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Persian Gulf War

Persian Gulf War, conflict (January-February 1991) initiated by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and its announced annexation of that country. A coalition of forces led by the United States was assembled, first to forestall further incursions of Iraq into Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states and second to reverse Iraq's takeover of Kuwait, as called for in a series of 12 UN resolutions.

Beginning of the war

After his fruitless but costly war with Iran, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein turned to oil-rich Kuwait as a way of replenishing his spent treasury. Using earlier disputes with Kuwait as pretexts, Saddam ordered his troops into the country on August 2, 1990, and soon overran it. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, alarmed that Iraq might go on to move against them, called on the UN and the United States for help. President George Bush dispatched a U.S. force, code-named Desert Shield, to Saudi Arabia to block further Iraqi military thrusts. At the same time, he persuaded the UN to condemn the Iraqi action and to vote for a total embargo of all goods to or from Iraq. He also forged a coalition of some 30 nations, including Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, to send forces and other kinds of aid to help the United States meet the military threat.

Freeing Kuwait

The UN voted a deadline of January 15,1991, for total Iraqi pullout from Kuwait. Despite a last-minute flurry of diplomatic activity, Saddam stood firm, and on January 16 (early January 17th in Iraq) the coalition changed from the defensive posture of Desert Shield to the aggressive stance of Desert Storm by launching a massive air war against Iraq and its forces in Kuwait. The air war involved the newest and most sophisticated high-tech weapons in today's arsenal. The first “shot” in the war was a laser-guided “smart” bomb dropped from a U.S. F-117A Stealth fighter-bomber. The Tomahawk cruise missile, launched from warships in the Gulf, was another precision-guided weapon that proved its value in the war. Iraqi forces in Kuwait dug in behind tank barriers, called berms, and extensive mine fields. Many tanks and heavy artillery pieces were buried in sand bunkers to ward off frontal attacks. More mobile units, including the elite Republican Guards, were held in reserve to counterattack in case the allied forces breached the frontline fortifications. The coalition, using its complete air superiority, maintained an unprecedented bombardment of military targets in Iraq and Kuwait, and pummeled the dug-in defenses. Iraq's only answer to the air war was sporadic attacks by its Scud ground-to-ground missile. These were largely neutralized by the American-made Patriot missile, which destroyed most of the Scuds in the air. Iraq's attempt to draw Israel into the war by random strikes with Scuds failed.

The end of the war

After 40 days of air bombardment, coalition forces began the ground war on February 25th. Allied forces punched through defensive barriers along the Kuwaiti front in several places and moved on Kuwait City. An enveloping movement involving massive armored columns struck Iraq itself far to the west in a successful attempt to encircle the Iraqi forces in Kuwait and along the Iraqi/Kuwait border and to cut off their supply lines and escape routes. The destruction of the entire Iraqi forces in the south was accomplished in a matter of days. However, the problems of making peace in the area and providing future stability remain.

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