Abrams Tank in Desert Source: U.S. Defense Imagery
The Gulf War was fought between Iraq and a coalition of nations that included Kuwait, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, and more. It began when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and ended with a cease fire declared on February 28, 1991.
Leading up to the War
From 1980 to 1988, Iraq had been at war with Iran. During the war, Iraq had built up a powerful army that included over 5,000 tanks and 1,500,000 soldiers. Building up this army had been expensive and Iraq was in debt to the countries of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The leader of Iraq was a dictator named Saddam Hussein. In May of 1990, Saddam began to blame the economic woes of his country on Kuwait. He said they were producing too much oil and driving down prices. He also accused Kuwait of stealing oil from Iraq near the border.
Iraq Invades Kuwait
On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. A large Iraqi force crossed the border and made for Kuwait City, the capital of Kuwait. Kuwait had a fairly small army that was no match for the Iraqi forces. Within 12 hours, Iraq had gained control of most of Kuwait.
Why did Iraq invade Kuwait?
There are a number of reasons why Iraq invaded Kuwait. The primary reason was money and power. Kuwait was a very rich country with lots of oil. Conquering Kuwait would help solve Iraq's money problems and control of the oil would make Saddam Hussein very powerful. In addition, Kuwait had seaports that Iraq wanted and Iraq claimed that the land of Kuwait was historically part of Iraq.
Operation Desert Storm
For several months the United Nations tried to negotiate with Iraq to get them to leave Kuwait, but Saddam didn't listen. On January 17, an army of several nations attacked Iraq in order to free Kuwait. The attack was codenamed "Operation Desert Storm."
Kuwait is Liberated
The initial attack was an air war where warplanes bombed Baghdad (the capital city of Iraq) and military targets in Kuwait and Iraq. This went on for several days. The Iraqi army responded by blowing up Kuwaiti oil wells and dumping millions of gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf. They also launched SCUD missiles on the country of Israel.
On February 24, a ground force invaded Iraq and Kuwait. Within a few days, much of Kuwait had been freed. On February 26, Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to withdraw from Kuwait.
The terms of the ceasefire included regular inspections by the United Nations as well as a no-fly zone over southern Iraq. However, in the years to come, Iraq did not always comply with the terms. They eventually refused to admit any weapons inspectors from the United Nations. In 2002, President George W. Bush demanded that Iraq allow inspectors into the country. When they refused, another war called the Iraq War began.
Interesting Facts About the Gulf War
This was the first war that was heavily televised. There were live showings of the front lines and bombings on TV by the news media.
148 U.S. soldiers were killed in action during the war. More than 20,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed.
The leader of the coalition forces was U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was Colin Powell.
The British military operations during the war were codenamed "Operation Granby."
The war cost the United States around $61 billion. Other countries (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Japan) helped to pay around $52 billion of the U.S. costs.
During their retreat, the Iraqi forces set fire to oil wells across Kuwait. Huge fires burned for months after the war was over.