Related Content

Related Overviews

Saddam Hussein (1937—2006) Iraqi President, Prime Minister, and head of the armed forces 1979–2003

Iraq War


George Bush (b. 1924) American Republican statesman, 41st President of the US 1989–93

See all related overviews in Oxford Reference »


More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • History


Show Summary Details


Gulf War

Quick Reference


An international conflict in the Gulf region of Kuwait and Iraq. Iraq, as the successor to the Ottoman empire, claimed Kuwait in 1961, claimed Kuwait in 1961, but the issue was not pressed and Kuwait later supported Iraq financially, especially during the Iran-Iraq war. However, in 1990 Saddam Hussein claimed Kuwait was deliberately lowering oil prices by over-producing oil, costing Iraq money, and that Kuwait had seized Iraqi territory and oil. Kuwait denied the charges, but on 2 August 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, Saddam Hussein demanding control of its large and valuable oilfields and declaring Kuwait the 19th province of Iraq. The UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions, and the US-led coalition of 29 countries was mobilized. Intense diplomatic activity failed, and on 17 January 1991 a massive air attack was launched. Strategic targets, some placed by Hussein in densely populated areas, were immobilized by electronically guided bombs. By 24 January Allied forces had established air supremacy, ‘carpet bombing’ Iraqi forces, which could not shelter in the deserts of southern Iraq. The land war, named by Hussein as ‘the mother of all battles', and by the UN forces under their Commander-in-Chief, General Norman Schwarzkopf, as ‘Operation Desert Sabre’ lasted from 24 to 28 February, during which time the Iraqi forces were routed by a massive Allied tank advance. The Allied offensive by air was called ‘Operation Desert Storm’. On the Allied side the war was fought with sophisticated electronic equipment and weapons systems, notably the F-117 Stealth Fighter, laser-guided bombs, and depleted uranium shells for penetrating armour. Iraq's defence system, which included chemical and biological warheads intended for delivery by Soviet SCUD ballistic missiles, had been rendered ineffective by Allied bombing. By the end of February 1991, Hussein, having set fire to over 700 Kuwaiti oil wells, accepted the UN ceasefire terms, but had openly flouted these by early 1993. Final casualties of the war numbered some 33,000 Kuwaitis killed or captured, 234 Allied dead, and between 85,000 and 100,000 Iraqi soldiers killed. UN sanctions imposed on Iraq remained in place and tension continued throughout the 1990s as Iraq refused to allow UN weapons inspections. This provoked several bombing raids by the USA and contributed, eventually, to the causes of the 2003 Iraq War.

Subjects: History

Reference entries

View all reference entries »