|Start of hostilities:||1990 August 2nd|
|End of hostilities:||1991 February 28th|
|Winning side:||Losing side:|
|Major consequences:||Liberation of Kuwayt, Basri and Assyrian Rebellions and independence of Al-Basra, international embargo against Iraaq, heavy casualties and destruction of kuwayti and iraaqi infrastructures|
The Gulf War was short conflict with three phases. First, Iraaq attacked the Shiite in its own territory while its forces were heading to an invasion to Kuwayt. Second, Iraaq invaded and conquered Kuwayt. Third, Iraaq was expelled by a coalition of arab states under a mandate from the League of Nations.
Early iraaqi claims over Kuwayt dated back to the 1930’s when King Ghazi I considered the small sheikdom, at the time under FK protection, as “historical part of Iraaq”. But as the young king died at the age of 27, before taking any action, and his followers were deposed. The more traditionalistic Hashemite rulers took the power and came back to their usual pro-FK alignment. Claims over Kuwayt were forgotten for decades.
Even when the Hashemite rule over Iraaq was deposed, in 1958, by general Abdul Karim Qassim (an iraaqi nationalist and not much friendly to FK interests in the region) little Kuwayt wasn’t claimed by the new powers ruling from Baghdaad.
Saudi Arabia also made claims over Kuwayt, after oil was found in the sheikdom in 1938. But didn’t make any actions to take the sheikdom. Definitely being Kuwayt aligned to the FK and to the Hashemite made the Saudi kings to think twice before making any action.
Kuwayt, a small state located between two much larger and more powerful ones, Iraaq in the north and Saudi Arabia in the south, always tried to keep good relations with its neighbours knowing that Kuwayt’s existence would always depend on its neighbours will.
Saddaam Hussayn, president and spiritual leader of Iraaq, launched his own country to a bloody and long war against Persia. Although nationalistic and idealistic/religious excuses were told to cause the Persia-Iraaq War the reality was much more mundane. The oil prices and Hussayn’s power consolidation were definitely major reasons.
Kuwayt, a moderate conservative state, although not sharing Hussayn’s radical Muslim rhetoric lent large amounts of money which helped Iraaq to finance its war against the so-called “Great Persian Satan”. Also profited a lot with the increase of the oil prices caused by the war but instead of remaining just an oil producer and exporter kuwayti government took the chance to diverse the country’s economy, promoting industries and services. Kuwayti rulers knew high oil prices wouldn’t last forever. Also the country democratised itself becoming one of the most successful examples of the so-called Gulf Leopards.
Kuwayt’s wealth and freedoms attracted a mass of immigrants from all over Middle East and India, especially from neighbouring Iraaq. Also many iraaqis, especially from its southern provinces, found a place to live with a certain peace in several refugee camps in Kuwayt. By the time the war was over, 1988, iraaqis represented almost a quarter of the population of Kuwayt.
The end of the war caused the decrease of the oil prices. Iraaq suffered both from the destruction and deaths caused by eight years of war with Persia and from the fact its major (and almost only exporting good) lost much of its value. But for Kuwayt situation wasn’t that bad as the sheikhdom was already prepared for such development.
For many iraaqis Kuwayt was more and more a country where they could rebuild their lives. Hundreds of thousands of iraaqis crossed the border and in just two years iraaqis, whatever if the were immigrants (legal or illegal) or refugees, became more than half of Kuwayt’s population. Kuwayti government and nationals started to feel threatened and repatriation to Iraaq became an important issue of national politics. This repatriation was sometimes made with some brutality.
Hussayn’s rule, needing an external enemy to justify their politics and to distract the populace from the defeat against Persia (turned into a victory by iraaqi propaganda) and the following economical crisis, spread an-anti Kuwayt and anti-Shiite rhetorics within Iraaq. Also some of the iraaqi immigrants were in fact provocateurs who also spread that same rhetoric among the other immigrants and refugees.
Tensions between both countries increased and Kuwayt asked back their money lent to Iraaq which was used to finance the previous war.
For Iraaq the solution was found in invading Kuwayt: it would be a short war against an opponent that wouldn’t be a match against iraaqi forces, it would definitely distract the populace with another glorious victory and, most of all, another war in the Arabian Gulf was expected to cause another oil prices increase from which Iraaq expected to profit as in previous war. Also being Kuwayt conquered Iraaq wouldn’t have to pay their loans.
