Kuwait–Iraq 1973 Sanita border skirmish

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Kuwait–Iraq 1973 Sanita border skirmish
Part of Iraq–Kuwait relations and the claiming of Warbah Island and Bubiyan Island as Iraqi territories
Map of Kuwait showing Warbah Island and Bubiyan Island
Date March 20th, 1973; ET 0300
Location Kuwait
Result Pull back of Iraqi Armed Forces to the demarcation line set by the Arab League Forces during Operation Vantage 1961
Kuwait Iraq
Commanders and leaders
Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah
Mubarak Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Saleh Mohammed Al-Sabah
Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr

Military of Kuwait

Iraqi Armed Forces
Casualties and losses
2 killed unknown

Following the deterring effect of Operation Vantage (1961), Kuwait gained its recognition by Iraq in 1963. Both countries had ongoing border disputes and clashes throughout most of the 1960s, with a skirmish breaking out on March 20, 1973.

1973 "Sanita" border skirmish[edit]

Known as "Samita" (Arabic: صامتة meaning "quiet") ciris"; however, it was named "sanita" as it refers to a northern border post on the Kuwaiti border with Iraq. Despite the final recognition of Kuwait in 1963, periodic border clashes and intense disputes between Kuwait and Iraq were still ongoing. During the 1967 Six-Day War and 1973 October War, Kuwaiti and Iraqi military were on the same side despite the unstable history between the Kuwaiti and the leadership of Iraq back then. On December 26, 1972, Kuwait sent a delegation of members of the National Assembly of Kuwait to Iraq. The Kuwaiti delegation met with Saddam Hussein, then deputy President of Iraq, and discussed the border demarcation between Kuwait and Iraq and the need to end this conflict. The Kuwaiti delegation also met with the President of Iraq, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who assured members of the National Assembly of Kuwait that the situation would be resolved. Accordingly, on February 26, 1973, another Kuwaiti delegation headed by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, then Kuwait's first Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Iraq and remained until March 2, 1973. Kuwaiti and Iraqi authorities conducted several meetings in which Iraqi authorities claimed that Warbah Island and Bubiyan Island were part of Iraq due to their importance as major water channels for the trade of Iraq and significant geopolitical strategic points. In response, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah stated that Kuwait would not cede any of its territories and if the territories were needed for joint economic development purposes, then Kuwait would spare no effort in realizing such an endeavor advancing humanitarianism[1] through concession from the Emir of Kuwait following reasonable negotiation. Right before the Kuwaiti delegation was setting to leave Iraq on March 3, 1973, the Iraqi government proposed a friendly cooperation agreement between Kuwait and Iraq which would enhance the capabilities of Iraq in expanding trade through Kuwait. The Kuwaiti delegation was willing to cooperate as long as its territories were not compromised unjustifiably. In response, the government of Iraq and the leadership at the time withdrew their proposal and started applying military pressure.

In the meantime, Major General Mubarak Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah rotated Kuwaiti border posts between soldiers of the Kuwait Armed Forces and the Kuwait National Police. On March 20, 1973 at 0300, a crisis occurred between Kuwait and Iraq based on land demarcations that Iraq was claiming. Units of the Iraqi Armed Forces advanced to a Kuwaiti border police station, guarded by members of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior, and asked the border guards of the police to vacate the premises. When the Ministry of Interior officer in charge refused, Iraqi forces heavily shelled the lightly guarded border post. The Ministry of Interior troops held their ground and battled the heavily armed Iraqi force throughout the night and morning. The skirmish claimed the lives of the first lieutenant in charge and his corporal. As a result, Kuwait declared a state of emergency and the borders were sealed.

Immediately after, Mubarak and his deputy Brigadier General Sheikh Saleh Mohammed Al-Sabah mobilized the Kuwait Armed Forces and led the deployment towards the border with Iraq in preparation for war. The Kuwaiti quick reaction force contingent was led by a Kuwaiti colonel and consisted of elements of the Kuwaiti Army and the Kuwaiti Air Force. The combat reaction force included a contingent of Kuwait 25th Commando Brigade led by a Kuwaiti lieutenant colonel, an armored tank brigade and two supersonic English Electric Lightning fighter aircraft who were tasked with engaging the area of conflict as required and remain acting as armed air vanguards patrollers and monitor for the area from Umm Qasr in the east to Safwan in the west.

In response to the assembling of the Kuwait Armed Forces by Mubarak and Saleh, the Iraqi authorities back then issued a statement at 1300 on March 20, 1973, claiming that the Kuwaiti forces were the aggressors, which were intruding in Iraqi territory while the Iraq Armed Forces were conducting military drills and as a result the Iraq Armed Forces responded with force. The Iraqi statement also mentioned that it was disappointing to see the reaction of the Kuwait Armed Forces moving towards the borders before communicating with Iraq through diplomatic channels; officially inquiring about the incident; specially that the incident involves two brotherly Arab nations. In response, Kuwait authorities issued a similar statement claiming that the assault on the "Sanita" post was an assault of Kuwaiti territory and subsequently an assault on Kuwait. In addition, the Kuwaiti statement added that the assault occurred during the time when Kuwait was expecting an Iraqi delegation from Iraq to come to Kuwait and settle the demarcation of borders between the two countries, based on the agreement that Baghdad signed on October 4, 1963. The government of Iraq proposed that Iraqi Armed Forces and the Military of Kuwait should pull back 10 km from the assaulted post. Accordingly, Kuwaiti authorities refused this proposition and requested the Arab League to demand from Iraq to pull back the Iraqi Armed Forces to the demarcation line set by the Arab League Forces during Operation Vantage. Also, Kuwaiti authorities insisted on the withdrawal of Iraqi Armed Forces from the "Sanita" border post and also demanded to settle the demarcation of borders between Kuwait and Iraq to avoid future border conflicts.

Although the 1973 border dispute was shaping to be governed by a political resolution, the majority of the Military of Kuwait were still on alert deployed all around the Kuwaiti desert.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1], Honoring Kuwait 2014, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah...A Humanitarian Leader; Section on " His Highness the Amir...His Biography & His Journey", Page 42–43; Retrieved December 17, 2014