Invasion of Kuwait – Gulf War/ Operation Desert Storm

Invasion of Kuwait

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The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait, which resulted in the seven-month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, which subsequently led to direct military intervention by United States-led forces in the Gulf War.

File:Kuwaiti M-84.JPEG

Kuwaiti M-84 of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces at an outpost in Kuwait

In 1990, Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi petroleum through slant drilling, although some Iraqi sources indicated Saddam Hussein’s decision to attack Kuwait was made only a few months before the actual invasion, suggesting that the regime was under feelings of severe time pressure .Some feel there were several reasons for the Iraqi move, including Iraq’s inability to pay more than $80 billion that had been borrowed to finance theIran-Iraq war and Kuwaiti overproduction of petroleum which kept revenues down for Iraq. The invasion started on August 2, 1990, and within two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard or escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia andBahrain. The state of Kuwait was annexed, and Hussein announced in a few days that it was the 19th province of Iraq.

Iraqi forces storming across the border

Iraqi forces storming across the border

Invasion of Kuwait
Part of the Gulf War
Date 2–4 August 1990
Location Kuwait
Result Iraqi victory; Iraqi-backed government installed; Beginning of the Kuwaiti resistance movement; Iraqi occupation of Kuwait triggering the Persian Gulf War.
Iraq-Kuwait border abolished; temporaryannexation of Kuwait as the 19th province of Iraq (unrecognized by any nation and deemed illegal by UN).
Iraq Iraq Kuwait Kuwait
Supported By: United Nations

Commanders and leaders
Iraq Saddam Hussein
Iraq Ali Hassan al-Majid
Kuwait Jaber III
100,000+[2][3] 16,000[4]
Casualties and losses
37+ aircraft (est.).
Other losses N/A
20 aircraft lost,
200 KIA,
600 POWs

Causes of the conflict

File:An Iraqi T-54, T-55 or Type 59 and T-55A on Basra-Kuwait Highway near Kuwait.JPEG

Two Iraqi tanks lie abandoned near Kuwait City on February 26, 1991

Kuwait was a close ally of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war and functioned as the country’s major port once Basra was shut down by the fighting. However, after the war ended, the friendly relations between the two neighbouring Arab countries turned sour due to several economic and diplomatic reasons that finally culminated in an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

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Workers working on fire at the Rumaila oil field

Dispute over the financial debt

Kuwait had heavily funded the 8-year-long Iraqi war against Iran. By the time the war ended, Iraq was not in a financial position to repay the $80 billion it borrowed from Kuwait to finance its war Iraq argued that the war had prevented the rise of Iranian influence in the Arab World. However, Kuwait’s reluctance to pardon the debt created strains in the relationship between the two Arab countries. During late 1989, several official meetings were held between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi leaders but they were unable to break the deadlock between the two.

Iraqi artillery

Iraqi artillery

Economic warfare and slant drilling

According to George Piro, the FBI interrogator who questioned Saddam Hussein after his capture (in 2003), Iraq tried repaying its debts by raising the prices of oil through OPEC‘s oil production cuts. However, Kuwait, a member of the OPEC, prevented a global increase in petroleum prices by increasing its own petroleum production, thus lowering the price and preventing recovery of the war-crippled Iraqi economy. This was seen by many in Iraq as an act of aggression, further distancing the countries. The collapse in oil prices had a catastrophic impact on the Iraqi economy. According to former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, “every US$1 drop in the price of a barrel of oil caused a US$1 billion drop in Iraq’s annual revenues triggering an acute financial crisis in Baghdad. It was estimated that Iraq lost US$14 billion a year due to Kuwait’s oil price strategy.

Iraqi anti-aircraft battery

Iraqi anti-aircraft battery

The Iraqi Government described it as a form of ‘economic warfare,’ which it claimed was aggravated by Kuwait’s alleged slant-drilling across the border into Iraq’s Rumaila field. The dispute over Rumaila field started in 1960 when an Arab League declaration marked the Iraq-Kuwait border 2 miles north of the southern-most tip of the Rumaila field. During the Iran–Iraq War, Iraqi oil drilling operations in Rumaila declined while Kuwait’s operations increased. In 1989, Iraq accused Kuwait of using “advanced drilling techniques” to exploit oil from its share of the Rumaila field. Iraq estimated that US$2.4 billion worth of Iraqi oil was stolen by Kuwait and demanded compensation.

Captured Iraqi weapons

Captured Iraqi weapons

Kuwait dismissed the accusations as a false Iraqi ploy to justify military action against it. Several foreign firms working in the Rumaila field also dismissed Iraq’s slant-drilling claims as a “smokescreen to disguise Iraq’s more ambitious intentions”.

The assault on Dasman Palace

The assault on Dasman Palace

On July 25, 1990, only a few days before the Iraqi invasion, OPEC officials said that Kuwait and United Arab Emirates had agreed to a proposal to limit daily oil output to 1.5 million barrels, thus potentially settling differences over oil policy between Kuwait and Iraq.At the time of the settlement, more than 100,000 Iraqi troops were deployed along Iraq-Kuwait border and American officials expressed little indication of decline in tensions despite the OPEC settlement.

Burning of the Kuwaiti oilfields

Burning of the Kuwaiti oilfields

Diplomatic row

Post Iran–Iraq War and dispute over Rumaila oilfield, the diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait deteriorated dramatically triggering several heated exchanges between Iraqi and Kuwaiti diplomats during various regional and Gulf Cooperation Councilsummits.

The Highway of Death

The Highway of Death

Iraqi hegemonic claims

Though Kuwait’s large oil reserves were widely considered to be the main reason behind the Iraqi invasion, the Iraqi government justified its invasion by claiming that Kuwait was a natural part of Iraq carved off due to British imperialism. After signing the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, the United Kingdom split Kuwait from the Ottoman territories into a separate sheikhdom. The Iraqi government also argued that the Kuwaiti Emir was a highly unpopular figure among the Kuwaiti populace. By overthrowing the Emir, Iraq claimed that it granted Kuwaitis greater economic and political freedom.

Iraqi artillery

Iraqi artillery

Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman province of Basra, and although its ruling dynasty, the al-Sabah family, had concluded a protectorate agreement in 1899 that assigned responsibility for its foreign affairs to Britain, it did not make any attempt to secede from the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, its borders with the rest of Basra province were never clearly defined or mutually agreed. Furthermore, Iraq alleged that the British High Commissioner “drew lines that deliberately constricted Iraq’s access to the ocean so that any future Iraqi government would be in no position to threaten Britain’s domination of the [Persian] Gulf”

Burning Iraqi tank

Burning Iraqi tank

According to some, Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Kuwait partly came as a reaction against an international conspiracy against Iraq, which, in Saddam’s view, was meant to weaken and destabilize the Ba’athist regime. Subtle shifts in the American policy together with the British and American efforts to block the export of dual-use technology to Iraq, a consequence of its nuclear program, were seen by Saddam as part of a concerted effort to build a case against Iraq.

File Photo Iraqi Tanks Parked In Salmiya

Saddam considered Kuwait an accomplice of the foreign powers. In a memorandum dating from July 1990, the former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz accused Kuwait and the UAE of production beyond their OPEC quotas and claimed that the overproduction was synchronized with the efforts of foreign powers to denigrate Iraq. Kellner argues that the fact that Kuwait refused to negotiate with a dangerous Iraq and risked being invaded by it sustains the theory according to which Kuwait had received tacit support from the U.S. even before the war started.

At the same time the Iraqi military intelligence was receiving warnings about Israeli plans to attack Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Saddam was convinced of the existence of a conspiracy and even described it to Wafiq al-Samara’i, deputy director of Iraqi military intelligence as follows:

“America is coordinating with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Kuwait in a conspiracy against us. They are trying to reduce the price of oil to affect our military industries and our scientific research, to force us to reduce the size of our armed forces….You must expect from another direction an Israeli military air strike, or more than one, to destroy some of our important targets as part of this conspiracy”

Following the invasion, Saddam’s unwillingness to accept a negotiated solution to the Kuwait crisis once again sustains the hypothesis that the fear of Iraq’s domestic and economic destabilization was the most important factor that contributed to his invasion decision.

Iraqi-American relations

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April Glaspie’s first meeting with Saddam Hussein

On July 25, 1990, the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, April Glaspie, asked the Iraqi high command to explain the military preparations in progress, including the massing of Iraqi troops near the border.

The American ambassador declared to her Iraqi interlocutor that Washington, “inspired by the friendship and not by confrontation, does not have an opinion” on the disagreement between Kuwait and Iraq, stating “we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts.”

She also let Saddam Hussein know that the U.S. did not intend “to start an economic war against Iraq”. These statements may have caused Saddam to believe he had received a diplomatic green light from the United States to invade Kuwait.

According to Prof. Richard E. Rubenstein, Glaspie was later asked by British journalists why she had said that, her response was “we didn’t think he would go that far” meaning take the whole country. Although no follow-up question was asked, one might assume that what the US government thought was that Saddam Hussein would take only the oil field.

The Invasion

File:Ex-Iraqi Type 69 tank on display in Kuwait.jpg

An Iraqi Type 69 tank on display at the site of the Al-Qurain Martyrdom.

Kuwait Air Force A-4KU Skyhawks

Kuwaiti M-84AB Tanks.

A Kuwait M-84 tank during Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Kuwait continues to maintain strong relations with the coalition of the Gulf War.

Chain of Command
Latvian platoon at Camp Lejune.jpg

Unit Soldiers Commander
Fireteam 4 NCO
Squad/Section 8–13 Squad leader
Platoon 26–55 Platoon leader
Company 80–225 Captain/Major
Battalion 300–1,300 (Lieutenant)Colonel
Regiment/Brigade 3,000–5,000 (Lieutenant)Colonel/
Division 10,000–15,000 Major General
Corps 20,000–45,000 Lieutenant General
Field army 80,000–200,000 General
Army group 400,000–1,000,000 Field Marshal
Army Region 1,000,000–3,000,000 Field Marshal
Army theater 3,000,000–10,000,000 Field Marshal

On August 2, 1990 at 2:00 am, local time, Iraq launched an invasion of Kuwait with four elite Iraqi Republican Guard divisions (1st Hammurabi Armoured Division, 2nd al-Medinah al-Munawera Armoured Division, 3rd Tawalkalna ala-Allah Mechanized Infantry Division and 6th Nebuchadnezzar Motorized Infantry Division) and Iraqi Armyspecial forces units equivalent to a full division. The main thrust was conducted by thecommandos deployed by helicopters and boats to attack Kuwait City(see The Battle of Dasman Palace), while the other divisions seized the airports and two airbases.

