 2 August 1990, and within two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard or escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The state of Kuwait was annexed, and Hussein announced in a few days that it was the 19th province of Iraq.
During the Gulf War, Kuwait would soon be liberated by coalition forces. Since the fall of the Ba'ath Party regime in Iraq, relations have improved between the two states. On 25 April 2007, Kuwaiti lawmaker Saleh Ashour called in a statement for reopening Kuwait's embassy in Baghdad and for strongly supporting the government in Baghdad; Al-Ghanim, however, said he believes that it was too early to reopen the Kuwaiti embassy in Baghdad and that this issue should wait until security situations improve.
- Helene von Bismarck, "The Kuwait Crisis of 1961 and its Consequences for Great Britain’s Persian Gulf Policy" British Scholar, vol. II, no. 1 (September 2009) pp. 75-96
- "Independence for Kuwait: UK protection withdrawn" The Guardian, June 20, 1961
- US diplomatic cable mentioning the incident
- Gause, F. Gregory, III (2005). "The International Politics of the Gulf" in Louise Fawcett (ed.), "International Relations of the Middle East". Oxford: The University Press. pp. 263–274. ISBN 0-19-926963-7.