The Persian Gulf War
(2 August 1990 – 28
February 1991), also known as the Gulf War
First Gulf War
,the Second Gulf War, by
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as
The Mother of all Battles, and commonly as
Desert Storm for the military response, was the
final conflict, which was initiated with United Nations authorization, by a coalition force from 34 nations
against Iraq, with the
expressed purpose of expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait after its
invasion and annexation on 2
majority of the military forces in the coalition were from the
States, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading
contributors, in that order.
Around US$40 billion of the
US$60 billion cost was paid by Saudi Arabia.
invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops was met with international
condemnation, and brought both immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by
members of the UN Security
Council, and preparations for war by the United States of
America, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial
bombardment on 17 January 1991, following the expiration of the UN
deadline; this was followed by a ground assault on 23 February,
which 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.
ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on the border
Arabia. However, Iraq launched missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi
Arabia, and at Israel, a non-combatant.
The latter action was an
attempt to precipitate Israeli retaliation, which would have
destabilized the coalition by alienating its Arab members.
After Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, U.S. President George H. W. Bush
deployed U.S. Army
, Marine Corps
, Air Force
, and Coast Guard
units to Saudi Arabia
as a part of Operation
, while urging other countries to send their own
forces to the scene. UN coalition-building efforts were so
successful that by the time the fighting (Operation Desert Storm)
began on 16 January 1991, twelve countries had sent naval forces,
joining the regional states of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, as well as the huge array of the
Navy, which deployed six carrier battle group
countries sent ground forces, joining the regional troops of
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the seventeen heavy and six light
brigades of the U.S.
Army and nine Marine regiments, with
their large support and service forces. Four countries sent
combat aircraft, joining the local
air forces of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi
Arabia, as well as the U.S.
Air Force, U.S. Navy, and
U.S. Marine aviation
, for a
grand total of 2,430 fixed-wing aircraft.
Iraq had only a few gunboats
missile craft to match the coalition's armada
, but approximately 1.2 million ground troops,
, 5,100 other armoured vehicles
, and 3,850
pieces, which made for greater
strength on the ground. Iraq also had 750 fighters and bombers, 200
other aircraft, and elaborate missile and gun defenses.
"Operation Desert Storm" was the U.S. name of the air and land operations
, and is often
incorrectly used to refer to the entire conflict; although the
U.S. Postal Service
issued a postage stamp
in 1992, and the U.S. military
for service in Southwest Asia
Each nation participating had its own operation name for its
contribution: U.S. - Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; UK
- Operation Granby
; Canada -
Operation Friction; France - Operation
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 of America. The US was concerned
with Iraq's position on Israeli–Palestinian politics, and its disapproval of
the nature of the peace between Israel and Egypt.
The US also disliked Iraqi support for various Arab
groups such as Abu Nidal
which led to its inclusion on the developing U.S. list
of state sponsors of international terrorism
on 29 December
US remained officially neutral after the invasion of Iran, 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
In a US bid to open full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the
country was removed from the US 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 Iran's new found success in the war, and its rebuff of a peace
offer in July, arms
sales to Iraq
reached a record spike in 1982. An obstacle, however,
remained to any potential US-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
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.
pressured both nations to forgive the debts, but they refused.
Kuwait was also accused by Iraq of exceeding its OPEC quotas and
driving down the price of oil, thus further hurting the Iraqi
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.
claimed Kuwait had been a part of the Ottoman Empire's province of Basra. Its ruling dynasty, the al-Sabah family, had concluded a protectorate agreement in 1899 that assigned
responsibility for its foreign affairs to 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
Iraq refused to accept the border, and did
not recognize the Kuwaiti government until 1963.
In early July, 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
American ambassador, in Baghdad. At that meeting, Glaspie told the
Iraqi delegation, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts."
On the 31st, negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait in Jeddah failed
violently. On August 2, 1990 Iraq launched an invasion
with its warplanes, bombing Kuwait City, the Kuwaiti capital.
The main thrust was
conducted by commandos
helicopters and boats to attack the city, while other divisions
seized the airports
and two airbases
In spite of Iraqi sabre-rattling
Kuwait did not have its forces on alert, and was caught unaware.
