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The Gulf War[b] was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait arising from oil pricing and production disputes. It was codenamed Operation Desert Shield (2 August 1990 – 17 January 1991) for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) in its combat phase.
Gulf War Photobox.jpg
Clockwise from top: USAF F-15Es, F-16s, and a F-15C flying over burning Kuwaiti oil wells; British troops from the Staffordshire Regiment in Operation Granby; camera view from a Lockheed AC-130; the Highway of Death; M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle
Date 17 January – 28 February 1991
(1 month, 1 week and 4 days)
Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and
the Persian Gulf
Iraqi forces expelled from Kuwait
Kuwaiti independence restored
Destruction of Iraqi and Kuwaiti infrastructure
Failed Shia/Kurdish uprisings against the Iraqi government
Saddam Hussein regime of the Iraqi Baathist government retains power in Iraq
UN sanctions against Iraq
Iraqi no-fly zones established
United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 establishes cease-fire terms, beginning of the Iraq disarmament controversies
State of Kuwait restored
Iraqi Kurdistan obtains autonomy, establishment of the northern Iraq no fly zone by the US
United Arab Emirates
Commanders and leaders
United States George H. W. Bush
United States Dick Cheney
United States Colin Powell
United States Norman Schwarzkopf
United States John J. Yeosock
United States Walter E. Boomer
United States Charles Horner
United States Stanley Arthur
United States J. William Kime
United States Robert B. Johnston
Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad
Kuwait Sheikh Saad Al Abdullah
Saudi Arabia King Fahd
Saudi Arabia Saleh Al-Muhaya
Saudi Arabia Khalid bin Sultan
Egypt Hosni Mubarak
Egypt Youssef Sabri Abu Taleb
Egypt Salah Halabi
Egypt Mohammed Hussein Tantawi
United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher
United Kingdom John Major
United Kingdom Peter de la Billière
France François Mitterrand
France Michel Roquejeoffre
Ba'athist Iraq Saddam Hussein
Ba'athist Iraq Tariq Aziz
Ba'athist Iraq Ali Hassan al-Majid
Ba'athist Iraq Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri
Ba'athist Iraq Salah Aboud Mahmoud
Ba'athist Iraq Hussein Kamel al-Majid
Ba'athist Iraq Abid Hamid Mahmud
956,600, including 700,000 US troops
Casualties and losses
292 killed (147 killed by enemy action, 145 non-hostile deaths)
467 wounded in action
31 tanks destroyed/disabled
28 Bradley IFVs destroyed/damaged
1 M113 APC destroyed
2 British Warrior APCs destroyed
1 artillery piece destroyed
75 Aircraft destroyed
≈200 tanks destroyed/captured
850+ other armored vehicles destroyed/captured
57 aircraft lost
8 aircraft captured (Mirage F1s)
17 ships sunk, 6 captured
3,300 tanks destroyed
2,100 APCs destroyed
2,200 artillery pieces destroyed
110 aircraft destroyed
137 aircraft escaped to Iran
19 ships sunk, 6 damaged
Kuwaiti civilian losses:
Over 1,000 killed
600 missing people
Iraqi civilian losses:
About 3,664 killed
Other civilian losses:
75 killed in Israel and Saudi Arabia, 309 injured
On 2 August 1990, the Iraqi Army invaded and occupied Kuwait, which was met with international condemnation and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and US president George H. W. Bush deployed forces into Saudi Arabia, and urged 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. Most of the coalition's military forces were from the US, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia paid around US$32 billion of the US$60 billion cost.
The war marked the introduction of live news broadcasts from the front lines of the battle, principally by the US network CNN. The war has also earned the nickname Video Game War after the daily broadcast of images from cameras on board U.S. bombers during Operation Desert Storm.
The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial and naval bombardment on 17 January 1991, continuing for five weeks. This was followed by a ground assault on 24 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased its advance and declared a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on Saudi Arabia's border. Iraq launched Scud missiles against Israel and coalition targets in Saudi Arabia.
The war is also known under other names, such as the Persian Gulf War, First Gulf War, Kuwait War, First Iraq War, or Iraq War[a] before the term "Iraq War" became identified instead with the 2003 Iraq War (also referred to in the U.S. as "Operation Iraqi Freedom").
