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Gulf War (1991)

GULF WAR (1991)

The military expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait after the August 1990 invasion.

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 evoked a quick response from the United States. Within hours, two U.S. Navy carrier groups were steaming towards the Persian Gulf. Military planners began reviewing U.S. Central Command plans for operations in the Persian Gulf, while other officials consulted with Saudi Arabia about defense of that nation. Thus began a two-phase operation to counter the Iraqi moves. The first phase was Operation Desert Shield, designed to shield Gulf states. The second was Operation Desert Storm, the United Nationssanctioned action to drive Iraq from Kuwait.

Military actions for Desert Shield proceeded rapidly. By 7 August, elements of the Eighty-second Airborne Division and U.S. Air Force fighter planes were en route to the Gulf. Britain, France, Egypt, and Syria launched parallel actions, while other nations sent small forces to the area.

Original plans envisioned a force of 200,000 to defend Saudi Arabia. Within less than ninety days the U.S. had 184,000 troops in the Gulf, backed by thousands of armored vehicles, helicopters, heavy artillery, and aircraft, as well as a substantial naval force. The scope of the effort was demonstrated by the fact that it took a year to reach such numbers in the Vietnam War.

Although sufficient for the defense of Saudi Arabia, U.S. and allied forces were not sufficient to expel Iraq from Kuwait, which soon became the objective of the United Nations. The U.S. response was to order additional forces to the Gulf. In effect, the U.S. commitment was doubled in just over two months. The result was a U.S. force of over 500,000 in the theater, plus substantial allied forces, by the time Desert Shield gave way to Desert Storm. The U.S. commitment was two Army corps, two Marine divisions, six Navy carrier groups, two battleships (the last time World War II Iowa Class battleships were deployed), and over a thousand airplanes. Included were substantial numbers of National Guard and Reserve personnel.

The transition from Desert Shield to Desert Storm began with a spectacular air offensive on 17 January 1991, viewed worldwide on television. Air operations continued until 24 February, when a massive ground offensive succeeded in driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in one hundred hours. The temporary cease-fire on 28 February led to Iraqi acceptance of UN resolutions on April 7.

At the time, Iraq had one of the world's largest military forcesover one million, half of whom were in Kuwaitplus 4,300 tanks. Iraq, however, did not have much of a navy. Its air arm was 660 aircraft. Allied strength was 800,000, 1,800 combat aircraft, and 3,000-plus tanks, in addition to a formidable naval force. Moreover, Iraq had to defend the entire nation. The allies could focus on evicting Iraq from Kuwait.

The five-week air offensive destroyed the Iraqi ability to use its air forces, neutralized air defense and command and control capabilities, struck at transportation systems, and attacked war production facilities, especially those suspected of being related to weapons of mass destruction. The allies attacked Scud missile sites and effectively isolated Iraqi forces in Kuwait. The air offensive weakened Iraqi ground forces for a successful ground offensive.

The plan for the ground attack envisioned fixing Iraqi attention on an amphibious attack on the coast of Kuwait coupled with a direct assault across the Saudi-Kuwait border. The real attack, however, would be from the west, across the Saudi-Iraqi border. That attack would aim toward the Euphrates River to cut off the Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

The hundred-hour ground campaign was a total success. Iraqi forces retreated in disarray from Kuwait. The allies also gained control of 30,000 square miles of Iraq. Allied losses were about 240 killed and 775 wounded. Original estimates of Iraqi losses were as high as 100,000, but later estimates varied from 10,000 to 50,000. They were probably closer to the lower end. The media images of Iraqi soldiers surrendering to helicopters in the air and to reporters suggests the totality of the defeat.

It was the subject of considerable concern that Iraq might use chemical weapons, as it had in the war with Iran. The allies also feared that Iraq might have biological weapons as well. Neither fear was realized.

See also gulf crisis (19901991); iraniraq war (19801988); iraq; kuwait.

Bibliography

Finlan, Alistair. The Gulf War 1991. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Freedman, Lawrence, and Karsh, Efraim. The Gulf Conflict, 19901991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Friedman, Norman. Desert Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War. Annapolis, MD: 1991.

Grossman, Mark. Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf War. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1995.

Scales, Robert H. Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, 1993.

Schubert, Frank N., and Kraus, Theresa L., eds. The Whirlwind War: The United States Army in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1995.

Watson, Bruce W., ed. Military Lessons of the Gulf War. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1991.

daniel e. spector

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Gulf War of 1991

Gulf War of 1991

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The invasion of Kuwait by neighboring Iraq on August 2, 1990, triggered the first major international crisis of the postCold War era. The United States had uneasily supported Iraq during its eight-year war against Iran (19801988), a conflict known in the region as the First Gulf War, but Iraqi president Saddam Hussein misinterpreted certain diplomatic signals about whether the Unites States would acquiesce over this latest military action. Kuwait had also sided with Iraq against Iran, but Kuwait and Iraq had fallen out over war debts, border disputes, and competing oil prices. When Iraq invaded in 1990, Kuwaiti defenses were quickly overrun and its government fled into exile. Because Iraq now threatened the Saudi Arabian oilfields, the United States spent the next six months assembling an international coalition of thirty-four nations, including regional Arab and Muslim states. The United States also secured ten United Nations resolutions to isolate Iraq and prepare for all necessary means to expel Iraq from Kuwait by force if it did not withdraw voluntarily. On the night of January 16 to 17, 1991, the U.S.-led coalition of the willing launched massive air strikes against Iraqs command-and-control infrastructure and its antiaircraft defenses. This conflict began under the title Operation Desert Storm.