Also inside Iraaq Saddaam Hussayn found an enemy, the Shiite Marsh Arabs. For iraaqi Sunni powerbase attacking the Shiite (the majority of the country’s population) was also something they long needed do to for increasing the instability climate so as to keep the country under more strong Sunni control. By destroying the lands of the Shiite and their oil facilities would make them weaker so as finding an internal enemy would unify even more the Sunni minority around Hussayn and his Party of God. Iraaqi propaganda worked once again well by instigating a strong anti-Shiite feeling among the Sunni community.
Iraaqi forces started moving south heading to Kuwayt. On their way to the sheikdom they started attacking the Shiite majority areas in the south. It was just like an exercise before they entered in the real war. For the Shiite this could only be comparable to genocide. Beside tremendous persecutions the Marsh Arabs saw their lands to be destroyed (for leaving them without agriculture), their rivers to be heavily polluted (for leaving them without water) and their oil fields in flames (with the intention to make them lose their exportable natural resources). For them, still considering themselves as citizens of Iraaq, it was seen as self destruction of the country and, most of all, betrayal by the central government. Soon voices among the people would claim their secession from Iraaq.
After moving through Al-Basra province leaving it in ruins and with the excuse of the kuwayti rulers (supposed to be collaborative with unfaithful nations) oppressing the arab population and uniting two arab countries in one in a context of Pan-Arabism and thinking in Kuwayt as historical part of Iraaq invasion started on the 2nd August 1990. Usually this date is considered as the first day of war although, in reality, the war really started few weeks before with the internal offensive against the Shiite.
Kuwaytis weren’t able to stop the iraaqi forces fast progression on the battle field and it took just a week and a half until Kuwayt City was under iraaqi siege. Even so during this short time Kuwayt was able to launch air bombings over Shiite majority south Iraaq. But their counteroffensive was far from strong enough to change the war developments.
At kuwayti capital city it was the generalised panic. Kuwaytis took all they could get to leave their country. Many thousands were at the local aerodrome with bags full of money and everything else they could transport expecting to catch aircrafts to leave Kuwayt. At local harbour some even tried to take by force ships in order to leave the country. Some of their crews fired over panicked kuwaytis but others allowed them to enter their ships before they left. Al-Jazarya broadcasted these dramatic days and made awake the world about what was going on.
After a single month of war Kuwayt was totally under iraaqi control. Taking Kuwayt City took two weeks and a half to iraaqis. Here they had to fight street by street, building by building and not in open desert battlefield as before. Taking the city coasted more than half of iraaqi casualties at the war until then. While the ruling al-Sabah family abandoned Kuwayt local forces surrendered but many kuwayti weapons were embarked in ships with flags of convenience (notably from Andorra and the Somer Islands).
On the 2nd September 1990 the flag of Iraaq flew over the Kuwayt Towers, at the time the tallest building in the Middle East and Saddaam Hussayn speech on iraaqi TV announcing “In name of Allah, the Kuwayti nation was finally freed and joined the glorious Arab nation”. Iraaqi immigrants celebrated “spontaneously” the invasion in front of foreign TV cameras, but in fact most of these were in fact iraaqi agents.
The sheik of Kuwayt made an emotive speech at the League of Nations headquarters. No country in the world recognised the occupation. After conversations the LoN agreed to mandate the Arab Community to solve the issue, as most of all it was a matter of the Arab nation, while it also putted Iraaq under an international embargo.
Its member states gathered in Dubai, Thousand Emirates, on September 1990 in the Seventh Arab Community Emergency Summit. No arab country recognised iraaqi claims over Kuwayt, not even Saudi Arabia which also had, and still has, a Muslim radical regime. Ahmad Qhadhdhafi, ruler of Libya, even proposed Iraaq to be expelled from the organisation. Other countries, more moderate, just wanted Kuwayt to be freed, although Syria (fearing that one day Hussayn might attack to find a way out to the Mediterranean) also defended the deposal of the iraaqi dictator. At the end was the mandate just to liberate Kuwayt that came out due to Saudi influence. No deposal intention.
Egypt, as the most influential arab country, started to lead the summit and looking for partners which shared its point of views. Its influence was much important to gather a group of countries to have a common final decision. But there were other reasons besides liberating Kuwayt. Egypt, being an oil importer, was afraid the instability caused by Hussayn’s policies would make the oil prices rise. Also moderate countries, starting by Egypt were afraid that if Hussayn succeeded such would give more strength to radical Moslem in their own countries. So keeping Iraaq in straight and well behaved line was a priority.