Throughout the Cold War, Iraq had been an ally of the Soviet Union, and there was a history of friction between Iraq and the United States. The US was concerned with Iraq's position on Israeli–Palestinian politics. The US also disliked Iraqi support for many Arab and Palestinian militant groups such as Abu Nidal, which led to Iraq's inclusion on the developing US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism on 29 December 1979.
The US remained officially neutral after Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980, which became the Iran–Iraq War, although it provided resources, political support, and some "non-military" aircraft to Iraq. In March 1982, Iran began a successful counteroffensive (Operation Undeniable Victory), and the US increased its support for Iraq to prevent Iran from forcing a surrender. In a US bid to open full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the country was removed from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Ostensibly, this was because of improvement in the regime's record, although former US Assistant Defense Secretary Noel Koch later stated: "No one had any doubts about [the Iraqis'] continued involvement in terrorism ... The real reason was to help them succeed in the war against Iran."
With Iraq's newfound success in the war, and the Iranian rebuff of a peace offer in July, arms sales to Iraq reached a record spike in 1982. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled Abu Nidal to Syria at the US'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's debts to Kuwait amounted to $14 billion. Iraq pressured both nations to forgive the debts, but they refused.
Donald Rumsfeld, US special envoy to the Middle East, meets Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983.
The Iraq–Kuwait dispute also involved Iraqi claims to Kuwaiti territory. Kuwait had been a part of the Ottoman Empire's province of Basra, something that Iraq claimed made Kuwait rightful Iraqi territory. Kuwait's ruling dynasty, the al-Sabah family, had concluded a protectorate agreement in 1899 that assigned responsibility for Kuwait's foreign affairs to the United Kingdom. The UK drew the border between Kuwait and Iraq in 1922, making Iraq almost entirely landlocked. Kuwait rejected Iraqi attempts to secure further provisions in the region.
Iraq also accused Kuwait of exceeding its OPEC quotas for oil production. In order for the cartel to maintain its desired price of $18 per barrel, discipline was required. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were consistently overproducing; the latter at least in part to repair losses caused by Iranian attacks in the Iran–Iraq War and to pay for the losses of an economic scandal. The result was a slump in the oil price – as low as $10 per barrel ($63/m3) – with a resulting loss of $7 billion a year to Iraq, equal to its 1989 balance of payments deficit. Resulting revenues struggled to support the government's basic costs, let alone repair Iraq's damaged infrastructure. Jordan and Iraq both looked for more discipline, with little success. The Iraqi government described it as a form of economic warfare, which it claimed was aggravated by Kuwait slant-drilling across the border into Iraq's Rumaila oil field. At the same time, Saddam looked for closer ties with those Arab states that had supported Iraq in the war. This move was supported by the US, who believed that Iraqi ties with pro-Western Gulf states would help bring and maintain Iraq inside the US' sphere of influence.
In 1989, it appeared that Saudi–Iraqi relations, strong during the war, would be maintained. A pact of non-interference and non-aggression was signed between the countries, followed by a Kuwaiti-Iraqi deal for Iraq to supply Kuwait with water for drinking and irrigation, although a request for Kuwait to lease Iraq Umm Qasr was rejected. Saudi-backed development projects were hampered by Iraq's large debts, even with the demobilization of 200,000 soldiers. Iraq also looked to increase arms production so as to become an exporter, although the success of these projects was also restrained by Iraq's obligations; in Iraq, resentment to OPEC's controls mounted.
Iraq's relations with its Arab neighbors, particularly Egypt, were degraded by mounting violence in Iraq against expatriate groups, who were well-employed during the war, by unemployed Iraqis, among them demobilized soldiers. These events drew little notice outside the Arab world because of fast-moving events directly related to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. However, the US did begin to condemn Iraq's human rights record, including the well-known use of torture. The UK also condemned the execution of Farzad Bazoft, a journalist working for the British newspaper The Observer. Following Saddam's declaration that "binary chemical weapons" would be used on Israel if it used military force against Iraq, Washington halted part of its funding. A UN mission to the Israeli-occupied territories, where riots had resulted in Palestinian deaths, was vetoed by the US, making Iraq deeply skeptical of US foreign policy aims in the region, combined with the reliance of the US on Middle Eastern energy reserves.
