Ted Thornton
History of the Middle East Database
Gulf War II and the New World Order
1990 - 1992
Origins of Key Geographical Terms


History by Region or State


History by Time Period


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The Gulf Wars
Iraq and Iran, 1980-1988
Iraq Occupies Kuwait, 1990-91
Toppling Saddam, 2002-03

1990   On February 4, assailants armed with rifles and grenades attacked an Israeli tour bus en route from Rafa to Cairo killing 8 and wounding 17.

The U.S. State Department survey of worldwide human rights violations sternly rebuked Israel for its treatment of Palestinians under occupation.

On May 20, former Israeli soldier, Ami Popper, gunned down 17 Palestinian laborers in Rishon Lezion (Israel), killing 7 and wounding 10.

On May 26, the U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for UN observers in the occupied territories to assure the safety of Palestinians.

On May 22, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was established, a merger of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen).

On May 28, a pipe bomb in a Jerusalem market killed one Israeli and wounded nine others.

On May 30, Abul Abbas' PLO faction was involved in an abortive attempt to attack the beaches south of Tel Aviv. Arafat refused to denounce the attack or to discipline Abbas, the perpetrator of the 1985 Achille Lauro attack. On June 20, U.S. President Bush responded by cutting off dialogue with the PLO.

On the same day, an Arab summit in Baghdad ended with Arab denunciation of the immigration of Soviet Jews into Israel (which had begun in 1988).

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait and massed along the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The U.S., alarmed at the prospect of 20% of the world's oil (the combined oil resources of Iraq and Kuwait) falling under the control of one ruler began deploying troops to Saudi Arabia on August 7. (It was the ongoing presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil and so near the holiest sites in Islam that extremists like Osama bin Laden pointed to as justification for attacks on Americans anywhere in the world.)  U.S. dependence on Arab oil (only 6% during the 1973 oil crisis), had risen to 30% (7% of which came from the Gulf region).  (Full coverage of Gulf War II)  (Background on the formation of Iraq -- Cairo Conference, 1921)

On September 2, 1990, the New York Times reported that nearly 83,000 Soviet Jews had immigrated into Israel since the beginning of the year. These Jews claimed they feared anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union far worse than the prospect of war in the Middle East. (Mass immigration of Soviet Jews began in 1988)

On September 20, Israeli army reservist, Amnon Pomerantz, 46, was killed by Palestinian residents inside the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza. After making a wrong turn into the camp, his car was stoned. While trying to escape, he hit a donkey cart injuring a Palestinian. The crowd set his car on fire.

On September 23, the New York Times reported that Israel had so far held to its pledge not to settle any of the new Soviet immigrants in the occupied territories. However, six to seven thousand Israelis had moved into the territories, raising the number of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza to 90,000. 1,500 new settler homes were slated for completion by the end of the year. Living in the territories had become for many more attractive because rents in Israel were high.

On September 25, the Israeli army announced it intended to demolish 20 Palestinian homes in the Bureij camp in retaliation for the murder of Amnon Pomerantz on the 20th. Since the intifada began in 1987, Israel said it had demolished 304 homes and expelled 58 Palestinians. When an Israeli teenager died in a clash between settlers and Palestinians in Beita village in April of 1988, the Army blew up 13 homes and deported six even though it turned out the teenager had actually been shot by her own bodyguard. On June 20, the US cut off dialogue with the PLO in response to the Tel Aviv beach attack on May 30.

On October 7, Israeli Prime Minister Shamir in a speech at the opening ceremonies of a small yeshiva in occupied Arab East Jerusalem said, "This will be the first step toward a large, well populated Jewish district here." (New York Times, December 4, 1990, p. A4.)

On October 8, 1990, riots broke out on the Temple Mount as Palestinians rained stones down upon Jews at the Western Wall observing the feast of Sukkot. Palestinians claimed that an extremist group, claiming to be Jewish, was attempting to lay the cornerstone for the third temple at the Islamic Dome of the Rock. In a hail of Israeli police gunfire, 21 Palestinians were killed and over 100 wounded. Riots spread throughout the occupied territories. On July 19, 1991, Israeli judge, Ezra Kama ruled that the police, not the Palestinians, provoked the violence at the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

On October 13, the UN Security Council passed a resolution unanimously condemning Israel for the lethal attack on Palestinians at the Temple Mount. The approved wording was seen as a rebuff of the PLO which had fallen on hard times in the international community for its support of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.

