The Persian Gulf War

On August 2nd, 1990 Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied
the small Arab state of Kuwait. The order was given by Iraqi
dictatorial president Saddam Hussein. His aim was apparently to take
control Kuwaits oil reserves (despite its small size Kuwait is a huge
oil producer; it has about 10 per cent of the worlds oil reserves ).
Iraq accused Kuwait, and also the United Arab Emirates, of breaking
agreements that limit oil production in the Middle East. According
to Saddam Hussein, this brought down world oil prices severely and
caused financial loss of billions of dollars in Iraqs annual revenue.
Saddam Hussein had the nearly hopeless task of justifying the
invasion. He plead the fact that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman
province of Basra, a city in the south of Iraq. However, the Ottoman
province collapsed after World War I and todays Iraqi borders were
not created until then. There was also a further and more obvious
blunder in a bid to justify this illegal invasion. Baghdad, the
capital of Iraq, had namely recognized Kuwaiti independence in 1963.
Furthermore, Hussein claimed that Kuwait had illegally pumped oil from
the Iraqi oil field of Rumaila and otherwise conspired to reduce
Iraqs essential oil income.


By invading Kuwait, Iraq succeeded in surprising the entire
world. The USA ended her policy of accommodating Saddam Hussein, which
had existed since the Iran-Iraq war. Negative attitude toward Iraq was
soon a worldwide phenomenon. The United Nations Security Council
passed 12 resolutions condemning the invasion. The ultimate decision
was to use military force if Iraq did not withdraw unconditionally
by January 15, 1991. Then, when the deadline was set, it was time to
start preparing for the worst-the war. President George Bush
confronted little difficulty in winning Americans support for the
potential war against Iraq. However, the government found it difficult
to decide upon and state one overriding reason for going to war. Was
it to oppose aggression or was it just to protect global oil supplies?
Other powers were more directly concerned as consumers of Persian Gulf
oil, but they were not as eager to commit military force, to risk
their youth in battle and to pay for the costs of the war. Critics of
President Bush continued to maintain that he was taking advantage of
the issue of energy supplies in order to manipulate the U. S. public
opinion in favor of war.
After consulting with U. S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in
early August 1990, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia invited American troops
onto Saudi soil. He had seen Kuwaits destiny; therefore, he wanted
protection. It was also the interest of the USA to stop any further
advantage of the Iraqi army. The deployment was called Operation
Desert Shield. These troops were armed with light, defensive
weaponry.
On November 8, 1990 President Bush announced a military buildup
to provide an offensive option, Operation Desert Storm, to force
Iraq out of Kuwait. The preparation of the operation took two and
a half months and it involved a massive air- and sea lift. Finally, in
January 1991, the U. S. Congress voted to support Security Council
resolution 660. It authorized using all necessary means if Iraq did
not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15. Shrugging off this final
warning, Saddam Hussein resolutely maintained the occupation of
Kuwait. The United States established a broad-based international
coalition to confront Iraq militarily and diplomatically. The
military coalition consisted of Afghaniez, Argentina, Australia,
Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco,
the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakiez, Poland,
Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria,
Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United
States. The war also was financed by countries which were unable
to send in troops. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the main donors. More
than $53 billion was pledged and received.
Before the war, it appeared obvious that Iraq would have very
little chance against the Coalition. The relative strength between the
parties was extremely unequal. The most critical difference was that
the Coalition had a total of 2600 aircraft, over three times more
than Iraqs 800 aircraft. Most Arab observers thought Hussein would
not last more than six months. Lieutenant General Khalid bin Sultan,
the commander of the Arab coalition forces, gave Iraqs leader only 40
days, and repeated this prediction many times. Iraqs prospect was
dreary.

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President George Bush waited two days after the UN deadline for
Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait before ordering the Coalition to begin
action against Iraq. The winds of Desert Storm began howling across
Iraq on January 17, 1991, at 2.30 am Baghdad time. Bhagdad was bombed
fiercely by the coalitions fighter airplanes in the first night of
the war. An interesting fact is that several weeks before this, US
intelligence agents successfully inserted a computer virus into Iraq’s
military computers. It was designed to disable much of Baghdad’s
air-defense system.


To minimize casualties, the coalition forces, under the command
of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, pursued a strategy beginning with
five weeks of intensive air attacks and ending with a ground assault.
Drawing on its 1,800 planes, land- and carrier-based, the United
States flew the greatest number of sorties. The British, French, and
Saudis made up most of the rest. Besides the tremendous air power, the
coalition deployed technologically advanced weapon systems, such as
the unmanned Tomahawk cruise missile, advanced infrared targeting that
illuminated Iraqi tanks buried in the, sand and laser-guided bombs,
smart bombs. Its use of brand new aircraft that never before had
been engaged in combat, such as British Tornados and U. S. F-117A
Stealth fighters, gave the Coalition an accuracy and firepower that
overwhelmed the Iraqi forces. The large-scale usage of air force and
latest technology made the war short and saved great numbers of
Coalition soldiers lives.
After establishing air superiority, coalition forces disabled
Iraqs command and control centers, especially in Baghdad and Al
Bashrah. This caused the communication to fail between Baghdad and the
troops in the field. The next stage was to attack relentlessly Iraqs
infantry, which was dug in along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, and the
elite 125,000 man Republican Guard in southeastern Iraq and northern
Kuwait. Iraq retaliated by using mobile launchers to fire Scud
missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel, a noncombatant coalition.
Overall, Husseins forces launched 93 Scuds. The United States
countered this threat with Patriot antimissile missiles, called also
Scudbusters, and commando attacks on Scud launchers.

