The capture of Kuwait by Iraq was the cause of the Gulf War (1990–1991). Iraq had a dispute with Iran prior to the war, which left it indebted to Arab nations, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Iraq requested OPEC to reduce oil production in 1990 in order to raise global prices and help the country's economy recover from its collapse and debts. Iraq also anticipated that the debts would be cancelled in exchange for standing up to Iran. But Kuwait had benefited from the Iran-Iraq war by drilling into Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves. Additionally, Kuwait disregarded OPEC output caps and increased oil production, which resulted in a drop in oil prices that had a disastrous impact on the economy of Iraq. Saddam Hussein threatened military intervention for the economic affair and further claimed the British imperialism separated Kuwait from its motherland Iraq as it was a former territory. After failed diplomatic relations, Iraq attacked and overwhelmed Kuwait and installed a provisional government. The UN and the US passed various UN Security Council resolutions that included economic sanctions and a naval blockade but Saddam did not cease from the occupation. Furthermore, Iraq threatened Saudi Arabia and attacked the country’s northern oil fields, but the Saudi forces forced Iraqi army to retreat. The West feared Saddam would acquire one of the largest oil reserves in the world and cause a geopolitical crisis. Iraqi troops also carried out human rights abuse in Kuwait and after failed diplomatic solutions, the UN led by the US authorized military intervention. The US assembled and led a coalition of 34 states to ouster Saddam from Kuwait. A severe air campaign dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraqi forces and infrastructure and after 100 hours of a ground assault, Iraq surrendered and the Gulf conflict came to an end. Unfortunately, the Saddam regime remained in power after the ceasefire agreement.


The Gulf War (2nd Aug1990-17th Feb 1991) was one of the largest military actions in the Middle East after World War Two that marked the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Gulf War can also be described as one of the largest military coalition forces involving a 34 state coalition authorized by the United Nations and led by the US in response to Saddam Hussein’s Kuwaiti annexation. According to Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi President, the Gulf War as the Mother of all Battles and the Kuwaiti invasion was met with economic sanctions imposed by members of the UN Security Council and international condemnation. Therefore President George H. W Bush, the US President deployed US forces to Saudi Arabia and urged other nations to send their own forces to the Gulf. As the coalition was formed, the US contributed 74% of the forces or 543,000 soldiers. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Egypt, Qatar, Netherlands, and Saudi Arab among others joined the war. Saudi Arabia contributed $36 billion dollars of the $60 billion raised for the war effort. The Gulf War was an inevitable war that was Saddam Hussein’s way of ascending to regional power dominance especially attempts to monopolize the world’s biggest oil reserves, an aggression that was a classic tale of good versus evil even though there are different views on the war.


Iraq was a prosperous and rich nation before the war with access to electricity, clean water and sewerage among other basic needs. However, the downturn of the Gulf state emerged with the 1980 war against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the local conflict that started on 22nd September 1980, Iraq invaded western Iran because of the territorial dispute over Shat al Arab according to the reason given by Saddam Hussein. Shat al Arab is a waterway that empties into the Persian Gulf and formed the boundary between the two nations. The dispute had started earlier in 1975. During the Iraqi-Iran conflict, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were affiliated with Iraq and had given Saddam Hussein $14 and $26 billion dollars for the War respectively. Western powers and the US had remained neutral but the US covertly funded Iraqi operations in Iran. However, Western nations intervened in the war following the Iranian bombardment of Kuwait’s oil tankers on transit in the Persian Gulf in 1987. In 1990, Iraq agreed to abide to the 1975 treaty with Iran known as Algiers that acknowledged the waterway as the boundary between the two nations. Iraq withdrew its troops from Iran but unfortunately, it was left indebted to Arab states. The country hoped to repay the loans using oil revenue which was the main revenue stream for the Hussein regime. Iraq also urged OPEC to cut production of oil but Kuwait increased production and lowered oil prices that had catastrophic implications on Iraqi’s economy. Kuwait had also taken advantage of the conflict by illegally drilling oil into Iraq reserves (Rumaila oil field) and had a military outpost on Iraqi soil that angered Iraq. Hussein argued that he had buffered Arab nations from Iran and expected Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to forgive the debts. Hussein further asserted that Kuwait was former Iraq’s territory that was cut off due to British imperialism.

