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Persian Gulf War
by: Neal McLaughlin


A Stan Klos Monograph

Iraq is an Arab country, roughly twice the size of Idaho, which lies at the head of the Persian Gulf. First settled in 3500 BC, Iraq has had a chronic history of instability and has been the hub of many military conflicts. From 539 BC to 2004 Iraq has repeatedly changed hands or has been embroiled in territorial disputes and conflicts over their rich oil supply.

On September 22nd, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran with the intentions of gaining dominance over the Persian Gulf region by establishing full control of the Arvand/Shatt al-Arab waterway, which is an important shipping channel for oil exports from both countries. If successful, this outcome would not have only weakened Kuwait's economy it would have had an adverse affect on their international standing.

This military conflict would continue until August 20th, 1988 when Iraq would finally declare a cease-fire with Iran. This 8-year war did nothing to bolster Iraq's economy; in fact it had just the opposite effect! In addition to the loss of some 150,000 Iraqi troops, many of Iraq's oil fields had been destroyed, which not only resulted in a stalled economic development, but left Iraq in debt to their former Arab backers, including Kuwait, to which they now owed 14 billion dollars!

President Saddam Hussein was not happy with this outcome. The failure to establish Iraq as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and the inability to seize additional land from Iran, Hussein then turned his attention to Kuwait. Saddam never truly accepted Kuwait as an independent country but believed it to stilled be a natural part of the lands of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.

With the failure of the Imposed War (1980-1988) still lingering sharp in the air and the refusal of Kuwait to cooperate with Iraq; which had accused Kuwait of removing oil resources from the Iraqi border, Saddam Hussein had decided that he would become the dominant power by retaking Kuwait. It was Saddam's belief that his army would be able to enter Kuwait and attain their objectives with little resistance and with no interference from the allies of Kuwait.

On August 2nd, 1990, The Army of Iraq invaded Kuwait and by the 8th, had officially declared Kuwait annexed as the 19th province of Iraq. The UN Security Council who immediately condemned this brazen act of aggression demanded an immediate withdraw. Concerns were mounting that Hussein would not be contented with just annexing Kuwait, it was feared that he might continue his thrust across the desert and into Saudi Arabia, who is also a major supplier of the world's oil resources.

On August 6th, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 661, again condemning Iraq's action through the use of sanctions and embargos. Iraq quickly responded to the trade embargos by detaining foreign citizens and diplomats and utilizing them as human shields. Deemed an unacceptable action by other key Arab countries, Iraq was forced to release their captives when these countries began to criticize Saddam's extreme measures.

Determined to keep Kuwait as part of his country and having no intention of responding to the UN's withdraw demands, Saddam Hussein increased his military presence in Kuwait by 100,000 more troops. By this time, however, the United States, uneasy with the progression of events had already doubled her number of troops on standby in the Persian Gulf to 400,000.

In an attempt to resolve the matter peacefully, the United States had held a summit with Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq-Aziz. However, this effort would prove to be futile as a mutual agreement could not be reached and the summit ended in a stalemate. The Iraqi army continued to hold its position in Kuwait and refused to comply with the January 15, unconditional withdraw demand.

Shortly after midnight on January 16th, 1991, Allied military forces began their assault on the Iraqi positions inside Kuwait. Although severely outnumbered, the Iraqi troops held their ground and responded to the air attacks by launching SCUD missiles into the heavily populated areas of Saudi Arabia and Israel. More than likely this action was an attempt to draw Israel into the conflict thereby portraying the struggle to be one between the Arabs and the Israelis.

For 5 weeks allied military used their modern technology upon the forces of Iraq and eventually ran daily bombing sorties against Iraq's military and infrastructural goals, thus paving the way for a quick and efficient ground assault that was to soon follow. During the mist of the bombings, Iraq had sent word that they would comply with the UN's resolution; however, they expected certain amendments to the declaration, feeling that the U.S. had issued too many demands. When the Arab countries involved in the war rejected this offer, Iraqi troops began to set fire to over 640 oil wells in Kuwait.

On February 24th, 1991 the United States and the Coalition troops commenced a ground assault into Kuwait. The ground offensive was quick and decisive and in less than a week Kuwait would be liberated from the pincers of the Iraqi military.

Baghdad was the first to declare their respect of Resolution 661 as it had been set forth and began to withdraw from Kuwait where Iraq held on for another day and then began to withdraw; only to run head-long into advancing American troops. As the 27th of February came to an end, all of the Iraqi ground forces had been withdrawn from Kuwait and representatives of the Iraqi government accepted a temporary cease-fire.

On April 6th, 1991, the 44-day war with Iraq had officially ended with the acceptance of a permanent cease-fire and Iraq's agreement to pay restitution to Kuwait as well as destroy all of their chemical weapons and those of mass destruction.

Once again Saddam Hussein had to look into the eyes of failure. As with the Iraq-Iran war he was unable to achieve his objectives. Instead of building a stable, prosperous country, as was his ambition, he had created one that was not only deeper in debt, but would be sanctioned on the amount of yearly oil sale. In addition, Iraq would need at least 200 million dollars to rebuild following the devastation of this war.

All totaled, this brief skirmish involved 32 countries, 1,240,000 troops and cost 82 billion dollars to conduct. The death toll, which reflects the unevenness of the technological weaponry totals roughly 20 % of the 500,000 Iraqi troops stationed in the area to 376 active American and Coalition combatants.

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