Gulf War Overview & Timeline

History of War - War in The Middle East




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The Gulf War is a well known conflict that occurred in the early 1990’s between Iraq and a coalition of forces led by the United States. To many the Gulf War is known as the Persian Gulf War, but over time it was abbreviated by dropping the word Persian at the start.

The Gulf War started on August 2nd in the year 1990 and officially finished on February 28th 1991, although the conflict carried on for another four years thereafter.

Reasons for the Gulf War

After the Iran-Iraq War the country of Iraq was essentially bankrupt. This position meant that Iraq asked for fellow countries Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to forgive the debt it owed to them as payment for Iraq stopping Iran from pushing its way through the Middle East. Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait declined and said they still wanted payment which infuriated Iraq.

Iraq also believed that Kuwait was drilling for more oil than its allowed OPEC quota, thus driving the price of oil to really low levels. This compounded Iraq economic issues further because the Iraq economy was heavily reliant on oil as its means of export.

Iraq went further in asking for countries to reduce their quotas to drive up oil prices so it could bolster the Iraqi economy, Kuwait responded by asking if they could increase their quota by 50%. Iraq was incensed by this move.

Further to all of this Iraq was also lodging a complaint that Kuwait was drilling at an angle over the Iraqi border thus stealing Iraqi oil too, something that threatened tensions further.

Gulf War photo collage. Via Wikimedia CommonsGulf War photo collage. Via Wikimedia CommonsThe final issue affecting the start of war was the dispute in which Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait. This issue stems back to the end of World War One when Britain split Kuwait from Iraqi territory and made Kuwait, then after World War Two when Iraq gained independence from the UK it tried to claim Kuwait back again.

In August 1990 Iraq had decided to take actions into its own hands and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait did not have their armed forces ready for this action and were rolled over by Iraq very easily with Iraq being in control of the capital Kuwait City in a short period of time.

The UN tried to impose sanctions and resolutions on Iraq to try and get them to leave Kuwait but to no avail. In the end a resolution was passed giving Iraq until the 15th January 1991 to leave Kuwait otherwise military intervention was allowed.

The 15th January passed and Iraq had not moved out of Kuwait Territory thus the war began.

The Gulf War Timeline

  • On January 17th at 3am (Iraqi time) 1991 Operation Desert Storm began with huge air strikes and missile strikes on key targets. Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq at the time stated "The great showdown has begun! The mother of all battles is under way.''
  • Iraq responded to the attacked by firing scud missiles on Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • By the 19th January another three scud missiles land in Israel, in Tel Aviv and 17 are injured. Israel states it will respond in defence but under international pressure does not.
  • The United States send in soldiers that capture oil rigs situated in the gulf close to Kuwait, capturing all workers as prisoners in the process.
  • By January 21st over 8,000 allied sorties had been flown but the Scud missile launchers which are portable vehicles are still proving hard to find.
  • On January 22nd Iraq retaliates by torching hundreds of Kuwait oil wells and firing three Scud missiles that land in Tel Aviv and kill three Israeli civilians.
  • By the 25th January over 15,000 sorties had been flown by the Allied forces. Reports also suggest a massive oil slick moving from Kuwait, the Allies say it was Iraqi forces while Iraq states it was Allied bombing raids that caused it.
  • The 26th January saw a massive oil spill from Kuwait start to affect Saudi Arabia, a USS sub also first the first missile from a sub in combat.
  • January 28th – Iraq says it has seized Allied pilots as prisoners of war
  • The 29th results in the largest land battle of the campaign to date with 800 American soldiers firing on Iraqi forces in a bunker some half a mile from their location.
  • On February 1st a ten mile column of Iraqi armoured forces start moving towards Saudi Arabia and Allied forces bomb them repeatedly.
  • February 6th sees 120 Iraqi fighter jets fly into Iran; four are shot down in the process.
  • On 11th February Egyptian media report that Iraq has privately estimated that more than 15,000 Iraqi troops have been killed since the 16th January.
  • The 12th February sees the largest ground battle to date as a combined allied force from land and sea go on the offensive.
  • 13th February sees US stealth bombers drop two bombs on underground fortifications, Iraq report they are underground civilian shelters and over 300 to 500 civilians have been killed.
  • A report from Iraq says that it will withdraw from Kuwait if many conditions are met, the US say its a hoax and continue the war. This is on the 15th February.
  • On the 23rd February the Allied ground offensive fully begins with a huge amount of forces moving into Iraq.
  • By the 25th Baghdad radio reports Iraq forces are pulling out of Kuwait. The same day allied forces outside Kuwait City ready to move in.
  • Tuesday 26th February the United States report that Iraqi forces were in full retreat from Kuwait. Saddam Hussein announces Iraqi occupation forces will withdraw completely and Kuwait City erupts in celebrations at the liberation.
  • On the 27th February the Kuwait national flag is resurrected in the capital and United States President Bush declares a stop on combat while a cease fire deal is thrashed out. The next day the Gulf War officially ends although continues on for another four years.




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