On an ideological call for Arab Nationalism, the Kuwaiti invasion was justified as part of Iraq province of Basra during the Ottoman era and Saddam Hussein wanted to restore the Babylonian Empire. The invasion was closely associated with other Middle East events such as the Palestinian Intifada against Israel and that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states were dependent on western aid and alliance. As such Saddam argued that he was the only Arab statesman willing and ready to oppose the US and Israel. Nevertheless, after achieving independence in 1932 from the British, Iraq questioned the creation of Kuwait after WW1. In 1899, the al-Sabah ruling family had agreed to a protectorate with Britain that saw the creation of the boundary with Iraq that Saddam Hussein argued was the deliberate strategy to limit the country’s access to sea. Iraq also saw it as a move to prevent future governments from threatening the British influence in the Gulf but Iraq recognized Kuwait in 1963 as a sovereign state. In mid 1990, the Hussein administration complained about Kuwait’s disrespectful behavior like slant oil drilling and neglecting oil quotas. Iraq threatened military action on Kuwait as an economic affair. Saddam assembled his troops on the Kuwait-Iraqi border and promised he would not invade the small nation without further negotiations. US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie handed the negotiations according to the book and claimed that the US would not interfere with Arab-Arab conflict though her statement was viewed as an approval of the conflict by critics.

Iraq Invasion of Kuwait

On 2nd August at the dawn break, Iraq matched troops into Kuwait with infantry, armor and conducted aerial assault on Kuwaiti city. Iraq carried out two strategic attacks by invading from the West and on the main highway to Kuwait’s capital in efforts to cut the country by half. Kuwait was caught unaware and its attempt to retaliate against Iraq with its 35th Armored Brigade was overwhelmed by Iraqi commandos. Similarly, 20% of Kuwait’s air force was annihilated by Iraq’s air superiority even though both sides suffered major casualties. Iraq troops seized two Kuwaiti airbases and airport and ultimately conquered the Dasman Palace. The palace was the Emir’s Royal Residence where the younger brother of the Kuwaiti Emir Al-Ahmed Al-Jabar Al-Sabah was killed. The Iraqi Republican Guard overran most of the Kuwait’s Armed Forces and some escaped to the neighboring Saudi Arabia after two days of intense combat activities. Saddam Hussein was very happy after the conquest and immediately imposed a provisional government by appointing his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid as the Kuwaiti governor of the 8th August. Hussein called the new provisional government as the liberation of Kuwait from the Emir and international bodies dismissed the claim as war propaganda.

In a matter of hours after the invasion, the delegation from both the US and Kuwait requested the UN Security Council to a meeting where Iraq was demanded to withdraw from Kuwait in what was termed as Resolution 660. Consequently, the Arab League called for an internal resolution that rejected foreign intervention to the conflict but countries like PLO, Libya, and Iraq that belonged to the League opposed the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Similarly, non-league member like Jordan and Yemen that relied heavily on Iraqi economic support opposed any military action against the Hussein regime. On 6th August, the UN passed Resolution 661 that imposed economic sanction on Saddam’s Iraq. Another intervention by the UN Security Council followed with a naval blockade to implement Resolution 661 at all costs. The naval blockade was referred as Resolution 665.

Since the Kuwaiti invasion, the US used diplomatic means and emphasized on the complete pullout from the country without any links to other Middle East problems. The US feared that any concession would give Iraq adequate strength to influence the region for many future years. On 12th August Iraq called for a compromise by urging all occupation cases in the Middle East to be simultaneously resolved especially the Israel occupation of Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. Saddam Hussein also called for an Arab force to replace US soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia with the exclusion of Egypt. Furthermore, the Iraqi leader called for the immediate termination of economic sanctions and the normalization of relations. However, President Bush was very categorical when he opposed any move by Iraq to compare the Kuwaiti annexation with the Palestine problems. To avoid any military attack on his country, Saddam held foreign hostages and on 23rd August he made national TV appearance with Western hostages that he denied exit visas. In the broadcast, his interaction with Stuart Lockwood a British boy caught the attention of the West whereby he asked the boy if he was getting adequate milk and hoped that his presence as a quest would not take long. Before the month elapse, Saddam Hussein made other negotiations such as the permission to fully control the Rumaila oil fields that went past the border to Kuwait and to free foreigners if the sanctions were abolished. In the proposal, Iraq suggested that the two nations would develop a satisfactory plan to alleviate the economic troubles. Saddam also asked for a consensus for not attacking his forces if they left Kuwait but insisted on a solution on the Israel-Palestine conflict. The US rejected all proposals brought forward by Iraq and on 29th November, Resolution 678 was passed by the Security Council that gave Iraq an ultimatum leave Kuwait by 15th January 1991.

