The 1991 Gulf Crisis and US Policy Means. An Analysis of the Transition from ‘Soft Line’ to ‘Hard Line’ in US Foreign Policy toward IraqIn the last few months of 1998 the basis of the 1991 Gulf War between Iraq and the US-led Allied coalition once again occurred on the international agenda. In December 1998 the media attention culminated as the conflict over the implementation of UN Resolutions issued after the Gulf crisis resulted in the USA and UK bombing strategic targets in Baghdad. In the nearly 8 years since the Gulf War this was the first serious Western military reaction in the conflict of implementing sanctions. This thesis sets out to explain one aspect of the Gulf crisis, the basis of the US foreign policy toward Iraq during the 1991 crisis. In doing so it aspires to achieve a better understanding of the US interest in the conflict and the US role in the solution of the crisis. The main purpose of the thesis is to give an answer to the question: Why did the USA change their policy toward Iraq from ‘soft line’ to ‘hard line’ in the Gulf crisis?In short, ‘soft line’ in this context refers to the US policy of using economic incentives and diplomatic dialogue to induce an Iraqi policy favourable to the US goals in the region. The ‘hard line’ labels the abrupt change in policy as the Gulf crisis arose and contains the imposition of economic sanctions and ultimately war against Iraq. The explanatory factors emphasised in the thesis are external, that is the international environment in which the US foreign policy are formed is investigated, rather than the structure of domestic policy-making processes and what influence them. These factors constitute the independent variables of the thesis, also called the context variables. To ease the overview, each of the issues are dichotomised to the situation before and after the Gulf crisis occurred. What is to be analysed is the transition between the two values of each variable. Considering that the thesis view policy-making a process of continuous mutual influence, this render possible a dynamic analysis in which the outcome of the policy-making process provide the input for the continued policy-making process.The thesis has concentrated on the following four issues: 1) The structure of the international system, 2) The Arab-Israeli conflict, 3) The Gulf stability and 4) the access to oil. The first part of the analysis accounts for the change in the context of the US policy-making. Respectively, this part reviews; 1) the impact of the end of the Cold War, 2) the Iraqi hostility toward Israel, 3) the Iraqi threat to the Gulf balance of power and 4) the potential increase in Iraqi economic power resulting from the access to Kuwaiti oil resources in the Gulf crisis. The second part of the analysis explains how these factors caused the US policy to change from the ‘soft line’ to the ‘hard line’, considering their impact on US national security, autonomy, welfare and status and prestige. The foremost problem in this thesis is not the lack of sources of information, but the bias attached to the majority of the available material. The point of view conveyed in the major part of the sources is American, hence the critical review of the US behaviour is complicated. Another hinder to a comprehensive understanding is that a great part of information on the US decision-making process is classified. During a study trip to Washington DC in February 1998 declassified documents were obtained from the National Security Archives. The documents span the period of 1980 to 1994, but the material relevant to this thesis is scarce after 1989. From this time on the thesis have had to rely on official statements and speeches. A critical review of the topic of the thesis would have benefited from access to information still classified regarding the period after 1989. The contention of this thesis is that despite these flaws, it still is possible to shed some light on the US policy. However tentative the conclusions of the thesis may be, the hope is to improve the understanding of how the factors reviewed contributed to the US behaviour in the Gulf crisis.