In early July 1990, Iraq complained about Kuwait's behavior, such as not respecting their quota, and openly threatened to take military action. On the 23rd, 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. Saddam believed an anti-Iraq conspiracy was developing – Kuwait had begun talks with Iran, and Iraq's rival Syria had arranged a visit to Egypt. Upon review by the Secretary of Defense, it was found that Syria indeed planned a strike against Iraq in the coming days. Saddam immediately used funding to incorporate central intelligence into Syria and ultimately prevented the impending air strike. On 15 July 1990, Saddam's government laid out its combined objections to the Arab League, including that policy moves were costing Iraq $1 billion a year, that Kuwait was still using the Rumaila oil field, that loans made by the UAE and Kuwait could not be considered debts to its "Arab brothers". He threatened force against Kuwait and the UAE, saying: "The policies of some Arab rulers are American ... They are inspired by America to undermine Arab interests and security." The US sent aerial refuelling planes and combat ships to the Persian Gulf in response to these threats. Discussions in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, mediated on the Arab League's behalf by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, were held on 31 July and led Mubarak to believe that a peaceful course could be established.
On the 25th, Saddam met with April Glaspie, the US Ambassador to Iraq, in Baghdad. The Iraqi leader attacked American policy with regards to Kuwait and the UAE:
So what can it mean when America says it will now protect its friends? It can only mean prejudice against Iraq. This stance plus maneuvers and statements which have been made has encouraged the UAE and Kuwait to disregard Iraqi rights ... If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you ... We do not place America among the enemies. We place it where we want our friends to be and we try to be friends. But repeated American statements last year made it apparent that America did not regard us as friends.
I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait ... Frankly, we can only see that you have deployed massive troops in the south. Normally that would not be any of our business. But when this happens in the context of what you said on your national day, then when we read the details in the two letters of the Foreign Minister, then when we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the UAE and Kuwait is, in the final analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq, then it would be reasonable for me to be concerned.
Saddam stated that he would attempt last-ditch negotiations with the Kuwaitis but Iraq "would not accept death."
According to Glaspie's own account, she stated in reference to the precise border between Kuwait and Iraq, "... that she had served in Kuwait 20 years before; 'then, as now, we took no position on these Arab affairs'." Glaspie similarly believed that war was not imminent.
The result of the Jeddah talks was an Iraqi demand for $10 billion to cover the lost revenues from Rumaila; Kuwait offered $500 million. The Iraqi response was to immediately order an invasion, which started on 2 August 1990 with the bombing of Kuwait's capital, Kuwait City.
Before the invasion, the Kuwaiti military was believed to have numbered 16,000 men, arranged into three armored, one mechanised infantry and one under-strength artillery brigade. The pre-war strength of the Kuwait Air Force was around 2,200 Kuwaiti personnel, with 80 fixed-wing aircraft and 40 helicopters. In spite of Iraqi saber rattling, Kuwait did not mobilize its force; the army had been stood-down on 19 July, and during the Iraqi invasion many Kuwaiti military personnel were on leave.
By 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq war, the Iraqi Army was the world's fourth largest army, consisting of 955,000 standing soldiers and 650,000 paramilitary forces in the Popular Army. According to John Childs and André Corvisier, a low estimate shows the Iraqi Army capable of fielding 4,500 tanks, 484 combat aircraft and 232 combat helicopters. According to Michael Knights, a high estimate shows the Iraqi Army capable of fielding one million men and 850,000 reservists, 5,500 tanks, 3,000 artillery pieces, 700 combat aircraft and helicopters; it held 53 divisions, 20 special-forces brigades, and several regional militias, and had a strong air defense.
Iraqi commandos infiltrated the Kuwaiti border first to prepare for the major units, which began the attack at midnight. The Iraqi attack had two prongs, with the primary attack force driving south straight for Kuwait City down the main highway, and a supporting attack force entering Kuwait farther west, but then turning and driving east, cutting off Kuwait City from the country's southern half. The commander of a Kuwaiti armored battalion, 35th Armoured Brigade, deployed them against the Iraqi attack and conducted a robust defense at the Battle of the Bridges near Al Jahra, west of Kuwait City.
Kuwaiti aircraft scrambled to meet the invading force, but approximately 20% were lost or captured. A few combat sorties were flown against Iraqi ground forces.
The main Iraqi thrust into Kuwait City was conducted by commandos deployed by helicopters and boats to attack the city from the sea, while other divisions seized the airports and two airbases. The Iraqis attacked the Dasman Palace, the Royal Residence of Kuwait's Emir, Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, which was defended by the Emiri Guard supported with M-84 tanks. In the process, the Iraqis killed Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir's youngest brother.
