Gulf WarThe Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991) was a conflict between Iraq and a coalition force from 34 nations authorized by the United Nations (UN) and led primarily by the United States and the United Kingdom in order to return Kuwait to the control of the Emir of Kuwait. The conflict developed in the context of the Iran-Iraq War and in 1990 Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing Iraq's oil through slant drilling. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops was met with immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by some members of the UN Security Council, and with immediate preparation for war by the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait began in January 1991 and was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, which took over Kuwait and entered Iraqi territory. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and bordering areas of Saudi Arabia. Iraq also launched missiles against targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel in retaliation for their support of the invading forces in Kuwait.
Since the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–88 had been called the "Persian Gulf War" by many news sources, the 1991 war has sometimes been called the "Second Persian Gulf War", but more commonly, the 1991 war is styled simply the "Gulf War" or the "First Gulf War", in distinction from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. "Operation Desert Storm" was the U.S. name of the air and land operations and is often used to refer to the conflict.
Shortly after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, US President George H.W. Bush started to deploy US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard units to Saudi Arabia (Operation Desert Shield), while at the same time 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 January 16, 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 US Navy, which deployed six aircraft-carrier battle groups; eight countries had 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 US Army and nine Marine regiments, with their large support and service forces; and four countries had sent combat aircraft, joining the local air forces of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US Air Force, US Navy, and U.S. Marine aviation, for a grand total of 2,430 fixed-wing aircraft.
Against them, the Iraqis had only a few gunboats and small missile craft to match the coalition's armada; but on the other hand, some 1.2 million ground troops with about 5,800 tanks, 5,100 other armored vehicles, and 3,850 artillery pieces made for a lot more strength on the ground. Iraq also had 750 fighters and bombers, 200 other aircraft, and elaborate missile and gun defenses.
In a bid to open full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the country was removed from the 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 newfound success in the war and its rebuff of a peace offer in July, arms sales to Iraq (which included poison gas which was then used against Iranian troops) from other states (most importantly the USSR, France, Egypt, and starting that year, the People's Republic of China) reached a record spike in 1982, but an obstacle remained to any potential US-Iraqi relationship — Abu Nidal continued to operate with official support in Baghdad. When Saddam Hussein expelled the group to Syria at the US' request in November 1983, the Reagan administration then sent Donald Rumsfeld to Saddam Hussein as a special envoy to cultivate ties.
Tensions with Kuwait
When the ceasefire with Iran was signed in August 1988, Iraq was virtually bankrupt and heavily indebted to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Those two nations had funded Iraq due to shared antagonism towards the Iranian regime. Iraq's economy was further damaged when the following year, in open defiance of OPEC quotas, Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. 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 .
Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman province of Basra, and although its ruling dynasty, the al-Sabah family, had concluded a protectorate agreement in 1899 that assigned responsibility for its foreign affairs to Britain, it did not make any attempt to secede from the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, Iraqi governments had always refused to accept Kuwait's separation, and its borders were never clearly defined or mutually agreed. The British High Commissioner drew lines that deliberately constricted Iraq's access to the ocean so that any future Iraqi government would be in no position to threaten Britain's domination of the Gulf.
In late July 1990, as negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait stalled, Iraq massed troops on its border with the emirate and summoned US ambassador April Glaspie to a meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Two transcripts of that meeting have been produced, both of them controversial. In them, Saddam Hussein outlined his grievances against Kuwait, while promising that he would not invade Kuwait before one more round of negotiations. In the version published by The New York Times on September 23, 1990, Glaspie expressed concern over the troop buildup to Saddam Hussein:
Some have interpreted portions of these statements, particularly the language "We have no opinion on the Arab–Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait", as signaling an American "green light" for the invasion. Although the US State Department did not confirm (or deny) the authenticity of these transcripts, US sources say that it handled everything “by the book” (in accordance with the US' official neutrality on the Iraq–Kuwait issue) and had not signaled to Saddam Hussein any approval for defying the Arab League’s Jeddah crisis squad, which had conducted the negotiations. Many believe that Saddam Hussein may have been influenced by the perception that the US was not interested in the issue, (as they had not minded when he ordered the invasion of Iran) for which the Glaspie transcript is merely an example, and that he may have felt so in part because of U.S. support for the reunification of Germany, another act that he considered to be nothing more than the nullification of an artificial, internal border. Others, such as Kenneth Pollack, believe he had no such illusion, or that he simply underestimated the extent of a US response.
In November 1989, CIA director William Webster met with the Kuwaiti head of security, Brigadier Fahd Ahmed Al-Fahd. Subsequent to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Iraq claimed to have found a memorandum pertaining to their conversation. The Washington Post reported that Kuwait’s foreign minister fainted when confronted with this document at an Arab summit in August. Later, Iraq cited this memorandum as evidence of a CIA - Kuwaiti plot to destabilize Iraq economically and politically. The CIA and Kuwait have described the meeting as routine and the memorandum as a forgery. The purported document reads in part:
On 23 August 1990 Saddam Hussein appeared on state television with Western hostages to whom he had refused exit visas. They were seen as human shields, though Saddam Hussein denied the claim. In the video he is seen ruffling the hair of a young boy named Stuart Lockwood and asks through the interpreter if he is "getting his milk". He 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."
