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DESERT STORM IRAQ WAR
The Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), codenamed Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) was a war waged by a UN-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait.
The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf War, Gulf War I, or the First Iraq War,before the term “Iraq War” became identified instead with the 2003 Iraq War (also referred to in the U.S. as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.
The invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops that began 2 August 1990 was met with international condemnation, and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. U.S. President George H. W. Bush deployed American forces into Saudi Arabia, and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the coalition. The great majority of the military forces in the coalition were from the United States, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Around US$36 billion of the US$60 billion cost was paid by Saudi Arabia.
The war was marked by the beginning of live news on the front lines of the fight, with the primacy of the U.S. network CNN.[ The war has also earned the nickname Video Game War after the daily broadcast images on board the American bombers during Operation Desert Storm.
The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial bombardment on 17 January 1991. This was followed by a ground assault on 24 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased their advance, and declared a cease-fire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on the border of Saudi Arabia. However, Iraq launched Scud missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Israel.
Throughout much of the Cold War, Iraq had been an ally of the Soviet Union, and there was a history of friction between it and the United States. The U.S. was concerned with Iraq’s position on Israeli–Palestinian politics, and its disapproval of the nature of the peace between Israel and Egypt. The United States also disliked Iraqi support for many Arab and Palestinian militant groups such as Abu Nidal, which led to its inclusion on the developing U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism on 29 December 1979. The U.S. remained officially neutral after the invasion of Iran in 1980, which became the Iran–Iraq War, although it provided resources, political support, and some “non-military” aircraft. In March 1982, however, Iran began a successful counteroffensive — Operation Undeniable Victory, and the United States increased its support for Iraq to prevent Iran from forcing a surrender. In a U.S. bid to open full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the country was removed from the U.S. 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 Iraq’s newfound success in the war, and the Iranian rebuff of a peace offer in July, arms sales to Iraq reached a record spike in 1982.
When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled Abu Nidal to Syria at the United States’ request in November 1983, the Reagan administration sent Donald Rumsfeld to meet President Hussein as a special envoy and to cultivate ties. By the time the ceasefire with Iran was signed in August 1988, Iraq was heavily debt-ridden and tensions within society were rising. Most of its debt was owed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq pressured both nations to forgive the debts, but they refused. In early July 1990, Iraq complained about Kuwait’s behavior, such as not respecting their quota, and openly threatened to take military action. On the 23rd, the CIA reported that Iraq had moved 30,000 troops to the Iraq-Kuwait border, and the U.S. naval fleet in the Persian Gulf was placed on alert. Saddam believed an anti-Iraq conspiracy was developing– Kuwait had begun talks with Iran, and Syria (Iraq’s rival) had arranged a visit to Egypt. On 15 July 1990, Saddam’s government laid out its combined objections to the Arab League, including that policy moves were costing Iraq $1 billion a year, that Kuwait was still using the Rumelia oil field, that loans made by the UAE and Kuwait could not be considered debts to its “Arab brothers”. Discussions in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, mediated on behalf of the Arab League by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, were held on 31 July and led Mubarak to believe that a peaceful course could be established.
On 2 August 1990 Iraq launched the invasion by bombing Kuwait City, the Kuwaiti capital. At the time of the invasion, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces was believed to have numbered 16,000 men, arranged into three armored, one mechanised infantry and one artillery under-strength brigade. The pre-war strength of the Kuwait Air Force was around 2,200 Kuwaiti personnel, with 80 aircraft and forty helicopters. In spite of Iraqi saber-rattling, Kuwait did not have its forces on alert; the army had been stood down on 19 July.
By 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the Iraqi Army was the fourth largest army in the world; it consisted of 955,000 standing soldiers and 650,000 paramilitary forces in the Popular Army. According to John Childs and André Corvisier, a low estimate shows the Iraqi Army capable of fielding 4,500 tanks, 484 combat aircraft and 232 combat helicopters. According to Michael Knights, a high estimate shows the Iraqi army capable of fielding one million men and 850,000 reservists, 5,500 tanks, 3,000 artillery pieces, 700 combat aircraft and helicopters; and held 53 divisions, 20 special-forces brigades, and several regional militias, and had a strong air defence.