Within 12 hours, most resistance had ended within Kuwait, and the royal family had fled, allowing Iraq to control most of Kuwait. After two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti military were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard, or had escaped to Saudi Arabia. The Emir and key ministers fled south along the highway for refuge in Saudi Arabia. Iraqi ground forces consolidated their control of Kuwait City, then headed south and redeployed along the Saudi border. After the decisive Iraqi victory, Saddam initially installed a puppet regime known as the "Provisional Government of Free Kuwait" before installing his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid as Kuwait's governor on 8 August.
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 response, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah ruled the banknotes as invalid and refused to reimburse stolen notes, which became worthless because of a UN embargo. After the conflict ended, many of the stolen banknotes made their way back into circulation. Today, the stolen banknotes are a collectible for numismatists.
Kuwaiti resistance movement
Kuwaitis founded a local armed resistance movement following the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. The Kuwaiti resistance's casualty rate far exceeded that of the coalition military forces and Western hostages. The resistance predominantly consisted of ordinary citizens who lacked any form of training and supervision.
Task Force 1-41 Infantry was the first coalition force to breach the Saudi Arabian border on 15 February 1991 and conduct ground combat operations in Iraq engaging in direct and indirect fire fights with the enemy on 17 February 1991. Prior to this action the Task Force's primary fire support battalion, 4th Battalion of the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, participated in a massive artillery preparation. Around 300 guns from multiple nations participated in the artillery barrage. Over 14,000 rounds were fired during these missions. M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems contributed an additional 4,900 rockets fired at Iraqi targets. Iraq lost close to 22 artillery battalions during the initial stages of this barrage, including the destruction of approximately 396 Iraqi artillery pieces.
By the end of these raids Iraqi artillery assets had all but ceased to exist. One Iraqi unit that was totally destroyed during the preparation was the Iraqi 48th Infantry Division Artillery Group. The group's commander stated his unit lost 83 of its 100 guns to the artillery preparation. This artillery prep was supplemented by air attacks by B-52 bombers and Lockheed AC-130 fixed wing gunships. 1st Infantry Division Apache helicopters and B-52 bombers conducted raids against Iraq's 110th Infantry Brigade. The 1st Engineer Battalion and 9th Engineer Battalion marked and proofed assault lanes under direct and indirect enemy fire to secure a foothold in enemy territory and pass the 1st Infantry Division and the British 1st Armored Division forward.
On 24 February 1991 the 1st Cavalry Division conducted a couple artillery missions against Iraqi artillery units. One artillery mission struck a series of Iraqi bunkers, reinforced by Iraqi T-55 tanks, in the sector of the Iraqi 25th Infantry Division. The same day the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor, and the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry destroyed Iraqi bunkers and combat vehicles in the sector of the Iraqi 25th Infantry Division. On 24 February 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division rolled through the breach in the Iraqi defense west of Wadi Al-Batin and also cleared the northeastern sector of the breach site of enemy resistance. Task Force 3-37th Armor breached the Iraqi defense clearing four passage lanes and expanding the gap under direct enemy fire. Also on 24 February the 1st Infantry Division along with the 1st Cavalry Division destroyed Iraqi outposts and patrols belonging to the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division. The two divisions also began capturing prisoners. The 1st Infantry Division cleared a zone between Phase Line Vermont and Phase Line Kansas. Once the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Battalion, 37th Armor reached the Iraqi rear defensive positions it destroyed an Iraqi D-30 artillery battery and many trucks and bunkers.