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.
After the decisive Iraqi victory, Saddam
Hussein installed his cousin, Ali
as the governor
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 boy named Stuart Lockwood
on the back. 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."
Within hours of the invasion, Kuwaiti and US delegations requested
a meeting of the UN Security
, which passed Resolution
, condemning the invasion and demanding a withdrawal of
Iraqi troops. On 3 August the Arab
passed its own resolution, which called for a solution
to the conflict from within the League, and warned against outside
intervention. On 6 August UN
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
Operation Desert Shield
One of the main concerns of 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
Iran's Islamic revolution
on its own Shia
minority (most of the Saudi oil fields are in territory populated
by Shias). After the war, Saddam felt he should not have to repay
the loans due to the help he had given the Saudis by stopping
Soon after his conquest of Kuwait, Hussein began verbally attacking
the Saudi kingdom
. He argued that the
US-supported Saudi state was an illegitimate and unworthy guardian
of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
combined the language of the Islamist
groups that had recently fought in Afghanistan with the rhetoric Iran had long used to attack the
Acting on the policy of the Carter
, 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 August 7, 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, as On August 8, Iraq declared
Kuwait to be the 19th province of Iraq and Saddam Hussein named his
cousin, Ali Hassan Al-Majid as its military-governor.
The US Navy
mobilized two naval battle
groups, the aircraft carriers
Independence and their escorts, to the area, where they were
ready by August 8.
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.
also sent the battleships USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin to the region.
Military buildup continued
from there, eventually reaching 543,000 troops, twice the number
used in the 2003 invasion of
. Much of the material was airlifted or carried to the
staging areas via fast sealift
, allowing a quick buildup.
Creating a coalition
A 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 fail to comply.
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, The
Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, South Korea, Saudi
Arabia, Senegal, Sierra
Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the
Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself.
they did not contribute any forces, Japan and
Germany made financial contributions totaling $10 billion
and $6.6 billion respectively.
US 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 US
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
Reasons and campaign for intervention
On 12 January 1991 the United
authorized the use of military force to drive
Iraq out of Kuwait. The votes were 52-47 in the US Senate
, and 250-183 in the US House of Representatives
These were the closest margins in authorizing force by the Congress
since the War of 1812
. Soon after, the
other states in the coalition followed suit.
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. 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."
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
acquired commercial satellite images made at
the time in question, which showed nothing but empty desert.
Other justifications for foreign involvement included Iraq’s
history of human rights abuses under President
. Iraq was also known to possess biological weapons
and chemical weapons
, which Saddam had used
against Iranian troops during the Iran–Iraq War
and against his own
population in the
. Iraq was also
known to have a nuclear weapons
Although there were human rights abuses committed in Kuwait by the
invading Iraqi military, the ones best known in the US were
inventions of the public relations
firm hired by the government of Kuwait to influence US opinion in
favor of military intervention. Shortly after Iraq’s invasion of
Kuwait, the organisation 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
Among many other means of influencing US opinion (distributing
books on Iraqi atrocities to US 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 US Congress
in which a woman identifying herself
as a nurse working in the Kuwait City
described Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of
incubators and letting them die on the floor.
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 US. She had not been living in
Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion.
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 by Amnesty
, 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 organisation issued a retraction. President George H. W.
Bush then repeated the incubator allegations on television.
At the same time, the Iraqi army committed several well-documented
crimes during its occupation of Kuwait, such as the summary execution without trial
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
The Persian Gulf War started with an extensive aerial bombing
coalition flew over 100,000 sorties
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.
Main air campaign starts
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
with more than
1,000 sorties launching per day. It began on January 17, 1991, at
2:10 am, Baghdad time, when Task Force Normandy (eight U.S.
helicopters led by two
MH-53 Pave Low
helicopters) of the US
Army destroyed Iraqi radar sites near the Iraqi-Saudi Arabian
border which could have warned Iraq of an upcoming attack.
At 2:43 A.M. two EF-111 Ravens
terrain following radar led 22 F-15E
against assaults on airfields in Western Iraq.