In support of these units, the Iraqi Army deployed a squadron of Mil Mi-25 helicopter gunships, several units of Mi-8 and Mi-17 transport helicopters, as well as a squadron of Bell 412 helicopters. The foremost mission of the helicopter units was to transport and support Iraqi commandos into Kuwait City, and subsequently to support the advance of ground troops. The Iraqi Air Force (IrAF) had at least two squadrons ofSukhoi Su-22, one of Su-25, one of Mirage F1 and two of MiG-23 fighter-bombers. The main task of the IrAF was to establish air superiority through limited counter-air strikes against two main air bases of Kuwaiti Air Force, whose planes consisted mainly of Mirage F1‘s and Douglas (T)A-4KU Skyhawks.

In spite of months of Iraqi sabre-rattling, Kuwait did not have its forces on alert and was caught unaware. The first indication of the Iraqi ground advance was from a radar-equipped aerostat that detected an Iraqi armour column moving south. Kuwaiti air, ground, and naval forces resisted, but were vastly outnumbered. In central Kuwait, the 35th Armoured Brigade deployed approximately a battalion of Chieftain tanks, BMPs, and an Artillery piece against the Iraqis and fought delaying actions near Al Jahra(see The Battle of the Bridges), west of Kuwait City. In the south, the 15th Armoured Brigade moved immediately to evacuate its forces to Saudi Arabia. Of the small Kuwaiti Navy, two missile boats were able to evade capture or destruction.

Police Headquarters on Failaka Island, Kuwait.

Kuwait Air Force aircraft were scrambled, but approximately 20% were lost or captured. An air battle with the Iraqi helicopter airborne forces was fought over Kuwait City, inflicting heavy losses on the Iraqi elite troops, and a few combat sorties were flown against Iraqi ground forces. The remaining 80% were then evacuated to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, some aircraft even taking off from the highways adjacent to the bases as the runways were overrun. While these aircraft were not used in support of the subsequent Gulf War, the “Free Kuwait Air Force” assisted Saudi Arabia in patrolling the southern border with Yemen, which was considered a threat by the Saudis because of Yemen-Iraq ties.

Iraqi troops attacked Dasman Palace, the Royal Residence, resulting in the Battle of Dasman Palace. The Kuwaiti Emiri Guard, supported by local police and M-84 tanks managed to repel an Airborne assault by Iraqi Special Forces, but the Palace fell after a landing by Iraqi Marines (Dasman Palace is located on the coast). The Kuwaiti National Guard, as well as additional Emiri Guards arrived, but the palace remained occupied, and Republican Guard tanks rolled into Kuwait City after several hours of heavy fighting.

The Emir of KuwaitJaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah had already fled into the Saudi desert. His younger half brotherSheikh Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, was shot and killed by invading Iraqi forces as he attempted to defend Dasman Palace after which his body was placed in front of a tank and run over, according to an Iraqi soldier who was present and deserted after the assault.

By the end of the first day of the invasion, only pockets of resistance were left in the country. By August 3, the last military units were desperately fighting delaying actions at choke points and other defensible positions throughout the country until out of ammunition or overrun by Iraqi forces. Ali al-Salim air base of the Kuwaiti Air Force was the only base still unoccupied on August 3, and Kuwaiti Aircraft flew resupply missions from Saudi Arabia throughout the day in an effort to mount a defense. However by nightfall, Ali al-Salim air base had been overrun by Iraqi forces. From then on it was only a matter of time until all units of the Kuwaiti Military were forced to retreat or be overrun.

The last few Kuwaiti Chieftain tanks of the 35th Mechanized Brigade fought until the afternoon of 4 August; left without ammunition and fuel, they were then forced to pull back into Saudi Arabia. This effectively ended military resistance to the Iraqi invasion.


More than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells were set on fire by the Iraqi forces causing massive environmental and economic damage to Kuwait.

The oil fires caused were a result of thescorched earth policy of Iraqi military forcesretreating from Kuwait


Aerial view of oil wells on fire

After the decisive Iraqi victory, Saddam Hussein installed Alaa Hussein Ali as the Prime Ministerof the “Provisional Government of Free Kuwait” and Ali Hassan al-Majid as the de factogovernor of Kuwait. The exiled Kuwaiti royal family and other former government officials began an international campaign to persuade other countries to pressure Iraq to vacate Kuwait. The UN Security Council passed 12 resolutions demanding immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, but to no avail.

British Airways 747 destroyed on the ground in Kuwait City by the Iraqis

British Airways 747 destroyed on the ground in Kuwait City by the Iraqis

Following the events of the Iraq-Kuwait war, about half of the Kuwaiti population, including more than 400,000 Kuwaits and several thousand foreign nationals, fled the country. More than 150,000 Indian nationals living in Kuwait were air-lifted by the Indian government within a span of a week. However, the Iraqi invasion was welcomed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and some of the 400,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait. Alaa Hussein Ali was placed as head of a puppet government in Kuwait, prior to its brief annexation into Iraq.

Destroyed Kuwaiti airliner

Destroyed Kuwaiti airliner

During the 7 month-long Iraqi occupation, the forces of Saddam Hussein allegedly looted Kuwait’s vast wealth and there were also reports of violations of human rights.According to some independent organizations, about 600 Kuwaiti nationals were taken to Iraq and haven’t yet been accounted for. A 2005 study revealed that the Iraqi occupation had a long-term adverse impact on the health of the Kuwaiti populace.

The return of the Emir and the Crown Prince

The return of the Emir and the Crown Prince

International condemnation and Gulf War

Ground troop movements from February 24-28th 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

Tanks from 3rd Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

After Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait and Saddam Husseindeposed the Emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Sabah, he installed Ali Hassan al-Majid as the new governor of Kuwait.

The Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait was unanimously condemned by all major world powers. Even countries traditionally considered to be close Iraqi allies, such as France and India, called for immediate withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.Several countries, such as the USSR and China, placed arms embargo on Iraq. NATO members were particularly critical of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and by late 1990, the United States had issued an ultimatum to Iraq to withdraw its forces from Kuwait by January 15, 1991 or face war.

F-15 Eagle

On August 3, 1990, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 660condemning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanded Iraq to unconditionally withdraw all forces deployed in Kuwait. After a series of failed negotiations between major world powers and Iraq, the United States-led coalition launched a massive military assault on Iraqi forces stationed in Kuwait in mid January 1991. By January 16, the Allied planes were targeting several Iraqi military sites and the Iraqi Air Force was said to be “decimated”. Hostilities continued until late February and on February 25, Kuwait was officially liberated from Iraq. On March 15, 1991, the Emir of Kuwait returned to the country after spending more than 8 months in exile. During the Iraqi occupation, about 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed and more than 300,000 residents fled the country.

Post-Gulf War

In December 2002, Saddam Hussein apologized for the invasion shortly before being deposed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Two years later, the Palestinian leadership also apologized for its wartime support of Saddam. A long-time ally of Saddam Hussein, in 1990 Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh backed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. After Iraq lost the Gulf War, Yemenis were deported en masse from Kuwait by the restored government.

Gulf War

The Persian Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991), commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorizedcoalition force from thirty-four nations led by the United States, against Iraq.

This war has also been referred to (by the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein) as the Mother of All Battles, and is commonly, though mistakenly, known as Operation Desert Storm for the operational name of the military response (See section 12.1 Operational Names below), theFirst Gulf WarGulf War I, or the Iraq War, before the term became identified with the 2003-2010 Iraq War.

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops that began 2 August 1990 was met with international condemnation, and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. U.S. President George H. W. Bush deployed American forces to Saudi Arabia, and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the Coalition. The great majority of the military forces in the coalition were from the United States, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Around US$36 billion of the US$60 billion cost was paid by Saudi Arabia.

The war was marked by the beginning of live news on the front lines of the fight, with the primacy of the U.S. network CNN. The war has also earned the nickname Video Game War after the daily broadcast images on board of the American bombers during Operation Desert Storm.

The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial bombardment on 17 January 1991. This was followed by a ground assault on 23 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased their advance, and declared a cease-fire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on the border of Saudi Arabia. However, Iraq launched Scud missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Israel.

Persian Gulf War
Gulf War Photobox.jpgClockwise from top: USAF aircraft flying over burning Kuwaiti oil wells; British troops in Operation Granby; Camera view from aLockheed AC-130Highway of DeathM728 Combat Engineer Vehicle
Date August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991 (210 days) (Operation Desert Storm officially ended 30 November 1995)[1]
Location IraqKuwaitSaudi ArabiaIsrael
Result Coalition victory

  • Imposition of sanctions against Iraq
  • Removal of Iraqi invasion force from Kuwait
  • Heavy Iraqi casualties and destruction of Iraqi and Kuwaiti infrastructure
959,600[5] 545,000 (100,000 in Kuwait)
Casualties and losses
392 killed[6]
776 wounded[7]
1,200 killed[citation needed]
20,000-35,000 killed[7]
Kuwaiti civilian losses:
Over 1,000 killed[8]
Iraqi civilian losses:
About 3,664 killed
Other civilian losses:
2 Israeli civilians killed, 230 injured
1 Saudi civilian killed, 65 injured

Throughout much of the Cold War, Iraq had been an ally of the Soviet Union, and there was a history of friction between it and the United States. The U.S. was concerned with Iraq’s position on IsraeliPalestinian politics, and its disapproval of the nature of the peace between Israel and Egypt.


The United States also disliked Iraqi support for many Arab and Palestinian militant groups such as Abu Nidal, which led to its inclusion on the developing U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism on 29 December 1979. The U.S. remained officially neutral after the invasion of Iran in 1980, which became the Iran–Iraq War, although it assisted Iraq covertly. In March 1982, however, Iran began a successful counteroffensive — Operation Undeniable Victory, and the United States increased its support for Iraq to prevent Iran from forcing a surrender.


In a U.S. bid to open full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the country was removed from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Ostensibly this was because of improvement in the regime’s record, although former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Noel Koch later stated, “No one had any doubts about [the Iraqis’] continued involvement in terrorism… The real reason was to help them succeed in the war against Iran.


With Iraq’s newfound success in the war, and the Iranian rebuff of a peace offer in July, arms sales to Iraq reached a record spike in 1982. An obstacle, however, remained to any potential U.S.–Iraqi relationship — Abu Nidal continued to operate with official support in Baghdad. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled the group to Syria at the United States’ request in November 1983, the Reagan administration sent Donald Rumsfeld to meet President Hussein as a special envoy and to cultivate ties.

Tensions with Kuwait

By the time the ceasefire with Iran was signed in August 1988, Iraq was virtually bankrupt, with most of its debt owed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq pressured both nations to forgive the debts, but they refused. Iraq also accused Kuwait of exceeding its OPEC quotas and driving down the price of oil, thus further hurting the Iraqi economy.