Task Force 1-41 Infantry was given the task of breaching Iraq's initial defensive positions along the Iraq–Saudi Arabia border. The 1st Squadron, 4th Armored Cavalry Regiment handled similar responsibilities in its sector of operations. The 1st Infantry Division's 5th Battalion, 16th Infantry also played a significant role clearing the trenches and captured 160 Iraqi soldiers in the process. Once into Iraqi territory Task Force 1-41 Infantry encountered multiple Iraqi defensive positions and bunkers. These defensive positions were occupied by a brigade-sized element. Task Force 1-41 Infantry elements dismounted and prepared to engage the enemy soldiers who occupied these well-prepared and heavily fortified bunkers. The Task Force found itself engaged in six hours of combat in order to clear the extensive bunker complex. The Iraqis engaged the Task Force with small arms fire, RPGs, mortar fire, and what was left of Iraqi artillery assets. A series of battles unfolded resulting in heavy Iraqi casualties and the Iraqis being removed from their defensive positions with many becoming prisoners of war. Some escaped to be killed or captured by other coalition forces. In the process of clearing the bunkers, Task Force 1-41 captured two brigade command posts and the command post of the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division. The Task Force also captured a brigade commander, several battalion commanders, company commanders, and staff officers. As combat operations progressed Task Force 1-41 Infantry engaged at short range multiple dug in enemy tanks in ambush positions. For a few hours, bypassed Iraqi RPG-equipped anti-tank teams, T-55 tanks, and dismounted Iraqi infantry fired at passing American vehicles, only to be destroyed by other US tanks and fighting vehicles following the initial forces.
The 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-16 Infantry cleared four lanes simultaneously through an enemy fortified trench system while inflicting heavy casualties on Iraqi forces. Task Force 2-16 continued the attack clearing over 21 km (13 mi) of entrenched enemy positions resulting in the capture and destruction of numerous enemy vehicles, equipment, personnel and command bunkers.
See also: Battle of Al Busayyah, Battle of Phase Line Bullet, Battle of 73 Easting, Battle of Norfolk, Battle of Medina Ridge, Battle of Kuwait International Airport, and Battle of Rumaila
Ground troop movements 24–28 February 1991 during Operation Desert Storm
The ground campaign consisted of three or possibly four of the largest tank battles in American military history. The battles at 73 Easting, Norfolk, and Medina Ridge are well noted for their historic significance. Some consider the battle of Medina Ridge the largest tank battle of the war. The US Marine Corps also fought the biggest tank battle in its history at Kuwait International Airport. The US 3rd Armored Division also fought a significant battle at Objective Dorset not far from where the battle of Norfolk was taking place. The US 3rd Armored Division destroyed approximately 300 enemy combat vehicles during this particular encounter with Iraqi forces. The Iraqis suffered the loss of over 3,000 tanks and over 2,000 other combat vehicles during these battles against the American-led coalition.
Main article: Liberation of Kuwait campaign
See also: Gulf War order of battle ground campaign
US M1A1 Abrams tanks from the 3rd Armored Division along the Line of Departure
US decoy attacks by air attacks and naval gunfire the night before Kuwait's liberation were designed to make the Iraqis believe the main coalition ground attack would focus on central Kuwait.
Iraqi Type 69 tank on the road into Kuwait City during the Gulf War
Two Iraqi tanks lie abandoned near Kuwait City on 26 February 1991.
For months, American units in Saudi Arabia had been under almost constant Iraqi artillery fire, as well as threats from Scud missiles and chemical attacks. On 24 February 1991, the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions and the 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion crossed into Kuwait and headed toward Kuwait City. They encountered trenches, barbed wire, and minefields. However, these positions were poorly defended, and were overrun in the first few hours. Several tank battles took place, but otherwise coalition troops encountered minimal resistance, as most Iraqi troops surrendered. The general pattern was that the Iraqis would put up a short fight before surrendering. However, Iraqi air defenses shot down nine US aircraft. Meanwhile, forces from Arab states advanced into Kuwait from the east, encountering little resistance and suffering few casualties.
Despite the successes of coalition forces, it was feared that the Iraqi Republican Guard would escape into Iraq before it could be destroyed. It was decided to send British armored forces into Kuwait 15 hours ahead of schedule, and to send US forces after the Republican Guard. The coalition advance was preceded by a heavy artillery and rocket barrage, after which 150,000 troops and 1,500 tanks began their advance. Iraqi forces in Kuwait counterattacked against US troops, acting on a direct order from Saddam Hussein himself. Despite the intense combat, the Americans repulsed the Iraqis and continued to advance towards Kuwait City.
Kuwaiti forces were tasked with liberating the city. Iraqi troops offered only light resistance. The Kuwaitis quickly liberated the city despite losing one soldier and having one plane shot down. On 27 February, Saddam ordered a retreat from Kuwait, and President Bush declared it liberated. However, an Iraqi unit at Kuwait International Airport appeared not to have received the message and fiercely resisted. US Marines had to fight for hours before securing the airport, after which Kuwait was declared secure. After four days of fighting, Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait. As part of a scorched earth policy, they set fire to nearly 700 oil wells and placed land mines around the wells to make extinguishing the fires more difficult.