Minutes later, one of the EF-111 crews – Captain James Denton and
Captain Brent Brandon
– destroyed an
Iraqi Dassault Mirage F-1
their low altitude maneuvering led the F-1 to crash to the ground.
It was the first kill ever recorded for an unarmed plane.
At 3 A.M., ten U.S. F-117
Nighthawk stealth bombers, under the protection of a three-ship
formation of EF-111s, bombed Baghdad, the capital.
The striking force came under
fire from 3,000 Anti-Aircraft guns firing from rooftops in
hours of the start of the coalition air campaign, a P-3 Orion called Outlaw Hunter developed
by the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare
Systems Command, which was testing a highly specialised
detected a large number of Iraqi patrol boats and naval vessels
attempting to make a run from Basra and Umm Qasr to Iranian waters. Outlaw
Hunter vectored in strike elements, which attacked the Iraqi
naval flotilla near Bubiyan Island destroying 11 vessels and damaging scores
Concurrently, U.S. Navy BGM-109
Cruise Missiles struck targets in Baghdad, and other
coalition aircraft struck targets throughout Iraq. Government
buildings, TV stations, airfields, presidential palaces, military
installations, communication lines, supply bases, oil refineries, a
Baghdad airport, electric powerplants and factories making Iraqi
war machine equipment were all destroyed due to extensive massive
aerial and missile attacks by the coalition forces.
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.”
The Persian Gulf War is sometimes called the “computer war”, due to
the advanced weapons used in the air campaign, which included
and cruise missiles
, although these
were very much in the minority when compared with "dumb bombs".
and BLU-82 “Daisy Cutters”
were also used.
Iraq responded by launching eight Iraqi modified Scud
Israel the next day. These missile attacks on Israel were to
continue throughout the six weeks of the war.
The first priority for Coalition forces was the
destruction of the Iraqi air force and anti-aircraft
, and F-117A stealth
planes were heavily used in this phase to
elude Iraq’s extensive SAM
systems and anti-aircraft weapons. The sorties were launched mostly from
Saudi Arabia and the six Coalition aircraft carrier battle groups
(CVBG) in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.
Gulf CVBGs included USS Midway, USS
John F. Kennedy and USS Ranger. USS
America, USS Theodore
Roosevelt, and USS Saratoga operated from the Red Sea (USS America
transitioned to the Persian Gulf midway through the air
Iraqi antiaircraft defenses, including shoulder-launched
ground-to-air missiles, were surprisingly effective against
coalition aircraft and the coalition suffered 75 aircraft losses.
In particular, RAF and U.S. Navy aircraft which flew at low
altitudes to avoid radar were particularly badly hit, since Iraqi
defenses relied very little on radar, and to a large extent on
small scale weapons which were well targeted against low-flying
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.
Some of Iraq's air force squadrons escape
The first week of the air war saw a few Iraqi sorties, but these
did little damage, and 38 Iraqi MiGs
down by Coalition planes. Soon after, the Iraqi Air Force began
fleeing to Iran, with 115 to 140 aircraft flown there. This mass exodus of
Iraqi aircraft took coalition forces by surprise as the Coalition
had been expecting them to flee to Jordan, a nation
friendly to Iraq, rather than Iran, a long-time enemy.
purpose of the war was to weaken Iraq militarily, the coalition had
placed aircraft over western Iraq to try to stop any retreat into
Jordan. This meant they were unable to react before most of the
Iraqi aircraft had made it "safely" to Iranian airbases. The
coalition eventually established a virtual "wall" of F-15 Eagle,
F-14 Tomcat fighters and F-16 Fighting Falcons on the Iraq-Iran
border (called MIGCAP), thereby stopping the exodus of fleeing
Iraqi fighters. Iran has never returned the aircraft to Iraq and
did not allow the aircrews to be released until years later.
However, many Iraqi planes remained in Iraq, and several were
destroyed by coalition forces.
The third and largest phase of the air campaign ostensibly 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 US and British special forces
teams had been covertly
inserted into western Iraq to aid in the search and destruction of
Scuds. However, the lack of adequate terrain for
concealment hindered their operations, and some of them were killed
or captured such as occurred with the famous Bravo Two Zero patrol of the SAS.
