Is the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait the first step in a larger plot by Iraq, Yemen and Jordan to carve up Saudi Arabia and its oil among themselves? Saudi Arabian leaders firmly believe it's true, and that is the compelling reason behind their secret pressure on President Bush to get into a war soon and get it over quickly.
"The Plot," as the Saudis call it, is detailed in highly classified CIA reports.
The Saudis believe the plan was for Iraq to take Kuwait and the northeastern oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Yemen would get a part of southern Saudi Arabia that the Yemenis have long claimed as their rightful land. Jordan would regain the western Hijaz region including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. That region was ruled by the ancestors of Jordan's King Hussein until the House of Saud booted them out.
The invaders would let the Saudis keep the middle region of the Arabian Peninsula where there is little oil or anything else of value.
Like all conspiracy theories, there are elements of truth to this one. Until U.S. forces moved in, Yemen was perfectly capable of taking a chunk out of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi army is slightly larger than Yemen's, but the Saudi troops are preoccupied on their northern border with Iraq and Kuwait.
The Saudis have a superior air force compared to Yemen, but the CIA reports note that Iraq's Saddam Hussein sent a squadron of Iraqi MiG-13s to Yemen just before his invasion of Kuwait.
Since the invasion, Yemen and Jordan have leaned toward Saddam. Yemen abstained in U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Iraq. Similar abstentions in Arab League meetings are interpreted by the Saudis not as neutrality, but as proof of The Plot.
In mid-September, Saudi Arabia ordered Yemeni business owners in Saudi Arabia to find Saudi partners for their businesses or leave the country. Since then, more than a million Yemenis have sold their businesses and left Saudi Arabia.
The CIA reports say the Saudis believe that Yemen's reward for joining The Plot would have been the three southwestern provinces of Saudi Arabia that were part of Yemen until they were annexed by the Saudis in 1934.
One of those provinces, Najran, is rich in oil, which the impoverished Yemen desperately needs. The difference between the "haves" in Saudi Arabia and the "have nots" in Yemen is vast and has bred animosity between the two nations. The Saudi per capita income is more than 10 times that of Yemen. Saudi Arabia has a superior education system while as many as 90 percent of Yemenis are reportedly illiterate.
Whether or not Yemen cut a deal to slice up Saudi Arabia is now moot with the presence of U.S. troops in the region. Yemen is asking the United Nations for $1.6 billion in compensation for abiding by the sanctions against its old friend Iraq. As long as Saudi Arabia believes The Plot was real, Yemen cannot count on the continued foreign aid it was getting from the Saudis.
The CIA does not know whether or not to believe The Plot, but if Bush gets desperate to rally support for a continued military presence in Saudi Arabia, stories of a larger conspiracy will come in handy.