On October 15, 1990, Israel, defying both the UN and the United States, announced its intent to settle Soviet Jews in East Jerusalem, breaking its pledge not to settle immigrants in the occupied territories. The plan was backed by Housing Minister, Ariel Sharon.

On October 21, a deranged 19 year old Palestinian, Omar Abu Sirhan, stabbed to death three Jews in Jerusalem in retaliation for the Temple Mount killings.

Also in October 1990, full peace returned to Lebanon after Christian General Michel Aoun was driven into exile in France.  (more)

On November 5, 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach Party, which had been expelled in 1988 from the Israeli Knesset (parliament) for its extreme view on dealing with the Palestinians, was assassinated by an Egyptian Muslim, El Sayyid Nossair in New York City.

On November 8, one Israeli soldier and one Arab commando were killed in a fire fight on the Israeli-Jordanian border as Arab guerrillas tried to sneak into Israel. The captured commandos confessed to a conspiracy to kill Jews at the Western Wall.

On November 12, Israel announced that the police officer in charge of the action at the Temple Mount on October 8 had been promoted.

On November 25, a lone Egyptian gunman dressed as an Egyptian border guard opened fire on an Israeli bus on the Israeli side of the border near Eilat killing four Israelis and wounding more than two dozen. The same day, a teenage Lebanese girl strapped explosives to her body and blew herself up, slightly wounding two Israeli soldiers. Again on the same day, the Israeli Navy intercepted and sunk a small boat carrying five PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) guerrillas bound from Lebanon in an attack on the Israeli coast.

In November, 1990, the Palestinian death count in the intifada rose to 1,000, 50% of whom were under the age of 18.  Twenty five percent of this group were under the age of twelve.

On December 15, members of the militant Palestinian HAMAS resistance group murdered three Israeli workers in an aluminum factory in Jaffa setting off widespread anti-Arab riots. The Israelis briefly considered mass deportations of Arabs.

On December 20, 1990, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 681 which stipulated  that the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem were "Palestinian territories." Furthermore, it called upon Israel to abide by the Geneva Conventions in ruling the territories. The vote was 15-0. (the United States had voted also for the 1988 UN Res. 607 which stated that the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 dealing with the rights of civilians in militarily occupied areas "is applicable to Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.")

Also in December, nearly 100 people were killed in Muslim-Hindu rioting in the Indian cities of Aligarh and Hyderabad. (see also 1992, 1993,  and 2002). Conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India dated from the Muslim Mughal conquest in the sixteenth century. 

1991 Hostilities in Gulf War II began. On January 16, United States President Bush ordered air strikes on Baghdad. "Operation Desert Storm" was underway.

Also in January, 1991, Somalia's dictator for twenty years, Siad Barre, fled the country. Somalia slipped into chaos. (see; and also)

As of February 8, 200,000 Soviet Jews had immigrated into Israel since the current wave of immigrations began in January of 1990. The Israeli government reported that nearly 17,000 more Israelis moved into the occupied territories boosting the total Israeli population there to 100,000. 10,000 settlers lived on the Golan Heights.

On February 24, 1991, the United States initiated a ground assault to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Kuwait was liberated three days later on the February 27.

In a speech to a joint session of the United States Congress on March 6, 1991, U.S. President Bush proclaimed that the era of a "new world order" had begun. The official U.S. meaning of this phrase was that America, since the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, saw itself as the sole "righter of wrongs around the world." (see Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1993, p. 5). Arabs were more skeptical, believing that the phrase was a ruse designed to mask America's true interest in the Middle East: to maintain the flow of relatively inexpensive oil from the region to other parts of the world. Typifying this view among Arabs, Qasam Khadir Abbas described the 'new world order' in a 1997 study, as, "a tyrannical system of rule which the United States imposed after the breakup of the Soviet Union giving it authority over those world powers which endeavor to resist it." (quoted in the literature supplement of  al-Majalla, no. 933, December 28, 1997, p. 6, my translation).

