by Miland Brown
On August 2nd, 1990 Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied the small Arab state of Kuwait. The order was given by Iraqi dictatorial president Saddam Hussein. His aim was apparently to take control Kuwait's oil reserves (despite its small size Kuwait is a huge oil producer; it has about 10 per cent of the world's oil reserves ). Iraq accused Kuwait, and also the United Arab Emirates, of breaking agreements that limit oil production in the Middle East. According to Saddam Hussein, this brought down world oil prices severely and caused financial loss of billions of dollars in Iraq's annual revenue.
Saddam Hussein had the nearly hopeless task of justifying the invasion. He plead the fact that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman province of Basra, a city in the south of Iraq. However, the Ottoman province collapsed after World War I and today's Iraqi borders were not created until then. There was also a further and more obvious blunder in a bid to justify this illegal invasion. Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, had namely recognized Kuwaiti independence in 1963. Furthermore, Hussein claimed that Kuwait had illegally pumped oil from the Iraqi oil field of Rumaila and otherwise conspired to reduce Iraq's essential oil income.
By invading Kuwait, Iraq succeeded in surprising the entire world. The USA ended her policy of accommodating Saddam Hussein, which had existed since the Iran-Iraq war. Negative attitude toward Iraq was soon a worldwide phenomenon. The United Nations Security Council passed 12 resolutions condemning the invasion. The ultimate decision was to use military force if Iraq did not withdraw unconditionally by January 15, 1991. Then, when the deadline was set, it was time to start preparing for the worst-the war.
President George Bush confronted little difficulty in winning Americans' support for the potential war against Iraq. However, the government found it difficult to decide upon and state one overriding reason for going to war. Was it to oppose aggression or was it just to protect global oil supplies? Other powers were more directly concerned as consumers of Persian Gulf oil, but they were not as eager to commit military force, to risk their youth in battle and to pay for the costs of the war. Critics of President Bush continued to maintain that he was taking advantage of the issue of energy supplies in order to manipulate the U. S. public opinion in favor of war.
After consulting with U. S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in early August 1990, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia invited American troops onto Saudi soil. He had seen Kuwait's destiny; therefore, he wanted protection. It was also the interest of the USA to stop any further advantage of the Iraqi army. The deployment was called "Operation Desert Shield." These troops were armed with light, defensive weaponry.
On November 8, 1990 President Bush announced a military buildup to provide an offensive option, "Operation Desert Storm," to force Iraq out of Kuwait. The preparation of the operation took two and a half months and it involved a massive air- and sea lift.
Finally, in January 1991, the U. S. Congress voted to support Security Council resolution 660. It authorized using "all necessary means" if Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15. Shrugging off this final warning, Saddam Hussein resolutely maintained the occupation of Kuwait.
The United States established a broad-based international coalition to confront Iraq militarily and diplomatically. The military coalition consisted of Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The war also was financed by countries which were unable to send in troops. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the main donors. More than $53 billion was pledged and received.
Before the war, it appeared obvious that Iraq would have very little chance against the Coalition. The relative strength between the parties was extremely unequal. The most critical difference was that the Coalition had a total of 2600 aircraft, over three times more than Iraq's 800 aircraft. Most Arab observers thought Hussein would not last more than six months. Lieutenant General Khalid bin Sultan, the commander of the Arab coalition forces, gave Iraq's leader only 40 days, and repeated this prediction many times. Iraq's prospect was dreary.
President George Bush waited two days after the UN deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait before ordering the Coalition to begin action against Iraq. The winds of Desert Storm began howling across Iraq on January 17, 1991, at 2.30 am Baghdad time. Bhagdad was bombed fiercely by the coalition's fighter airplanes in the first night of the war. An interesting fact is that several weeks before this, US intelligence agents successfully inserted a computer virus into Iraq's military computers. It was designed to disable much of Baghdad's air-defense system.
To minimize casualties, the coalition forces, under the command of U. S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, pursued a strategy beginning with five weeks of intensive air attacks and ending with a ground assault. Drawing on its 1,800 planes, land- and carrier-based, the United States flew the greatest number of sorties. The British, French, and Saudis made up most of the rest. Besides the tremendous air power, the coalition deployed technologically advanced weapon systems, such as the unmanned Tomahawk cruise missile, advanced infrared targeting that illuminated Iraqi tanks buried in the, sand and laser-guided bombs, "smart bombs." Its use of brand new aircraft that never before had been engaged in combat, such as British Tornados and U. S. F-117A Stealth fighters, gave the Coalition an accuracy and firepower that overwhelmed the Iraqi forces. The large-scale usage of air force and latest technology made the war short and saved great numbers of Coalition soldiers' lives.
