The papers, released under the 30-year-rule, show that the British government took the threat so seriously that it drew up a detailed assessment of what the Americans might do.
It was thought that US airborne troops would seize the oil installations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and might even ask the British to do the same in Abu Dhabi.
The episode shows how the security of oil supplies is always at the forefront of governments’ planning.
And thirty years later…
The US state department and Pentagon disclosed the preparations during a meeting in Washington before Christmas with members of the Iraqi opposition parties.
Iraq has the second biggest known oil reserves in the world producing, in their current run-down state, about 1.5m barrels a day. But experts contacted by the Guardian predict this could rise to 6m barrels a day within five years with the right investment and control.
At the meeting, on the future of a post-Saddam Iraq – details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian – the state department stressed that protection of the oilfields was “issue number one”.