For the next five weeks, coalition aircraft and missiles degraded the occupying Iraqi armys capacity to resist a land-war offensive. Iraq tried to expand the conflict and split the Arab members from the coalition by firing Scud missiles at Israel. The Iraqi air force fled to Iran after the loss of thirty-eight of its planes, giving the coalition air superiority for the rest of the war. Iraq released crude oil into Persian Gulf waters and even, briefly, occupied the Saudi coastal town of Khafji. Coalition strategic bombing missions were largely confined to Iraqi military forces and targets, while a new generation of smart missiles hit their military targets with unprecedented accuracy. Some collateral damage did occur, when some missiles missed their intended targets, causing unintentional damage and casualties and also causing intense media debate in the new age of real-time reporting around the clock by the Cable News Network (CNN). The two most controversial incidents were the bombings of an alleged baby-milk plant and the Al Firdos installation in Baghdad. The coalition insisted the baby-milk plant was really a chemical weapons facility and the Al Firdos installation was a command and control facility rather than a civilian bomb shelter as the Iraqis maintained. Around 400 civilians were killed on the occasion of the latter. The presence of journalists from coalition countries in the enemy capital while Iraq was under fire was unprecedented and made the propaganda war more complex.

The ground war began on February 24 and lasted barely a week, with Iraqi commanders agreeing to a cessation of hostilities at Safwan air base in southern Iraq on March 3. Although Saddam Hussein had promised the mother of all battles, the Gulf War was one of the most one-sided conflicts in military history. An unknown number of Iraqi soldiers and civilians died (estimates vary from 25,000 to 200, 000) and almost 70,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered to the coalition, which suffered fewer than 350 dead, the majority of them Americans. Television images of bombed-out Iraqi convoys fleeing Kuwait may have had an impact on the decision to end the war.

In the long term, the war had disastrous consequences: It marked the arrival of Western military forces into the Muslim holy land of Mecca, which prompted the Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden to turn against the United States, which had sponsored him during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

SEE ALSO Bush, George H. W.; Diplomacy; Hussein, Saddam; Multilateralism; United Nations

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Atkinson, Rick. 1993. Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Freedman, Lawrence, and Efraim Karsh. 1993. The Gulf Conflict, 19901991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Philip M. Taylor

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Gulf War

Gulf War, 1990–1. On 2 August 1990 Iraq invaded the tiny neighbouring state of Kuwait, giving the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein control of about 15 per cent of the world's oil, with a threat to a further 25 per cent. The almost defunct Soviet Union (which collapsed in December 1991) did not block a strong American response, which employed the United Nations Security Council to denounce Iraq's action and won Saudi Arabian agreement to receive large American forces. In response, on 8 August, Iraq announced the incorporation of Kuwait into Iraq, an act of direct conquest unprecedented among United Nations members.

President George Bush portrayed American military action as the start of a ‘New World Order’ following the end of the Cold War. Bush assembled a coalition of twenty-nine countries against Iraq, although with its immense armed forces and technological superiority the USA dominated the coalition in all respects. Britain's policy was to support the USA completely, to demonstrate both her reliability as an ally and her importance as a second-ranking power. By stripping her armed forces Britain contributed small but significant naval, air, and ground units to the war, all closely subordinated to American command.

The coalition forces took several months to assemble in Saudi Arabia. Iraqi strategy was to prevent a coalition forming by playing on pan-Arab sentiment, in particular over past American support for Israel. On 29 November the United Nations Security Council set a deadline of 15 January 1991 for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, authorizing the use of force (‘all necessary means’) to support this.

Early on 17 January 1991, the coalition began with a massive air bombing attack against Iraq, which responded by attacking Israel (which was not a coalition member and had taken no military action) with long-range missiles. Critically for coalition solidarity, Israel refused to retaliate. The coalition launched its ground offensive to clear Kuwait on 24 February. This revealed that the Americans had greatly overestimated the Iraqi army, which virtually disintegrated, offering only token resistance. On 28 February, having achieved the objective of liberating Kuwait, Bush called a unilateral cease-fire, and a permanent cease-fire came into effect on 11 April.

With the liberation of Kuwait dissident groups within Iraq, notably the Kurds of the north, rose in rebellion. Over the next year Saddam gradually reasserted his rule, and survived in power. Ironically, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had first committed Britain to the coalition, was forced from office in November 1990, and Bush failed to gain re-election in 1992. Although the Gulf War secured oil supplies for the West, effectively destroyed Saddam's ambitions for Iraq as a regional power, and upheld the rule of law through the United Nations, it failed to deliver the promised ‘New World Order’.

Stephen Badsey

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Gulf War

Gulf War (January 16, 1991–February 28, 1991) Military action by a US-led coalition of 32 states to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait (August 2, 1990) and claimed it as an Iraqi province. On August 7, 1990, Operation Desert Shield began a mass deployment of coalition forces to protect Saudi oil reserves. Economic sanctions failed to secure a withdrawal, and the UN Security Council set a deadline of January 15, 1991, for the peaceful removal of Iraqi forces. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ignored the ultimatum, and General Norman Schwarzkopf launched Operation Desert Storm. Within a week, extensive coalition air attacks secured control of the skies and weakened Iraq's military command. Iraqi ground forces were defenceless against the coalition's technologically advanced weaponry. Iraq launched Scud missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and Israel, in the hope of weakening Arab support for the coalition. On February 24, the war began on the ground. Iraqi troops burned Kuwaiti oil wells as they fled. Kuwait was liberated two days later, and a cease-fire declared on February 28. Saddam Hussein remained in power in Iraq. The Gulf War claimed the lives of 234 Allied troops and between 85,000 and 150,000 Iraqi soldiers. Some 33,000 Kuwaitis were killed or captured.

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Gulf War of 1991

GULF WAR OF 1991

GULF WAR OF 1991. SeePersian Gulf War .

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Gulf War

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Gulf War

Gulf War. See Persian Gulf War (1991).

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