first persian gulf war

Written by Najm ul Sahar Riaz 7:56 pm Articles, International Relations, Published Content

Recalling the First Persian Gulf War 

The Persian war, also known as the Gulf War (1990-91), was an international conflict that involved the United States of America, Iraq and Kuwait. Galvanized by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Gulf War was the first crisis after the Cold War era.
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Ms Najm ul Sahar Riaz is currently studying International Relations at Kinnaird College for Women.

Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president at that time, ordered the invasion of Kuwait. This alarmed the other major middle eastern powers such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Iraq believed that it was the rightful owner of the oil reserves in Kuwait to the point that President Hussein did not withdraw even after the orders of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Therefore, the US initiated Operation Desert Storm, which eventually started the first Persian Gulf War.

Background of the Gulf War 

The Iraqi president delivered a speech, accusing Kuwait of siphoning crude oil from the Ar-Rumaylah oil fields border which connected both states. Hussein accused Kuwait of conspiring to keep the oil prices low so the western states could purchase oil from them. Moreover, he pressurized Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to cancel USD 30 million of Iraq’s foreign debt.

Iran and Iraq had signed a ceasefire. The foreign ministers even met in Geneva to negotiate a permanent peace treaty. The Iraqi president was planning to withdraw and return Iran’s occupied lands, but after two weeks, he delivered a speech where he blamed Kuwait for stealing oil from them. Along with the provocative speech, President Hussein mobilized his forces on Kuwait’s border.

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The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, arbitrated the negotiation between Iraq and Kuwait. However, Iraq broke off the negotiations and ordered the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Arab states did not support Iraq and labeled it as an act of aggression. The Saudi King Fahd and the Kuwaiti government contacted the United States and the members of the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO) for assistance.

Operation Desert Shield

American President George H.W. Bush condemned the attack on Kuwait. Henceforth, the UNSC also intervened and compelled Iraq to withdraw its forces from Iraq. However, Iraq refused and announced Kuwait as its “19th province”.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister met with the US officials, but the meeting was futile. Nevertheless, the US President was stringent and planned a military response by mobilizing a coalition of 35 nations. This was known as Operation Desert Shield. The coalition comprised XVIII Airborne Corps. They began a buildup of combat power which reached about 600,000 US personnel. 

Operation Desert Storm

The refusal of Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait aggravated the situation. American forces, as requested by the Saudi King, arrived in Saudi Arabia according to Operation Desert Shield. The US army led the coalition, and this was known as Operation Desert Storm. There were two phases of the operation: one was a coalition air operation (January 17–February 24) and the other was an on-ground offensive (February 24-28).

In retaliation, President Hussein launched a counter-offensive. His army fired Scud missiles into Saudi Arabia and Israel. These efforts were rendered useless as was the Iraqi air defense system in the face of the coalition air force. The Iraqi lost 35 aircraft, and the coalition was able to destroy imperative positions such as command control, manufacturing plants, and ammunition facilities. With the direction of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the US succeeded in achieving its objectives.

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The War Ends

The massive coalition began an offensive on the ground as well, exhausting Iraq’s ineffective armed forces and military resources. There was an incredible loss of lives in Iraq, with 10,000s Iraqi troops being held as prisoners. After less than four days on February 24th, Kuwait was liberated, and a US airbase was established in Iraq.

President George Bush declared a cease-fire on February 28. Afterward in April, the UNSC also officially formulated the end of the Gulf War. The UNSC also relaxed the sanctions on Iraq, but there was still a ban on Iraqi oil. The ban was lifted when Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction as instructed by the UNSC. On April 6, Iraq also accepted the resolution issued by the Security Council and the first Persian Gulf War officially ended.

Implications of the Gulf War 

The major implication of the Gulf War was that liberal democracy triumphed in the conflict against authoritarianism, which had an impact on the new world order as well since the Cold War was about to end too. Iraq suffered at the hands of miscalculation. On the other hand, President Bush was celebrated due to correct calculations.

In comparison to the previous conflicts in which the US was involved, the Gulf War was less destructive which implied that the US military had strategically planned to attack the Iraqi military around Kuwaiti territory. The US air force attacked the critical points of the Iraqi military points, rendering the Iraqi military resources to be futile.

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However, to say that the ceasefire was successful in stabilizing the situation would not be sufficient as the second Persian Gulf War happened in the next decade.


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