Allied bombing raids were successful in destroying Iraqi civilian
infrastructure. 11 of Iraq's 20 major power stations and 119
substations were totally destroyed, while a further six major power
stations were damaged. At the end of the war, electricity
production was at four percent of its pre-war levels. Bombs
destroyed the utility of all major dams
major pumping stations, and many sewage
treatment plants, turning Iraq from one of the most advanced Arab
countries into one of the most primitive. Telecommunications
facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges
were also destroyed.
The Iraqi targets were located by
referenced to the GPS
coordinates of the U.S.
Embassy in Baghdad, which were determined by a USAF senior officer
in August 1990: he arrived at the airport carrying a briefcase with
a GPS receiver in it, then an embassy car took him to the embassy.
He walked to the embassy courtyard, opened the briefcase, took one
GPS reading, and put the machine back in the case. Then he returned to
the U.S., gave the GPS receiver to the appropriate intelligence
agency in Langley, Virginia, where the exact coordinates of the US Baghdad
embassy were officially determined.
This position served as
the origin for a coordinate system used to designate targets in
Jordan's neutrality in the war prompted the U.S. to bomb highways
and bridges linking Jordan and Iraq, crippling infrastructure on
The U.S. government claimed the Iraqi government fabricated
numerous attacks on Iraqi holy sites in order to rally the Muslim
community. One such instance had Iraq reporting that
coalition forces attacked the holy cities of Najaf and
The final number of Iraqi civilians killed
was 2,278, while 5,965 were reported wounded.
On February 13, 1991, two laser-guided smart
destroyed the Amiriyah blockhouse
, which was a
civilian air-raid shelter
hundreds of civilians. U.S. officials claimed that the blockhouse
was also a military communications centre. Jeremy Bowen
, a BBC correspondent, was one of
the first television reporters on the scene. Bowen was given access
to the site and did not find evidence of military use.
Iraq launches missile strikes
The Iraqi government made no secret that it would attack Israel if
invaded. Prior to the start of the war, Tariq
, Iraq's English-speaking Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime
Minister, was asked in the aftermath of the failed US-Iraq peace
talks in Geneva, Switzerland by a reporter. “Mr. Foreign
Minister, if war starts...will you attack Israel?”
reporter asked. His response was, “Yes, absolutely,
The Iraqis hoped that, by attacking Israel, they would be drawn
into the war. 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 join
the war, and all Arab states remained in the coalition.
missiles generally caused light damage, although their potency was
felt in a Dhahran missile attack, which killed 28 U.S.
The Scud missiles targeting Israel were relatively ineffective, as
firing at extreme range resulted in a dramatic reduction in
accuracy and payload. Nevertheless, the 39 missiles that landed on
Israel caused extensive property damage and two deaths. Israeli
civilians were handed out gas masks by the Israeli government, in
case any of the missiles targeting the population contained
chemical agents, and Israeli citizens were forced to wear these
masks and seek shelter whenever an alarm signaling an approaching
Scud missile was sounded. The United States deployed two Patriot missile battalions in Israel, and
the Netherlands sent one Patriot Squadron in an attempt to deflect
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
Scud missiles and a coalition Patriot that malfunctioned hit
Gan in Israel on January 22, 1991, injuring 96 people,
and possibly causing the deaths of three elderly people who died of
Israeli policy for the previous forty years had always been
retaliation, but after hits by Scud missiles, Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir
restraint and agreed not to retaliate in response to requests from
the United States to remain out of the conflict. The U.S.
government was concerned that any Israeli action would cost them
allies and escalate the conflict, and an air strike by the IAF
would have required overflying hostile Jordan or Syria, which could
have provoked them to enter the war on Iraq's side or to attack
Battle of Khafji
January 29, Iraq attacked and occupied the lightly defended Saudi
city of Khafji with tanks
and infantry. The Battle of Khafji ended two days later when the Iraqis were driven
back by Saudi and Qatari forces,
supported by the United
States Marine Corps with close air
support and extensive artillery fire.
heavy on both sides. Eleven Americans were killed in two separate
friendly fire incidents, an additional 14 U.S. airmen were killed
when an American AC-130 gunship was shot down by an Iraqi SAM
missile, 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.
