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Persian Gulf War

Updated: Jun 4

By Nithya L R, 1st yr B.A. LL. B, K.L.E. Law College

The Persian Gulf War

The Persian Gulf war also known as the Gulf War. It started with Iran invading Kuwait on 2nd August, 1990 and ended on February 28, 1991, just 4 days after the troops from around the world landed in Kuwait and pushed out the Iraqi soldiers out. But why did Iraq invade Kuwait in the first place? Let us find out.

Background of the countries involved

Iraq is one of the countries of the Arab world and lies to the easternmost part of the area. It is bordered by Turkey, Syria, Jordan and a tiny sliver of territorial sea along the Persian gulf. Iraq gained formal independence in 1932 but remained under the British imperial’s influence during the next quarter century of turbulent monarchical rule. Saddam Hussein, a ruthless autocrat assumed power and led the country into wars like the Iran-Iraq War (1980 - 1988) and Persian Gulf War (1990 - 1991). These conflicts devasted Iraq financially and isolated it from the foreign community. Iraq was also socially drained.

Kuwait is located between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is located on one of the driest deserts on Earth. It has a port named Kuwait Bay, a deep harbour on the Persian Gulf. This country is rich in oil production. Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was their leader during the Persian Gulf War.

How did the war start?

Before the Persian Gulf War the country of Iraq had gone through almost 8 wars and had almost become financially instable and had borrowed money from Kuwait. Kuwait was doing well in the beginning, but after few years, it’s stock market crashed, it lost much of it is money and at that point of time Kuwait asked Iraq to pay back the debt that it had borrowed, but Iraq was not in the position of repaying the debt. They had almost borrowed $37Million as debt from the gulf countries by 1990.

The President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait on august 2nd 1990 largely for economic reasons, but also the Arab countries had a long holding territorial disputes as well. As Iraq had largely financed through other countries during the years of 1990 – 1988 war’s, Iraq planned to attack on Kuwait to erase its massive debt. Although Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates declined to waive the debt, it was contended that they ought to view the loans as compensation for Iraq's protection of the Arabian Peninsula against Iranian expansionism. At that same time Saddam Khan the Iraq leader accused Kuwait of over producing crude oil for export and offering lower prices in the market, while Iraq was deprived of its oil revenue.

When Kuwait was not ready to cancel the debt of Iraq, Saddam demanded that Kuwait should give over control of the strategically significant Bubiyan and Warbah Islands to Iraq, Saddam also threatened to rekindle a long-standing dispute over who should own them. This was the most recent in a long line of territorial conflicts; earlier Iraqi rulers had maintained that Kuwait was historically a part of Iraq rather than a separate country. On July 17, Saddam made a rhetorical assault on television on Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates for going over their allotted OPEC oil export limits. A day later, Kuwait was charged with oil theft from the Al-Rumaylah oil field, which is located where Kuwait and Iraq meet. On August 1, as criticism grew, negotiations between the two nations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, broke down. Despite personal guarantees from Saddam to Egyptian President, Iraqi armoured units attacked Kuwait hours later, early on August 2. The conflict between Iraq and Kuwait over oil policies and other issues has escalated since mid-July 1990. Iraq's primary source of income is oil, and the country believed that maintaining high oil prices would be crucial to securing sufficient funds for paying off its obligations and recovering from the Iran-Iraq War. In July, the price of a barrel of crude oil fell from $18 to $12 due to this circumstance. Iraq accused Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates of being the reason behind the decline in prices, stating that their overproduction of crude oil exceeded the national production quota that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had set for them.

The Iraqi economy suffered greatly because of this war. Iraq was especially scathing in its criticism of Kuwait, claiming that Kuwait built oil and military installations on Iraqi land while Iraq was preoccupied with the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq demanded Kuwait write off its debt obligations under that excuse. Kuwait retorted that Iraq's assertion was completely baseless. As a result, the conflict between the two nations grew more serious, and on July 20th, Iraq started stationing troops on Kuwait's border. In response, Saudi Arabia and Egypt tried to broker a settlement between the two nations. As a result, Iraq and Kuwait met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 31. Additionally, it is reported that Iraq has explicitly declared on a few occasions that it will not employ force against its neighbours.

