Middle East

The Gulf War of 1990-1991

Emerging as a significant power in the Middle East after the indecisive war with neighbouring Iran, in August 1990, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion and occupation of neighbouring Kuwait. This started the Gulf War, basically. Countries like the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt as well as other fellow Arab states intervened by condemning the invasion of Kuwait.

Legally, Iraq violated the United Nations Security Council’s demands to withdraw from Kuwait before January 15, 1991, therefore the war began with the military intervention of the allied forces of Saudi Arabia and the United States significantly, with an air offensive operation, known as Operation Desert Storm.

During the Gulf War, a pair of American soldiers stand in
the turret of an M1A1 Abrams tank as, near the border
with Iraq, oil wells burn in the distance, Kuwait,
March 20, 1991. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)

The relentless attacks by the allied coalition in the air and on the ground lasted for over 40 days before U.S President George H.W declared a cease-fire and by the 28th of February almost all the forces of Iraq in Kuwait fled, surrendered and several died as a result of the war.

Abstractly, this war was one of the conflicts that led the basis for other reoccurring troubles in the region, as evidenced by the Second Gulf War (the Iraq War) which started in 2003.

Persian Gulf War: Background

A United Nations-brokered ceasefire in August 1988, though ended the Iran-Iraq War, but there was no solid establishment of a peace agreement between the two states by the mid-1990. With the meeting of their foreign ministers in Geneva, it seemed like Iraq was ready to take to resolution between the two states in the face of the Gulf War.

According to Iraq, “Kuwait was siphoning crude oil from the Ar-Rumaylah oil fields located along their common border.” And Saddam also insisted that $30 billion of Iraq’s foreign debt must be cancelled by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the duo, according to him, were conspiring to make the oil prices stable at lower prices in order to offer illegally to Western nations that imported the oil.

Moreover, Iraq, according to Hussein’s stirring speech, had begun to gather troops in Kuwait’s border. This woke the Egyptian leader, President Hosni Mubarak to develop negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait. This was an effort to shun extra-regional interference, but Hussein would break the negotiations in the next few hours as he would order the occupation and invasion of Kuwait.

Hussein did not expect any intervention from outside the Gulf region. Therefore, Iraq was ready to achieve the occupational interest no matter the intervention of any Gulf power whatsoever. However, it was a big miscalculation for him.

The majority of the members of the Arab League condemned the invasion and called it an act of aggression. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s exiled government sought support from the United States.

Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait & Allied Response

The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union collectively condemned the invasion. When the United Nations Security Council called for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, the United States was ready to be militarily involved in the conflict.

US troops arrive in Saudi Arabia to take part in
Operation Desert Shield during the Gulf War, 1990.
(Photo by Tom Stoddart/Getty Images)

On August 8, Iraq formally annexed Kuwait and called it its 19th province. Operation Desert Shield of the first Air Force fighter planes began to arrive in Saudi Arabia, and those planes were “accompanied by troops sent by NATO allies as well as Egypt and several other Arab nations, designed to guard against a possible Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia.”

Rather, Iraq increased its occupation forces reaching 300, 000 troops. And allegedly, Iraq declared a holy war against the coalition to summon the sympathy of the Muslim world.

Moreover, he also made an attempt to ally himself with the Palestinian question when he made it known that he would return Iraqi forces from Kuwait if Israel can also withdraw from occupied Palestinian territories. Quickly, Iraq concluded peace with Iran and sought to increase its army.

The Persian Gulf War Began

Decisively, not limited to military engagement, on November 29, 1990, the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of all means necessary against Iraq if it failed to withdraw from Kuwait by mid-January.

The coalition forces, amounting to over 700, 000, prepared to battle the occupied forces of Iraq in Kuwait. Troops were contributed by Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, Japan, Egypt, and other nations.

Iraq, on its side, had the support of “Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Tunisia and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).”

On the 17th of January, Iraq’s air defences were hit by the allied forces of Operation Desert Storm which destroyed Iraqi communications networks, weapons plants, oil refineries and others.

