Hussein Wanted Soviets to Head Off U.S. in 1991

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WASHINGTON — As the American-led ground offensive in the first war with Iraq got under way on Feb. 24, 1991, Saddam Hussein directed his frustration at an unlikely target: the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Mr. Hussein had dispatched his foreign minister to Moscow in an 11th-hour bid to head off a ground war....

“The situation is now is getting worse,” Mr. Hussein had written the previous night in an emotional letter to the Soviet leader. “Our nation and army are confused. We are asking ourselves which one is more significant: the Soviet Union’s proposal or the Americans’ threats?”

Speaking to trusted aides, Mr. Hussein was less diplomatic, denouncing Mr. Gorbachev as a “scoundrel” who lacked the will or influence to stay the first President George Bush’s hand. “He tricked us,” Mr. Hussein said. “I knew he would betray us!”

The disclosures about Mr. Hussein’s closed-door deliberations that first day of the Persian Gulf land war are documented in an extraordinary Iraqi archive, which includes 2,300 hours of recorded meetings and millions of pages of documents, that was captured by United States forces after the 2003 invasion....

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