President Bush on March 7 called upon Israel to abide by UN Resolutions 242 and 338 as well as the principle of "territory for peace." Prime Minister Shamir of Israel responded on the 17th of March by saying that Israel would never give up the occupied territories and declared the Golan Heights "part of Israel."

On May 24, the UN Security Council again (see December 20, 1990) unanimously passed a resolution calling on Israel to abide by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and cease deportations of Palestinians.

On October 5, 1991, Prime Minister Shamir broke ground for a new Jewish settlement called Tzur Yigal inside the Green Line on the West Bank proclaiming, "It is not important exactly where this settlement is on the map. The important thing is that it lies in the land of Israel." Health Minister Ehud Olmert put it even more bluntly: "In case anybody had any doubts we must be clear today that since 1967 there has not been a Green Line. The Green Line is not the border or the framework of the state of Israel and that has been the national consensus for years." (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 5, 1991)

On October 9, a group of Jewish nationalist settlers seized and moved into seven Arab houses in Silwan village near Jerusalem. The Israeli police arrested fifty settlers but allowed four right wing members of the Knesset and a family remain in one of the houses. Militant Arabs responded by killing seven Israelis in separate incidents throughout the country over the course of the next few weeks.

On October 30, 1991, the U.S. and Russian sponsored Arab-Israeli Peace Conference opened in Madrid (Text of "Invitation" at MidEastWeb). Amir Tahry, writing in al-Sharq al-Awsat (November 2, 1991, p. 6) noted that twenty four nations participated in the conference, including Israel and all of its geographical neighbors. The PLO attended and participated as members of the Jordanian delegation. Israel's chief gain was the explicit and implicit affirmation of its right to exist as a nation (by virtue of the fact that this was the first time it had sat down face to face with its Arab neighbors). The Arabs walked away with even more. The conference affirmed that the question of land was at the heart of the conflict. In particular, both the United States and the Soviet Union endorsed U.N. Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) as the basis for negotiations. Hereafter, the phrase "land for peace" (a principle whose strongest articulation had occurred in  UN 242, 1967) would occupy a central place in Arab political discourse about how to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Finally, all conference participants with the exception of Israel's Shamir acknowledged the right of Palestinians to decide their own future.  Five years later (by the time of the 1996 Israeli elections), the slogan "land for peace" was being challenged by another - "peace for peace" - proffered by Israeli hardliners who did not trust Arafat's will or ability to stop attacks on Israelis by Palestinians.

According to the NY Times, Sept 23, 1991, direct U.S. aid to Israel between 1967 and 1991 totaled $77 billion. This figure did not include "loans", "subsidies", and donations of "surplus" military equipment.

As for the "loans," Israel had a "perfect" repayment record. There were two reasons for this "perfect" record:

1. Between 1974 and 1989, military loans totaling $16.4 billion were turned into "grants." Thus, the loans were forgiven.

2. Since 1984, due to an amendment by Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), America's economic aid to Israel, "shall not be less than the annual debt repayment (interest and principal) from Israel to the United States government".

(from a study reported by Sheldon L. Richman in his article "The Economic Impact of the Israeli Loan Guarantees," Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter, 1992.)

Anglican Bishop Elia Khoury, expelled by the Israelis to Jordan in 1967, stated (in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July, 1991): "I give Christianity 10-15 years in Jordan and the West Bank, no more." In 1922, Christians accounted for 51% of the population of Jerusalem. In 1978 there were less than 10%. Christians who remained in Arab East Jerusalem and the occupied territories indicated that tensions between themselves and revivalist Muslims were on the rise. (In early 1992, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, following a visit to the region, said, "My fear is that in 15 years, Jerusalem, Bethlehem - once centers of strong Christian presence - might become a kind of Walt Disney Christian theme park." (New York Times, February 12, 1992)  (see also 1995 report)

In October, 1991, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence. The following year, war broke out between Bosnia and Serbia. (see also)