Iraqi commandos infiltrated the Kuwaiti border first to prepare for the major units which began the attack at the stroke of midnight. The Iraqi attack had two prongs, with the primary attack force driving south straight for Kuwait City down the main highway, and a supporting attack entering Kuwait farther west, but then turning and driving due east, cutting off the capital city from the southern half of the country. The commander of a Kuwaiti armored battalion, 35th Armoured Brigade, deployed them against the Iraqi attack and was able to conduct a robust defense (The Battle of the Bridges), near Al Jahra, west of Kuwait City.
Kuwaiti aircraft scrambled to meet the invading force, but approximately 20% were lost or captured. An air battle with the Iraqi helicopter airborne forces was fought over Kuwait City, inflicting heavy losses on the Iraqi elite troops, and a few combat sorties were flown against Iraqi ground forces.
The main Iraqi thrust into Kuwait City was conducted by commandos deployed by helicopters and boats to attack the city from the sea, while other divisions seized the airports and two airbases. The Iraqis attacked the Dasman Palace, the Royal Residence of the Emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, which was defended by the Emiri Guard supported with M-84 tanks. In the process, the Iraqis killed Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait’s youngest brother.
Within 12 hours, most resistance had ended within Kuwait and the royal family had fled, leaving Iraq in control of most of Kuwait. After two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard, or had escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia. The emir and key ministers were able to get out and head south along the highway for refuge in Saudi Arabia. Iraqi ground forces consolidated their control on Kuwait City, then headed south and redeployed along the border of Saudi Arabia. After the decisive Iraqi victory, Saddam Hussein initially installed a puppet regime known as the “Provisional Government of Free Kuwait” before installing his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid as the governor of Kuwait on 8 August.
On 6 August, UN Resolution 661 placed economic sanctions on Iraq. United Nations Security Council Resolution 665 followed soon after, which authorized a naval blockade to enforce the economic sanctions against Iraq. It said the “use of measures commensurate to the specific circumstances as may be necessary … to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping in order to inspect and verify their cargoes and destinations and to ensure strict implementation of resolution 661.”
From the beginning, U.S. officials insisted on a total Iraqi pullout from Kuwait, without any linkage to other Middle Eastern problems, fearing any concessions would strengthen Iraqi influence in the region for years to come.
On 12 August 1990, Saddam Hussein called for compromise via Baghdad radio and the former Iraqi News Agency. Hussein “propose[d] that all cases of occupation, and those cases that have been portrayed as occupation, in the region, be resolved simultaneously”. Specifically, he called for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, and “mutual withdrawals by Iraq and Iran and arrangement for the situation in Kuwait.” He also called for a replacement of US troops that mobilized in Saudi Arabia in response to the invasion of Kuwait with “an Arab force”, as long as that force did not involve Egypt. Additionally, he requested an “immediate freeze of all boycott and siege decisions” and a general normalization of relations with Iraq.] From the beginning of the crisis, President Bush was strongly opposed to any “linkage” between the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the Palestinian issue.
Acting on the policy of the Carter Doctrine, and out of fear the Iraqi army could launch an invasion of Saudi Arabia, U.S. President George H. W. Bush quickly announced that the U.S. would launch a “wholly defensive” mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia under the codename Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Shield began on 7 August 1990 when U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia due also to the request of its monarch, King Fahd, who had earlier called for U.S. military assistance. This “wholly defensive” doctrine was quickly abandoned when, on 8 August, Iraq declared Kuwait to be the 19th province of Iraq and Saddam Hussein named his cousin, Ali Hassan Al-Majid as its military-governor.
The United States Navy dispatched two naval battle groups built around the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Independence to the Gulf, where they were ready by 8 August. The U.S. also sent the battleships USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin to the region. A total of 48 U.S. 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 discourage further Iraqi military advances. They were joined by 36 F-15 A-Ds from the 36th TFW at Bitburg, Germany. The Bitburg contingent was based at Al Kharj Air Base, approximately 1 hour southeast of Riyadh. The 36th TFW would be responsible for 11 confirmed Iraqi Air Force aircraft shot down during the war. There were also two Air National Guard units stationed at Al Kharj Air Base, the South Carolina Air National Guard (169th Fighter Wing) flew bombing missions with 24 F-16’s flying 2,000 combat missions and dropping 4 million pounds of munitions, and the New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing from Syracuse flew 24 F-16’s on bombing missions. 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.
