It was on this day back in 1991 that the United States led coalition forces from 35 nations against Iraq in response to their invasion and annexation of Kuwait, the combat phase of this mission was officially termed ​”Operation Desert Storm”. The Iraqi Army’s movement and occupation of Kuwait that began on August 2, 1990 was met with international condemnation and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. U.S. President, George H. W. Bush took the lead by deploying U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia, and urging other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the coalition, forming the largest military alliance since World War II. The greatest majority of the coalition’s military forces were from the US, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt. A bit of history tells us that throughout the Cold War, Iraq had been an ally of the Soviet Union, and there was a history of friction between it and the United States. The US was concerned with Iraq’s position on Israeli–Palestinian politics. The U.S. also disliked Iraqi support for many Arab and Palestinian militant groups. Interestingly however, Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980 threw in a sizable twist. The U.S. felt forced to pick sides and started providing resources, political support, and some “non-military” aircraft to Iraq. In March 1982, Iran began a successful counteroffensive, and the U.S. increased its military arm sales to Iraq to prevent Iran from forcing a surrender. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled Abu Nidal to Syria at the U.S.’s request in November 1983, the Reagan administration sent Donald Rumsfeld to meet Saddam as a special envoy and to cultivate ties. By the time the ceasefire with Iran was signed in August 1988, Iraq was heavily debt-ridden and tensions within society were rising. Most of its debt was owed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq pressured both nations to forgive the debts, but they refused. The Iraq–Kuwait dispute also involved Iraqi claims to Kuwait as Iraqi territory, and the accusation Kuwait was exceeding its OPEC quotas for oil production. By the summer of 1990, Saddam Hussein believed an anti-Iraq conspiracy was developing – Kuwait had begun talks with Iran, and Iraq’s rival Syria had arranged a visit to Egypt. On July 23rd, 1990 the CIA reported that Iraq had moved 30,000 troops to the Iraq-Kuwait border, and the US naval fleet in the Persian Gulf was placed on alert. On July 25th, Saddam met with April Glaspie, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, in Baghdad. The Iraqi leader attacked American policy with regards to Kuwait, but there was still no imminent threat of the U.S. getting involved in a war in the Middle East. Saddam upped the ante on August 2, 1990 with the bombing of Kuwait’s capital, Kuwait City. In spite of Iraqi saber rattling, Kuwait had not mobilize its forces and at the time of the Iraqi invasion many Kuwaiti military personnel were on leave. On the flip side, the Iraqi Army was thought to be the world’s fourth largest army, with the ability to field a massive number of soldiers. Just two years prior, at the Iran–Iraq war’s end, the Iraqi Army consisted of 955,000 standing soldiers and 650,000 paramilitary forces in the Popular Army. Within 12 hours, most resistance had ended within Kuwait and the royal family had fled, leaving Iraq in control of most of Kuwait. After just 48-hours, most of the Kuwaiti military were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard, or had escaped to Saudi Arabia. After the invasion, the Iraqi military looted over $1,000,000,000 in banknotes from Kuwait’s Central Bank. At the same time, Saddam Hussein made the Kuwaiti dinar equal to the Iraqi dinar, thereby lowering the Kuwaiti currency to one-twelfth of its original value. In December 1990, Iraq made a proposal to withdraw from Kuwait provided that foreign troops left the region and that an agreement was reached regarding the Palestinian problem and the dismantlement of both Israel’s and Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The White House rejected the proposal. One of the West’s main concerns was the significant threat Iraq posed to Saudi Arabia. Following Kuwait’s conquest, the Iraqi Army was within easy striking distance of Saudi oil fields. Control of these fields, along with Kuwaiti and Iraqi reserves, would have given Saddam control over the majority of the world’s oil reserves. US President George H. W. Bush quickly announced that the US would launch a “wholly defensive” mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia under the codename Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Shield began on 7 August 1990 when U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia due also to the request of its monarch, King Fahd, who had earlier called for US military assistance. During a speech in a special joint session of the U.S. Congress given on 11 September 1990, US President Bush summed up the reasons with the following remarks: “Within three days, 120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia. It was then that I decided to act to check that aggression.” Tensions continued to escalate, then in mid-January of 1991, The Gulf War or “Operation Desert Storm” was officially kicked off with an extensive aerial bombing campaign. For 42 consecutive days and nights, the coalition forces subjected Iraq to one of the most intensive air bombardment in military history. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping over 88,500 tons of bombs. For what it’s worth, on January 29, Iraqi forces did in fact attack and occupied the lightly defended Saudi city of Khafji with tanks and infantry. The Battle of Khafji ended two days laterwhen the Iraqis were driven back by the Saudi Arabian National Guard, supported by Qatari forces and U.S. Marines. The U.S. Marine Corps also fought the biggest tank battle in its history at Kuwait International Airport. In fact the ground campaign consisted of three if not four of the largest tank battles in American history. Casualties of the war remain heavily debated, but several sources place Iraqi combat casualties at between 20,000 and 35,000 fatalities, and another 75,000 wounded. The Department of Defense reports that U.S. forces suffered 148 battle-related deaths (35 to friendly fire), with one pilot listed as MIA (his remains were found and identified in August 2009). A further 145 Americans died in non-combat accidents. The largest single loss of life among coalition forces happened on 25 February 1991, when an Iraqi Al Hussein missile hit a U.S. military barrack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. Army Reservists from Pennsylvania. In all, 190 coalition troops were killed by Iraqi fire during the war, 113 of whom were American, out of a total of 358 coalition deaths. The number of coalition wounded in combat was 776, including 458 Americans. On March 10, 1991, an estimated 540,000 U.S. troops began moving out of the Persian Gulf. (Source: Wiki; History)

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