Vulnerability of Iraq to air attacks
The air campaign devastated entire Iraqi brigades deployed in the
open desert in combat formation. It also prevented an effective
Iraqi resupply of units engaged in combat, and prevented some
450,000 Iraqi troops from achieving a larger force
The air campaign had a significant effect on the tactics employed
by opposing forces in subsequent conflicts. No longer were entire
divisions dug in the open while facing US forces. They were instead
dispersed, as with the Yugoslav forces in
. Opposing forces also reduced the length of their supply
lines and the total area defended. This was seen during the 2001
US invasion of
, when the Taliban
preemptively abandoned large swathes of land and retreated into
their strongholds. This increased their force concentration and
reduced long vulnerable supply lines. During the invasion
of Iraq, Iraqi forces retreated from northern Iraqi Kurdistan into cities.
Iraq lost a total of 259 aircraft in the war, 122 of which were
lost in combat. During Desert Storm, 36 aircraft were shot down in
aerial combat. 3 helicopters and 2 fighters were shot down during
the invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Kuwait claims to have
shot down as many as 37 Iraqi aircraft. These claims have not been
confirmed. In addition, 68 fixed wing aircraft and 13 helicopters
were destroyed while on the ground, and 137 aircraft were flown to
Iran and never returned.
The Coalition lost 52 fixed-wing aircraft and 23 helicopters during
Desert Storm, with 39 fixed-wing aircraft and 5 helicopters lost in
combat. Only one Coalition fighter was lost in aerial combat, with
Iraqi pilots making a second, more dubious claim. The rest of the
Coalition losses came from anti-aircraft fire. The Americans lost
28 fixed-wing aircraft and 5 helicopters, the British 7 fixed-wing
aircraft, the Saudis 2, the Italians 1, and the Kuwaitis 1. During
the invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the Kuwaiti Air Force
lost 12 fixed-wing aircraft, which were destroyed on the ground,
and 8 helicopters, 6 of which were shot down and 2 of which were
destroyed while on the ground.
Ground troop movements from February
24-28th 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
before the start of the main
ground offensive. Coalition forces also had two key technological
- The Coalition main battle
tanks, such as the US M1 Abrams,
British Challenger 1, and Kuwaiti
M-84AB were vastly superior to the export version Soviet-built T-72 tanks used by the Iraqis, with crews better
trained and armoured doctrine better developed.
- 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
a battle 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
Liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation
American decoy attacks on by air attacks and naval gunfire the
night before the liberation of Kuwait were designed to make the
Iraqis believe the main coalition gound attack would focus on
Central Kuwait. On February 23, 1991, the 1st Marine Division, 2nd
Marine Division, and the 1st Light Armored Infantry crossed into
Kuwait and headed toward Kuwait City. They overran the well
designed, but poorly defended, Iraqi trenches in the first few
hours. The Marines crossed Iraqi barbed wire obstacles and mines,
then engaged Iraqi tanks, which surrendered shortly thereafter.
Kuwaiti forces soon attacked Kuwait City, to which the Iraqis
offered light resistance. The Kuwaitis lost one soldier and one
aircraft, and quickly liberated the city. Most Iraqi soldiers in
Kuwait opted to surrender rather than fight.
Initial moves into Iraq
The ground phase of the war was given the official designation
Operation Desert Sabre
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
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 TEL
operators that were
launching attacks against Israel.
Elements of the 2nd
Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
of the US Army performed a covert
into Iraq on 9
February 1991, followed by one in force on February 20 that
destroyed an Iraqi regiment
. On February
22, 1991, Iraq agreed to a Soviet-proposed cease-fire
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 February
23, fighting resulted in the capture of 500 Iraqi soldiers. On
February 24, 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 only 4
Americans were killed.
Coalition forces enter Iraq
Shortly afterwards, the U.S. VII Corps
assembled 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 February
24, 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
and the 24th Infantry
. 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
, suffering only a small number of 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 the British 1st Armoured Division
Once the allies had penetrated deep into Iraqi territory, they
turned eastward, launching a flank attack against the elite
before it could
escape. The battle lasted only a few hours. 50 Iraqi armored
vehicles were destroyed, with few coalition losses. On February 25,
1991 however, Iraq launched a scud missile attack on Coalition
barracks in Dharan
, Saudi Arabia. The missile
attack killed 28 American military personnel.
