This Week in History: The Gulf War
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which set off the First Persian Gulf War.
The Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait was due to Iraq owing Kuwait over $15 billion in loans provided during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, a loan that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein never intended to repay. The invasion also took place because Saddam always believed Kuwait to be an Iraqi province instead of an independent nation.
The invasion of Kuwait caused alarm among the other Gulf States, who feared that Iraq might invade them next. As a result, an allied coalition comprised of the United States and over twenty other nations set up camp in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait if they decided not to withdraw by January 15, 1991. The Iraqis didn’t, so on the night of January 16-17, the coalition struck.
It started with a series of naval and aerial bombardment against Baghdad and other targets within Iraq.
On February 24, the ground offensive against Saddam’s forces began, and within 100 hours the Iraqis were driven out of Kuwait, with 21 Iraqi divisions being destroyed (including over 2,000 tanks), and 65,000 Iraqis were taken prisoner.
The First Persian Gulf War and the swift victory that resulted from it bolstered patriotism in the United States. In fact, it even led to a Pax Americana Era. Americans felt good about themselves and about their country, especially since the war (predicted by some to be a long, continuous conflict) had resulted in a quick victory.
Although some people hoped the war might bring peace to the Middle East, they would eventually be disappointed. Saddam would defy the rest of the world, which led to a Second Persian Gulf War, which drove Saddam from power but also resulted in a splinter war, as well as emboldening Iran to flex its muscles in the Middle East and attempt to develop nuclear weapons. Osama Bin Laden would establish his terrorist organization Al Qaeda due to Western military personnel being stationed in Saudi Arabia, for he resented the idea of infidel troops helping to protect Muslim lands (especially Saudi Arabia, which is where the sacred Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina are located). The Obama Administration’s handling of Iraq would lead to the emergence of ISIS.
Some people say the coalition should have driven Saddam from power in 1991, not 2003. Things might have turned out better if they did so.