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.
After prodding by Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Hussein had offered to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 21 days. But the United States appeared to be moving ahead with its land campaign.
“The situation is now is getting worse,” Mr. Hussein had written the previous night in a 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 President George Bush’s hand. “He tricked us,” Mr. Hussein said. “I knew he would betray us!”