The Persian Gulf Wars were the two landmark conflicts which involved Iraq and the United States of America somewhere between the late 20th and early 21st century.

First Persian Gulf War

The First Persian Gulf War took place between January and February 1991. This was an armed conflict between Iraq and a coalition of 32 nations including the United States, Britain, Egypt, France, and Saudi Arabia. It was a consequence of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990; Iraq then annexed Kuwait, which it had long claimed.

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein declared that the invasion was a response to overproduction of oil in Kuwait, which had cost Iraq an estimated $14 billion a year when oil prices fell. Hussein also accused Kuwait of illegally pumping oil from Iraq’s Rumaila oil field.

Persian Gulf War President

The UN Security Council called for Iraq to withdraw and subsequently embargoed most trade with Iraq. On August 7, U.S. troops moved into Saudi Arabia to protect Saudi oil fields.

On November 29, the United Nations set January 15, 1991, as the deadline for a peaceful withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. When Saddam Hussein refused to comply, Operation Desert Storm was launched on January 18, 1991, under the leadership of U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The United State of America led coalition began a massive air war to destroy Iraq’s forces and military and civil infrastructure. Iraq called for terrorist attacks against the coalition and launched Scud missiles at Israel in an unsuccessful attempt to widen the war and break up the coalition and at Saudi Arabia.

History of Persian Gulf War

The main coalition forces invaded Kuwait and S Iraq on February 24 and, over the next four days, encircled and defeated the Iraqis and liberated Kuwait. When U.S. President George H. W. Bush declared a cease-fire on February 28, most of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait had either surrendered or fled.

Although the war was a decisive military victory for the coalition, Kuwait and Iraq suffered enormous property damage, and Saddam Hussein was not removed from power. In fact, Hussein was free to turn his attention to suppressing internal Shiite and Kurd revolts, which the U.S. led coalition did not support, in part because of concerns over the possible breakup of Iraq if the revolts were successful.

Gulf War Weapons

Coalition peace terms were agreed to by Iraq, but every effort was made by the Iraqis to frustrate implementation of the terms, particularly UN weapons inspections.

In 1993 the United States, France, and Britain launched air and cruise-missile strikes against Iraq in response to provocations, including an alleged Iraqi plan to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush. An Iraqi troop buildup near Kuwait in 1994 led the United States to send forces to Kuwait and nearby areas.

Continued resistance to weapons inspections led to bombing raids against Iraq, and trade sanctions imposed on Iraq remained in place, albeit with an emphasis on military-related goods until the second Gulf conflict.

Second Persian Gulf War

The Second Persian Gulf War which was otherwise also known as the Iraq War took place around March and April 2003. This war was mainly a U.S.-British invasion of Iraq. In many ways the final, delayed campaign of the First Persian Gulf War, it arose in part because the Iraqi government failed to cooperate fully with UN weapons inspections in the years following the first conflict.

The election of George W. Bush to the U.S. presidency returned to government many officials from his father’s administration who had favored removing Saddam Hussein from power in the first war. After September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the United States moved toward a doctrine of first-strike, pre-emptive war to eliminate threats to national security.

History of Persian Gulf War

As early as October 2001, U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld publicly suggested that military action against Iraq was possible, and in November President Bush asked Rumsfeld to undertake a war-plan review.

In January 2002, President Bush accused Iraq along with North Korea and Iran, as being part of “an axis of evil,” and with the Taliban forced from power in Afghanistan in early 2002, the administration’s attention turned to Iraq.

History of Persian Gulf War

Accusing Iraq of failing to abide by the terms of the 1991 cease-fire by developing and possessing weapons of mass destruction and by refusing to cooperate with UN weapons inspections and of supporting terrorism,

The president and other officials suggested that the “war on terrorism” might be expanded to include Iraq and became more forceful in their denunciations of Iraq for resisting UN arms inspections, called for “regime change” in Iraq, and leaked news of military planning for war.

History of Persian Gulf War

President Bush also called on the United Nations to act forcefully against Iraq or risk becoming “irrelevant.” As a result, Iraq announced in September 2002, that UN inspectors could return, but Iraqi slowness to agree on inspection terms and U.S. insistence on stricter conditions for Iraqi compliance stalled the inspectors’ return.

In October, Congress approved the use of force against Iraq, and in November the Security Council passed a resolution offering Iraq a “final opportunity” to cooperate on arms inspections. A strict inspections timetable was established, and active Iraqi compliance insisted on. Inspections resumed in late November.

Persian Gulf War Timeline

A December declaration by Iraq that it had no weapons of mass destruction was generally regarded as incomplete and uninformative, but by January 2003, UN inspectors had found no evidence of forbidden weapons programs.

However, they also indicated that Iraq was not actively cooperating with their efforts to determine if previously known or suspected weapons had been destroyed and weapons programs had been ended.

Despite much international opposition, including increasingly rancorous objections from France, Germany, and Russia, the United States and Britain continued their military buildup in areas near Iraq, insisting that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Turkey, which the allies hoped to use as a base for a northern front in Iraq, refused to allow the use of its territory, but most Anglo-American forces were in place in Kuwait and other locations by March.

History of Persian Gulf War

After failing to win the explicit UN Security Council approval desired by Britain because the British were otherwise largely opposed to war, President Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi president Hussein on Mar. 17, and two days later the war began with an airstrike against Hussein and the Iraqi leadership.

Ground forces almost exclusively Anglo-American and significantly smaller than the large international force assembled in the first war began invading the following day, surging primarily toward Baghdad, the southern oil fields, and port facilities; a northern front was opened by Kurdish and airborne Anglo-American forces late in March.

Persian Gulf War Summary

By mid-April, 2003, Hussein’s army and the government had collapsed, he himself had disappeared, and the allies were largely in control of the major Iraqi cities. The allies gradually turned their attention to the rebuilding of Iraq and the establishment of a new Iraqi government, but progress toward that end was hampered by lawlessness, especially in Baghdad, where widespread looting initially had been tolerated by U.S. forces.

History of Persian Gulf War

On May 1, President Bush declared victory in the war against Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction, however, were found, leading to charges that U.S. and British leaders had exaggerated the Iraqi biological and chemical threat in order to justify the war. Much of the intelligence used to justify the war subsequently was criticized as faulty by U.S. and British investigative bodies.

Hussein was captured in Dec. 2003. In 2004, he was transferred to Iraqi legal custody; tried and convicted of crimes against humanity, he was executed in 2006. U.S.-led occupation forces and, later, Iraqi security forces, struggled into 2007 with Iraqi and Islamic insurgencies and sectarian violence that military and civilian planners had failed to foresee.