In November, 1991, Chechnya declared its independence from Russia.  Russian President Boris Yeltsin waited until 1994 before sending troops in to attempt to reestablish Russian sovereignty. Russian forces were defeated in 1996.  Following a wave of apartment bombings in Moscow blamed on Chechen rebels, President Vladimir Putin launched a new campaign on Chechnya on Oct. 1, 1999.  The Chechen rebels were being helped in their struggle by Muslim jihadists like Amir Khattab who had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.  (also)

Also in November, 1991, Yasser Arafat, age 62, married his 28 year old secretary, Suha Tawil, who had recently converted from Christianity to Islam, in a secret ceremony in Tunis.  She fled to Paris with their daughter Zahwa in 2000 during the al-Aqsa Intifada ("uprising").

On December 8, 1991, the Soviet Union came to its official end (following its breakup two years earlier) when Presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia, Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, and Stanislav Shuskeivch of Belarus signed the Minsk Treaty creating a new entity called the "Commonwealth of Independent States" (CIS).  Also this month in Namangan, Uzbekistan, Islamic militants belonging to a newly formed party, "Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," seized a building that had formerly housed the Communist Party of Uzbekistan. 

Fresh from its victories last year in Algeria's provincial and municipal elections, the Islamic revivalist "Islamic Salvation Front" (FIS) led by Abbasi al-Madani garnered big wins in the National Assembly on December 26 falling just 28 seats short of a simple majority and 99 seats short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

1992   Alarmed by the success of the Islamic revivalist "Islamic Salvation Front" (FIS) in the December 1991 elections, Algeria's army forced President Chadli Bendjedid to resign and canceled a second round of elections scheduled for January 13. Chadli was succeeded by Mohammed Boudiaf. Algeria began its descent into civil war as violence between the FIS and government forces escalated.  Boudiaf himself was slain on June 29 by an alleged FIS assassin. He was succeeded by army officer Liamine Zeroual. By 1995, 30,000 had perished and by the informal end of the war in 1999, 100,000 had died.

On February 15, Arab commandos attacked an Israeli army outpost near Haifa killing three soldiers. Early the next day (Sunday), Israeli warplanes retaliated by striking two Palestinian refugee camps in Southern Lebanon killing four including a mother of two children. Later the same day, Israeli helicopters fired on the motorcade of the Lebanese Shiite leader of Hizbullah (Party of God) Sheikh Abbas Musawi, his wife, and son killing all.

On March 8, 1992, the New York Times published a draft of a Pentagon document that had been leaked to the press. The document was entitled "Defense Planning Guidance." It was authored by Zalmay Khalilzad and Abram Shulsky and overseen by Paul Wolfowitz, then an undersecretary for policy. As George Packer explained, "...the document described a world of dangers and power struggles in which America had to remain the superpower, for its own security and for stability everywhere else." (The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2005), 13) (See also PNAC.)

On March 9, 1992, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin died in Jerusalem.

In early April, the Israeli Human Rights organization, B’Tselem ("in the image") estimated that nearly 5,000 Palestinian prisoners (one fourth of the total) were tortured or otherwise mistreated in Israeli prisons over the course of the preceding year.

On April 16, 1992, the Soviet-installed president of Afghanistan, Najibullah was  toppled as mujihaddin guerillas converged on the capital, Kabul. Burhanuddin Rabbani assumed the office of  president. 

The collapse of the last vestiges of Soviet influence in Afghanistan in 1992 set the stage for what some began calling the "new great game" (after the "great game" of the late nineteenth century competition between Great Britain and Tsarist Russia for influence over Central Asia). The phrase "new great game" was coined by journalist Ahmed Rashid in a 1997 article he wrote for The Far Eastern Economic Review.  The "new great game" had Russia, the United States, and China (with smaller countries like Argentina to a lesser extent) competing for rights to build and share the profits of oil and natural gas pipelines through Central Asia. (see also)

On May 12, the US reaffirmed its support of UN Resolution 194 of 1948 which calls for the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees driven out of the country during the 1948 war. Likud politician Binyamin Netanyahu responded by stating publicly on May 14  that "past United Nations resolutions on Palestinian rights of return are outdated. We have a new reality and a new justice in the Middle East." (reported by National Public Radio).