The collapse in oil prices had a catastrophic impact on the Iraqi economy. The Iraqi Government described it as a form of economic warfare, which it claimed was aggravated by Kuwait slant-drilling across the border into Iraq’s Rumaila oil field

The Iraq-Kuwait dispute also involved Iraqi claims to Kuwait as a territory of Iraq. After gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1932, the Iraqi government immediately declared that Kuwait was rightfully a territory of Iraq, as it had been an Iraqi territory for centuries until the British creation of Kuwait after World War I and thus stated that Kuwait was a British imperialist invention. Iraq claimed Kuwait had been a part of the Ottoman Empire‘s province of Basra. Its ruling dynasty, the al-Sabah family, had concluded aprotectorate agreement in 1899 that assigned responsibility for its foreign affairs to Britain. Britain drew the border between the two countries, and deliberately tried to limit Iraq’s access to the ocean so that any future Iraqi government would be in no position to threaten Britain’s domination of the Persian Gulf. Iraq refused to accept the border, and did not recognize the Kuwaiti government until 1963.


In early July 1990, Iraq complained about Kuwait’s behavior, such as not respecting their quota, and openly threatened to take military action. On the 23rd, the CIA reported that Iraq had moved 30,000 troops to the Iraq-Kuwait border, and the U.S. naval fleet in the Persian Gulf was placed on alert. On the 25th, Saddam Hussein met with April Glaspie, an American ambassador, in Baghdad. According to an Iraqi transcript of that meeting, Glaspie told the Iraqi delegation,


We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts.”

According to Glaspie’s own account, she stated in reference to the precise border between Kuwait and Iraq,

“(…) that she had served in Kuwait 20 years before; then, as now, we took no position on these Arab affairs.

On the 31st, negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait in Jeddah failed violently.

The Invasion of Kuwait

Main article: Invasion of Kuwait
File:Kuwaiti main battle tanks.JPEG

M-84 main battle tanks of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces

File:A-4KUs 13Feb1991.jpg

Kuwait Air Force A-4KU Skyhawks

On 2 August 1990 Iraq launched the invasion by bombing Kuwait City, the Kuwaiti capital. In spite of Iraqi saber-rattling, Kuwait did not have its forces on alert, and was caught unaware. Iraqi commandos infiltrated the Kuwaiti border first to prepare for the major units which began the attack at the stroke of midnight. The Iraqi attack had two prongs, with the primary attack force driving south straight for Kuwait City down the main highway, and a supporting attack entering Kuwait farther west, but then turning and driving due east, cutting off the capital city from the southern half of the country. The commander of a Kuwaiti armored battalion, 35th Armoured Brigade, deployed them against the Iraqi attack and was able to conduct a robust defense near Al Jahra (see The Battle of the Bridges), west of Kuwait City.

Fort Dix 1991.JPG

Kuwaiti Band of Brothers – Fort Dix, NJ, February 1991.

Kuwait Air Force aircraft scrambled to meet the invading force, but approximately 20% were lost or captured. An air battle with the Iraqi helicopter airborne forces was fought over Kuwait City, inflicting heavy losses on the Iraqi elite troops, and a few combat sorties were flown against Iraqi ground forces.

The main Iraqi thrust into Kuwait City was conducted by commandos deployed by helicopters and boats to attack the city from the sea, while other divisions seized theairports and two airbases. The Iraqis attacked the Dasman Palace, the Royal Residence of the Emir of KuwaitJaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, which was defended by the Emiri Guard supported with M-84 tanks. In the process, the Iraqis killed Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait’s youngest brother.

After two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard, or had escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia. The emir and key ministers were able to get out and head south along the highway for refuge in Saudi Arabia. Iraqi ground forces consolidated their control on Kuwait City, then headed south and redeployed along the border of Saudi Arabia. After the decisive Iraqi victory, Saddam Hussein initially installed a puppet regime known as the “Provisional Government of Free Kuwait” before installing his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid as the governor of Kuwait on August 8.

Saddam Hussein detained several Westerners, with video footage shown on state television

On 23 August 1990 President Saddam appeared on state television with Western hostages to whom he had refused exit visas. In the video, he patted a small British boy named Stuart Lockwood on the back with his left hand. Saddam then asks, through his interpreter, Sadoun al-Zubaydi, whether Stuart is getting his milk. Saddam went on to say, “We hope your presence as guests here will not be for too long. Your presence here, and in other places, is meant to prevent the scourge of war.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the French military launched Operation Daguet as their contribution to the build up of coalition forces during the gulf crisis.  Twenty-eight Jaguar As of the Armee de l’Air would eventually be stationed at Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia. it was time for the French to launch their first combat mission of the war.  Twelve Jaguar aircraft launched to attack the “Scud” missile facilities at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait.  Eight Jaguars carried BLG-66 Belouga cluster bombs which were dropped from a height of only 100ft. 

Preemptive Diplomacy

UN resolution

Within hours of the invasion, Kuwaiti and U.S. delegations requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, which passed Resolution 660, condemning the invasion and demanding a withdrawal of Iraqi troops. On 3 August the Arab League passed its own resolution, which called for a solution to the conflict from within the League, and warned against outside intervention; Iraq, Libya and PLO were the only three nations in the Arab League which opposed a resultion for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.[32][33]. On 6 August UN Resolution 661 placed economic sanctions on Iraq.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 665 followed soon after, which authorized a naval blockade to enforce the economic sanctions against Iraq. It said the “use of measures commensurate to the specific circumstances as may be necessary … to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping in order to inspect and verify their cargoes and destinations and to ensure strict implementation of resolution 661.

Iraqi-American diplomacy

File:Bush troops.jpg

President Bush visiting American troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990.

From the beginning, U.S. officials insisted on a total Iraqi pullout from Kuwait, without any linkage to other Middle Eastern problems, fearing any concessions would strengthen Iraqi influence in the region for years to come.

On 12 August 1990, Saddam Hussein called for compromise via Baghdad radio and the former Iraqi News Agency. Hussein “propose[d] that all cases of occupation, and those cases that have been portrayed as occupation, in the region, be resolved simultaneouly [sic]”. Specifically, he called for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, and “mutual withdrawals by Iraq and Iran and arrangement for the situation in Kuwait.” He also called for a replacement of US troops that mobilized in Saudi Arabia in response to the invasion of Kuwait with “an Arab force”, as long as that force did not involve Egypt. Additionally, he requested an “immediate freeze of all boycott and siege decisions” and a general normalization of relations with Iraq. From the beginning of the crisis, President Bush was strongly opposed to any “linkage” between the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the Palestinian issue.

Another Iraqi proposal communicated in August 1990 was delivered to National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft by an unidentified Iraqi official. The official communicated to the White House that Iraq would “withdraw from Kuwait and allow foreigners to leave” provided that the UN lifted sanctions, allowed “‘guaranteed access’ to the Persian Gulf through the Kuwaiti islands of Bubiyan and Warbah”, and allowed Iraq to “gain full control of the Rumailah oil field that extends slightly into Kuwaiti territory”. The proposal also “include[d] offers to negotiate an oil agreement with the United States ‘satisfactory to both nations’ national security interests,’ develop a joint plan ‘to alleviate Iraq’s economical and financial problems’ and ‘jointly work on the stability of the gulf.

In December 1990, Iraq made a proposal to withdraw from Kuwait provided that their forces were not attacked as they left, and that a consensus was reached regarding the banning of WMD in the Palestinian region. The White House rejected the proposal. Yasser Arafat of the PLO expressed that neither he nor Hussein insisted that solving the Israel-Palestine issues should be a precondition to solving the issues in Kuwait, though he did acknowledge a “strong link” between these problems.

Ultimately, the US stuck to its hard line position that there would be no negotiations until Iraq withdrew from Kuwait and that they should not grant Iraq concessions, lest they give the impression that Iraq benefited from its military campaign. Also, when Secretary of State James Baker met with Tariq Aziz in Geneva for last minute peace talks in early 1991, Aziz reportedly made no concrete proposals and did not outline any hypothetical Iraqi moves.

UN Diplomacy

On November 29, 1990 the U.N. passed security council resolution 678 which gave Iraq until 15 January 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait and empowered states to use “all necessary means” to force Iraq out of Kuwait after the deadline.

On 14 January 1991, France proposed that the U.N. Security Council call for “a rapid and massive withdrawal” from Kuwait along with a statement to Iraq that Council members would bring their “active contribution” to a settlement of other problems of the region, “in particular, of the Arab-Israeli conflict and in particular to the Palestinian problem by convening, at an appropriate moment, an international conference” to assure “the security, stability and development of this region of the world.” The French proposal was supported by Belgium (at the moment one of the rotating Security Council members), and Germany, Spain, Italy, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and several non-aligned nations. The U.S. and Britain rejected it (along with the Soviet Union). American U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering stated that the French proposal was unacceptable, because it went beyond previous U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Iraqi invasion.

Operation Desert Shield

One of the main concerns to the West was the significant threat Iraq posed to Saudi Arabia. Following the conquest of Kuwait, the Iraqi army was within easy striking distance of Saudi oil fields. Control of these fields, along with Kuwaiti and Iraqi reserves, would have given Hussein control over the majority of the world’s oil reserves. Iraq also had a number of grievances with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had lent Iraq some 26 billion dollars during its war with Iran. The Saudis backed Iraq, as they feared the influence of Shia Iran’sIslamic revolution on its own Shia minority. After the war, Saddam felt he should not have to repay the loans due to the help he had given the Saudis by fighting Iran.

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F-15Es parked during Operation Desert Shield.

Soon after his conquest of Kuwait, Hussein began verbally attacking the Saudi kingdom. He argued that the U.S.-supported Saudi state was an illegitimate and unworthy guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. He combined the language of the Islamist groups that had recently fought in Afghanistan with the rhetoric Iran had long used to attack the Saudis.

Acting on the policy of the Carter Doctrine, and out of fear the Iraqi army could launch an invasion of Saudi Arabia, U.S. President George H. W. Bush quickly announced that the U.S. would launch a “wholly defensive” mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia under the codename Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Shield began on 7 August 1990 when U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia due also to the request of its monarch, King Fahd, who had earlier called for U.S. military assistance. This “wholly defensive” doctrine was quickly abandoned when, on 8 August, Iraq declared Kuwait to be the 19th province of Iraq and Saddam Hussein named his cousin, Ali Hassan Al-Majid as its military-governor.

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 A demolished Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank stands on a battlefield after being destroyed by Allied forces during Operation Desert Storm.