The Coalition advance was much swifter than US generals had
expected. On February 26, 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.
they were retreating, this convoy was bombed so extensively by
Coalition air forces that it came to be known as the Highway of
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, fighting frequent battles which resulted in massive
losses for the Iraqi side and light losses on the coalition side,
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 February
28, President Bush declared a cease-fire
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
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 US to possess not
only a significant technological advantage, but also a numerical
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
the 1950s and 1960s, and some T-72s
1970s in 1991. These machines were not equipped with up-to-date
equipment, such as thermal sights
, and their
effectiveness in modern combat was very limited. The Iraqis failed
to find an effective countermeasure to the thermal sights and
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
advanced Chobham Armour
of the US 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
In Iraqi territory that was occupied by the coalition, a peace
conference was held where a cease fire
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
uprising in the south. The
rebellions were encouraged by an airing of "The Voice of Free Iraq"
on February 2, 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
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
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 Palestinian
their support of, and collaboration with, Saddam).
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
, Bush and Brent
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:
Instead of a greater involvement of its own military, the United
States hoped that Saddam Hussein would be overthrown in an internal
. The Central Intelligence Agency
its assets in Iraq to organize a revolt, but the Iraqi government
defeated the effort.
10, 1991, 540,000 American troops began to move out of the Persian Gulf.
Members of the Coalition included Argentina, Australia, Bahrain,
Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt,
France, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan,
Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia,
Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates,
United Kingdom, 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". Israel was not
actively in the war, despite Iraqi missile strikes on its
territory, due to a direct request from the United States to remain
neutral. India extended
military support to the United States in the form of refueling
facilities situated in the Arabian Sea, but did not send any military forces into
Kingdom committed the largest contingent of any European
nation that participated in the combat operations of the
war. Operation Granby
the codename for the operations in the Persian Gulf. British Army
regiments (mainly with the
, Royal Air
squadrons and Royal Navy
vessels were mobilized in the Gulf. The Royal Air Force, using
various aircraft, operated from airbases
Saudi Arabia. Almost 2,500 armoured vehicles and 43,000 troops were
shipped for action.
Chief Royal Navy vessels deployed to the gulf included a number of
, other RN and RFA
ships were also deployed.
aircraft carrier HMS Ark
Royal was not deployed to the Gulf area, but was deployed
to the Mediterranean Sea.
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 the 6th 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
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.
1990, Prime Minister
committed the Canadian Forces
to deploy the destroyers and
to join the maritime interdiction force. The supply ship was also
sent to aid the gathering coalition logistics forces in the Persian
Gulf. A fourth ship, , 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
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 the Korean War
that the Canadian
military had participated in offensive combat operations.
contributed a Naval Task Group, which formed part of the
multi-national fleet in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of
Oman, under Operation Damask.
addition, medical teams were deployed aboard a US hospital ship
, and a naval clearance diving team
part in de-mining Kuwait’s port facilities following the end of
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
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
An investigation by Beth Osborne
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
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 two, 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
largest single loss of life among Coalition forces happened on
February 25, 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
soldiers died of exploding munitions, or non-combat
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.
Coalition losses to enemy fire
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)
United Kingdom - 47 (38 by enemy fire, 9 to friendly fire)
Saudi Arabia - 18
Egypt - 11
United Arab Emirates - 6
Syria - 2
France - 2
Kuwait - 1 (as part of Operation Desert Storm)
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
attacked a group of two Warrior IFV
Civilian losses to Scud attacks
missiles were fired by Iraq into
Israel during the seven weeks of the war. 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. Israel was eager
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. Israel was given two batteries of
missiles for the
protection of civilians. The Royal Netherlands Air Force
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. 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 deaths and injuries from Scud
In addition to those fired into Israel, 44 Scud missiles were fired
into Saudi Arabia, and one missile was fired at Bahrain and at
Qatar. The missiles were fired at both civilian and military
targets. One Saudi civilian was killed, and 65 others were injured.