On August 2, 1990 Saddam launched the invasion of Kuwait. After two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard or escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia. Within hours of the invasion, Kuwaiti and US delegations requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, which passed Resolution 660, condemning the invasion and demanding a withdrawal of Iraqi troops. On August 3, the Arab League passed its own resolution. The resolution also called for a solution to the conflict from within the League, and warned against foreign intervention. On August 6, UN Resolution 661 placed economic sanctions on Iraq.
Possible attack on Saudi Arabia
The decision by the US and its allies to fight the Iraqi invasion had as much to do with preventing an attack on Saudi Arabia, a nation of considerable importance owing to its oil reserves, as it did with liberating Kuwait itself. The rapid success of the Iraqi army had brought it within easy striking distance of the Hama oil fields, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest. Iraqi control of these fields as well as Kuwait and Iraqi reserves would have given it control of the majority of the world's reserves. The Iraqi armored divisions would have encountered the same difficulties that Saudi forces faced defending the oil fields, namely traversing large distances across inhospitable desert. This would have been exacerbated by intense bombing by the Saudi Air Force, by far the most well-equipped (if not so well-trained) arm of the Saudi military.
Iraq had a number of grievances with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had lent Saddam Hussein some 26 billion dollars to prosecute his invasion of Iran, as they feared the influence of mainly Shia Iran's Islamic revolution on its own Shia minority (most of the Saudi oil fields are in territory populated by Shias). The long desert border was also ill-defined. Soon after his conquest of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein began verbally attacking the Saudi kingdom. He argued that the US-supported Saudi state was an illegitimate guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Saddam Hussein combined the language of the Islamist groups that had recently fought in Afghanistan with the rhetoric Iran had long used to attack the Saudis.
Operation Desert Shield
Acting on the policy of the Carter Doctrine, and out of fear the Iraqi army could launch an invasion of Saudi Arabia, US President George H. W. Bush quickly announced that the US would launch a "wholly defensive" mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia – Operation Desert Shield was when US troops were moved into Saudi Arabia on August 7, 1990 (or August 8 depending on time zone used). This "wholly defensive" doctrine was to be quickly abandoned. On August 8, Iraq declared parts of Kuwait to be extensions of the Iraqi province of Basra and the rest to be the 19th province of Iraq.
The United States Navy mobilized two naval battle groups, the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Independence and their escorts, to the area, where they were ready by August 8. A total of 48 US 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 prevent further Iraqi advances. The U.S. 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 Iraq. Much of the material was airlifted or carried to the staging areas via fast sealift ships, allowing a quick buildup.
Building a coalition
A long series of UN Security Council resolutions and Arab League resolutions were passed regarding the conflict. One of the most important was Resolution 678, passed on November 29, giving Iraq a withdrawal deadline of January 15, 1991, and authorizing “all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660,” a diplomatic formulation authorizing the use of force.
The United States, especially Secretary of State James Baker, assembled a coalition of forces to join it in opposing Iraq, consisting of forces from 34 countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself. Although they did not contribute any forces, Japan and West Germany did make 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 feared increasing American influence in Kuwait. In the end, many nations were persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab states, and offers of economic aid or debt forgiveness.
Reasons for intervention
The United States and the United Nations gave several public justifications for involvement in the conflict. The most prominent reason was the Iraqi violation of Kuwaiti territorial integrity. In addition, the United States moved to support its ally of Saudi Arabia, whose importance in the region and as a key supplier of oil made it of considerable geopolitical importance. During a speech given on September 11, 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 build-up of Iraqi forces along the border were the source of this information, but this was later shown to be false when a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times acquired commercial satellite images made at the time in question, which showed nothing but empty desert.
Polls showed that upwards of 80% of the American public supported the troop deployment. The anti-war movement and its “No Blood For Oil” slogan did not achieve the levels of support it would get 12 years later.
Other justifications for foreign involvement included Iraq’s history of human rights abuses under Saddam Hussein. Iraq was also known to possess biological weapons and chemical weapons, which Hussein had used against Iranian troops during the Iran-Iraq War and against his own county's Kurdish population in the Al-Anfal Campaign. Iraq was known to have a nuclear weapons program as well.
Although there were human rights abuses committed in Kuwait by the invading Iraqi military, the ones best known in the U.S. were an invention of the public relations firm hired by the government of Kuwait to influence U.S. opinion in favor of military intervention. Shortly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the organization 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 government. Among many other means of influencing U.S. opinion (distributing books on Iraqi atrocities to U.S. 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 Congress in which a woman identifying herself as a nurse working in the Kuwait City hospital 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 U.S. 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 re-examination by Amnesty International, 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 organization issued a retraction.