The United States Navy dispatched two naval battle groups built around the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USSIndependence to the Gulf, where they were ready by 8 August. The U.S. also sent the battleships USS Missouri and USS Wisconsinto the region. A total of 48 U.S. Air Force F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, landed in Saudi Arabia, and immediately commenced round the clock air patrols of the Saudi–Kuwait–Iraq border areas to discourage further Iraqi military advances. They were joined by 36 F-15 A-Ds from the 36th TFW at Bitburg, Germany. The Bitburg contingent was based at Al Kharj Air Base, approximately 1 hour southeast of Riyadh. The 36th TFW would be responsible for 11 confirmed Iraqi Air Force aircraft shot down during the war. There were also two Air National Guard units stationed at Al Kharj Air Base, the South Carolina Air National Guard (169th Fighter Wing) flew bombing missions with 24 F-16’s flying 2,000 combat missions and dropping 4 million pounds of munitions, and the New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing from Syracuse flew 24 F-16’s on bombing missions. Military buildup continued from there, eventually reaching 543,000 troops, twice the number used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Much of the material was airlifted or carried to the staging areas via fast sealift ships, allowing a quick buildup.

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A damaged Iraqi T-55 main battle tank sits on a road after being abandoned during Operation Desert Storm.

Creating a coalition

series of UN Security Council resolutions and Arab League resolutions were passed regarding the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. One of the most important was Resolution 678, passed on 29 November 1990, which gave Iraq a withdrawal deadline until 15 January 1991, and authorized “all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660,” and a diplomatic formulation authorizing the use of force if Iraq failed to comply.

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H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and President George H. W. Bush visit U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990.

The United States assembled a coalition of forces to join it in opposing Iraq’s aggression, consisting of forces from 34 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself.

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An Iraqi T-54A, T-55 or type 59 main battle tank sits on a road after being abandoned during Operation Desert Storm. The truck in the background is a GAZ-66.

Although they did not contribute any forces, Japan and Germany made financial contributions totaling $10 billion and $6.6 billion respectively. U.S. troops represented 73% of the coalition’s 956,600 troops in Iraq.

Many of the coalition forces were reluctant to join. Some felt that the war was an internal Arab affair, or did not want to increase U.S. influence in the Middle East. In the end, however, many nations were persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab states, offers of economic aid or debt forgiveness, and threats to withhold aid.

Reasons and campaign for intervention

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Cheney meets with Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence and Aviation in Saudi Arabia to discuss how to handle theinvasion of Kuwait

The United States and the United Nations gave several public justifications for involvement in the conflict, the most prominent being the Iraqi violation of Kuwaiti territorial integrity. In addition, the United States moved to support its ally Saudi Arabia, whose importance in the region, and as a key supplier of oil, made it of considerable geopolitical importance. Shortly after the Iraqi invasion, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney made the first of several visits to Saudi Arabia where King Fahd requested US military assistance. During a speech in a special joint session of the U.S. Congress given on 11 September 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush summed up the reasons with the following remarks: “Within three days, 120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia. It was then that I decided to act to check that aggression.

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Iraqi T-62 main battle tank destroyed near Ali Al Salem Air Base during Operation Desert Storm.

The Pentagon claimed that satellite photos showing a buildup of Iraqi forces along the border were the source of this information, but this was later shown to be false. A reporter for the Saint Petersburg Times acquired commercial satellite images made at the time in question, which showed nothing but empty desert.

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Gen. Colin Powell (left), Gen. Schwarzkopf, and Paul Wolfowitz (right) listen as Secretary of Defense Dick Cheneyaddresses reporters regarding the 1991 Gulf War.

Other justifications for foreign involvement included Iraq’s history of human rights abuses under President Saddam. Iraq was also known to possess biological weapons andchemical weapons, which Saddam had used against Iranian troops during the Iran–Iraq War and against his own country’s Kurdish population in the Al-Anfal Campaign. Iraq was also known to have a nuclear weapons program.


A group of burned out Iraqi T-72 main battle tanks destroyed in southern Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

Although there were human rights abuses committed in Kuwait by the invading Iraqi military, the ones best known in the U.S. were inventions of the public relations firm hired by the government of Kuwait to influence U.S. opinion in favor of military intervention. Shortly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the organization Citizens for a Free Kuwait was formed in the U.S. It hired the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton for about $11 million, paid by the Kuwaiti government.


Among many other means of influencing U.S. opinion (distributing books on Iraqi atrocities to U.S. soldiers deployed in the region, ‘Free Kuwait’ T-shirts and speakers to college campuses, and dozens of video news releases to television stations), the firm arranged for an appearance before a group of members of the U.S. Congress in which a woman identifying herself as a nurse working in the Kuwait City hospital described Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators and letting them die on the floor.

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An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border.

The story was an influence in tipping both the public and Congress towards a war with Iraq: six Congressmen said the testimony was enough for them to support military action against Iraq and seven Senators referenced the testimony in debate. The Senate supported the military actions in a 52-47 vote. A year after the war, however, this allegation was revealed to be a fabrication. The woman who had testified was found to be a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family, in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.She had not been living in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion.

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M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks of the 3rd Armored Division move out on a mission during Operation Desert Storm. An M2/M3 Bradley can be seen in background.

The details of the Hill & Knowlton public relations campaign, including the incubator testimony, were published in a John R. MacArthur‘s Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (Berkeley, CA: University of CA Press, 1992), and came to wide public attention when an Op-ed by MacArthur was published in the New York Times. This prompted a reexamination byAmnesty International, which had originally promoted an account alleging even greater numbers of babies torn from incubators than the original fake testimony. After finding no evidence to support it, the organization issued a retraction. President George H. W. Bush then repeated the incubator allegations on television.


M1A1 lost to friendly fire during Gulf War.

At the same time, the Iraqi army committed several well-documented crimes during its occupation of Kuwait, such as the summary execution without trial of three brothers after which their bodies were stacked in a pile and left to decay in a public street. Iraqi troops also ransacked and looted private Kuwaiti homes, one residence was repeatedly defecated in. A resident later commented, “The whole thing was violence for the sake of violence, destruction for the sake of destruction… Imagine a surrealistic painting bySalvador Dalí“.

Early battles

Air campaign

Main article: Gulf War air campaign
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An F-14A Tomcat from VF-32, two EA-6B Prowlers, and a KC-135 Stratotanker during Desert Storm.

The Persian Gulf War started with an extensive aerial bombing campaign on 17 January 1991. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, and widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure. The air campaign was commanded by USAF Lieutenant General Chuck Horner, who briefly served as Commander-in-Chief – Forward of U.S. Central Command while General Schwarzkopf was still in the United States.

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The desert lights up with burning Iraqi Type 69 tanks after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

A day after the deadline set in Resolution 678, the coalition launched a massive air campaign, which began the general offensive codenamed Operation Desert Storm. The first priority for Coalition forces was the destruction of the Iraqi air force and anti-aircraft facilities. The sorties were launched mostly from Saudi Arabia and the six Coalition aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBG) in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

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An Iraqi T-54A or Type 59 tank lies in ruins in the aftermath of an Allied bombing attack during Operation Desert Storm.

The next coalition targets were command and communication facilities. Saddam Hussein had closely micromanaged the Iraqi forces in the Iran–Iraq War, and initiative at lower levels was discouraged. Coalition planners hoped that Iraqi resistance would quickly collapse if deprived of command and control.

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An Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

The third and largest phase of the air campaign targeted military targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait:Scud missile launchers, weapons research facilities, and naval forces. About one-third of the Coalition airpower was devoted to attacking scuds, some of which were on trucks and therefore difficult to locate. Some U.S. and British special forces teams had been covertly inserted into western Iraq to aid in the search and destruction of Scuds.

Iraqi antiaircraft defenses, including MANPADS, were surprisingly ineffective against coalition aircraft and the coalition suffered only 75 aircraft losses in over 100,000 sorties, 44 of which were the result of Iraqi action. Two of these losses are the result of aircraft colliding with the ground while evading Iraqi ground fired weapons. One of these losses is a confirmed air-air victory.

Iraq launches missile strikes

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Scud Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) with missile in upright position.

The Iraqi government made no secret that it would attackIsrael if invaded. Prior to the start of the war, Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s English-speaking Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, was asked in the aftermath of the failed U.S.-Iraq peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland by a reporter. “Mr. Foreign Minister, if war starts…will you attack Israel?” the reporter asked. His response was, “Yes, absolutely, yes.”

Five hours after the first attacks, Iraq’s state radio broadcast a voice identified as Saddam Hussein declaring that “The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins.” Iraq responded by launching eight Al Hussein missiles into Israel the next day. These missile attacks on Israel were to continue throughout the six weeks of the war.

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An Iraqi T-54A, T-55 or Type 59 main battle tank stands on a bank with other demolished equipment (including an IFA W50 truck) at Al Mutla Pass, north of Kuwait City. The equipment was destroyed by the U.S. Air Force and the Army Tiger Brigade forces which captured Iraqi forces fleeing from the region during Operation Desert Storm.

The Iraqis hoped that they would provoke a military response from Israel. It was expected that many Arab nations would withdraw from the coalition, as they would be reluctant to fight alongside Israel. Israel, at the request of the United States, did not launch counterstrikes, and all Arab states remained in the coalition.

The Scud missiles targeting Israel were relatively ineffective, as firing at extreme range resulted in a dramatic reduction in accuracy and payload.

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Israeli civilians taking shelter from rockets

Two Israeli civilians died from these attacks, and approximately 230 were injured. Of the reported injuries, 10 were considered moderate injuries, while one was considered a severe injury. Several others suffered fatal heart attacks immediately following the missile strikes. Extensive property damage was also caused. It was also feared that Iraq would fire missiles filled with nerve agents or sarin. As a result, the Israeli government issued gas masks to its citizens. When the first Iraqi missiles hit Tel Aviv, some people injected themselves with an antidote for nerve gas. Israel was ready to respond with military force to these attacks, but agreed when asked not to by the U.S. Government, who feared that if Israel became involved, the other Arab nations would either desert from the coalition or join Iraq. It was also feared that if the Israeli Air Force used Syrian or Jordanian airspace to attack Iraq, then they would intervene in the war on Iraq’s side or attack Israel. Israeli policy for the previous forty years had always been retaliation, but Israeli Prime MinisterYitzhak Shamir showed restraint and agreed not to retaliate in response to requests from the United States to remain out of the conflict.

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Military personnel examine the tail section of an Al Hussein missile shot down by a Patriot Missile during Operation Desert Storm 1991.