No injuries were reported in Bahrain or Qatar. On February 26, a
scud missile hit a U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia killing
28 soldiers and injuring over 100.
Gulf War controversies
Gulf War Illness
Many returning coalition solders reported illnesses following their
participation 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 uranium
, anthrax 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.
(DU) was used in
the Gulf War in tank kinetic
and 20-30 mm cannon ordnance
. DU is a pyrophoric
, and teratogenic heavy
. Many have cited its use during the First 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
night of February 26 and 27, 1991, some defeated Iraqi forces began
leaving Kuwait on the main highway north of Al Jahra in a column of some 1,400 vehicles.
patrolling E-8 Joint STARS
observed the retreating forces and relayed the information to the
air operations center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. US Air Force
and US Navy
jets pursued and destroyed the convoy, subjecting it to sustained
bombing for several hours.
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
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
and combat earthmovers to simply plow
over and bury alive the defending Iraqi soldiers. One newspaper
story reported that the US commanders estimated thousands of Iraqi
soldiers surrendered, escaping live burial during the two-day
assault February 24-25, 1991. The estimated 8,000 Iraqi defenders
was probably greatly inflated. After the war, the Iraqi government
claimed to have found 44 bodies.. In his book The Wars Against Saddam
US forces attempted to cover up this incident..
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
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
Operation Southern Watch
Since the Gulf war, the US has had a continued presence of 5,000
troops stationed in Saudi Arabia - a figure that rose to 10,000
during the 2003 conflict in
.Operation Southern Watch enforced the
no-fly zones over southern Iraq
set up after 1991, and the country's oil exports through the
shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf are protected by the US
Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia houses the holiest sites in Islam
(Mecca and Medina) — many
Muslims were upset at the permanent military presence.
continued presence of US troops after the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia
was one of the stated motivations behind the September 11th terrorist
, the Khobar Towers
, as well, the date chosen for the 1998 United States embassy
(August 7), was eight years to the day that American
troops were sent to Saudi Arabia.Bin Laden interpreted the Prophet
as banning the "permanent presence
of infidels in Arabia".In 1996, Bin Laden issued a fatwa, calling for American troops to get out of
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
Gulf war sanctions
On 6 August 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
, the U.N.
Security Council adopted Resolution
which imposed economic
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
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
Gulf War oil spill
January 23, Iraq dumped 400 million gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, causing the largest oil
spill in history. It was reported as a deliberate natural
resources attack to keep US Marine forces from coming ashore
(Missouri and Wisconsin had shelled Failaka
Island during the war to reinforce the idea that there
would be an amphibious assault attempt).
While this was
widely publicized it was later discovered that the photo readers
had mistaken plankton
fields and seagrass
beds for floating oil. The actual spill
was 1.5 million barrels, but still the greatest spill ever. About
30-40% of this came from Allied raids on Iraqi coastal
The cost of the war to the United States was calculated by the
United States Congress
$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
. U.S. troops
represented about 74% of the combined force, and the global cost
was therefore higher.
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 missiles
hitting their targets and fighters taking
off from aircraft carriers
forces were keen to demonstrate the accuracy of their
States, the "big three" network anchors led the network news coverage of the war: ABC's Peter Jennings, CBS's
Dan Rather, and NBC's
Tom Brokaw were anchoring their evening
newscasts when air strikes began on January 16, 1991.
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.
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.
"NBC Nightly News", correspondent Mike
Boettcher reported unusual air activity in Dhahran, Saudi
Moments later, Brokaw announced to his
viewers that the air attack had begun.
Still, it was CNN
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
Newspapers all over the world also covered the war and Time magazine
published a special
issue dated January 28, 1991, the headline "WAR IN THE GULF"
emblazoned on the cover over a picture of Baghdad taken as the war
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 organised 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
, in which public opposition
within the United States grew throughout the course of the
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 US journalists returned en masse to
Baghdad. Tom Aspell
, Bill Blakemore
, and Betsy Aaron of CBS
filed reports, subject to acknowledged Iraqi
. Throughout the war, footage
of incoming missiles was broadcast almost immediately.