In May, 1992, Bosnia, which had declared its independence in October, 1991, came under massive attack from Serbia initiating a war that reached genocidal proportions (see, for example).  This war prompted the entrance of NATO in 1994 and ended with the Dayton Accords in December, 1995.  (See also Kosovo, 1998). 

By June, 1992 rifts in the Fatah faction of the PLO had widened and the question of who would succeed Yasser Arafat arose, prompted by the leader’s recent brain surgery in Amman, an operation performed to remove blood clots brought on by injuries suffered in a recent plane crash in the Libyan desert.

In June, 1992, Israel's Labor Party won elections and Yitzhak Rabin succeeded Yitzhak Shamir as Prime Minister of Israel. Hopes that this change would hasten the peace process were running high.

A moderately severe earthquake (5.9 on the Richter scale), centered in Giza (west of Cairo), struck on "Black Monday," October 12, killing hundreds beneath the rubble of shoddily constructed buildings which collapsed in the densely crowded Darb al-Ahmar district of central Cairo. The government was slow to provide relief prompting riots in the days that followed and charges of corruption as donations of money and relief materials failed to reach the people in need. Political opposition groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalists, on the other hand, mounted widespread, well-organized and, above all, effective relief efforts: handing out food and tents to thousands of homeless people living in the streets and parks of the city. Many thought the fundamentalists had done a far better job of helping the quake victims than the government had.

Also in 1992 in Egypt, violent confrontations between Coptic Christians and Islamist members of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya ("the Islamic group"), who wanted to overthrow the regime and replace it with "Islamic" rule, spilled over into pitched battles with police. In June, outspoken Egyptian intellectual Farag Foda had been assassinated by Muslim extremists in Cairo. By the end of the year, extremists had begun targeting tourists in an attempt to cripple one of the pillars of the Egyptian economy and bring the government to its knees. (for more details)

On December 17, 1992, Israel, following the deaths of five Israeli soldiers at the hands of Muslim extremists, deported 418 alleged members of HAMAS to exile in the mountain village of Marj al-Zohour in southern Lebanon where they set up tents in the snow. They managed to turn their punishment into a world media event winning sympathies around the globe.  They dubbed their camp Ibn Taymiyya University after the medieval thinker whose writings had inspired many contemporary Islamic revivalists and extremists

In Saudi Arabia, opposition against the regime began to mount from Wahhabi Islamic theologians who charged it with corruption.

In December 1992, one of the earliest attempts to enforce the "new world order" got underway as United Nations troops led by 2,000 U.S. Marines entered Somalia to try to restore order after a period of increasing chaos, political disorder, and starvation.  The venture, dubbed "Operation Hope," ended in failure two years later when the troops were withdrawn and Somalia sank back into feuding among  warlords. The withdrawal was sparked in large measure by the October 1993 massacre of 18 U.S. Marines by a mob in Mogadishu who dragged their bodies through the streets (subject of the movie "Blackhawk Down"). The mob included veterans of the jihad in Afghanistan. Later, looking back on these events, Osama bin Laden would remark that the withdrawal of the United States demonstrated its lack of backbone and emboldened jihadists to attack the United States and its interests throughout the world. In addition to humanitarian concerns, there were significant American oil production interests in Somalia: almost two-thirds of Somalia had been divided into concessions awarded to American oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron, and Phillips in the years just prior to the overthrow of Somalia dictator Siad Barre -- See Mark Fineman, "The Oil Factor in Somalia," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 18, 1993.   (For more, see two reports from the United Nations: UNOSOM I and UNOSOM II.) (see also; and also)

On December 6, 1992 in Ayodhya, India, in the worst violence India had seen since Partition in 1947, a mob of three hundred thousand nationalist Hindus destroyed the Babri Masjid (mosque), which had been built in 1556 over the site where Hindus believed the avatar Ram had been born.  The act set the stage for horrific riots and great loss of life in India in 1993 and in 2002.

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