In response to the threat of Scuds on Israel, the United States rapidly sent a Patriot missile air defense artillery battalion to Israel along with two batteries of MIM-104 Patriotmissiles for the protection of civilians. Allied air forces were also extensively exercised in “Scud hunts” in the Iraqi desert, trying to locate the camouflaged trucks before they fired their missiles at Israel or Saudi Arabia.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force also deployed Patriot missiles in both Turkey and Israel to counter the Scud threat. The Dutch Ministry of Defense later stated that the military use of the Patriot missile system was largely ineffective, but its psychological value was high, even though the Patriot missiles caused far more casualties and property damage than the Scuds themselves did. It has been suggested that the sturdy construction techniques used in Israeli cities, coupled with the fact that Scuds were only launched at night, played an important role in limiting the number of deaths and injuries from Scud attacks.

Three Scud missiles and a coalition Patriot that malfunctioned hit Ramat Gan in Israel on 22 January 1991, injuring 96 people, and possibly causing the deaths of three elderly people who died of heart attacks.

Forty-two Scud missiles were fired by Iraq into Israel during the seven weeks of the war. In addition, 44 Scud missiles were fired into Saudi Arabia, and one missile was fired at Bahrain and another at Qatar. The missiles were fired at both military and civilian targets. One Saudi civilian was killed, and 65 others were injured. No injuries were reported in Bahrain or Qatar.

On 25 February 1991, a Scud missile hit a U.S. Army barracks of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, out of Greensburg, PA, stationed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia killing 28 soldiers and injuring over 100.[11]

Battle of Khafji

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Military operations during liberation of Khafji

On 29 January Iraqi forces attacked and occupied the lightly defended Saudi city of Khafjiwith tanks and infantry. The Battle of Khafji ended two days later when the Iraqis were driven back by the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the United States Marine Corps, supported by Qatari forces. The allied forces provided close air support and used extensive artillery fire.

Casualties were heavy on both sides, although Iraqi forces sustained substantially more dead and captured than the allied forces. Eleven Americans were killed in two separatefriendly fire incidents, an additional 14 U.S. airmen were killed when an American AC-130gunship was shot down by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile (SAM), and two American soldiers were captured during the battle. Saudi and Qatari forces had a total of 18 dead. Iraqi forces in Khafji had 60–300 dead and 400 captured.

Khafji was a strategically important city immediately after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi reluctance to commit several armored divisions to the occupation, and its subsequent use of Khafji as a launching pad into the initially lightly defended east of Saudi Arabia is considered by many academics a grave strategic error. Not only would Iraq have secured a majority of Middle Eastern oil supplies, but it would have found itself better able to threaten the subsequent U.S. deployment along superior defensive lines.

Ground campaign

Ground troop movements 24–28 February 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

The Coalition forces dominated the air with their technological advantages, but the ground forces were considered to be more evenly matched. Coalition forces had the significant advantage of being able to operate under the protection of air supremacy that had been achieved by their air forces before the start of the main ground offensive. Coalition forces also had two key technological advantages:

  1. The Coalition main battle tanks, such as the U.S. M1 Abrams, British Challenger 1, and Kuwaiti M-84AB were vastly superior to the Chinese Type 69 and domestically built T-72 tanks used by the Iraqis, with crews better trained and armoured doctrine better developed.
  2. The use of GPS made it possible for Coalition forces to navigate without reference to roads or other fixed landmarks. This, along with air reconnaissance, allowed them to fight abattle of maneuver rather than a battle of encounter: they knew where they were and where the enemy was, so they could attack a specific target rather than searching on the ground for enemy forces.
Liberation of Kuwait

American decoy attacks by air attacks and naval gunfire the night before the liberation of Kuwait were designed to make the Iraqis believe the main coalition ground attack would focus on Central Kuwait.

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US tanks from the 3rd Armored Divisionalong the Line of Departure.

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Iraqi Type 69 tank on the road into Kuwait City during the Gulf War.

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Two Iraqi tanks lie abandoned nearKuwait City on 26 February 1991.

For months, American units in Saudi Arabia had been under almost constant Iraqi artillery fire, as well as threats from Scud missile or chemical attacks. On 23 February 1991, the 1st Marine Division, 2nd Marine Division, and the 1st Light Armored Infantry crossed into Kuwait and headed toward Kuwait City. They encountered trenches, barbed wire, and minefields. However, these positions were poorly defended, and were overrun in the first few hours. Several tank battles took place, but apart from that, Coalition troops encountered minimal resistance, as most Iraqi troops surrendered. The general pattern was that the Iraqis would put up a short fight before surrendering. However, Iraqi air defenses shot down nine American aircraft. Meanwhile, forces from Arab countries advanced into Kuwait from the east, encountering little resistance and suffering few casualties.

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Iraqi Tank knocked out by 3rd Armored Division fire.

Despite the successes of Coalition forces, it was feared that the Republican Guard would escape into Iraq before it could be destroyed. It was decided to send British armored forces into Kuwait fifteen hours ahead of schedule, and to send American forces after the Republican Guard. The Coalition advance was preceded by a heavy artillery and rocket barrage, after which 150,000 troops and 1,500 tanks began their advance. Iraqi forces in Kuwait counterattacked against U.S. troops, acting on a direct order from Saddam himself. Despite the intense combat, the Americans repulsed the Iraqis and continued to advance towards Kuwait city.

File photo shows Iraqi soldiers cross a highway carrying white surrender flags Feb 25, 1991 in Kuwait City.

Kuwaiti forces were tasked with liberating the city. Iraqi troops offered only light resistance. The Kuwaitis lost one soldier killed and one plane shot down, and quickly liberated the city. On 27 February, Saddam ordered a retreat from Kuwait. However, an Iraqi unit atKuwait International Airport appeared not to have gotten the message, and fiercely resisted. U.S. Marines had to fight for hours before securing the airport, after which Kuwait was declared secure. After four days of fighting, Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait. As part of a scorched-earth policy, they set fire to nearly 700 oil wells, and placed land mines around the wells to make extinguishing the fires more difficult.

Initial moves into Iraq

The ground phase of the war was given the official designation Operation Desert Sabre.

The first units to move into Iraq were three patrols of the B squadron of the British Special Air Service, call signs Bravo One Zero, Bravo Two Zero, and Bravo Three Zero, in late January. These eight-man patrols landed behind Iraqi lines to gather intelligence on the movements of Scud mobile missile launchers, which could not be detected from the air, as they were hidden under bridges and camouflage netting during the day. Other objectives included the destruction of the launchers and their fiber-optic communications arrays that lay in pipelines and relayed coordinates to the TELoperators that were launching attacks against Israel. The operations were designed to prevent any possible Israeli intervention.

Elements of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Battallion 5th Cav of the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army performed a Direct attack into Iraq on 15 February 1991, followed by one in force on 20 February that led directly through 7 iraqi divisions which were caught off guard. From 15–20 February, the Battle of Wadi Al-Batin took place inside Iraq, this was the first of two attacks by 1 Battalion 5th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division. It was a feint attack, designed to make the Iraqis think that a coalition invasion would take place from the south. The Iraqis fiercely resisted, and the Americans eventually withdrew as planned back into the Wadi Al-Batin. Three American soldiers were killed and nine wounded as well with only 1 M-2 IFV turreet was destroyed only, but they had taken 40 prisoners and destroyed five tanks, and successfully deceived the Iraqis. This attack lead the way for the XVIII Airborne Corp to sweep around behind the 1st Cav and attack iraqi forces to the west. On 22 February 1991, Iraq agreed to a Soviet-proposed ceasefire agreement. The agreement called for Iraq to withdraw troops to pre-invasion positions within six weeks following a total cease-fire, and called for monitoring of the cease-fire and withdrawal to be overseen by the UN Security Council.

The Coalition rejected the proposal, but said that retreating Iraqi forces would not be attacked, and gave twenty-four hours for Iraq to begin withdrawing forces. On 23 February, fighting resulted in the capture of 500 Iraqi soldiers. On 24 February, British and American armoured forces crossed the Iraq/Kuwait border and entered Iraq in large numbers, taking hundreds of prisoners. Iraqi resistance was light, and 4 Americans were killed.

Coalition forces enter Iraq

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Destroyed Iraqi civilian and military vehicles on the Highway of Death.


Aerial view of destroyed Iraqi T-72 tank,BMP-1 and Type 63 armored personnel carriers and trucks on Highway 8 in March 1991


The oil fires caused were a result of thescorched earth policy of Iraqi military forcesretreating from Kuwait

Shortly afterwards, the U.S. VII Corps, in full strength and spearheaded by the 3rd Squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3/2 ACR), launched an armored attack into Iraq early on 24 February, just to the west of Kuwait, taking Iraqi forces by surprise. Simultaneously, the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps launched a sweeping “left-hook” attack across the largely undefended desert of southern Iraq, led by the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). The left flank of this movement was protected by the French 6th Light Armoured Division Daguet.

The French force quickly overcame the Iraqi 45th Infantry Division, suffering light casualties and taking a large number of prisoners, and took up blocking positions to prevent an Iraqi counter-attack on the Coalition flank. The right flank of the movement was protected by theBritish 1st Armoured Division. Once the allies had penetrated deep into Iraqi territory, they turned eastward, launching a flank attack against the elite Republican Guard before it could escape. The Iraqis resisted fiercely from dug-in positions and stationary vehicles, and even mounted armored charges.

Unlike many previous engagements, the destruction of the first Iraqi tanks did not result in a mass surrender. The Iraqis suffered massive losses and lost dozens of tanks and vehicles, while American casualties were comparatively low, with a single Bradley knocked out. Coalition forces pressed another ten kilometers into Iraqi territory, and captured their objective within three hours. They took 500 prisoners and inflicted heavy losses, defeating the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division. An American soldier was killed by an Iraqi land mine, another five by friendly fire, and thirty wounded during the battle. Meanwhile, British forces attacked the Iraqi Medina Division and a major Republican Guard logistics base. In nearly two days of some of the war’s most intense fighting, the British destroyed 40 enemy tanks and captured a division commander.

Meanwhile, American forces attacked the village of Al Busayyah, meeting fierce resistance. They suffered no casualties, but destroyed a considerable amount of military hardware and took prisoners.

On 25 February 1991, Iraqi forces fired a scud missile at an American barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The missile attack killed 28 American military personnel.

The Coalition advance was much swifter than U.S. generals had expected. On 26 February, Iraqi troops began retreating from Kuwait, after they had set its oil fields on fire (737 oil wells were set on fire). A long convoy of retreating Iraqi troops formed along the main Iraq-Kuwait highway. Although they were retreating, this convoy was bombed so extensively by Coalition air forces that it came to be known as the Highway of Death. Hundreds of Iraqi troops were killed. Forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France continued to pursue retreating Iraqi forces over the border and back into Iraq, eventually moving to within 150 miles (240 km) of Baghdad before withdrawing from the Iraqi border.