Efforts to make settlement between two countries

The international community tried to restore peace between the two countries. On August 2, the day of the invasion, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 660, demanding the immediate and complete withdrawal of Iraqi forces, citing Iraq's disregard for the fundamental order of the international community as a violation of international law. The U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 661 on August 6th, which required member nations to impose economic sanctions on Iraq, and Resolution 662 on August 9th, which ruled that Iraq's annexation of Kuwait was invalid, due to Iraq's disregard for the resolution and refusal to withdraw from Kuwait. Concurrently, the August 10th Arab League meeting denounced Iraq and passed a resolution mandating the deployment of armed forces by Arab nations. Of the twenty participating countries, twelve voted in favour of the resolution, while the remaining eight either abstained or were opposed. Only Jordan, one of Iraq's Arab neighbours, gave the country support.

Saudi Arabia requested the deployment of army and air force forces by Western nations, commanded by the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as Arab nations, including Egypt and Morocco, because it was directly threatened by Iraq. Fleets from the Western nations—led by the United States—were also sent to the Gulf and the surrounding waters. In addition, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 665 on August 25. This resolution mandated that nations that had sent out maritime forces take the appropriate steps, such as formal ship inspections, to guarantee that the economic sanctions against Iraq were strictly enforced. As a result, the economic sanctions against Iraq based on the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council spread around the world, and troops from 28 nations stationed their armies, navy, and air force in the Gulf region to both enforce and constrain the sanctions against Iraq. Iraq made no indication that it would recognize the resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council, in spite of these actions done by the international community. Furthermore, Iraq prohibited foreign nationals living in Kuwait and Iraq, from leaving the nation which were under its authority. It also went so far as to kidnap and hold foreign nationals living in major Western nations, such as Japan, as hostages, sending them to military and oil facilities to serve as "human shields," which was an egregious act against humanity.

Operation Desert Storm (End of War)

Operation Desert Storm consisted of two phases: a ground offensive known as Operation Desert Sabre (February 24–28) and a Coalition Air Operation (January 17–February 24, 1991). During the air campaign, the three primary goals of the Allied forces were to reduce the Iraqi ground troops, destroy strategic targets, and establish air superiority. By January 28, coalition pilots were in the lead in the air. About thirty percent of the Iraqi ground forces in the conflict zone were thought to have been neutralized by the air assault. In the Persian Gulf, coalition naval operations commenced concurrently with the air offensive. The primary goals of the combined naval campaign were to keep the six US Navy planes under defence.

Iraqi submarine mines were to be removed from the fighting zone, Iraqi carriers operating in the Gulf were to be destroyed, Iraqi forces in Kuwait were to be threatened with a significant amphibious assault, and Iraqi coastal defence forces had the ability to be effectively utilized. Each of these goals was completely accomplished. By February 11, Iraqi naval elements that had been taken prisoner in Kuwait had been destroyed by coalition forces.


On February 24, 1991, the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps (82nd and 101st Airborne and 24th Infantry divisions, along with the French Daguet Division) launched Operation Desert Sabre, the coalition's ground invasion. The 1st and 2nd Marine divisions successfully cleared many Iraqi minefields on the Kuwaiti border that day. They then decisively repelled several Iraqi armoured counterattacks and broke through to take control of Kuwait City's airport. After suffering severe casualties and retreating to Basra, the last of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait were forced to negotiate a cease-fire on February 28. In approximately 100 hours, Operation Desert Sabre was completed. Numerous Iraqi forces submitted without engaging in combat, falling under the combined impact of the protracted coalition air campaign and the focused firepower and rapid ground assault pace.







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