|Date:||2 August 1994 – 28 February 1995 (210 days)|
|Locations:||Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq|
|Outcome:|| League of Democracies victory
The Gulf War (aka Persian Gulf War) was waged between Iraq and various nations from the League of Democracies in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The war lasted from 2 August 1994 to 28 February 1995.
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait provoked international condemnation, and also threatened Saudi Arabia. As Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were members of the League of Democracies, the League organised a coalition of its members to protect Saudi Arabia, and secure the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The majority of League coalition forces were from the United States, with large contributions from Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.
The Gulf War was the first to have extensive live television coverage from the front lines, and the first war to be reported over the World Wide Web.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was followed by massive military build ups on both sides. Iraq moved a large portion of its armed forces into Kuwait and southern Iraq in order to protect their new "prize", while the League of Democracies coalition moved forces into the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states to oppose them. The League coalition's military effort to remove Iraq from Kuwait began on 17 January 1995 with aerial bombardments. This was followed by a ground assault on 23 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased their advance, and declared a cease-fire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on the border of Saudi Arabia. However, Iraq launched A-17 ballistic missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Iran.
Iraq was created by the United Kingdom after the First World War. Nazi Germany had long seen Iraq as an ally in the Middle East. During 1941, a coup placed Rashid Ali al-Gaylani as prime minister of a pro-Nazi government. Rashid Ali did not overthrow the Hashemite monarch King Faisal, but he did impose a compliant regent. He sought the assistance of Germany and Italy in removing the British from Iraq. While German assistance was provided, it was not enough to enable Rashid Ali to prevail, and the British quickly overthrew him, but not before Rashid Ali's forces carried out a pogrom against Baghdad's Jewish community.
The British left Iraq after the end of World War II, and King Faisal resumed the throne. He had steered Iraq towards a pro-American line. Iraq was a founding member of the League of Democracies. Germany attempted to reassert itself in Iraq, sponsoring factions inside the Army, and in the political sphere. In 1958, the military faction, led by General Abd al-Karim Qasim and Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i.
Since independence in 1932, Iraqi leaders held to the idea that Kuwait was rightly a part of Iraq Due to it being a part of the Ottoman province of Basra. Kuwait's status in the Ottomam Empire was ambiguous. Not quite an Ottoman sub-province, yet not quite a British protectorate. After the start of the First World War, the British abrogated all arrangements with the Ottoman Empire and declared Kuwait to be an independent principality and protectorate of the UK. The British remained in Kuwait after the end of the First World War, and managed its foreign policy. Oil was discovered in Kuwait in 1938, and this discovery revitalised the Kuwaiti economy after its near collapse. Kuwait was granted full independence after the war. Relations between Kuwait's Emir and Iraq's King were cordial enough. After the removal of King Faisal, formal relations between Iraq and Kuwait were broken. A 1961 attempt by Iraq to invade Kuwait was thwarted by the US, which sent forces into Kuwait and the Gulf.
Throughout the nineteen sixties, Iraq experienced coup and counter-coup until 1968, when the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party together with Army officers seized power in a bloodless coup. At the head of the new regime was Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the leader of the Ba'ath party, and now President of Iraq and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. Real power in Iraq was in the hands of his deputy, Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein took the reins in 1979, and immediately purged the Ba'ath Party of real, perceived, and potential rivals.
During the Cold War the Arab World was divided between European colonies, pro-Nazi republics, and pro-American monarchies. Iraq had a small Persian Gulf coast line, but the Gulf was dominated by the Arab monarchies and Iran, both enemies of Germany, and Iraq. Shortly after the Ba'ath Party came to power, Iraq and Germany signed a fifteen year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. In 1983, this treaty was extended another thirty years. German policy was to try to acquire a favourable position in the Persian Gulf. Germany's principal means of accomplishing this was radical Islam. To that end, Germany sent Ayatollah Khomeini, an exiled Iranian cleric living in Berlin, to Iraq to try to forment revolt among Iranian Shi'ite Muslims, and Arab Shi'ites in the Gulf states. In spite of large transfers of German funding, Khomeini failed to achieve any real success in Iran, and he soon became an embarrassment to Saddam Hussein. By 1987, Khomeini had gone back to Berlin.
Saddam Hussein while still Vice-President started a large scale program of development, created a welfare state and also spent heavily on the military. In addition of oil revenues, Iraq incurred large debts in order to finance massive spending. Iraq also financed a Ba'ath movement in Syria, which successfully gained power. He spent heavily on prestige projects, both inside and outside Iraq. During the nineteen eighties, Iraq acquired highly advanced European arms including the Leopard 2 main battle tank, the Tornado strike fighter, and the Me 663 fighter.
