|The Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom
Persian Gulf War (a.k.a. Operation Desert Storm)
Iraq was $80 million dollars in debt. They accused Kuwait of overproducing oil (thus lowering oil prices) and of tapping into Iraqi oil fields. Saddam wanted access to more oil fields and more ports on the Persian Gulf. For these reasons, Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of 1990 and then prepared to attack Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia felt very threatened so the went to the United Nations for help. The UN told Saddam Hussein (Iraq’s leader) to withdraw but he refused. Instead his Iraqi army attacked Israel hoping to gain support from other Arab nations (because they all dislike Israel).
United Nations coalition forces (1/2 million of them are from the US) go to free Kuwait. “Shock and awe” tactics included 850 air raid missions in 24 hours followed by ground attacks with tanks and troops. Kuwait was freed in 100 hours. It was a very one-sided war and surreal (unreal) to viewers at home. Iraqi soldier were outnumber and out-gunned and were more inexperienced. The death toll – 200,000 Iraqis and 148 US soldiers. Large numbers of Iraqis surrendered without fighting.
On the retreat, Saddam Hussein had his soldiers set the oil fields on fire. If Iraq couldn’t have the oil, no one could. This would have been an economic and environmental disaster. Immediately following the war, these oil fires had to be put out. The US troops helped rebuild infrastructure, restore electricity and water supplies.
Saddam Hussein was then “watched” by the United Nations and the rest of the world. His military and weapons sites were to be inspected by the UN from then on.
1. What were the reasons that Iraq invaded Kuwait?
2. Which country felt most threatened by Iraq at this point?
3. How were the UN soldiers able to win so quickly?
4. What was required of Saddam Hussein after the war?
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Saddam Hussein was not allowing inspectors into his country. The UN had authorized bombing of his military sites on other occasions for not complying with this rule.
The United States felt Saddam was a threat to the US, to the oil supply, to the Kurds in his country, and to the other countries in the region. Saddam Hussein was known to pay $1,000’s of dollars to Palestinian terrorists. He bombed people in his own country with chemical weapons. He had made attempts to purchase equipment to create nuclear and biological weapons. Therefore, the US believed Iraq was making “weapons of mass destruction” or WMD’s and that Saddam intended to use them on us or others. He had been warned enough times; it was time to attack.
The war began in March of 2003, but this time it lasted much longer. Instead of freeing a nation, we were invading a nation. This is a totally different kind of battle. There were more enemies to deal with and more land to cover. After three weeks of hard fighting, the US had lost more than 750 soldiers. Iraqi soldiers used “guerilla warfare” and sabotage on our soldiers.
Eventually, Saddam Hussein was captured, put on trial and executed for war crimes. US soldiers are still there to try to keep peace between the Shia and Sunni Muslims, who are balancing on the edge of civil war.
The country has had elections and they are beginning to form their own democratic government, but it is still a dangerous place where people are killed every day. Terrorism continues and the US may not be able to pull out their troops any time soon.
1. Name three reasons why the United States felt they should attack Iraq.
2. Why do you think the United Nations helped in the first war but not this one?
3. Why has the war lasted longer this time?