The Gulf War Phase 1: 17 January to 23 February 1991

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Map Code: Ax01234

By 1990, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ruinously in debt owing to his long war with Iran. Most of this debt was owed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who ignored Saddam’s requests for commutation. Moreover, Iraq’s oil revenues were depressed by Kuwaiti/Saudi overproduction; together with some confected territorial claims all this was ample excuse for military action for a belligerent monomaniac like Saddam. He invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990, completing its occupation within 24 hours. The fear that the same pretexts could be used to attack Saudi Arabia, endangering the whole world’s oil supply, guaranteed a concerted western response. In November 1990, the United Nations Security Council authorized ‘all necessary means’ to compel Iraqi withdrawal and a coalition of 34 nations was formed under US leadership to enforce the resolution. The deadline set for Saddam’s withdrawal, 15 January, passed and an Iraqi assault on Khafji was repulsed. Then massive shelling degraded Iraqi airbases, communications and infrastructure.

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