According to the West, the Saudi Kingdom was in grave danger of an Iraqi invasion since Saddam’s soldiers were in striking distance of the kingdom’s oil fields. If Saddam Hussein acquired both the Saudi and Kuwaiti reserves, he would control a majority of the world’s oil reserves. Iraq had issues with Saudi Arabia over the $26 billion debt and the ill-defined desert border with huge oil deposits. He verbally attacked the Saudi kingdom as the illegitimate guardian of Medina and Mecca the holy cities in Islam. Saddam feared that the Shia minority in Iraq supported by Shia majority Iran would rise against him and therefore, it would have been wise for the Saudi Kingdom to forgive the Iraqi debts for helping in the fight against Iran. However, the attacks led to an increased assembly of soldiers in Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Storm. After the elapse of the deadline to vacate Kuwait, the coalition liberation started on 17th January in 1991 where 88,000 tons of bombs were dropped in 100,000 air campaign sorties. The coalition forces were controlled by the US and military as well as civilian installation were affected by air raids. Iraq retaliated by launching scud missiles into Israel with an effort of luring the Jewish state into the war which could result in the falling of the coalition and perhaps a withdrawal of Arab forces. Only two Israelis were killed and 240 more injured following the missile attacks. However, the Iraqi forces could not match the US coalition firepower presented by both ground and air power. 100 hours after the 28thFebruary 1991 ground campaign, US President Bush issued a ceasefire in declaration of Kuwaiti liberation.

War Justification

The US carried various public justifications for the involvement in the Gulf conflict. First and foremost, oil was an important commodity for the US economy and Saudi Arabia was a close American ally. However, the US faced internal opposition as most Americans felt that they did not need blood oil. Nevertheless, the Saudi kingdom was a strategic partner and after the Kuwaiti invasion, Dick Cheney, the US Secretary of Defense made several trips to Saudi Arabia and King Fahd requested military aid from the US. To support Washington’s decision to join the conflict was because of the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The US policy-makers feared Moscow’s influence in the Gulf and blackmail the US and Western nations geopolitically. Most importantly, in 1973, there was a Gulf crisis where OPEC tried to monopolize the precious black commodity and extort political concession from the West backed by US. Therefore, the possibility of Saddam Hussein attacking Saudi Arabia in which he tried but the Saudi Army chased them back to their country showed that Iraq was ready for regional dominance. Western states and Japan depended heavily on the Middle East oil and up to date, the oil from the Gulf is an important global commodity. The UN and the US could not hesitate to intervene in the liberation of Kuwait.

The Iraqi regime was abuse of atrocities against human rights. Saddam was a dictator that murdered many civilians and opposition leaders after his ascension to power. During the occupation of Kuwait, the Iraqi army carried out various documented crimes against humanity. They executed innocent civilians without trial for instance the murder of three brothers who were left to decay on the streets. The troops also looted and ransacked private property that belonged to the Kuwaiti citizens. Furthermore, the Iraq army had chemical weapons that had been previously used against the Iran army during the 1980 conflict and also against its own citizens in Kurdistan during the Al-Anfal Campaign. Saddam and his regime posed a regional and an international threat due to the possibility of developing nuclear weapons. Liberal US policy-makers that supported Bush’s foreign policy feared that the US was under imminent danger if Saddam had hands on the trigger to nuclear weapons. During the air campaign against Iraqi forces, the coalition forces bombed various nuclear-reactor plants that were being used by Iraq to develop nuclear technology and weapons of mass destruction. The West and the international community could not allow Iraq to continue with human abuse and the acquisition of weapons of mass destructions. Iraq had been given adequate time to stop its aggression and economic sanctions could take a long time before Iraq realized the effects. As such, military action was inevitable in the region.

It was also in the US national interest to ensure peace and stability in not only the Gulf region but the entire Middle East. The questions of who would rule Iraq if Saddam was removed from power lingered in the Bush administration. The policy of the new world order guided the US foreign policy in promoting stability in the world. The need for implementing peace was aggravated by Citizens for a Free Kuwait, an organization that was created in the US that hired a public relations company to carry out awareness about the Kuwaiti annexation. Hill and & Knowlton was paid $11 million dollars by the government of Kuwait to influence public opinion on the need for military intervention to stop the Iraqi aggressive behavior. With the intense activities and public awareness campaigns undertaken in the US, President Bush was under heavy pressure to intervene in the Persian Gulf conflict.

On the contrary, critics argued the war justification policies were inadequate to wage war against Iraq. Firstly, they argued that the US had made past assessment that Iraq was still far from developing nuclear weapons as it did not have access to the technology. They also argued that the public influence campaign carried out by the Hill & Knowlton falsified the witnesses it presented to the US public. Indeed it was later found out that one girl that posed as a Kuwaiti civilian was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the US. Apart from that, in the aftermath, the US and its allies was criticized for carrying out air raids on retreating Iraqi troops in what became known as the highway of death when Iraqi vehicles were destroyed on a 70-mile strip of road. Civilians were also attacked in Iraq during the air raids and a civilized and modern state was reduced to ashes.


In conclusion, the Gulf War presented one of the biggest coalition forces against Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. The conflict started with the invasion of Kuwait that followed a series of diplomatic measures by the US and the UN urging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait. However, Saddam turned a deaf year and could not retreat after Resolution 678 and military intervention became inevitable. The Gulf War was inevitable because Iraq made it hard for international diplomatic moves to end the hostility.


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