After establishing air superiority, coalition forces disabled Iraq's command and control centers, especially in Baghdad and Al Bashrah. This caused the communication to fail between Baghdad and the troops in the field. The next stage was to attack relentlessly Iraq's infantry, which was dug in along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, and the elite 125,000 man Republican Guard in southeastern Iraq and northern Kuwait. Iraq retaliated by using mobile launchers to fire Scud missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel, a noncombatant coalition. Overall, Hussein's forces launched 93 Scuds. The United States countered this threat with Patriot antimissile missiles, called also "Scudbusters," and commando attacks on Scud launchers. Patriot missiles gave an engagement rate of nearly 96 per cent.
The coalition's air raids on Iraq's infantry lowered Iraqi soldiers' morale dramatically. It is easy to sense in the following quote from an Iraqi lieutenant's war diary the powerlessness and fear that the soldiers felt during air attacks by the Coalition:
"2 February 1991 I was awakened this morning by the noise of an enemy air raid. I ran and hid in the nearby trench. I had breakfast and afterwards something indescribable happened. Two enemy planes came toward us and began firing at us, in turn, with missiles, machine guns, and rockets. I was almost killed. Death was a yard away from me. The missiles, machine guns and rockets didn't let up. One of the rockets hit and pierced our shelter, which was penetrated by shrapnel. Over and over we said, "Allah, Allah, Allah." One tank burned and three other tanks belonging to 3rd Company, which we were with, were destroyed. That was a very bad experience. Time passed and we waited to die. The munitions dump of the 68th Tank Battalion exploded. A cannon shell fell on one of the soldiers' positions, but, thank God, no one was there. The soldiers were somewhere else. The attack lasted about 15 minutes, but it seemed like a year to me. I read chapters in the Qur'an. How hard it is to be killed by someone you don't know, you've never seen and, can't confront. He is in the sky and you're on the ground. Our ground resistance is magnificent. After the air raid, I gave great thanks to God and joined some soldiers to ask how each of them was. While I was doing that, another air attack began. 2 February at 2000 hours."
The ground war began at 8:00 p.m. on February 23 and lasted exactly 100 hours. This phase featured a massively successful outflanking movement of the Iraqi forces. Schwarzkopf used a deceptive maneuver by deploying a large number of forces as if to launch a large amphibious landing. The Iraqis apparently anticipated that they also would be attacked frontally and had heavily fortified those defensive positions. Schwarzkopf instead moved the bulk of his forces west and north in a major use of helicopters, attacking the Iraqis from their rear. The five weeks of intensive air attack had greatly demoralized the Iraqi front-line troops, causing wholesale desertions. Remaining front-line forces were quickly killed or taken prisoner with minimal coalition losses. Iraqi front-line commanders had already lost much of their ability to communicate with Baghdad, which made their situation even worse. On the final night of the war, within hours of the cease-fire, two U.S. Air force bombers dropped specially design ed 5,000-pound bombs on a command bunker fifteen miles northwest of Baghdad in a deliberate attempt to kill Saddam Hussein.
President Bush's decision to terminate the ground war at midnight February 28, 1991 was criticized, because it allowed Baghdad to rescue a large amount of military equipment and personnel that were later used to suppress the postwar rebellions of its Shiite and Kurdish citizens. In his own defense, the president asserted that the war had accomplished its mandate. The mission, given by the Security Council, was to expel the Iraqi forces from Kuwait and reestablish Kuwaiti independence. Bush's decision was probably influenced by his desire to maintain coalition unity. A particular reason was to keep on board the Arab members, who were increasingly unhappy at the devastation inflicted on Iraq's infrastructure and civilian population.
Iraqi representatives accepted allied terms for a provisional truce on March 3 and a permanent cease-fire on April 6. Iraq agreed to pay reparations to Kuwait, reveal the location and extent of its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. Subsequently, however, UN inspectors complained that the Baghdad government was frustrating their attempts to monitor Iraqi compliance, and UN sanctions against Iraq were kept in place.
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