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
City, broadcasting live television from the city and
covering the entrance of the Arab forces the following
, 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, and daisy cutters
bombs which can disintegrate everything within hundreds of
Global Positioning System
units were important in enabling coalition units to navigate easily
across the desert.
Airborne Warning and
(AWACS) and satellite communication systems were
also important. Two examples of this is the US Navy E-2 Hawkeye
and the US 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 the many reasons
why the air war was dominated by the Coalition Forces.
Scud and Patriot missiles
The role of Iraq's Scud
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
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
The US's Patriot missile
for the first time in combat. The US military claimed a high
effectiveness against Scuds at the time. Later estimates of the
Patriot's effectiveness range widely. The Dutch Ministry of Defense
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
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 US Army and
the missile manufacturers maintain the Patriot delivered a "miracle
performance" in the Gulf War.
Notes and references
- Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East.
2nd Ed pg. 464
- Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East.
2nd Ed pg. 463
- Academic forum for foreign affairs,
- The Significance of the "Death" of Ali Hassan al-Majid By
- BBC News. " 1990: Outrage at Iraqi TV hostage show".
Accessed 2 September 2007.
- Lori Fisler Damrosch, International Law, Cases and
Materials, West Group, 2001
Kepel Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam.
- Miller Center of Public Affairs - Presidential
- In war, some facts less factual |
- How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf | Center for Media
- Kuwaitgate - killing of Kuwaiti babies by Iraqi
soldiers exaggerated | Washington Monthly | Find Articles at
- Makiya 1993, p 40.
- Makiya 1993, pp 31-33
- Makiya 1993, p 32.
- In the Gulf war, every last nail was accounted for, but
the Iraqi dead went untallied. At last their story is being
told ITV - John Pilger
- Operation Desert Storm globalsecurity.com
& AFGHANISTAN: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
- John Sweeney Responds on Mass Death in
- Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict:
Diplomacy and War in the New World Order, 1990-1991
(Princeton, 1993), 324-29.(
- Report aired on BBC 1, 14 February 1991
- Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict:
Diplomacy and War in the New World Order, 1990-1991
(Princeton, 1993), 332.
- Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict:
Diplomacy and War in the New World Order, 1990-1991
(Princeton, 1993), 331-41.
- Air-To-Air Victories in Desert Storm
- Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait - ACIG.org
- The Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm Timeline -
- Fixed-wing combat attrition in Desert Storm
- twentieth century battlefields, the gulf war
Robert. The Great War for
Civilisation, Vintage (2007 reprint), at p. 646.
- Robert Fisk, The Great War For Civilisation; The Conquest
of the Middle East (Fourth Estate, 2005), p.853.
- Wages of War - Appendix 2: Iraqi Combatant and
Noncombatant Fatalities in the 1991 Gulf War
- NGWRC: Serving veterans of recent and current
- Is an Armament Sickening U.S. Soldiers?
- Saudi Arabia - Persian Gulf War, 1991
- The Associated Press. "Soldier Reported Dead Shows Up at
Parents' Doorstep." March 22, 1991.
- The Role of the United Arab Emirates in the Iran-Iraq War
and the Persian Gulf War
- Miller, Judith. "Syria Plans to Double Gulf Force." The New
York Times, March 27, 1991.
- Role of Kuwaiti Armed Forces in the Persian Gulf
- Hindin, R. et al. (2005) "Teratogenicity of depleted uranium aerosols: A review
from an epidemiological perspective," Environmental
Health, vol. 4, pp. 17.
- An Analysis of Uranium Dispersal and Health Effects
Using a Gulf War Case Study, Albert C. Marshall, Sandia
- • John Simpson, The Wars Against Saddam. MacMillan:
- Frontline: War Stories
- The Flight That Changed My Life
- War Story:John Peters
- Plotz, David (2001) What
Does Osama Bin Laden Want?, Slate
- Duke Magazine-Oil Spill-After the Deluge, by
Jeffrey Pollack-Mar/Apr 2003
- How much did the Gulf War cost the US?
- The Patriot Missile Failure
Films about the Gulf War
Novels about the Gulf War
Video games related to the Gulf War