The Persian Gulf War


On August 2nd, 1990 Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied 
the small Arab state of Kuwait. The order was given by Iraqi 
dictatorial president Saddam Hussein. His aim was apparently to take 
control Kuwait's oil reserves (despite its small size Kuwait is a huge 
oil producer; it has about 10 per cent of the world's oil reserves ). 
Iraq accused Kuwait, and also the United Arab Emirates, of breaking 
agreements that limit oil production in the Middle East. According
to Saddam Hussein, this brought down world oil prices severely and 
caused financial loss of billions of dollars in Iraq's annual revenue. 
Saddam Hussein had the nearly hopeless task of justifying the 
invasion. He plead the fact that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman 
province of Basra, a city in the south of Iraq. However, the Ottoman 
province collapsed after World War I and today's Iraqi borders were 
not created until then. There was also a further and more obvious 
blunder in a bid to justify this illegal invasion. Baghdad, the 
capital of Iraq, had namely recognized Kuwaiti independence in 1963. 
Furthermore, Hussein claimed that Kuwait had illegally pumped oil from 
the Iraqi oil field of Rumaila and otherwise conspired to reduce 
Iraq's essential oil income.

 By invading Kuwait, Iraq succeeded in surprising the entire 
world. The USA ended her policy of accommodating Saddam Hussein, which 
had existed since the Iran-Iraq war. Negative attitude toward Iraq was 
soon a worldwide phenomenon. The United Nations Security Council 
passed 12 resolutions condemning the invasion. The ultimate decision 
was to use military force if Iraq did not withdraw unconditionally
by January 15, 1991. Then, when the deadline was set, it was time to 
start preparing for the worst-the war. President George Bush 
confronted little difficulty in winning Americans' support for the 
potential war against Iraq. However, the government found it difficult 
to decide upon and state one overriding reason for going to war. Was 
it to oppose aggression or was it just to protect global oil supplies? 
Other powers were more directly concerned as consumers of Persian Gulf 
oil, but they were not as eager to commit military force, to risk 
their youth in battle and to pay for the costs of the war. Critics of
President Bush continued to maintain that he was taking advantage of 
the issue of energy supplies in order to manipulate the U. S. public 
opinion in favor of war. 
 After consulting with U. S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in
early August 1990, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia invited American troops 
onto Saudi soil. He had seen Kuwait's destiny; therefore, he wanted 
protection. It was also the interest of the USA to stop any further 
advantage of the Iraqi army. The deployment was called "Operation 
Desert Shield." These troops were armed with light, defensive 
 On November 8, 1990 President Bush announced a military buildup 
to provide an offensive option, "Operation Desert Storm," to force 
Iraq out of Kuwait. The preparation of the operation took two and
a half months and it involved a massive air- and sea lift. Finally, in
January 1991, the U. S. Congress voted to support Security Council 
resolution 660. It authorized using "all necessary means" if Iraq did 
not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15. Shrugging off this final 
warning, Saddam Hussein resolutely maintained the occupation of 
Kuwait. The United States established a broad-based international 
coalition to confront Iraq militarily and diplomatically. The
military coalition consisted of Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, 
Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, 
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, 
the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, 
Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, 
Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United 
States. The war also was financed by countries which were unable
to send in troops. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the main donors. More 
than $53 billion was pledged and received. 
 Before the war, it appeared obvious that Iraq would have very 
little chance against the Coalition. The relative strength between the 
parties was extremely unequal. The most critical difference was that 
the Coalition had a total of 2600 aircraft, over three times more
than Iraq's 800 aircraft. Most Arab observers thought Hussein would 
not last more than six months. Lieutenant General Khalid bin Sultan, 
the commander of the Arab coalition forces, gave Iraq's leader only 40 
days, and repeated this prediction many times. Iraq's prospect was 
 President George Bush waited two days after the UN deadline for 
Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait before ordering the Coalition to begin 
action against Iraq. The winds of Desert Storm began howling across 
Iraq on January 17, 1991, at 2.30 am Baghdad time. Bhagdad was bombed 
fiercely by the coalition's fighter airplanes in the first night of 
the war. An interesting fact is that several weeks before this, US
intelligence agents successfully inserted a computer virus into Iraq's 
military computers. It was designed to disable much of Baghdad's 
air-defense system.