Final peace proposals
Various peace proposals were floated, but none were agreed to. The United States insisted that the only acceptable terms for peace were Iraq's full, unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Iraq insisted that withdrawal from Kuwait would have to be “linked” to a simultaneous adherence by neighbouring countries to similar UN resolutions, which would necessitate the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and Israeli troops from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and southern Lebanon. Morocco and Jordan were persuaded by this proposal, but Syria, Israel, and the anti-Iraq coalition denied that there was any connection to the Kuwait issue, despite the UN resolutions. Syria joined the coalition to expel Saddam Hussein but Israel remained officially neutral despite rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. The US made a concerted effort to prevent Israel from getting involved so as not to inflame Arab countries angry with its policies. The Bush administration persuaded Israel to remain confident that the Special Air Service were working behind enemy-lines in Iraq in search of SCUD missile launchers that were being targeted towards Israeli cities.
On January 12, 1991 the United States Congress 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 also followed suit.
The Persian Gulf War started with an extensive aerial bombing campaign. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, killing numerous civilians, and widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure.
Main air campaign starts
A day after the deadline set in Resolution, the coalition launched a massive air campaign codenamed Operation Desert Storm with more than 1,000 sorties launching per day. It all began on January 17, 1991, when eight U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters, and two MH-53 Pave Low helicopters destroyed Iraqi radar sites near the Iraqi-Saudi Arabian border at 2:38 A.M. Baghdad time, which could have warned Iraq of an upcoming attack. At 2:43 A.M. two EF-111 Ravens with terrain following radar led 22 F-15E Strike Eagles against H-2 and H-3 - airfields in Western Iraq. Minutes later one of the EF-111 crews – Captain James Denton and Captain Brent Brandon – killed an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F-1, when their low altitude maneuvering led the F-1 into the ground.
At 3 A.M., ten U.S. F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighters under the protection of a three-ship formation of EF-111s bombed Baghdad, the capital.
Within hours of the start of the coalition air campaign, a P-3 Orion called “Outlaw Hunter” developed by the Navy’s Space & Naval Warfare Systems Command, which was testing a highly specialized OTH-T (over the horizon targeting system package), detected a large number of Iraqi patrol boats and naval vessels attempting to make a run from Basra and Um Qasar to Iranian waters. “Outlaw Hunter” vectored in strike elements which attacked the flotilla near Bubiyan Island destroying 11 vessels and damaging scores more.
Concurrently, US Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles struck targets in Baghdad, and other coalition aircraft struck targets throughout Iraq. Government buildings, TV stations, Iraqi Air Force fields and presidential palaces were destroyed. Five hours after the first attacks, Baghdad 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” because of the advanced weapons used in the air campaign which included precision-guided munitions (or “smart bombs”) and cruise missiles, although these were very much in the minority when compared with "dumb bombs". Cluster munitions and BLU-82 “Daisy Cutters” were also used. Iraq responded by launching eight Iraqi modified Scud missiles into 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 destruction of the Iraqi air force and anti-aircraft facilities. EA-6Bs, EF-111 radar jammers 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. Persian Gulf CVBGs included USS Midway (CV 41), USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and USS Ranger (CV-61). USS America (CV-66), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), and USS Saratoga (CV-60) operated from the Red Sea (USS America transitioned to the Persian Gulf midway through the air war).
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 US 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 aircraft.
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 the lower levels was discouraged. Coalition planners hoped Iraqi resistance would quickly collapse if deprived of command and control.
Iraq's air force escapes to Iran
The first week of the air war saw a few Iraqi sorties; but these did little damage, and 38 Iraqi MiGs were shot down by Coalition planes. Soon after, the Iraqi Air Force began fleeing to Iran, with 115 to 140 aircraft flown to Iran. The mass exodus of Iraqi aircraft to Iran took coalition forces by surprise as the Coalition had been expecting the aircraft to flee to Jordan, a nation friendly to Iraq rather than Iran, Iraq's long-time enemy. The Coalition had placed aircraft over Western Iraq to try and stop such a 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 and F-14 Tomcat fighters on the Iraq border with Iran (called MIGCAP) thereby stopping the exodus of fleeing Iraqi fighters. Iran has never returned the aircraft to Iraq and did not release the aircrews home until years later. However, most Iraqi planes remained in Iraq. They were devastated by Coalition aircraft throughout the war.
The third and largest phase of the air campaign ostensibly targeted military targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait: Scud missile launchers, weapons of mass destruction sites, weapons research facilities and naval forces. About one-third of the Coalition airpower was devoted to attacking Scuds, 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 many of them were killed or captured. Iraqi fighters tried to stop these attacks, but they suffered many losses.
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, most major pumping stations and many sewage treatment plants, turning Iraq from one of the most advanced Arab countries into one of the most backward. Telecommunications equipment, port facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges were also destroyed.
The Iraqi targets were located by aerial photography and were referenced to the GPS coordinates of the US Embassy in Baghdad, which were determined by a USAF 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 US gave the GPS receiver to the appropriate intelligence agency in Langley, Virginia, where the position of the US Embassy was officially determined. This position served as the origin for a coordinate system used to designate targets in Baghdad.
