The Persian Gulf War


The Persian Gulf War Essay, Research Paper

On August 2nd, 1990 Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied

the small Arab state of Kuwait. The order was given by Iraqi

dictatorial president Saddam Hussein. His aim was apparently to take

control Kuwait?s oil reserves (despite its small size Kuwait is a huge

oil producer; it has about 10 per cent of the world?s oil reserves ).

Iraq accused Kuwait, and also the United Arab Emirates, of breaking

agreements that limit oil production in the Middle East. According

to Saddam Hussein, this brought down world oil prices severely and

caused financial loss of billions of dollars in Iraq?s annual revenue.

Saddam Hussein had the nearly hopeless task of justifying the

invasion. He plead the fact that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman

province of Basra, a city in the south of Iraq. However, the Ottoman

province collapsed after World War I and today?s Iraqi borders were

not created until then. There was also a further and more obvious

blunder in a bid to justify this illegal invasion. Baghdad, the

capital of Iraq, had namely recognized Kuwaiti independence in 1963.

Furthermore, Hussein claimed that Kuwait had illegally pumped oil from

the Iraqi oil field of Rumaila and otherwise conspired to reduce

Iraq?s essential oil income.

By invading Kuwait, Iraq succeeded in surprising the entire

world. The USA ended her policy of accommodating Saddam Hussein, which

had existed since the Iran-Iraq war. Negative attitude toward Iraq was

soon a worldwide phenomenon. The United Nations Security Council

passed 12 resolutions condemning the invasion. The ultimate decision

was to use military force if Iraq did not withdraw unconditionally

by January 15, 1991. Then, when the deadline was set, it was time to

start preparing for the worst-the war. President George Bush

confronted little difficulty in winning Americans? support for the

potential war against Iraq. However, the government found it difficult

to decide upon and state one overriding reason for going to war. Was

it to oppose aggression or was it just to protect global oil supplies?

Other powers were more directly concerned as consumers of Persian Gulf

oil, but they were not as eager to commit military force, to risk

their youth in battle and to pay for the costs of the war. Critics of

President Bush continued to maintain that he was taking advantage of

the issue of energy supplies in order to manipulate the U. S. public

opinion in favor of war.

After consulting with U. S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in

early August 1990, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia invited American troops

onto Saudi soil. He had seen Kuwait?s destiny; therefore, he wanted

protection. It was also the interest of the USA to stop any further

advantage of the Iraqi army. The deployment was called ?Operation

Desert Shield.? These troops were armed with light, defensive


On November 8, 1990 President Bush announced a military buildup

to provide an offensive option, ?Operation Desert Storm,? to force

Iraq out of Kuwait. The preparation of the operation took two and

a half months and it involved a massive air- and sea lift. Finally, in

January 1991, the U. S. Congress voted to support Security Council

resolution 660. It authorized using ?all necessary means? if Iraq did

not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15. Shrugging off this final

warning, Saddam Hussein resolutely maintained the occupation of

Kuwait. The United States established a broad-based international

coalition to confront Iraq militarily and diplomatically. The

military coalition consisted of Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia,

Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt,

France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco,

the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland,

Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria,

Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United

States. The war also was financed by countries which were unable

to send in troops. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the main donors. More

than $53 billion was pledged and received.

Before the war, it appeared obvious that Iraq would have very

little chance against the Coalition. The relative strength between the

parties was extremely unequal. The most critical difference was that

the Coalition had a total of 2600 aircraft, over three times more

than Iraq?s 800 aircraft. Most Arab observers thought Hussein would

not last more than six months. Lieutenant General Khalid bin Sultan,

the commander of the Arab coalition forces, gave Iraq?s leader only 40

days, and repeated this prediction many times. Iraq?s prospect was


President George Bush waited two days after the UN deadline for

Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait before ordering the Coalition to begin

action against Iraq. The winds of Desert Storm began howling across

Iraq on January 17, 1991, at 2.30 am Baghdad time. Bhagdad was bombed

fiercely by the coalition?s fighter airplanes in the first night of

the war. An interesting fact is that several weeks before this, US

intelligence agents successfully inserted a computer virus into Iraq’s

military computers. It was designed to disable much of Baghdad’s

air-defense system.

To minimize casualties, the coalition forces, under the command

of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, pursued a strategy beginning with

five weeks of intensive air attacks and ending with a ground assault.

Drawing on its 1,800 planes, land- and carrier-based, the United

States flew the greatest number of sorties. The British, French, and

Saudis made up most of the rest. Besides the tremendous air power, the

coalition deployed technologically advanced weapon systems, such as

the unmanned Tomahawk cruise missile, advanced infrared targeting that

illuminated Iraqi tanks buried in the, sand and laser-guided bombs,

?smart bombs.? Its use of brand new aircraft that never before had

been engaged in combat, such as British Tornados and U. S. F-117A

Stealth fighters, gave the Coalition an accuracy and firepower that

overwhelmed the Iraqi forces. The large-scale usage of air force and

latest technology made the war short and saved great numbers of

Coalition soldiers? lives.