American airforce F-15 C fighters flying over a
Kuwaiti oilfield which had been torched by retreating
Iraqi troops during the Gulf War.
(Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Under the relentless, hot and destructive attacks by the operation against Iraq, nearly very quickly after the outbreak of the hit, the Iraqi air force lost effectiveness and they opted out of the war, jettisoning their aim to win in the air and influence the ground combat possibly.

War on the Ground

After the defeat of the Iraqi forces, the focus shifted to the ground forces in Kuwait and the Southern part of Iraq. Another massive allied ground offensive, Operation Desert Sabre was launched from Saudi Arab into Kuwait and Iraq’s southern part.

In a four-day military engagement, the allied forces had effectively defeated the Iraqis and Kuwait was liberated. Summarily, by February 27, despite all forms of resistance, Iraq had been totally defeated.

Persian Gulf War: Ceasefire

When Iraqi resistance was lacking effectiveness, Bush declared a ceasefire on February 28, ending the Persian Gulf War. In the followed organised peace agreement, the primary interest of the allied forces, the secure the sovereignty of Kuwait, was achieved.

The sovereignty of Kuwait must be recognised by Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction (as claimed by the U.S.) must be destroyed. According to an estimated data, not less than “8,000 to 10,000 Iraqi forces were killed, in comparison with only 300 coalition troops.”

The war though was decisive a victory for the allied forces, Kuwait and Iraq suffered heavy damage, and the U.S also wanted Saddam Hussein out of the leadership in Iraq. 

Persian Gulf War: Aftermath

This war was not that short as it seemed, in fact, it would later have a lot of consequences in the years to come, and its impacts would be felt continuously in the world.

Immediately, the uprisings by Kurds in the north of Iraq and Shi’ites in the south were suppressed by the Iraqi forces, and it was, according to several publications, that the revolts were considered internal issues, that none of the powers of the allied forces intervene in the uprisings.

Although this may be datable; possibly the revolts against Iraqi government might have been sponsored by the United States and other few powers, but there is no evidence for this statement.

SAUDI ARABIA – AUGUST 23: American troops at
Dahran airport in Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Shield,
August 23rd, 1990.
(Photo by Eric BOUVET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

The problem of inspection was another contentious issue between the Iraq and the West, especially the United States and Britain. Seemed like the U.S. had baser motives in the affairs of Iraq, perhaps for the sake of oil, U.S. and British aircraft continued to patrol skies and mandate a no-fly zone over Iraq and the United Nations weapons inspections over Iraq became opprobrium to Iraq.

There were several minor hostilities between the Western forces and Iraq, especially in 1998. Iraq had lost its sovereignty under the Western cloak of the United Nations weapons inspections. They exchanged fire over the no-fly zone and detested the weapons inspections, especially with the U.S. personnel, by the West.

In 2002, the United States via a sponsored U.N resolution called for the return of weapons inspections to Iraq, and the U.N inspectors entered Iraq again. This was actually a ‘distortioned’ pretext against Iraq by the United States, but because no power would like to support Iraq for its historic aggressiveness, all weapons of stories fired against them by the United States effectively prospered.

With debates between Security Council member states over the conformity of Iraq to those inspections, the United States and Britain began amassing forces on Iraq’s border, and Bush gave an ultimatum on the 17th of March, 2003 that Saddam Hussein should step down from power and evacuate Iraq within two days.

It seemed unfortunate, another power in the world using historic aggressiveness of an enemy as a pretext to shatter them for political (and perhaps religious) reasons. Saddam of course refused as expected from a head of state, and subsequently, the second Gulf War began after three days.

Unfortunately, breaching all forms of legal attachments and having cooked their preferred version of story that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. forces brutally invaded Iraq, humiliated the human in Saddam and captured him on December 13, 2003. By December 30, 2006, the captured Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein was executed, and the U.S formally withdrew from Iraq in December 2011 effectively.

References

  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022, April 8). Persian Gulf War. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Persian-Gulf-War
  2. History.com Editors. “Persian Gulf War”. HISTORY. (April 18, 2022) Publisher; A&E Television Networks. (Accessed date April 18, 2022). Accessed link: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/persian-gulf-war
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About the author

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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