Jordan's neutrality in the war prompted US fighter jets to bomb highways connecting Iraq and Jordan, crippling infrastructure on both sides.
The Iraqi government reported the high rate of Iraqi civilian casualties to gain support throughout the Muslim world. The US claimed the Iraqi government fabricated numerous attacks on Iraqi holy sites in order to rally the Muslim community. One such instance had Iraqis reporting that coalition forces attacked the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The final number of Iraqi civilians killed was 2,278, while 5,965 were reported wounded. Almost all of these casualties were from US bombing and missile raids.
On February 13, 1991, two laser-guided smart bombs destroyed the Amiriyah blockhouse, which was a civilian air shelter, killing hundreds of civilians. US officials claimed that the blockhouse was also a military communications center, a claim that has never been verified.
Iraq launches missile strikes
If Iraq was to be forced to obey UN resolutions, the Iraqi government made it no secret that it would respond by attacking Israel, who was allowed to ignore them without any action from the UN. Before the war started, Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, was asked, “if war starts…will you attack Israel?” His response was, “Yes, absolutely, yes.” The Iraqis hoped that attacking Israel would draw them into the war. It was expected that this would then lead to the withdrawal of the US' Arab allies, who would be reluctant to fight alongside the state that was, according to their views, colonising Palestinian land. Israel did not join the coalition, and all Arab states stayed in the coalition. The Scud missiles generally caused fairly light damage, although their potency was felt on February 25 when 28 US soldiers were killed when a Scud destroyed their barracks in Dhahran. The Scuds targeting Israel were ineffective due to the fact that increasing the range of the Scud resulted in the dramatic reduction in accuracy and payload (a common joke in the United States during the war, reflecting on both the SCUD's inaccuracy and the near-constant press coverage of the war, was "How many Iraqis does it take to launch a SCUD? – Two: one to launch the missile and another to watch CNN to see where it lands"). Nevertheless, the total of 39 missiles that landed on Israel caused extensive property damage and two direct deaths, and caused the United States to deploy two Patriot missile battalions in Israel, and the Netherlands to send one Patriot Squadron in an attempt to deflect the attacks. 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 Saudi Arabia. Three SCUDs missiles, along with an Allied Patriot that malfunctioned, hit Ramat Gan in Israel on January 22, 1991, injuring 96 people, and indirectly causing the deaths of three elderly people who died of heart attacks. The Israeli policy for the previous forty years had been retaliation, but at the urging of the U.S. and theater commanders, they decided that discretion was the better part of valour in this instance. After initial hits by SCUD missiles, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir hesitantly refused any retaliating measures against Saddam Hussein, due to increasing pressure from the United States to remain out of the conflict. The U.S. was concerned that any Israeli action would escalate the conflict simply by its occurring, and an air strike by the IAF would have required overflying hostile Jordan or Syria, which could have provoked them to enter the war in Iraq or to attack Israel.
Vulnerability of Iraq against air power
On January 29, Iraq attacked and occupied the lightly-defended Saudi city of Khafji with tanks and infantry. However, the Battle of Khafji ended when Iraqis were driven back by Saudi and Qatari forces supported by U.S. Marines with close air support over the following two days. Khafji was a strategic city immediately after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi reluctance to commit several armoured divisions to the occupation and subsequent use of Khafji as a launching pad into the initially lightly defended Eastern portion of Saudi Arabia is considered by many academics as a grave strategic error. Not only would Iraq have secured a majority of Middle Eastern oil supplies, it would have found itself better able to threaten the subsequent U.S. deployment along superior defensive lines.
The effect of the air campaign was to devastate entire Iraqi brigades deployed in the open desert in combat formation. The air campaign also prevented effective Iraqi resupply to forward deployed units engaged in combat, as well preventing a large number (450,000) of Iraqi troops from achieving the force concentration essential to victory.
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 facing U.S. forces, but were instead dispersed, as with Serbian forces in Kosovo. Opposing forces also reduced the length of their supply lines and the total area defended. This was seen during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan when the Taliban preemptively abandoned large swaths of land and retreated into their strongholds. This increased their force concentration and reduced long vulnerable supply lines. This tactic was also observed in the invasion of Iraq when the Iraqi forces retreated from northern Iraqi Kurdistan into the cities.
The coalition forces dominated the air with their technological advantages, but the ground forces were considered to be more evenly matched up between Iraqis and coalition infantry. The coalition ground forces had the significant advantage of being able to operate under the protection of coalition Air superiority that had been achieved by the Air Forces prior to start of the main ground offensive. Coalition forces also had two key technological advantages:
Initial moves into Iraq
The first units into Iraq were three patrols of B squadron of the British Special Air Service, callsigns Bravo One Zero, Bravo Two Zero, and Bravo Three Zero in late January. These eight man patrols landed behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on the movements of Soviet Scud mobile missile launchers, which could not be detected from the air, as during the day they would hide under bridges and camouflage netting. Other objectives included the destruction of fibre optic communications arrays that lay in pipelines, relaying coordinates to the TEL operators launching attacks against Syria.
