WILEY & SONS, 1991

Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis

In the most vivid and accessible account to date of recent events in the Gulf, veteran New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino sets the story of Saddam Hussein and his outlaw state in an authoritative historical and political perspective. Through on-scene reporting, first-person narrative, and expert analysis, Sciolino shows how Saddam’s fierce determination to transform Iraq into a regional superpower moved him to invade Kuwait and then to defy the global coalition aligned against him.

Sciolino, who has reported on the Middle East for more than a decade, reveals how Saddam’s conduct in the current crisis reflects his tutelage as a political strongman. Chronicling his rise to power from the obscurity of his tribal village to his ascendancy to the presidency in 1979, she also describes how he used a combination of terror and reward to consolidate his power and break the spirit of his people.

Unlike other Arab leaders, Sciolino argues, Saddam never mastered the art of diplomacy or the negotiating skills of the bazaar. Instead, he became a gunman who was determined to shoot his way out of any crisis. He used the cunning and force of the outlaw to impose his will on both his own people and the nations of the region.

Paradoxically, Saddam’s costly eight-year war with Iran helped him to build the world’s fourth largest army, which he felt he could use with impunity. Encouraged by the appeasement of his neighbors and the tacit acquiescence of both the United States and the USSR, he overstepped his boundaries when he invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Saddam’s quest for greatness launched Iraq on the path of degradation and defeat, exposed his countrymen to ruin, betrayed his Arab brothers, destroyed the regional balance of power and plunged his country into a senseless war.

Finally, The Outlaw State explains why, in the months after the war, Saddam Hussein was able to cling to power.


“Elaine Sciolino’s book is exceptionally well written and informative, and enhances her reputation as one of the most perceptive journalists on Middle Eastern issues. It is must reading for those who want to dig deeper into the Persian Gulf war and learn about the Iraq behind the headlines.”
—Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

“Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times was almost alone among American journalists in recognizing and declaring, before August 2, 1990, that Iraq was a dangerous tyranny. Now, drawing on her previous reporting and new research, she has produced a fascinating and informative [account of] the troubled relationship between the United States and Iraq. Read this book …”
—Charles William Maynes, Editor, Foreign Policy

“Riveting … a highly readable account of the events leading up to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the conflict that followed…. A seasoned political observer, Elaine Sciolino does not merely describe what happened, she why and how it happened.”
—Gary G. Sick, Former staff member, National Security Council, and Professor of Middle East Politics, Columbia University