Causes, Events & Political Figures of the Gulf War

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  • 0:38 Causes of the War
  • 2:04 Coalition Response
  • 3:50 The Importance
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Daniel Vermilya
The Gulf War occurred in 1990 and 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. UN, NATO, and United States forces responded by attacking and pushing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. The war was a decisive victory for American and coalition forces.

Gulf War

In the latter half of the twentieth century, one would be hard pressed to find a conflict in which American forces were able to so easily and so quickly achieve their goals as in the case of the Gulf War of 1990 and 1991. Sometimes referred to as the Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, or the First Iraq War, the war in the Gulf in the early 1990s was an impressive display of military might by an allied coalition against the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein. Let's learn more about this relatively short but very important conflict.

Causes of the War

The seeds for the Gulf War were laid decades before the first military action occurred. Iraq had long been a volatile country in the Middle East, causing trouble with other nations around it. In the 1960s, a coup d'etat, or seizure of power, occurred in Iraq, and the Ba'athist political party took power. By the late 1970s, a leading Ba'athist politician, General Saddam Hussein, became the official president of Iraq, ultimately taking the country down a fateful path. Hussein built up the Iraqi military and began a war with Iran in 1980. The Iran-Iraq war lasted for eight years and cost hundreds of thousands of lives on each side, including both soldiers and civilians. Two years after the war with Iran ended, Hussein was looking elsewhere for new territorial gains.

Hussein settled on Kuwait, a small nation just southeast of Iraq. Kuwait had large oil reserves and was located along the Persian Gulf. On August 2, 1990, Iraq began their invasion of Kuwait, bombing Kuwaiti City and soon sending ground forces into the country. Iraq's military forces were the fourth largest army in the world at that time, numbering over one and a half million men. Kuwait had an army of roughly 16,000 men. Thus, Kuwait was unable to stop the Iraqi onslaught into its territory.

Coalition Response

The international response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was swift and strong. The United Nations issued resolutions calling for Iraq to stop its actions. When Iraq did not respond, an international military coalition was formed, with the United States leading the way. Saudi Arabia feared that it was next on Iraq's list, so United States and NATO forces rushed there to discourage Iraq from attacking the oil-rich nation. This buildup of allied forces in Saudi Arabia was known as Operation Desert Shield.

When Iraq failed to respond to another UN resolution, coalition forces began offensive operations against Iraq in mid-January of 1991. The Coalition was led by the United States, but also included the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Argentina, and Australia, just to name a few.

The first wave of the coalition's response was a massive array of aerial strikes and bombardments, named Operation Desert Storm. United States forces, along with other coalition nations, attacked Iraq's infrastructure and ability to make war, damaging everything including roads, government buildings, communications networks, oil refineries, and much more.

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