The Gulf War started with an extensive aerial bombing campaign on 17 January 1991. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs,] and widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure. The air campaign was commanded by USAF Lieutenant General Chuck Horner, who briefly served as Commander-in-Chief – Forward of U.S. Central Command while General Schwarzkopf was still in the United States.
A day after the deadline set in Resolution 678, the coalition launched a massive air campaign, which began the general offensive codenamed Operation Desert Storm. The first priority for coalition forces was the destruction of the Iraqi air force and anti-aircraft facilities. The sorties were launched mostly from Saudi Arabia and the six coalition aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBG) in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea .
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 lower levels was discouraged. Coalition planners hoped that Iraqi resistance would quickly collapse if deprived of command and control.
The third and largest phase of the air campaign targeted military targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait: Scud missile launchers, weapons research facilities, and naval forces. About one-third of the coalition airpower was devoted to attacking Scuds, some of which were on trucks and therefore difficult to locate. Some U.S. and British special forces teams had been covertly inserted into western Iraq to aid in the search and destruction of Scuds.
Iraqi antiaircraft defenses, including MANPADS, were surprisingly ineffective against coalition aircraft and the coalition suffered only 75 aircraft losses in over 100,000 sorties, 44 of which were the result of Iraqi action. Two of these losses are the result of aircraft colliding with the ground while evading Iraqi ground fired weapons.One of these losses is a confirmed air-air victory
On 25 February 1991, a Scud missile hit a U.S. Army barracks of the 14th quartermaster Detachment, out of Greensburg, PA, stationed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 soldiers and injuring over 100
On 29 January Iraqi forces attacked and occupied the lightly defended Saudi city of Khafji with tanks and infantry. The Battle of Khafji ended two days later when the Iraqis were driven back by the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the United States Marine Corps, supported by Qatari forces. The allied forces provided close air support and used extensive artillery fire.
Casualties were heavy on both sides, although Iraqi forces sustained substantially more dead and captured than the allied forces. Eleven Americans were killed in two separate friendly fire incidents, an additional 14 U.S. airmen were killed when an American AC-130 gunship was shot down by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile (SAM), and two American soldiers were captured during the battle. Saudi and Qatari forces had a total of 18 dead. Iraqi forces in Khafji had 60–300 dead and 400 captured.
Khafji was a strategically important city immediately after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi reluctance to commit several armored divisions to the occupation, and its subsequent use of Khafji as a launching pad into the initially lightly defended east of Saudi Arabia is considered by many academics[who?] a grave strategic error. Not only would Iraq have secured a majority of Middle Eastern oil supplies, but it would have found itself better able to threaten the subsequent U.S. deployment along superior defensive lines.
The Coalition forces dominated the air with their technological advantages. Coalition forces had the significant advantage of being able to operate under the protection of air supremacy that had been achieved by their air forces before the start of the main ground offensive. Coalition forces also had two key technological advantages:
The Coalition main battle tanks, such as the U.S. M1 Abrams, British Challenger 1, and Kuwaiti M-84AB were vastly superior to the Chinese Type 69 and domestically built T-72 tanks used by the Iraqis, with crews better trained and armoured doctrine better developed.
The use of GPS made it possible for Coalition forces to navigate without reference to roads or other fixed landmarks. This, along with air reconnaissance, allowed them to fight a battle of maneuver rather than a battle of encounter: they knew where they were and where the enemy was, so they could attack a specific target rather than searching on the ground for enemy forces.
For months, American units in Saudi Arabia had been under almost constant Iraqi artillery fire, as well as threats from Scud missile or chemical attacks. On 24 February 1991, the 1st Marine Division, 2nd Marine Division, and the 1st Light Armored Infantry crossed into Kuwait and headed toward Kuwait City. They encountered trenches, barbed wire, and minefields. However, these positions were poorly defended, and were overrun in the first few hours. Several tank battles took place, but apart from that, Coalition troops encountered minimal resistance, as most Iraqi troops surrendered. The general pattern was that the Iraqis would put up a short fight before surrendering. However, Iraqi air defenses shot down nine American aircraft. Meanwhile, forces from Arab countries advanced into Kuwait from the east, encountering little resistance and suffering few casualties.