One hundred hours after the ground campaign started, on 28 February, President Bush declared a ceasefire, and he also declared that Kuwait had been liberated.

Post-war military analysis

Although it was said in Western media at the time that Iraqi troops numbered approximately 545,000 to 600,000, most experts today believe that both the qualitative and quantitative descriptions of the Iraqi army at the time were exaggerated, as they included both temporary and auxiliary support elements. Many of the Iraqi troops were young, under-resourced, and poorly trained conscripts.

The Coalition committed 540,000 troops, and a further 100,000 Turkish troops were deployed along the Turkish-Iraqi border. This caused a significant force dilution of the Iraqi military by forcing it to deploy its forces along all its borders. This allowed the main thrust by the U.S. to possess not only a significant technological advantage, but also a numerical superiority.

The widespread support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war equipped Iraq with military equipment from most major world arms dealers. This resulted in a lack of standardization in this large heterogeneous force, which additionally suffered from poor training and poor motivation. The majority of Iraqi armored forces still used old Chinese Type 59s and Type 69s, Soviet-made T-55s from the 1950s and 1960s, and some poor quality Asad Babil tanks (domestically assembled tank based on Polish T-72 hulls with other parts of mixed origin). These machines were not equipped with up-to-date equipment, such as thermal sights or laser rangefinders, and their effectiveness in modern combat was very limited.

The Iraqis failed to find an effective countermeasure to the thermal sights and sabot rounds used by the Coalition tanks. This equipment enabled them to engage and destroy Iraqi tanks from more than three times the range that Iraqi tanks could engage coalition tanks. The Iraqi crews used old, cheap steel penetrators against the advanced Chobham Armour of the U.S. and British tanks, with ineffective results. The Iraqis also failed to utilize the advantage that could be gained from using urban warfare — fighting within Kuwait City — which could have inflicted significant casualties on the attacking forces. Urban combat reduces the range at which fighting occurs, and can negate some of the technological advantages of well-equipped forces.

The Iraqis also tried to use Soviet military doctrine, but the implementation failed due to the lack of skill of their commanders, and the preventive coalition air strikes on communication centers and bunkers.

The end of active hostilities

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Civilians and coalition military forces wave Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian flags as they celebrate the retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait as a result of Operation Desert Storm

In Iraqi territory that was occupied by the coalition, a peace conference was held where a ceasefire agreement was negotiated and signed by both sides. At the conference, Iraq was approved to fly armed helicopters on their side of the temporary border, ostensibly for government transit due to the damage done to civilian infrastructure. Soon after, these helicopters and much of the Iraqi armed forces were used to fight a Shi’ite uprising in the south. The rebellions were encouraged by an airing of “The Voice of Free Iraq” on 2 February 1991, which was broadcast from a CIA run radio station out of Saudi Arabia. The Arabic service of the Voice of America supported the uprising by stating that the rebellion was large, and that they soon would be liberated from Saddam.

In the North, Kurdish leaders took American statements that they would support an uprising to heart, and began fighting, hoping to trigger a coup d’état. However, when no American support came, Iraqi generals remained loyal to Saddam and brutally crushed the Kurdish uprising. Millions of Kurds fled across the mountains to Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iran. These events later resulted in no-fly zones being established in both the North and the South of Iraq. In Kuwait, the Emir was restored, and suspected Iraqi collaborators were repressed. Eventually, over 400,000 people were expelled from the country, including a large number of Palestinians, due to PLO support of Saddam Hussein. Yasser Arafat did not apologize for his support of Iraq, but after his death the Fatah under the authority of Abbas would formally apologize in 2004.

There was some criticism of the Bush administration, as they chose to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power instead of pushing on to capture Baghdad and overthrowing his government. In their co-written 1998 book, A World Transformed, Bush and Brent Scowcroft argued that such a course would have fractured the alliance, and would have had many unnecessary political and human costs associated with it.

In 1992, the United States Secretary of Defense during the war, Dick Cheney, made the same point:

I would guess if we had gone in there, we would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home. And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don’t think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties, and while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.

– Dick Cheney

Instead of a greater involvement of its own military, the United States hoped that Saddam Hussein would be overthrown in an internal coup d’état. The Central Intelligence Agency used its assets in Iraq to organize a revolt, but the Iraqi government defeated the effort.

On 10 March 1991, 540,000 American troops began to move out of the Persian Gulf.

Coalition involvement

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Egyptian troops stand ready for review by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia as they take part in an assembly of international coalition forces united against Saddam Hussein during Operational Desert Storm.

Members of the Coalition included Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.

Germany and Japan provided financial assistance and donated military hardware, but did not send direct military assistance. This later became known as checkbook diplomacy.

United Kingdom


A British Challenger main battle tank moves into a base camp along with other Allied armor during Operation Desert Storm.

The United Kingdom committed the largest contingent of any European nation that participated in the combat operations of the war. Operation Granby was the codename for the operations in the Persian Gulf. British Army regiments (mainly with the British 1st Armoured Division)Royal Air Force squadrons and Royal Navy vessels were mobilized in the Gulf. The Royal Air Force, using various aircraft, operated from airbases in Saudi Arabia. Almost 2,500 armored vehicles and 43,000 troops were shipped for action.

Chief Royal Navy vessels deployed to the gulf included a number of Broadsword-class frigates, andSheffield-class destroyers, other RN and RFA ships were also deployed. The light aircraft carrierHMS Ark Royal was not deployed to the Gulf area, but was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea.


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French and American soldiers inspecting an Iraqi Type 69 tank destroyed by the French 6th Light Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

The second largest European contingent was France, which committed 18,000 troops.Operating on the left flank of the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps, the main French army force was the6th Light Armoured Division, including troops from the French Foreign Legion. Initially, the French operated independently under national command and control, but coordinated closely with the Americans, Saudis and CENTCOM. In January, the Division was placed under the tactical control of the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps. France also deployed several combat aircraft and naval units. The French called their contribution Opération Daguet.


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A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Hornet, 4-Wing, takes off from Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada during the second Tiger Meet of the Americas. The Hornet is carrying two types of Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pods on the wing tips. The Tiger Meet of the Americas, first ever held in Canada, inaugurated in 2001 in the Western Hemisphere to carry on the Tiger tradition of the long-established European original experience; promoting solidarity and operational understanding between NATO members. The Meet attracted 400 participants and over 20 aircraft, with at least 6 fighter jets painted in distinctive “Tiger” schemes. For a squadron to be invited, only one simple criterion required, the unit must have a Tiger or other big cat on their unit’s insignia or as a mascot.

Canada was one of the first nations to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and it quickly agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition. In August 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney committed the Canadian Forces to deploy the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan to join the maritime interdiction force. The supply ship HMCS Protecteur was also sent to aid the gathering coalition logistics forces in the Persian Gulf. A fourth ship, HMCS Huron, arrived in-theater after hostilities had ceased and visited Kuwait.

Following the UN authorized use of force against Iraq, the Canadian Forces deployed a CF-18 Hornet squadron with support personnel, as well as a field hospital to deal with casualties from the ground war. When the air war began, Canada’s CF-18s were integrated into the coalition force and were tasked with providing air cover and attacking ground targets. This was the first time since theKorean War that the Canadian military had participated in offensive combat operations.


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ID: DNSC9305022 Service Depicted: Navy A starboard beam view of the Australian frigate HMAS SYDNEY (F-03) underway during Operations Desert Shield/Storm. Radar absorbent matting (RAM) is attached to the sides of the ship’s superstructure. Camera Operator: PH2 HENRY Date Shot: 1 Jan 1991

Australia contributed a Naval Task Group, which formed part of the multi-national fleet in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, under Operation Damask. In addition, medical teams were deployed aboard a U.S. hospital ship, and a naval clearance diving team took part in de-mining Kuwait’s port facilities following the end of combat operations.

Australia was a member of the international coalition which contributed military forces to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. While the Australian forces did not see combat, they did play a significant role in enforcing the sanctions put in place against Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait, as well as other small support contributions to Operation Desert Storm. Following the end of the Persian Gulf War, Australia deployed a medical unit on Operation Habitat to northern Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort.



The increased importance of air attacks from both warplanes and cruise missiles led to much controversy over the number of civilian deaths caused during the initial stages of the war. Within the first 24 hours of the war, more than 1,000 sorties were flown, many against targets in Baghdad. The city was the target of heavy bombing, as it was the seat of power for President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi forces’ command and control. This ultimately led to substantial civilian casualties.

During the bombing campaign prior to the ground war, many aerial attacks led to civilian casualties. In one particularly notable incident, stealth planes bombed a bunker in Amirya, causing the deaths of 200-400 civilians, who were taking refuge there at the time. Scenes of burned and mutilated bodies were subsequently broadcast, and controversy raged over the status of the bunker, with some stating that it was a civilian shelter, while others contended that it was a center of Iraqi military operations, and that the civilians had been deliberately moved there to act as human shields.

An investigation by Beth Osborne Daponte estimated civilian fatalities at about 3,500 from bombing, and some 100,000 from other effects of the war.


The exact number of Iraqi combat casualties is unknown, but it is believed to have been heavy. Some estimate that Iraq sustained between 20,000 and 35,000 fatalities. A report commissioned by the U.S. Air Force, estimated 10,000-12,000 Iraqi combat deaths in the air campaign, and as many as 10,000 casualties in the ground war. This analysis is based on Iraqi prisoner of war reports.

Saddam Hussein’s government gave high civilian casualty figures in order to draw support from the Islamic countries. The Iraqi government claimed that 2,300 civilians died during the air campaign. According to the Project on Defense Alternatives study, 3,664 Iraqi civilians, and between 20,000 and 26,000 military personnel, were killed in the conflict, while 75,000 Iraqi soldiers were wounded.


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Patriot missile launch.

The DoD reports that U.S. forces suffered 148 battle-related deaths (35 to friendly fire), with one pilot listed as MIA (his remains were found and identified in August 2009). A further 145 Americans died in non-combat accidents. The UK suffered 47 deaths (9 to friendly fire), France ten (2 in combat), and the Arab countries, not including Kuwait, suffered 37 deaths (18 Saudis, 10 Egyptians, 6 UAE, and 3 Syrians).At least 605 Kuwaiti soldiers were still missing 10 years after their capture.

The largest single loss of life among Coalition forces happened on 25 February 1991, when an Iraqi Al Hussein (missile) hit an American military barrack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. Army Reservists from Pennsylvania. In all, 190 coalition troops were killed by Iraqi fire during the war, 113 of whom were American, out of a total of 358 coalition deaths. Another 44 soldiers were killed, and 57 wounded, by friendly fire. 145 soldiers died of exploding munitions, or non-combat accidents.