 To minimize casualties, the coalition forces, under the command 
of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, pursued a strategy beginning with 
five weeks of intensive air attacks and ending with a ground assault. 
Drawing on its 1,800 planes, land- and carrier-based, the United 
States flew the greatest number of sorties. The British, French, and 
Saudis made up most of the rest. Besides the tremendous air power, the 
coalition deployed technologically advanced weapon systems, such as 
the unmanned Tomahawk cruise missile, advanced infrared targeting that 
illuminated Iraqi tanks buried in the, sand and laser-guided bombs, 
"smart bombs." Its use of brand new aircraft that never before had
been engaged in combat, such as British Tornados and U. S. F-117A 
Stealth fighters, gave the Coalition an accuracy and firepower that 
overwhelmed the Iraqi forces. The large-scale usage of air force and 
latest technology made the war short and saved great numbers of 
Coalition soldiers' lives. 
 After establishing air superiority, coalition forces disabled 
Iraq's command and control centers, especially in Baghdad and Al 
Bashrah. This caused the communication to fail between Baghdad and the 
troops in the field. The next stage was to attack relentlessly Iraq's 
infantry, which was dug in along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, and the 
elite 125,000 man Republican Guard in southeastern Iraq and northern 
Kuwait. Iraq retaliated by using mobile launchers to fire Scud 
missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel, a noncombatant coalition. 
Overall, Hussein's forces launched 93 Scuds. The United States 
countered this threat with Patriot antimissile missiles, called also 
"Scudbusters," and commando attacks on Scud launchers.
 Patriot missiles gave an engagement rate of nearly 96 per cent. 
The coalition's air raids on Iraq's infantry lowered Iraqi soldiers' 
morale dramatically. It is easy to sense in the following quote from 
an Iraqi lieutenant's war diary the powerlessness and fear that the 
soldiers felt during air attacks by the Coalition:

 "2 February 1991 I was awakened this morning by the noise of an
 enemy air raid. I ran and hid in the nearby trench. I had breakfast 
 and afterwards something indescribable happened. Two enemy planes 
 came toward us and began firing at us, in turn, with missiles, 
 machine guns, and rockets. I was almost killed. Death was a yard 
 away from me. The missiles, machine guns and rockets didn't let up. 
 One of the rockets hit and pierced our shelter, which was 
 penetrated by shrapnel. Over and over we said, "Allah, Allah, 
 Allah." One tank burned and three other tanks belonging to 3rd 
 Company, which we were with, were destroyed. That was a very bad 
 experience. Time passed and we waited to die. The munitions dump of 
 the 68th Tank Battalion exploded. A cannon shell fell on one of the 
 soldiers' positions, but, thank God, no one was there. The soldiers 
 were somewhere else. The attack lasted about 15 minutes, but it 
 seemed like a year to me. I read chapters in the Qur'an. How hard 
 it is to be killed by someone you don't know, you've never seen 
 and, can't confront. He is in the sky and you're on the ground. Our 
 ground resistance is magnificent. After the air raid, I gave 
 great thanks to God and joined some soldiers to ask how each of 
 them was. While I was doing that, another air attack began. 2 
 February at 2000 hours." 

The ground war began at 8:00 p.m. on February 23 and lasted exactly
100 hours. This phase featured a massively successful outflanking 
movement of the Iraqi forces. Schwarzkopf used a deceptive maneuver by 
deploying a large number of forces as if to launch a large amphibious 
landing. The Iraqis apparently anticipated that they also would be 
attacked frontally and had heavily fortified those defensive 
positions. Schwarzkopf instead moved the bulk of his forces west and 
north in a major use of helicopters, attacking the Iraqis from their 
rear. The five weeks of intensive air attack had greatly demoralized
the Iraqi front-line troops, causing wholesale desertions. Remaining 
front-line forces were quickly killed or taken prisoner with minimal 
coalition losses.
 Iraqi front-line commanders had already lost much of their 
ability to communicate with Baghdad, which made their situation even 
worse. On the final night of the war, within hours of the cease-fire, 
two U.S. Air force bombers dropped specially designed 5,000-pound 
bombs on a command bunker fifteen miles northwest of Baghdad in a 
deliberate attempt to kill Saddam Hussein. President Bush's decision 
to terminate the ground war at midnight February 28, 1991 was 
criticized, because it allowed Baghdad to rescue a large amount of 
military equipment and personnel that were later used to suppress the 
postwar rebellions of its Shiite and Kurdish citizens. In his own 
defense, the president asserted that the war had accomplished its 
mandate. The mission, given by the Security Council, was to expel the 
Iraqi forces from Kuwait and reestablish Kuwaiti independence. Bush's 
decision was probably influenced by his desire to maintain coalition
unity. A particular reason was to keep on board the Arab members, who 
were increasingly unhappy at the devastation inflicted on Iraq's 
infrastructure and civilian population. 
 Iraqi representatives accepted allied terms for a provisional 
truce on March 3 and a permanent cease-fire on April 6. Iraq agreed to 
pay reparations to Kuwait, reveal the location and extent of its
stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and eliminate its 
weapons of mass destruction. Subsequently, however, UN inspectors 
complained that the Baghdad government was frustrating their attempts 
to monitor Iraqi compliance, and UN sanctions against Iraq were kept 
in place. The following chart shows total equipment and casualties of 
the Gulf War. In addition, 300,000 Iraqi soldiers were wounded, 
150,000 were deserted, and 60,000 were taken prisoner (an estimate of 
U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency). The United States suffered 148 
killed in action, 458 wounded, and 11 female combat deaths. 121 were 
killed in nonhostile actions; they were mostly victims of friendly 

Table 01; Total Equipment and Casualties of Gulf War



TANKS: 4000 4230 4 3360 
ARTILLERY: 2140 3110 1 3633 
HELICOPTERS: 7 160 17 1951 
AIRCRAFT: 240 800 44 2600 
SOLDIERS: 100000 545000 200 680000 


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