Patriot missiles gave an engagement rate of nearly 96 per cent.
The coalitions air raids on Iraqs infantry lowered Iraqi soldiers
morale dramatically. It is easy to sense in the following quote from
an Iraqi lieutenants war diary the powerlessness and fear that the
soldiers felt during air attacks by the Coalition:
2 February 1991 I was awakened this morning by the noise of an
enemy air raid. I ran and hid in the nearby trench. I had breakfast
and afterwards something indescribable happened. Two enemy planes
came toward us and began firing at us, in turn, with missiles,
machine guns, and rockets. I was almost killed. Death was a yard
away from me. The missiles, machine guns and rockets didn’t let up.
One of the rockets hit and pierced our shelter, which was
penetrated by shrapnel. Over and over we said, “Allah, Allah,
Allah.” One tank burned and three other tanks belonging to 3rd
Company, which we were with, were destroyed. That was a very bad
experience. Time passed and we waited to die. The munitions dump of
the 68th Tank Battalion exploded. A cannon shell fell on one of the
soldiers’ positions, but, thank God, no one was there. The soldiers
were somewhere else. The attack lasted about 15 minutes, but it
seemed like a year to me. I read chapters in the Qur’an. How hard
it is to be killed by someone you don’t know, you’ve never seen
and, can’t confront. He is in the sky and you’re on the ground. Our
ground resiezce is magnificent. After the air raid, I gave
great thanks to God and joined some soldiers to ask how each of
them was. While I was doing that, another air attack began. 2
February at 2000 hours.
The ground war began at 8:00 p.m. on February 23 and lasted exactly
100 hours. This phase featured a massively successful outflanking
movement of the Iraqi forces. Schwarzkopf used a deceptive maneuver by
deploying a large number of forces as if to launch a large amphibious
landing. The Iraqis apparently anticipated that they also would be
attacked frontally and had heavily fortified those defensive
positions. Schwarzkopf instead moved the bulk of his forces west and
north in a major use of helicopters, attacking the Iraqis from their
rear. The five weeks of intensive air attack had greatly demoralized
the Iraqi front-line troops, causing wholesale desertions. Remaining
front-line forces were quickly killed or taken prisoner with minimal
coalition losses.

Iraqi front-line commanders had already lost much of their
ability to communicate with Baghdad, which made their situation even
worse. On the final night of the war, within hours of the cease-fire,
two U.S. Air force bombers dropped specially designed 5,000-pound
bombs on a command bunker fifteen miles northwest of Baghdad in a
deliberate attempt to kill Saddam Hussein. President Bush’s decision
to terminate the ground war at midnight February 28, 1991 was
criticized, because it allowed Baghdad to rescue a large amount of
military equipment and personnel that were later used to suppress the
postwar rebellions of its Shiite and Kurdish citizens. In his own
defense, the president asserted that the war had accomplished its
mandate. The mission, given by the Security Council, was to expel the
Iraqi forces from Kuwait and reestablish Kuwaiti independence. Bushs
decision was probably influenced by his desire to maintain coalition
unity. A particular reason was to keep on board the Arab members, who
were increasingly unhappy at the devastation inflicted on Iraq’s
infrastructure and civilian population.
Iraqi representatives accepted allied terms for a provisional
truce on March 3 and a permanent cease-fire on April 6. Iraq agreed to
pay reparations to Kuwait, reveal the location and extent of its
stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and eliminate its
weapons of mass destruction. Subsequently, however, UN inspectors
complained that the Baghdad government was frustrating their attempts
to monitor Iraqi compliance, and UN sanctions against Iraq were kept
in place. The following chart shows total equipment and casualties of
the Gulf War. In addition, 300,000 Iraqi soldiers were wounded,
150,000 were deserted, and 60,000 were taken prisoner (an estimate of
U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency). The United States suffered 148
killed in action, 458 wounded, and 11 female combat deaths. 121 were
killed in nonhostile actions; they were mostly victims of friendly
fire.
Table 01; Total Equipment and Casualties of Gulf War
IRAQ COALITION
LOST – ON HAND – LOST ON – HAND
TANKS: 4000 4230 4 3360
ARTILLERY: 2140 3110 1 3633
ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIERS: 1856 2870 9 4050
HELICOPTERS: 7 160 17 1951
AIRCRAFT: 240 800 44 2600
SOLDIERS: 100000 545000 200 680000