The largest accident among Coalition forces happened on 21 March 1991, a C-130H of the Royal Saudi Air Force crashed in heavy smoke on approach to Ras Al-Mishab Airport, Saudi Arabia. 92 Senegalese soldiers were killed.

The number of coalition wounded in combat seems to have been 776, including 458 Americans.

However, as of the year 2000, 183,000 U.S. veterans of the Gulf War, more than a quarter of the U.S. troops who participated in War, have been declared permanently disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 30% of the 700,000 men and women who served in U.S. forces during the Gulf War still suffer an array of serious symptoms whose causes are not fully understood.


A column of M-113 APCs and other military vehicles of the Royal Saudi Land Force travels along a channel cleared of mines during Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait, 1 March 1991.

190 Coalition troops were killed by Iraqi combatants, the rest of the 379 coalition deaths being from friendly fire or accidents. This number was much lower than expected. Among the American dead were three female soldiers.

This is a list of Coalition troops killed by country.

 United States – 294 (114 by enemy fire, 145 in accidents, 35 to friendly fire)
 Senegal – 92 (accident)
 United Kingdom – 47 (38 by enemy fire, 9 to friendly fire)
 Saudi Arabia – 18
 France – 10 (2 in combat)
 Egypt – 2
 United Arab Emirates – 6
 Syria – 2
 Kuwait – 1 (as part of Operation Desert Storm)

Friendly fire

While the death toll among Coalition forces engaging Iraqi combatants was very low, a substantial number of deaths were caused by accidental attacks from other allied units. Of the 148 American troops who died in battle, 24% were killed by friendly fire, a total of 35 service personnel. A further 11 died in detonations of allied munitions. Nine British service personnel were killed in a friendly fire incident when a United States Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attacked a group of two Warrior IFVs.

Gulf War controversies

Gulf War Illness

Main article: Gulf War syndrome

Many returning coalition soldiers reported illnesses following their action in the Gulf War, a phenomenon known as Gulf War syndrome or Gulf War illness. There has been widespread speculation and disagreement about the causes of the illness and the reported birth defects. Some factors considered as possibilities include exposure to depleted uraniumchemical weaponsanthrax vaccines given to deploying soldiers, and/or infectious diseases. Major Michael Donnelly, a former USAF officer during the Gulf War, helped publicize the syndrome and advocated for veterans’ rights in this regard.

Effects of depleted uranium

Approximate area and major clashes in which DU rounds were used.

Depleted uranium (DU) was used in the Gulf War in tank kinetic energy penetrators and 20–30 mm cannon ordnance. DU is a pyrophoricgenotoxic, and teratogenic heavy metal. Many have cited its use during the Gulf War as a contributing factor to a number of instances of health issues in both veterans of the conflict and surrounding civilian populations. However, scientific opinion on the risk is mixed.

Highway of Death

Main article: Highway of Death

The Highway of Death refers to a six-lane highway between Kuwait and Iraq, officially known as Highway 80. It runs from Kuwait City to the border towns ofAbdali and Safwan and then on to Basra.

During the United Nations coalition offensive in the Gulf War, retreating Iraqi military personnel were attacked on Highway 80 by American aircraft and ground forces on the night of February 26–27, 1991, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of vehicles and the deaths of many of their occupants. The scenes of devastation on the road are some of the most recognizable images of the war, and were publicly cited as a factor in President George H. W. Bush‘s decision to declare a cessation of hostilities on the next day. Many Iraqi forces however succeeded in escaping across the Euphrates river and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that upwards of 70,000 to 80,000 troops from defeated divisions in Kuwait may have fled into the city of Basra.

The road was repaired during the late 1990s, and was used in the initial stages of the2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and British forces. Previously it had been also used during the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi armored divisions.

On the night of 26–27 February 1991, some Iraqi forces began leaving Kuwait on the main highway north of Al Jahra in a column of some 1,400 vehicles. A patrolling E-8 Joint STARSaircraft observed the retreating forces and relayed the information to the DDM-8 air operations center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. These vehicles and the retreating soldiers were subsequently attacked, resulting in a 60 km stretch of highway strewn with debris—the Highway of Death.

Chuck Horner, Commander of U.S. and allied air operations has written:

[By February 26], the Iraqis totally lost heart and started to evacuate occupied Kuwait, but airpower halted the caravan of Iraqi Army and plunderers fleeing toward Basra. This event was later called by the media “The Highway of Death.” There were certainly a lot of dead vehicles, but not so many dead Iraqis. They’d already learned to scamper off into the desert when our aircraft started to attack. Nevertheless, some people back home wrongly chose to believe we were cruelly and unusually punishing our already whipped foes.[…]
By February 27, talk had turned toward terminating the hostilities. Kuwait was free. We were not interested in governing Iraq. So the question became “How do we stop the killing.”[100]

Bulldozer assault

Another incident during the war highlighted the question of large-scale Iraqi combat deaths. This was the “bulldozer assault”, wherein two brigades from the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) were faced with a large and complex trench network, as part of the heavily fortified “Saddam Hussein Line.” After some deliberation, they opted to use anti-mine plows mounted on tanks and combat earthmovers to simply plow over and bury alive the defending Iraqi soldiers.

One newspaper story reported that the U.S. commanders estimated thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered, escaping live burial during the two-day assault 24–25 February 1991. Patrick Day Sloyan of Newsday reported, “Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Vulcan armored carriers straddled the trench lines and fired into the Iraqi soldiers as the tanks covered them with mounds of sand. ‘I came through right after the lead company,’ [Col. Anthony] Moreno said. ‘What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with peoples’ arms and things sticking out of them. . .'”  However, after the war, the Iraqi government claimed to have found only 44 bodies. In his book The Wars Against SaddamJohn Simpson alleges that U.S. forces attempted to cover up this incident.

1991 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait

Kuwait expulsion policy was a response to alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. Prior to the Gulf War, Palestinians made up about 30% of Kuwait’s population of 2.2 million. The exodus took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. Kuwait expelled about 450,000 Palestinians from its territory, an event, which has become the second largest displacement of Palestinian Arabs ever, and is related as an ethnic cleansing. By 2006, only a few had returned to Kuwait and today the number of Palestinians living in Kuwait is less than 40,000 (under 3% of the population).

We finally caught one of the million lizards that are running around this place. Everday when I walk back to my room, I see these little guys scurry into a hiding place. This one was caught in our work area. They’re hard to get a picture of and even harder to catch. On my first deployment, I saw Camel Spiders all of the time. That’s not the case this time, but that’s fine with me. I’d rather live in a place with these little lizards than those ugly spiders.

bombing of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure

In the 23 June 1991, edition of the Washington Post, reporter Bart Gellman wrote: “Many of the targets were chosen only secondarily to contribute to the military defeat of [Iraq]. . . . Military planners hoped the bombing would amplify the economic and psychological impact of international sanctions on Iraqi society. . . . They deliberately did great harm to Iraq’s ability to support itself as an industrial society. . . .”In the Jan/Feb, 1995 edition of Foreign Affairs, French diplomat Eric Rouleau wrote: “[T]he Iraqi people, who were not consulted about the invasion, have paid the price for their government’s madness. . . . Iraqis understood the legitimacy of a military action to drive their army from Kuwait, but they have had difficulty comprehending the Allied rationale for using air power to systematically destroy or cripple Iraqi infrastructure and industry: electric power stations (92 percent of installed capacity destroyed), refineries (80 percent of production capacity), petrochemical complexes, telecommunications centers (including 135 telephone networks), bridges (more than 100), roads, highways, railroads, hundreds of locomotives and boxcars full of goods, radio and television broadcasting stations, cement plants, and factories producing aluminum, textiles, electric cables, and medical supplies.”

Abuse of coalition POWs

During the conflict coalition aircrew shot down over Iraq were displayed as POWs on TV, most with visible signs of abuse. Amongst several testimonies to poor treatment, Royal Air Force Tornado crew John Nichol and John Peters have both alleged that they were tortured during this time. Nichol and Peters were forced to make statements against the war in front of television cameras. A British Special Forces group named Bravo Two Zero were captured whilst providing information about an Iraqi Supply line of Scud Missiles to coalition forces, only one, Chris Ryan, evaded capture whilst other members of the group were violently tortured.

Operation Southern Watch

Since the Gulf war, the U.S. has had a continued presence of 5,000 troops stationed in Saudi Arabia – a figure that rose to 10,000 during the2003 conflict in Iraq. Operation Southern Watch enforced the no-fly zones over southern Iraq set up after 1991; oil exports through the shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf were protected by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain.

Since Saudi Arabia houses the holiest sites in Islam (Mecca and Medina) — many Muslims were upset at the permanent military presence. The continued presence of U.S. troops after the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia was one of the stated motivations behind the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Khobar Towers bombing, as well, the date chosen for the 1998 United States embassy bombings (7 August), was eight years to the day that American troops were sent to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden interpreted the Prophet Muhammad as banning the “permanent presence of infidels in Arabia”. In 1996, Bin Laden issued a fatwa, calling for American troops to get out of Saudi Arabia. In the December 1999 interview with Rahimullah Yusufzai, bin Laden said he felt that Americans were “too near to Mecca” and considered this a provocation to the entire Muslim world.

Gulf war sanctions

On 6 August 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 661 which imposed economic sanctions on Iraq, providing for a full trade embargo, excluding medical supplies, food and other items of humanitarian necessity, these to be determined by the Security Council sanctions committee. From 1991 until 2003 the effects of government policy and sanctions regime led to hyperinflation, widespread poverty and malnutrition.

During the latter part of the 1990s the UN considered relaxing the sanctions imposed because of the hardships suffered by ordinary Iraqis. According to UN estimates, between 500,000 and 1.2 million children died during the years of the sanctions. The United States used its veto in the UN Security Council to block the proposal to lift the sanctions because of the continued failure of Iraq to verify disarmament. However, an oil for food program was established in 1996 to ease the effects of sanctions.

Desert at Night 

Draining of the Qurna Marshes

The draining of the Qurna Marshes was an irrigation project in Iraq during and immediately after the Gulf War, to drain a large area of marshesin the Tigris-Euphrates river system. Formerly covering an area of around 3000 square kilometres, the large complex of wetlands were almost completely emptied of water, and the local Shi’ite population relocated, following the Gulf War and 1991 uprisings. By 2000, United Nations Environment Programme estimated that 90% of the marshlands had disappeared, causing desertification of over 7,500 square miles (19,000 km2).

Desert Bunker

Many international organizations such as the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, theInternational Wildfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, and Middle East Watch have described the project as a political attempt to force theMarsh Arabs out of the area through water diversion tactics.