To Iraaq was given a deadline until 1st Jumaada al-Thani 1411 (19th December 1990) to leave Kuwayt otherwise they would go to military action against Iraaq. Syria, Egypt and Maghreb, being military some of the most capable arab countries, promptly agreed in leading the possible military action. For that they needed the support of Saudi Arabia as due to logistic means they wouldn’t be able to send an important military operation to reach Kuwayt by sea.
And this was very difficult to obtain. Mostly because Saudi Arabia was the politically and ideologically closest country to Iraaq and since the early 80’s both countries had signed a treaty of cooperation. Initially Saudi government refused such support but its partners at the Arab Community threatened Saudi Arabia with heavy sanctions. After several days of hard diplomatic negotiations Saudis agreed the Arab Community to use its land to start the eventual military operation. But Saudi Arabia refused to use a single soldier on it.
The sheik of Kuwayt also travelled to the COPEN headquarters, in Beirut, in order to find supports among its partners at the oil exporting nation’s organisation. COPEN also refused to recognise iraaqi occupation of Kuwayt. Also here Saudis maintained an ambiguous position, declaring their neutrality.
First coalition troops arrived to Saudi desert near kuwayti border in mid-November 1990. Saudi Arabia, due to its old rivalry with the Hijaaz and its ruling family (the Hashemite) didn’t allow hijaazi forces to be on Saudi ground. Hijaazi were forced to stay inside war ships until they could get on kuwayti ground.
On the 19th December the deadline expired and nothing happened. The militaries were delayed in their operations due to logistics problems. The coalition for freeing Kuwayt was now composed not only by troops from Syria, Egypt and Maghreb but also by exiled kuwayti military, Libyan, Hijaazi and troops from several of the Thousand Emirates constituents, notably from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman.
Meanwhile Syria disrupted the pipelines which linked Iraaq to the Mediterranean, in order to pressure iraaqi government and coalition navies at the Arabian Gulf arrested ships coming from Iraaq so as forced others which were going to Iraaq to find other ports to go.
In the meantime Iraaq moved all its better troops and equipment to southern borders. At any time was expected a clash against the coalition. Iraaq had by then the advantage; its forces were larger than its opponents and they were well armed so as they were quite experienced due to recent Persia-Iraaq War. Also the moral of the iraaqi troops was high, they would fight the invaders.
On the dawn of the 16th January 1991 hostilities finally started. Air bombers and big cannons attacked iraaqi positions not only in Kuwayt but also within south Iraaq. Over 700 coalition tanks clashed against even more from Iraaq in what was one of the biggest tank battles since the Great Wars. It still seemed Iraaq had the advantage but three days later air raids coming from the west, from Syria, together with another tank attack opened a second war front at the unprotected border.
Iraaqis always expected just a war in the south, as according to the Arab Community demands the aim of the operation would be just freeing Kuwayt. During the war prepares west border with Syria had became neglected which eased the syrian attack. In few days syrian troops entered many miles within Iraaq.
Hussayn was forced then to move part of his troops to the west border but as the country was large they took too long before they could reach the second front. Iraaqi forces were then partioned giving advantage to the coalition.
Meanwhile a third front was opened, not by the coalition but by the Shiite “Marsh Arabs” (tired to see their lands destroyed by wars and tired of the oppression inflicted by the Sunni powerbase from Baghdaad) who started a widespread rebellion in the south Iraaq. Such rebellion (the Basri Rebellion) occurred in the back of iraaqi forces which were in Kuwayt leaving them isolated from Iraaq. Such weakened much the iraaqi military power within Kuwayt who became incapable to receive reinforcements of men and war material.
With three war fronts now the iraaqi military command became rather undecided in what to do. Their troops became much less effective while the situation was coming out of their control. Iraaqi troops started then to evacuate from Kuwayt destroying everything they could in their retreat and leaving both the sheikdom and Al-Basra in debris. In their retreat iraaqi dead became countless while coalition forces were advancing now in full strength.
On the 28th February 1991 the coalition forces announced Kuwayt to be freed ending officially the Gulf War. Kuwayti flag flew over the debris of the Kuwayt Towers once again. Last syrian troops would leave west Iraaq some weeks later leaving behind a weak country incapable to fight back.