After establishing air superiority, coalition forces disabled

Iraq?s command and control centers, especially in Baghdad and Al

Bashrah. This caused the communication to fail between Baghdad and the

troops in the field. The next stage was to attack relentlessly Iraq?s

infantry, which was dug in along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, and the

elite 125,000 man Republican Guard in southeastern Iraq and northern

Kuwait. Iraq retaliated by using mobile launchers to fire Scud

missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel, a noncombatant coalition.

Overall, Hussein?s forces launched 93 Scuds. The United States

countered this threat with Patriot antimissile missiles, called also

?Scudbusters,? and commando attacks on Scud launchers.

Patriot missiles gave an engagement rate of nearly 96 per cent.

The coalition?s air raids on Iraq?s infantry lowered Iraqi soldiers?

morale dramatically. It is easy to sense in the following quote from

an Iraqi lieutenant?s war diary the powerlessness and fear that the

soldiers felt during air attacks by the Coalition:

?2 February 1991 I was awakened this morning by the noise of an

enemy air raid. I ran and hid in the nearby trench. I had breakfast

and afterwards something indescribable happened. Two enemy planes

came toward us and began firing at us, in turn, with missiles,

machine guns, and rockets. I was almost killed. Death was a yard

away from me. The missiles, machine guns and rockets didn’t let up.

One of the rockets hit and pierced our shelter, which was

penetrated by shrapnel. Over and over we said, “Allah, Allah,

Allah.” One tank burned and three other tanks belonging to 3rd

Company, which we were with, were destroyed. That was a very bad

experience. Time passed and we waited to die. The munitions dump of

the 68th Tank Battalion exploded. A cannon shell fell on one of the

soldiers’ positions, but, thank God, no one was there. The soldiers

were somewhere else. The attack lasted about 15 minutes, but it

seemed like a year to me. I read chapters in the Qur’an. How hard

it is to be killed by someone you don’t know, you’ve never seen

and, can’t confront. He is in the sky and you’re on the ground. Our

ground resistance is magnificent. After the air raid, I gave

great thanks to God and joined some soldiers to ask how each of

them was. While I was doing that, another air attack began. 2

February at 2000 hours.?

The ground war began at 8:00 p.m. on February 23 and lasted exactly

100 hours. This phase featured a massively successful outflanking

movement of the Iraqi forces. Schwarzkopf used a deceptive maneuver by

deploying a large number of forces as if to launch a large amphibious

landing. The Iraqis apparently anticipated that they also would be

attacked frontally and had heavily fortified those defensive

positions. Schwarzkopf instead moved the bulk of his forces west and

north in a major use of helicopters, attacking the Iraqis from their

rear. The five weeks of intensive air attack had greatly demoralized

the Iraqi front-line troops, causing wholesale desertions. Remaining

front-line forces were quickly killed or taken prisoner with minimal

coalition losses.

Iraqi front-line commanders had already lost much of their

ability to communicate with Baghdad, which made their situation even

worse. On the final night of the war, within hours of the cease-fire,

two U.S. Air force bombers dropped specially designed 5,000-pound

bombs on a command bunker fifteen miles northwest of Baghdad in a

deliberate attempt to kill Saddam Hussein. President Bush’s decision

to terminate the ground war at midnight February 28, 1991 was

criticized, because it allowed Baghdad to rescue a large amount of

military equipment and personnel that were later used to suppress the

postwar rebellions of its Shiite and Kurdish citizens. In his own

defense, the president asserted that the war had accomplished its

mandate. The mission, given by the Security Council, was to expel the

Iraqi forces from Kuwait and reestablish Kuwaiti independence. Bush?s

decision was probably influenced by his desire to maintain coalition

unity. A particular reason was to keep on board the Arab members, who

were increasingly unhappy at the devastation inflicted on Iraq’s

infrastructure and civilian population.

Iraqi representatives accepted allied terms for a provisional

truce on March 3 and a permanent cease-fire on April 6. Iraq agreed to

pay reparations to Kuwait, reveal the location and extent of its

stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and eliminate its

weapons of mass destruction. Subsequently, however, UN inspectors

complained that the Baghdad government was frustrating their attempts

to monitor Iraqi compliance, and UN sanctions against Iraq were kept

in place. The following chart shows total equipment and casualties of

the Gulf War. In addition, 300,000 Iraqi soldiers were wounded,

150,000 were deserted, and 60,000 were taken prisoner (an estimate of

U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency). The United States suffered 148

killed in action, 458 wounded, and 11 female combat deaths. 121 were

killed in nonhostile actions; they were mostly victims of friendly


Table 01; Total Equipment and Casualties of Gulf War



TANKS: 4000 4230 4 3360

ARTILLERY: 2140 3110 1 3633


HELICOPTERS: 7 160 17 1951

AIRCRAFT: 240 800 44 2600

SOLDIERS: 100000 545000 200 680000

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