Spent Casings in the Sand 

Gulf War oil spill

Main article: Gulf War oil spill

Oil Fires in the Desert 

On 23 January, Iraq dumped 400 million gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, causing the largest offshore oil spill in history at that time. It was reported as a deliberate natural resources attack to keep U.S. Marine forces from coming ashore (Missouri and Wisconsinhad shelled Failaka Island during the war to reinforce the idea that there would be an amphibious assault attempt). About 30-40% of this came from Allied raids on Iraqi coastal targets.

A-10 Thunderbolt  

Kuwaiti oil fires

Main article: Kuwaiti oil fires

The Kuwaiti oil fires were caused by Iraqi military forces setting fire to 700 oil wells as part of a scorched earth policy while retreating from Kuwait in 1991 after conquering the country but being driven out by Coalition military forces. The fires started in January and February 1991 and the last one was extinguished by November 1991.

Apache Attack Helicopter 

The resulting fires burned out of control because of the dangers of sending in firefighting crews. Land mines had been placed in areas around the oil wells, and a military cleaning of the areas was necessary before the fires could be put out. Somewhere around 6 million barrels (950,000 m3) of oil were lost each day. Eventually, privately contracted crews extinguished the fires, at a total cost of US$1.5 billion to Kuwait. By that time, however, the fires had burned for approximately ten months, causing widespread pollution.

F-117 In Flight 


The cost of the war to the United States was calculated by the United States Congress to be $61.1 billion. About $52 billion of that amount was paid by different countries around the world: $36 billion by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf States; $16 billion by Germany and Japan (which sent no combat forces due to their constitutions). About 25% of Saudi Arabia’s contribution was paid in the form of in-kind services to the troops, such as food and transportation. U.S. troops represented about 74% of the combined force, and the global cost was therefore higher.

M109A6 Paladin Howitzer  

The Persian Gulf War was a heavily televised war. For the first time people all over the world were able to watch live pictures of missileshitting their targets and fighters taking off from aircraft carriers. Allied forces were keen to demonstrate the accuracy of their weapons.

 Manned Bradley at Sunset

In the United States, the “big three” network anchors led the network news coverage of the war: ABC‘s Peter JenningsCBS‘s Dan Rather, and NBC‘s Tom Brokaw were anchoring their evening newscasts when air strikes began on 16 January 1991. ABC News correspondent Gary Shepard, reporting live from Baghdad, told Jennings of the quietness of the city. But, moments later, Shepard was back on the air as flashes of light were seen on the horizon and tracer fire was heard on the ground.

Patriots in Action

On CBS, viewers were watching a report from correspondent Allen Pizzey, who was also reporting from Baghdad, when the war began. Rather, after the report was finished, announced that there were unconfirmed reports of flashes in Baghdad and heavy air traffic at bases in Saudi Arabia. On the “NBC Nightly News”, correspondent Mike Boettcher reported unusual air activity in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Moments later, Brokaw announced to his viewers that the air attack had begun.

M-1 in the Desert  

Still, it was CNN which gained the most popularity for their coverage, and indeed its wartime coverage is often cited as one of the landmark events in the development of the network. CNN correspondents John Holliman and Peter Arnett and CNN anchor Bernard Shaw relayed audio reports from the Al-Rashid Hotel as the air strikes began. The network had previously convinced the Iraqi government to allow installation of a permanent audio circuit in their makeshift bureau. When the telephones of all of the other Western TV correspondents went dead during the bombing, CNN was the only service able to provide live reporting. After the initial bombing, Arnett remained behind and was, for a time, the only American TV correspondent reporting from Iraq.

Convoy at Night  

Newspapers all over the world also covered the war and Time magazine published a special issue dated 28 January 1991, the headline “WAR IN THE GULF” emblazoned on the cover over a picture of Baghdad taken as the war began.

U.S. policy regarding media freedom was much more restrictive than in the Vietnam War. The policy had been spelled out in a Pentagon document entitled Annex Foxtrot. Most of the press information came from briefings organized by the military. Only selected journalists were allowed to visit the front lines or conduct interviews with soldiers. Those visits were always conducted in the presence of officers, and were subject to both prior approval by the military and censorship afterward. This was ostensibly to protect sensitive information from being revealed to Iraq. This policy was heavily influenced by the military’s experience with the Vietnam War, in which public opposition within the United States grew throughout the course of the war. It wasn’t only the limiting of information in the Middle East, media were also restricting what was shown about the war with more graphic depictions like Ken Jarecke‘s image of a burnt Iraqi soldier being pulled from the American AP wire where as in Europe it was given extensive coverage.

At the same time, the coverage of this war was new in its instantaneousness. About halfway through the war, Iraq’s government decided to allow live satellite transmissions from the country by Western news organizations, and U.S. journalists returned en masse to Baghdad. Tom Aspell of NBC, Bill Blakemore of ABC, and Betsy Aaron of CBS News filed reports, subject to acknowledged Iraqi censorship. Throughout the war, footage of incoming missiles was broadcast almost immediately.

A British crew from CBS News (David Green and Andy Thompson), equipped with satellite transmission equipment traveled with the front line forces and, having transmitted live TV pictures of the fighting en route, arrived the day before the forces in Kuwait City, broadcasting live television from the city and covering the entrance of the Arab forces the following day.

CH-53E Super Stallion On USNS Joshua Humphreys

Alternative media outlets provided views in opposition to the Gulf War. Deep Dish Television compiled segments from independent producers in the U.S. and abroad, and produced a ten hour series that was distributed internationally, called The Gulf Crisis TV Project. The first program of this series War, Oil and Power was compiled and released in 1990, before the war broke out. News World Order was the title of another program in the series; it focused on the complicity of the media in promoting the war, as well as Americans’ reactions to the media coverage. In San Francisco, as a local example, Paper Tiger Television West produced a weekly cable television show with highlights of mass demonstrations, artists’ actions, lectures, and protests against mainstream media coverage at newspaper offices and television stations. Local media outlets in cities across the country screened similar oppositional media.

The organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) critically analyzed media coverage during the Gulf War in various articles and books, such as the 1991 Gulf War Coverage: The Worst Censorship was at Home.


File:Missouri missile BGM-109 Tomahawk.JPG

The USS Missouri launches a Tomahawk missile. The Gulf War was the last conflict in which battleships were deployed in a combat role (as of 2011)

Precision-guided munitions, such as the United States Air Force guided missile AGM-130, were heralded as key in allowing military strikes to be made with a minimum of civilian casualties compared to previous wars, although they were not used as often as more traditional, less accurate bombs. Specific buildings in downtown Baghdad could be bombed whilst journalists in their hotels watched cruise missiles fly by.

Precision-guided munitions amounted to approximately 7.4% of all bombs dropped by the coalition. Other bombs included cluster bombs, which disperse numerous submunitions,[127] anddaisy cutters, 15,000-pound bombs which can disintegrate everything within hundreds of yards.

Global Positioning System units were important in enabling coalition units to navigate easily across the desert.

Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and satellite communication systems were also important. Two examples of this is the U.S. Navy E-2 Hawkeye and the U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry. Both were used in command and control area of operations. These systems provided essential communications links between the ground forces, air forces, and the navy. It is one of the many reasons why the air war was dominated by the Coalition Forces.

Scud and Patriot missiles

The role of Iraq’s Scud missiles featured prominently in the war. Scud is a tactical ballistic missile that the Soviet Union developed and deployed among the forward deployed Red Army divisions in East Germany. The role of the Scuds which were armed with nuclear and chemical warheads was to destroy command, control, and communication facilities and delay full mobilisation of Western German and Allied Forces in Germany. It could also be used to directly target ground forces.

Scud missiles utilise inertial guidance which operates for the duration that the engines operate. Iraq used Scud missiles, launching them into both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Some missiles caused extensive casualties, while others caused little damage. Concerns were raised of possible chemical or biological warheads on these rockets, but if they existed they were not used.

Scud missiles are not as effective at delivering chemical payloads as is commonly believed because intense heat during the Scud’s flight at approximately Mach 5 denatures most of the chemical payload. Chemical weapons are inherently better suited to being delivered by cruise missiles or fighter bombers. The Scud is best suited to delivering tactical nuclear warheads, a role for which it is as capable today as it was when it was first developed.

The U.S. Patriot missile was used for the first time in combat. The U.S. military claimed a high effectiveness against Scuds at the time. Later estimates of the Patriot’s effectiveness range widely due to the fact initial testing proved less confidence inspiring than real life combat testing. The Dutch Ministry of Defense (The Netherlands also sent Patriot missiles to protect civilians in Israel and Turkey), for example, later disputed this claim. Further, there is at least one incident of a software error causing a Patriot missile’s failure to engage an incoming Scud, resulting in deaths.

Unclassified evidence on Scud interception is lacking. The higher estimates are based on the percentage of Scud warheads which were known to have impacted and exploded compared to the number of Scud missiles launched, but other factors such as duds, misses and impacts which were not reported confound these. Some Scud variations were re-engineered in a manner outside their original tolerance, and said to have frequently failed or broken up in flight.

The lowest estimates are typically based upon the number of interceptions where there is proof that the warhead was hit by at least one missile, but due to the way the Al-Hussein (Scud derivative) missiles broke up in flight, it was often hard to tell which piece was the warhead, and there were few radar tracks which were actually stored which could be analyzed later. Their performance will not be known for many years. Both the U.S. Army and the missile manufacturers maintain the Patriot delivered a “miracle performance” in the Gulf War.

Kuwait : UN Pays $ 590 Mln in DFamages for 1990 Invasion

Posted on 03 May 2010. Tags: 

Kuwait: UN Pays $590 Mln in Damages for 1990 InvasionNew York, 30 April 2010 – AKIA United Nations commission has paid 590 million dollars to nine successful claimants in connection with Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.The latest round of payments brings the total amount of compensation disbursed by the UN Compensation Commission to individuals, corporations, governments and international organisations to nearly 29.5 billion dollars, the UN said on Thursday.

The vast majority of funds for compensation payments have come from the sale of Iraqi petroleum under the so-called Oil-for-Food programme, which came to an end in 2003, and later within the scope of arrangements made under Security Council resolutions.


5 thoughts on “Invasion of Kuwait – Gulf War/ Operation Desert Storm

    1. The US Navy dispatched two naval battle groups built around the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Independence to the Persian Gulf, where they were ready by 8 August. The US also sent the battleships USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin to the region. A total of 48 US Air Force F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, landed in Saudi Arabia, and immediately commenced round the clock air patrols of the Saudi–Kuwait–Iraq border to discourage further Iraqi military advances.


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