Initial moves into Iraq
The war's ground phase was officially designated Operation Desert Saber. The first units to move into Iraq were three patrols of the British Special Air Service's B squadron, call signs Bravo One Zero, Bravo Two Zero, and Bravo Three Zero, in late January. These eight-man patrols landed behind Iraqi lines to gather intelligence on the movements of Scud mobile missile launchers, which could not be detected from the air, as they were hidden under bridges and camouflage netting during the day. Other objectives included the destruction of the launchers and their fiber-optic communications arrays that lay in pipelines and relayed coordinates to the TEL operators launching attacks against Israel. The operations were designed to prevent any possible Israeli intervention. Due to lack of sufficient ground cover to carry out their assignment, One Zero and Three Zero abandoned their operations, while Two Zero remained, and was later compromised, with only Sergeant Chris Ryan escaping to Syria.
Iraqi T-62 knocked out by 3rd Armored Division fire
Elements of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division of the US Army performed a direct attack into Iraq on 15 February 1991, followed by one in force on 20 February that led directly through seven Iraqi divisions which were caught off guard. On 17 January 1991 the 101st Airborne Division Aviation Regiment fired the first shots of the war when eight AH-64 helicopters successfully destroyed two Iraqi early warning radar sites. From 15 to 20 February, the Battle of Wadi Al-Batin took place inside Iraq; this was the first of two attacks by 1 Battalion 5th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division. It was a feint attack, designed to make the Iraqis think that a coalition invasion would take place from the south. The Iraqis fiercely resisted, and the Americans eventually withdrew as planned back into the Wadi Al-Batin. Three US soldiers were killed and nine wounded, with one M2 Bradley IFV turret destroyed, but they had taken 40 prisoners and destroyed five tanks, and successfully deceived the Iraqis. This attack led the way for the XVIII Airborne Corps to sweep around behind the 1st Cav and attack Iraqi forces to the west. On 22 February 1991, Iraq agreed to a Soviet-proposed ceasefire agreement. The agreement called for Iraq to withdraw troops to pre-invasion positions within six weeks following a total ceasefire, and called for monitoring of the ceasefire and withdrawal to be overseen by the UN Security Council.
The coalition rejected the proposal, but said that retreating Iraqi forces would not be attacked, and gave 24 hours for Iraq to withdraw its forces. On 23 February, fighting resulted in the capture of 500 Iraqi soldiers. On 24 February, British and American armored forces crossed the Iraq–Kuwait border and entered Iraq in large numbers, taking hundreds of prisoners. Iraqi resistance was light, and four Americans were killed.
Coalition forces enter Iraq
Iraqi 'Saddam' main battle tank destroyed during Operation Desert Storm
Destroyed Iraqi civilian and military vehicles on the Highway of Death
Aerial view of destroyed Iraqi T-72 tank, BMP-1 and Type 63 armored personnel carriers and trucks on Highway 8 in March 1991
The oil fires caused were a result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait.
Remains of a downed F-16C
A Bradley IFV burns after being hit by Iraqi T-72 fire.
Shortly afterwards, the US VII Corps, in full strength and spearheaded by the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, launched an armored attack into Iraq early on 24 February, just to the west of Kuwait, surprising Iraqi forces. Simultaneously, the US XVIII Airborne Corps launched a sweeping "left-hook" attack across southern Iraq's largely undefended desert, led by the US 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). This movement's left flank was protected by the French Division Daguet. The 101st Airborne Division conducted a combat air assault into enemy territory. The 101st Airborne Division had struck 249 km (155 mi) behind enemy lines. It was the deepest air assault operation in history. Approximately 400 helicopters transported 2,000 soldiers into Iraq where they destroyed Iraqi columns trying to flee westward and prevented the escape of Iraqi forces. The 101st Airborne Division travelled a further 80 to 100 km (50 to 60 mi) into Iraq. By nightfall, the 101st cut off Highway 8 which was a vital supply line running between Basra and the Iraqi forces. The 101st had lost 16 soldiers in action during the 100-hour war and captured thousands of enemy prisoners of war.