Elements of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division performed a covert recon into Iraq on 9 February 1991, followed by a recon in force on February 20 that destroyed an Iraqi battalion. 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.
Coalition forces enter Iraq
Shortly afterwards, the U.S. VII Corps assembled in full strength and launched an armoured attack into Iraq early Sunday, 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 Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). The left flank of this movement was protected by the French 6th Light Armored Division (which included units of the French Foreign Legion). The fast-moving French force quickly overcame the Iraqi 45th Infantry Division, suffering only a handful of casualties, and took up blocking positions to prevent any Iraqi force from attacking the Allied 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 Republican Guard.
The Coalition advance was much swifter than U.S. generals had expected. On February 26, Iraqi troops began retreating out of Kuwait, setting fire to Kuwaiti oil fields as they left. A long convoy of retreating Iraqi troops formed along the main Iraq-Kuwait highway. This convoy was bombed so extensively by the Allies that it came to be known as the Highway of Death. Critics of the action contend that the column also contained prisoners and other fleeing Iraqi civilians, such as families of Iraqi military units. Forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France continued to pursue retreating Iraqi forces over the border and back into Iraq, moving to within 150 miles (240 km) of Baghdad before withdrawing.
One hundred hours after the ground campaign started, President Bush declared a cease-fire and on February 27 declared that Kuwait had been liberated.
Post-war military analysis
Although it was said at the time that Iraqi troops numbered approximately 545,000 (even 600,000) today most experts think 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 also young, under-resourced and poorly trained conscripts. The Coalition committed approximately 540,000 troops. In addition to these, a further 100,000 Turkish troops were deployed along the common border of Turkey and Iraq. This caused 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 Americans to not only possess a significant technological advantage but also a superiority in force numbers.
Saddam Hussein bought military equipment from almost every major dealer of the World's weapons market. 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 armoured forces still used old Chinese Type-59s and Type-69s, Soviet-made T-55s from the 1950s and 1960s, and some T-72s from the 1970s in 1991. These machines were not equipped with up-to-date equipment, such as a thermal sight or laser rangefinder, and their effectiveness in modern combat was very limited. The Iraqis failed to find an effective countermeasure to the thermal sights and the sabot rounds used by the M1 Abrams, Challenger 1 and the other Coalition tanks. This equipment enabled Coalition tanks to effectively engage and destroy Iraqi tanks from more than three times the distance that Iraqi tanks could engage. The Iraqi tank crews used old, cheap steel penetrators against the advanced Chobham Armour of these American and British tanks, with disastrous results. The Iraqi forces 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 advantage that well equipped forces enjoy. Iraqis also tried to copy the Soviet doctrine from the 1950s of mass attacks, but the implementation failed due to the lack of skill of their commanders and the preventive air strikes of the U.S. Air Force on communication centres and bunkers.
A peace conference was held in Iraqi territory occupied by the coalition. At the conference, Iraq won the approval of the use of armed helicopters on their side of the temporary border, ostensibly for government transit due to the damage done to civilian transportation. Soon after, these helicopters, and much of the Iraqi armed forces, were refocused toward fighting against a Shiite uprising in the south. The rebellions were encouraged on 2 February 1991 by a broadcast on CIA run radio station The Voice of Free Iraq broadcasting 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 Hussein.
In the North, Kurdish leaders took heart in American statements that they would support an uprising and began fighting, in the hopes of triggering a coup. However, when no American support was forthcoming, Iraqi generals remained loyal and brutally crushed the Kurdish troops. Millions of Kurds fled across the mountains to Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iran. These incidents would later result 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 Palestinians (due to their support of and collaboration with Hussein).
There was some criticism of the Bush administration for its decision to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power, rather than pushing on to capture Baghdad and overthrowing his government. In their co-written 1998 book, A World Transformed, Bush and Brent Scowcroft 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 greater involvement of its own military, the United States hoped that Saddam Hussein would be overthrown in an internal coup d'état. The Central Intelligence Agency used its assets in Iraq to organize a revolt, but the Iraqi government defeated the effort.
On March 10, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began to move 540,000 American troops out of the Persian Gulf.
Members of the Coalition included Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, 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 instead of direct military assistance, which was later to be known as a "checkbook diplomacy". United States asked Israel not to participate in the war despite missile strikes on Israeli citizens. India extended military support to the United States in the form of refueling facilities situated in the Arabian Sea.
The United Kingdom was numerically the largest European nation to partake in combat operations during the war. Operation Granby was the name for the operations in the Persian Gulf. British Army regiments (mainly with the British 1st Armoured Division), Royal Navy vessels, and Royal Air Force squadrons were mobilized to the Gulf. The Royal Air Force, using various aircraft, operated from airbases in 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 Broadsword-class frigates, and Sheffield-class destroyers, other RN and RFA ships were also deployed. The light 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 from France, with 18,000 troops. Operating on the left flank of the US 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 US XVIII Airborne Corps. France also deployed combat aircraft and naval units. The French called their contribution Opération Daguet.
