The Gulf War


  • In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait in order to gain more control over the oil supply of the Middle East.
  • In response, the United States and the UN Security Council demanded that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait, but Hussein refused.
  • Operation Desert Storm: Over the course of six weeks in 1991, a United States-led coalition of 34 nations began an intensive bombing campaign against strategic Iraqi locations, ending with a four-day ground campaign against Iraqi forces.
  • At the end of February, Hussein signed a cease-fire agreement and released Kuwait. After the war, Iraq was required to submit to inspections to ensure it had no chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqi aggression, oil, and power

On August 2, 1990 the forces of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded oil-rich Kuwait. Hussein hoped that Kuwait's oil reserves would give Iraq significant power over Middle Eastern oil and would help pay off debts from the Iraq-Iran war.

US officials worried that Iraq had region-wide power ambitions. The Iraq Army was the world’s fourth largest military force, partly due to past U.S. aid for Iraq to fight Iran.

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait posed a geopolitical oil crisis. If Saddam Hussein gained control of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, he would have control over twenty percent of world oil reserves, putting the energy-hungry American way of life at risk.

The United States and the United Nations Security Council immediately condemned the invasion.

The Gulf War

The response to the invasion of Kuwait took place in two stages:

Operation Desert Shield (August 1990 - January 17, 1991)

President Bush built a 34-nation coalition in the United Nations and sent more than 500,000 troops to protect Saudi Arabia and free Kuwait.

Operation Desert Storm (January 17 - February 28, 1991)

Operation Desert Storm was the combat phase of the conflict. It began with a five-week bombing campaign that employed "smart bombs"—bombs able to find their target with pinpoint accuracy—against a broad range of strategic Iraqi targets.

Iraq launched Scud missiles at civilian and military targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The Gulf War was the first American conflict shown on live television. CNN aired live images of bombs exploding and other events of the war.

The end of the Gulf War

After the four-day ground campaign, Iraqi forces fled Kuwait, setting fire to hundreds of oil wells as they left. President Bush declared a ceasefire, and the Gulf War was over. Kuwait had been liberated.

Saddam Hussein was allowed to remain in power in Iraq, though Iraq was required to submit to searches for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The decision to allow Hussein to remain in power proved controversial.

The Gulf War began a phase of heightened U.S. military presence in Middle East.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a second war in Iraq began in 2003 after US intelligence agencies and spy agencies around the world claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Source: The Gulf War
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