The French force quickly overcame Iraq's 45th Infantry Division, suffering light casualties and taking a large number of prisoners, and took up blocking positions to prevent an Iraqi counterattack on the coalition's flank. The movement's right flank was protected by the United Kingdom's 1st Armoured Division. Once the allies had penetrated deep into Iraqi territory, they turned eastward, launching a flank attack against the elite Republican Guard before it could escape. The Iraqis resisted fiercely from dug-in positions and stationary vehicles, and even mounted armored charges.
Unlike many previous engagements, the destruction of the first Iraqi tanks did not result in a mass surrender. The Iraqis suffered massive losses and lost dozens of tanks and vehicles, while US casualties were comparatively low, with a single Bradley knocked out. Coalition forces pressed another 10 km into Iraqi territory, and captured their objective within three hours. They took 500 prisoners and inflicted heavy losses, defeating Iraq's 26th Infantry Division. A US soldier was killed by an Iraqi land mine, another five by friendly fire, and 30 wounded during the battle. Meanwhile, British forces attacked Iraq's Medina Division and a major Republican Guard logistics base. In nearly two days of some of the war's most intense fighting, the British destroyed 40 enemy tanks and captured a division commander.
Meanwhile, US forces attacked the village of Al Busayyah, meeting fierce resistance. The US force destroyed military hardware and took prisoners, while suffering no casualties.
On 25 February 1991, Iraqi forces fired a Scud missile at an American barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The missile attack killed 28 US military personnel.
The coalition's advance was much swifter than US generals had expected. On 26 February, Iraqi troops began retreating from Kuwait, after they had set 737 of its oil wells on fire. A long convoy of retreating Iraqi troops formed along the main Iraq–Kuwait highway. Although they were retreating, this convoy was bombed so extensively by coalition air forces that it came to be known as the Highway of Death. Thousands of Iraqi troops were killed. American, British, and French forces continued to pursue retreating Iraqi forces over the border and back into Iraq, eventually moving to within 240 km (150 mi) of Baghdad, before withdrawing back to Iraq's border with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
One hundred hours after the ground campaign started, on 28 February, President Bush declared a ceasefire, and he also declared that Kuwait had been liberated.
The end of active hostilities
Main article: 1991 uprisings in Iraq
Civilians and coalition military forces wave Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian flags as they celebrate the retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Persian Gulf Veterans National Medal of the US military
In coalition-occupied Iraqi territory, a peace conference was held where a ceasefire agreement was negotiated and signed by both sides. At the conference, Iraq was authorized to fly armed helicopters on their side of the temporary border, ostensibly for government transit due to the damage done to civilian infrastructure. Soon after, these helicopters and much of Iraq's military were used to fight an uprising in the south. The rebellions were encouraged by an airing of "The Voice of Free Iraq" on 2 February 1991, which was broadcast from a CIA-run radio station out of Saudi Arabia. The Arabic service of the Voice of America supported the uprising by stating that the rebellion was well supported, and that they would soon be liberated from Saddam.
In the North, Kurdish leaders took American statements that they would support an uprising to heart, and began fighting, hoping to trigger a coup d'état. However, when no US support came, Iraqi generals remained loyal to Saddam and brutally crushed the Kurdish uprising. Millions of Kurds fled across the mountains to Turkey and Kurdish areas of Iran. These events later resulted in no-fly zones being established in northern and southern Iraq. In Kuwait, the Emir was restored, and suspected Iraqi collaborators were repressed. Eventually, over 400,000 people were expelled from the country, including a large number of Palestinians, because of PLO support of Saddam. Yasser Arafat didn't apologize for his support of Iraq, but after his death, the Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas' authority formally apologized in 2004.
There was some criticism of the Bush administration, as they chose to allow Saddam to remain in power instead of pushing on to capture Baghdad and overthrowing his government. In their co-written 1998 book, A World Transformed, Bush and Brent Scowcroft argued that such a course would have fractured the alliance, and would have had many unnecessary political and human costs associated with it.
In 1992, the US Defense Secretary during the war, Dick Cheney, made the same point:
I would guess if we had gone in there, we would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.
And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional US casualties, and while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.
And the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam [Hussein] worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.
On 10 March 1991, 540,000 US troops began moving out of the Persian Gulf.
On 15 March 1991, the US-led coalition restored to power Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the unelected authoritarian ruler of Kuwait. Kuwaiti democracy advocates had been calling for restoration of Parliament that the Emir had suspended in 1986.