Canada was one of the first nations to agree to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and it quickly agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition. In August 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney committed the Canadian Forces to deploy the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan to join the maritime interdiction force. The supply ship HMCS Protecteur was also sent to aid the gathering coalition logistics forces in the Persian Gulf. A fourth ship, HMCS Huron arrived in-theatre after hostilities ceased and visited Kuwait.
After the UN authorized full use of force against Iraq, the Canadian Forces deployed a CF-18 squadron 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.
In recent years, the work of Norwegian intelligence personnel of during the Gulf War has become public.
Norwegian intelligence personnel, at a listening post in the North of Norway, were in secrecy presented with high ranking awards for their work in saving shot down American pilots during the Gulf War.
During the Gulf War, 63 American pilots were shot down. Rescuing the 12 downed pilots trapped behind enemy lines was a very high priority and the United States devoted a large amount of resources to doing so. The pilots were fitted with emergency beepers, so that the Americans, via satellite could locate them.
However, the USA satellite coverage was not always present and American officials, refusing to leave any man behind, started looking around for other methods of locating their pilots. It was then that a small listening post located in Norway, above the Arctic Circle proved helpful. The Norwegian listening post continually listened to Soviet spy satellites, which received the signals from the American pilots without a problem. The Norwegian intelligence personnel "stole" the information they got by spying on the Soviet satellites and forwarded it to American personnel which could then get into the war theater at the correct location and save the pilots.
Several American pilots were saved because of this listening post in Norway. The personnel received diplomas signed by US President George H. W. Bush himself.
Norway also deployed a Field Medical Company as part of Operation Granby from January to May 1991. About 230 strong, this Army unit was stationed in Al Jubayl for the duration of the war supporting the British units. Luckily, the unit had very little medical work to do with allies, but some Iraqi injured were sent there. There was plenty of scope for preventive public health work for which the unit was also equipped.
The DoD reports that U.S. forces suffered 148 battle-related deaths, plus one pilot listed as MIA (further 145 Americans died in out-of-combat accidents). The UK suffered 24 combat deaths, France 2, and the Arab countries suffered 39 casualties.
The largest single loss of 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.
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.
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 also killed in a friendly fire incident when a USAF A-10A Thunderbolt-II attacked a group of two Warrior IFVs.
Before the war Pentagon officials were estimating 30,000-40,000 coalition casualties.
The Dupuy Institute stood alone and in front of Congress predicted coalition casualties below 6,000. They used the TNDM model which makes use of historical data from previous wars to predict casualties (the model makes use of 'human' factors such as morale and they predicted that very few Iraqi divisions would put up resistance).
Immediate estimates said up to 100,000 Iraqis were killed. Some now estimate that Iraq sustained between 20,000 and 35,000 fatalities. However other figures still maintain fatalities as high as 200,000. 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.
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.
Israeli Civilian losses
39 Scud missiles were fired by Iraq into Israel during the seven weeks of the war. Three Israeli people died due to these attacks, in addition to approximately 78 injured. Several others suffered fatal heart attacks immediatly after the missile strikes. The attacks caused damage to property, and demoralized the Israeli population. Israel was eager to respond with military force to these attacks, but agreed not to when asked by the U.S. Government. Israel was given two batteries of MIM-104 Patriot missles for their cooperation, and for the protection of Civilians.
The increased importance of air attacks from both warplanes and cruise missiles led to much controversy over the level 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 of them against targets in Baghdad. The city received heavy bombing due to being the seat of power for President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi forces' command and control. However, this also led to substantial civilian casualties.
During the long bombing campaign prior to the ground war, many aerial attacks led to civilian casualties. In one particularly notable event, stealth bombers attacked a bunker in Amirya, causing the deaths of between 200 and 400 civilians who were taking refuge there at the time. Subsequently, scenes of burned and mutilated bodies were 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 centre of Iraqi military operations and the civilians had been deliberately moved there to act as human shields. Some estimates 2,300 to 200,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the war. Other research, such as an investigation by Beth Osborne Daponte, has speculated on civilian fatalites as high as 100,000. Notably, the deaths of civilians and damage to civilian areas was expressly avoided by coalition forces, unlike previous campaigns such as the Bombing of Tokyo in World War II.
Gulf War illness
Many returning coalition soldiers 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 reported birth defects. Some factors considered as possibly causal include exposure to depleted uranium, chemical weapons, anthrax vaccine 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
Depleted uranium (DU) was used in the Gulf War in tank kinetic energy penetrators and 20-30mm cannon ordnance. DU is a pyrophoric, genotoxic, and teratogenic heavy metal. Its use during the First Gulf War has been cited by many as a contributing factor in a number of instances of health issues in both veterans of the conflict as well as the surrounding civilian populations, although scientific opinion on the risk is mixed.
Highway of death
On the night of February 26-27, 1991, defeated Iraqi forces began leaving Kuwait on the main highway north of Al Jahra in a column of some 1400 vehicles, some military and some civilian and commandeered from the Kuwaiti population. United States Air Force and U.S. Navy jets pursued and destroyed the convoy in a controversial attack, subjecting it to sustained bombing for several hours. The convoy also contained some stolen vehicles loaded up with stolen 'loot' from Kuwait.
