The Second Gulf War



In 1988 the FIRST GULF WAR had ended in a truce; Iraq resumed its oil exports. Prewar prospeity, however, was gone; the country was close to broke, and Saddam Hussein's continued investment in arms did only aggravate the situation. Referring to a large oil field exploited by Kuwait, which stretches across the border into Iraq, Saddam Hussein claimed that Kuwait 'stole' Iraqi oil and demanded 10 billion US $ in compensation. At negotiations at Taif in Saudi Arabia, the Kwaitis offered 9 billion; the Saudi host, in order to settle the problem, offered to pay the difference of 1 billion. The Kuwaiti delegates insisted in Saddam Hussein writing a letter requesting the sum; Saddam Hussein was not willing to humiliate himself in that way. The next morning, Kuwait found itself occupied by Iraqi troops (1990), was annexed as Iraqs 18th province.

Kuwait was the world's largest oil producer. Iraq controlling the Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil supplies, and, with its large, sophisticated army threatening to take control of the Saudi oilfields nearby, was a situation the US could not accept. A coalition was formed which included most nations - the NATO countries, Russia, a number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Saudi Arabia permitted US troops to be stationed on its soil (OPERATION DESERT SHIELD, 1991), a buildup which took about 6 months. Then coalition forces under the command of General NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF launched the attack (OPERATION DESERT STORM), which at first took the shape of a VIRTUAL WAR - the allied airforce controling the air and picking targets at will. In a war labelled as intelligent, the policy was to destroy military targets without harming civilians, and with keeping allied losses at a minimum. The large Iraqi army was passive throughout much of the war; a tank column piercing 8 km onto Saudi territory was annihilated.

After weeks of pounding Iraqi positions from the air, ground troops moved in and quickly liberated Kuweit, only to find that the withdrawing Iraqi forces had set the Kuwaiti oil fields on fire (ECOLOGICAL WARFARE).
The columns advancing into Iraq were ordered to stop by US President GEORGE BUSH. The alliance had been formed to liberate Kuwait, not to topple Iraq's dictator. President Bush, in front of cameras, called on the Iraqi people to topple Saddam Hussein. Soon afterwards the Shi'ites from Southern Iraq and the Kurds in the north rose in rebellion. Faced with the prospect of another Shi'ite Islamic republic, the US permitted Saddam Hussein to use what was left of his airforce to crush the Shi'ite rebellion; with protests coming in from everywhere, NO-FLY-ZONES were introduced in southern and northern Iraq. In the north, the Kurds took control of their sector, which is independent from Iraq in all but in name; in the south, Iraq (Saddam Hussein) has reestablished control.
The UN has placed an EMBARGO on Iraqi products until intenational weapons inspectors have completed their search for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons; Iraq has consistently obstructed the work of the inspectors and finally expelled them. As a consequence the embargo is still in force. It is Iraq's civilian population which suffers from inflation, malnutrition, lack of medication.

In Kuwait the fires were extinguished in a few months. Oil production has resumed. The coalition of nations which came to the aid of Kuwait has asked the government to implement a number of international democratic standards, among them granting the voting right to women - a promise which remains unfulfilled.


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This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 14th 2001, last revised on November 17th 2004

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