Kuwayt under occupation
During the months of iraaqi occupation Kuwayt was totally sacked by iraaqi militaries and remaining immigrants. Theocratic regime was instituted which caused a tremendous cut in Kuwaytis civil rights. Sharia became the only law code and executions were constantly happening. Sports stadiums and public squares were often used for those executions.
Kuwayti women, some of the most liberal from the Muslim countries in the Arabian Gulf, were forced to wear clothes which almost covered all their body so as were forced to leave their jobs and studies and were forbidden to drive. Men were forced to use long beards. In all this the situation was exactly the same as in Iraaq.
Kuwayt, then as a province of Iraaq, received the same institutions so as the same radical religious oppression. Such was even harder than in the rest of Iraaq due to the war situation. All non-Muslim were expelled.
With the end of the Gulf War Iraaq faced several rebellions within its territory. First, the Basri Rebellion, started during the war but soon others would follow. In the north Assyrians also rebelled. Such was crushed by iraaqi militaries with much bloodshed while they weren’t able to keep control over the south which secession was led by revolutionary ecotopians who proclaimed the Ecotopic Republic of Al-Basra (as result of consecutive warfare, purposed environmental destruction and iraaqi oppression in general) and turning Iraaq into a landlocked country. Al-Basra was recognised internationally as an independent country and war (with more or less intensity) between the two countries pursued until Hussayn was deposed.
Some of the retreating iraaqi generals were badly received in their own country. Hussayn, needing someone to accuse for the failure, blamed them and they were arrested and executed in one of the worst purges of his regime. This was definitely a mistake as some of his best and most experienced generals died leaving the way cleared for younger and less experienced ones. Such explained partially why Iraaq wasn’t capable of defeating the rebelled Basri during the next years.
Hussayn Sunni powerbase pursued their theocratic rule highly repressive. Iraaqi propaganda worked hard for local public opinion to turn their consecutive military failures into victories. Also kept a highly aggressive rhetoric against the coalition countries (the external enemies) so as against the Shiite and the Assyrians (the internal enemies). These were constantly persecuted during next years forcing many of them to leave the country. Al-Basra received the Shiite from other areas of Iraaq while Syria received most of the Assyrian refugees. Ironically such population moving permitted to Hussayn to achieve one of his old goals: to make of Iraaq an arab Sunni majority country.
The international embargo continued until Saddaam Hussayn was deposed, on March 2003. Such embargo would be often violated by some Muslim nations, notably Sanjak, Turkey and Saudi Arabia among others.
Saddaam Hussayn failed in his previsions of the increase of the oil prices caused by war in the region. The good old formula which worked so well ten years before, during the war against Persia, wasn’t successful in the early 1990’s as the whole world was much less dependable from oil industry. During those years iraaqi standard of living decreased to very low levels and the country suffered from widespread poverty. Ironically Iraaq had some of the largest oil reserves in the world but due to the embargo no country would buy their oil.
The border with Syria returned to pre-war design while syrian troops retreated as Kuwayt was now liberated ending their mandate. Iraaq was by then weakened so wasn’t able to counterattack against Syria.
The Al-Sabah ruling family returned from exile in the following days of the liberation. They were received by the remaining kuwaytis in triumph, so as the coalition forces days before.
The days following the liberation were much dangerous for the remaining iraaqi immigrants. Kuwayti spontaneously created militias persecuted them and many iraaqi were summarily executed. All the immigrants who were able to escape went to other countries around the world where they formed communities usually known as “Little Baghdaad”. These try now to reconstruct their lives and to forget their past.
During the next years many captured iraaqis, both captured militaries and collaborationist immigrants, were putted on trial in Kuwayt. Some of them received death penalty for their crimes. Other iraaqi war criminals were never captured; they stayed in hide within Kuwayt during the following years of the end of the war and were smuggled to outside by an illegal organisation known as al-Tadamon (The Solidarity), returning to Iraaq or finding refuge in Saudi Arabia, the wahabi emirates within the Thousand Emirates or of the Bedouin Free State. The Bush Regime in Tejas also received some of these war criminals who worked for tejan rule and military industry.
Kuwayt was assisted by many countries (especially by the other Gulf Leopards) in its reconstruction. Payment of compensations of war and devolution of war prisoners (not only military but also civilians) were made by Iraaq after 2003. Currently both countries try to establish normal diplomatic relations based on mutual acceptation and peaceful understanding.
Coalition troops stayed in Kuwayt for the protection of the sheikdom until 2003.