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 (Mechanized) used anti-mine plows mounted on tanks and combat earthmovers to bury Iraqi soldiers defending the fortified "Saddam Line." One newspaper story reported that the U.S. commanders estimated thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered, escaping burial during the two-day assault February 24-25, 1991. However, like all other troop estimates made during the war, the estimated 8,000 Iraqi defenders was probably greatly inflated. After the war, the Iraqi government claimed to have found 44 bodies.
Abuse of coalition POWs
Iraq displayed POWs on TV with visible signs of abuse who were disavowing the coalition's warfare. It has also been alleged that coalition POWs were tortured by the Iraqis.
Crossing Iraqi borders
Having driven Iraqi forces over the border from Kuwait, some coalition troops stood down, but forces from the USA, UK, and France continued to pursue the retreating remnants of the Iraq forces across into Iraqi territory. Disagreements arose over whether the UN mandate to eject Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait allowed the coalition to enter Iraqi sovereign territory or not, with some military officials arguing that it was necessary to prevent them from regrouping and attempting a counter-attack.
Gulf War oil spill
On January 23, Iraq was accused of dumping 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 U.S. Marine forces from coming ashore. This was denied by the Iraqi government, who claimed that the allied bombing campaign had damaged and destroyed Iraqi oil tankers that were docked at the time.
The cost of the war to the United States was calculated by the United States Congress to be $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 terms contained in the treaty that ended World War II). About 25% of Saudi Arabia's contribution was paid in the form of in-kind services to the troops, such as food and transportation. U.S. troops represented about 74% of the combined force, and the global cost was therefore higher.
By comparison, the cost of the 2003 Iraq War was at least an order of magnitude higher.
In the United 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. ABC News 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. On the "NBC Nightly News", correspondent Mike Boettcher reported unusual air activity in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Moments later, Brokaw announced to his viewers that the air attack had begun.
Still, it was CNN which gained 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 Iraq.
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 began.
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 organized 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 Vietnam War, which it believed it had lost due to public opposition within the United States.
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 American journalists returned en masse to Baghdad. Tom Aspell of NBC, Bill Blakemore of ABC, and Betsy Aaron of CBS filed reports, subject to acknowledged Iraqi censorship. Throughout the war, footage of incoming missiles was broadcast almost immediately. A British 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 Kuwait City, broadcasting live television from the city and covering the entrance of the Arab forces the following day.
Following uprisings in the north and south, Iraqi no-fly zones were established, ostensibly to help protect the Shi'ite and Kurdish rebels in southern and northern Iraq, respectively. These no-fly zones (originally north of the 36th parallel and south of the 32nd parallel) had no UN approval (being a clear violation of Iraqi national sovereignty) and were exclusively carried out by the United States and the United Kingdom. France also participated briefly but withdrew when it became clear that the US was abusing the "no-fly zones" to launch unprovoked air strikes, many of which killed civilians. Combined, they flew more sorties over Iraq in the eleven years following the war than were flown during the war. These sorties dropped bombs nearly every other day, officially against surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns which engaged the patrolling aircraft but in reality against a variety of infrastructure targets. The greatest amount of bombs was dropped during two sustained bombing campaigns: Operation Desert Strike, which lasted a few weeks in September 1996, and Operation Desert Fox, in December 1998. Operation Northern Watch, the no-fly zone covering the Kurdish regions, helped to give the KDP leverage to negotiate an autonomous Kurdish mini-state in northern Iraq which allowed the region's population to focus on developing security and infrastructure (in return for this recognition, the KDP helped Iraq to partially evade the oil embargo). Operation Southern Watch, on the other hand, did not provide the Shi'ite rebels with the same leverage, serving instead as a pretext for American and British air strikes which extended all the way to Baghdad.
Widespread infrastructure destruction during the war hurt the Iraqi civilian population. Years after the war, electricity production was less than a quarter of its pre-war level. The destruction of water treatment facilities caused sewage to flow directly into the Tigris River, from which civilians drew drinking water, resulting in widespread disease and the deaths of hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Iraqi civilians, mostly young children. Moreover, after the war, the United States refused to allow Iraq to import or produce chlorine (since it can be used to make an extremely ineffective form of poison gas) which further compounded the problem and ensured that civilians, especially babies people with vulnerable immune systems, continued to die in large numbers. The destruction of Iraqi civilian infrastructure during the war is widely considered. to have been a war crime since the destruction of essential civilian infrastructure is banned by the Geneva Convention.
Economic sanctions were kept in place following the war, pending a weapons inspection. The weapons inspections were supposed to end after certain items had been confirmed destroyed but the Americans found it in their interest to continue both the inspections and sanctions indefinitely, both to weaken Iraq and to provide a cover for espionage. Iraq was later allowed to import certain products under the UN's Oil for Food program. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found evidence that there was a threefold increase in the mortality of Iraqi children under five years of age caused by the Gulf War and trade sanctions. The estimate from the study indicates more than 46,900 children died between January and August 1991 alone. A 1998 UNICEF report found that the sanctions resulted in an increase to 90,000 deaths per year. Many argue that the sanctions on Iraq and the American military presence in Saudi Arabia contributed to an increasingly negative image of the United States in the Arab world.
A United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) on weapons was established, to monitor Iraq's compliance with restrictions on weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. Iraq accepted some and refused other weapons inspections. The team found some evidence of biological weapons programs at one site and non-compliance at many other sites.
In 1997, Iraq expelled all U.S. members of the inspection team, alleging that the United States was using the inspections as a front for espionage; members of UNSCOM were in regular contact with various intelligence agencies to provide information on weapons sites back and forth. The team returned for an even more turbulent time period between 1997 and 1999; one member of the weapons inspection team, U.S. Marine Scott Ritter, resigned in 1998, alleging that the Clinton administration was abusing the weapons inspection regime, using it as front to spy on Iraq and even gather intelligence for assassination attempts against Saddam Hussain (allegations which were later confirmed by a UN investigation). Bill Clinton was later found to have manipulated the UNSCOM team into withdrawing, ostensibly because of a failure to cooperate on the part of the Iraqis, but in reality in order to provide Bill Clinton with an excuse for air-strikes which he hoped to use to distract the American public from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. This led to the end of UNSCOM (now widely regarded as a disgrace to the UN) but American president George W. Bush's efforts to justify an invasion of Iraq with the claim that Iraq was building weapons of mass-destruction led Iraq to open up to a new UN inspection team called the UNMOVIC, which began inspections in 2002. Iraq also invited journalists to tour the sites which Bush alleged were being used for the weapons program. In spite of a clear verdict that Iraq was not building weapons of mass destruction and the findings of the September 11th Commission which showed that Iraq was not connected to terrorism against the United States, Iraq — and especially Saddam Hussein — became targets in the invasion of 2003 which George W. Bush attempted to link to the so-called "War on Terrorism."
Despite confident predictions by George W. Bush and his neo-conservative advisers that Americans would be greeted as "liberators" while Iraq's oil wealth would offset the economic cost of the war, the Iraq War quickly turned into a guerrilla conflict which has so far proved to be the most expensive war (as a percentage of GNP) that America has fought since World War II and the costliest in terms American dead and wounded since Vietnam. Indeed, both in terms of money and loss-of-life, the Iraq war has cost America more than the Terror Attacks of September 11th (which Iraq had no involvement in as confirmed by the September 11th Commissio).
The People's Republic of China (whose army used military equipment similar to the Iraqi army) was surprised at the performance of US technology on the battlefield. The swiftness of the coalition victory resulted in an overall change in Chinese military thinking and began a movement to technologically modernize the People's Liberation Army.
The events of the Gulf War fueled anti-Western feeling among Muslims. The change of face by Hussein's secular regime did little to draw support from Islamist groups. This action, combined with the Saudi Arabian alliance with the United States and Saudi Arabia being seen as being on the same side of Israel dramatically eroded that regime's legitimacy. The level of activity of Islamist groups acting against the Saudi regime increased dramatically. The presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent blockade were some of the grievances listed by Osama bin Laden in his 1998 Fatwa.
In part to win back favour with Islamist groups, Saudi Arabia greatly increased funding to those that would support the regime. Throughout the newly independent states of Central Asia the Saudis paid for the distribution of millions of Qur'ans and the building of hundreds of mosques for extremist groups. In Afghanistan the Saudi regime became a leading patron of the Taliban in that nation's civil war, and one of the few foreign countries to officially recognize the government.
Precision guided munitions (PGMs, also "smart bombs"), 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. Specific buildings in downtown Baghdad could be bombed whilst journalists in their hotels watched cruise missiles fly by. PGMs amounted to approximately 7.4% of all bombs dropped by the coalition. Other bombs included cluster bombs, which break up into clusters of bomblets and often cause civilian casualties years after conflicts finish, and daisy cutters, 15,000-pound bombs which can disintegrate everything within hundreds of yards.
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 mobilization of Western German and Allied Forces in Germany. It could also be used to directly target ground forces. 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 developed.
The USA's Patriot missile was used for the first time in combat. The U.S. military claimed a high effectiveness against Scuds at the time. Later estimates of the Patriot's effectiveness range widely. Further, there is at least one incident of a software error causing a Patriot missile to fail, 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 flight. 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. Realistically the actual performance will not be known for many years. The U.S. Army and the manufacturers maintain the Patriot delivered a "miracle performance" in the Gulf War.
Global Positioning System units were key in enabling coalition units to navigate easily across the desert.
Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and satellite communication systems were also important. 2 examples of this is the E-2 Hawkeye US Navy and the E-3 Sentry USAF. Both were used in command and control area of operations. They provided essential communications link between the ground forces, air forces, and the navy. It is one the many reasons why the air war during the Gulf war was dominated by the Coalition Forces.
Special Air Service
Iran's arsenal of missiles
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