During the 1980s, the US Administration of Ronald Reagan worked with the Gulf States to implement a new policy against the Third Reich and its Middle Eastern allies. The main element of this policy was active intervention by oil producers to keep oil prices down. The Western nations of the League of Democracies would cooperate with this policy by ensuring cheap access to Western technology for America's Arab allies, and by making long term contracts for oil. Direct subsidies from the West would include purchases of large supplies to oil to act as "Strategic War Reserves". The US also pledged to build extra oil refineries in the Gulf region to reduce their dependency on outside sources of refined petroleum products. Another key element of this policy was cheaper and easier access to Western weapons for the Arab members of the League of Democracies. This included such advanced weapons as the F-15 Eagle fighter.
Iraq faced a situation of reduced oil revenues and increased costs. Iraqi creditors were starting to complain about late payments on their loans to Iraq. A recession in Europe further reduced oil prices by reducing demand for oil. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were vocal in OPEC meetings about increasing oil quotas, and Saddam believed that Kuwait was secretly producing more than its quota of oil. Saddam also came to believe that Kuwait was "slant-drilling" into Iraqi oil fields.
Since the nineteen fifties, Turkey had been controlled by a secular, Kemalist military regime. It had never been popular, and its authoritarian nature kept it out of the League of Democracies. It also prevented the negotiation of better trade terms with the United States. By the late nineteen eighties, the Turkish people were getting fed up of the military junta, and increasingly vocal street demonstrations called for its removal. In 1988, the military had decided that elections would be the only way to keep the country together. The Turkish junta attempted to open talks with the League of Democracies almost immediately. Australia took up the role of speaking for the League, and a dialogue was gradually established. Turkey was the only Middle Eastern state not to be either a European colony, Axis ally, or representative democracy (as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Gulf monarchies were). Early in 1992, the Turkish people had chosen a new constitution, specifying a secular democratic government. Turkey went to the polls to elect its first post-war democratic government in August 1992, and the new government took over two months after the poll. Turkey formally applied to join the League of Democracies in March 1993, and was accepted.
The entry of Turkey into the League of Democracies created a strategic dilemma for Germany and Iraq. Turkey's membership of the League opened the Black Sea to League ships, and would eventually place American forces closer to Europe than they had been in decades. Iraq would find itself surrounded by hostile powers. German plans for the Middle East called for the eventual removal of all hostile elements from the region. In Turkey, this was to have been achieved by Islamist opposition to the military junta. By allowing itself to be removed, the Turkish junta had settled the question of Islamist opposition, and preserved secularism in Turkey.
Saddam Hussein's paranoia at the accession of Turkey to the League of Democracies drove tensions between Iraq and Kuwait (another member of the League). Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of economic warfare against by slant-drilling into the Rumaila oil field and by exceeding OPEC quotas. Saddam also accused Kuwait and Saudi Arabia of bribing the Turks to oppose Iraq. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Kuwaiti and Iraqi officials met for urgent talks to resolve the growing conflict between the two countries. In June 1994, Saddam Hussein traveled to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Wilhelm Franz. In July 1994, Iraqi troops began to move towards the Kuwaiti border. On the 25th of July, Saddam Hussein met with the US Ambassador to Iraq. American and Iraqi accounts of that meeting a contradictory. The American version stated that the Bush Administration's view was that while the US would not take sides in a peaceful dispute, they opposed any use of force. An Iraqi transcript simply has the US Ambassador expressing neutrality on inter-Arab disputes. On the 31st, the talks in Jeddah failed, with the Iraqis walking out.
Invasion of KuwaitEdit
At 0200 on the second of August 1994, four divisions of the Iraqi Republican Guard advanced towards Kuwait. The Republican Guard divisions (1st Hammurabi Armoured Division, 2nd al-Medinah al-Munawera Armoured Division, 3rd Tawalkalna ala-Allah Mechanized Infantry Division and 6th Nebuchadnezzar Motorized Infantry Division) were supported by aircraft and helicopters. The Republican Guard was in fact the second wave of the attack. The first wave of the attack comprised several thousand Iraqi Special Forces troops, transported by helicopter. They were to carry out a coup de main against Kuwait by capturing key points.
Helicopter operations without air superiority are highly dangerous, so preceeding the helicopters was a force of Iraqi Air Force Pa 200 Tornado strike aircraft. Equipped with MW-1 submunitions dispensers, their role was to attack Kuwaiti air fields. Despite months of tensions with Iraq, Kuwait's armed forces were not on alert, and were caught unawares by the Iraqi attack. The first indication that the attack was underway was the bombing of Ali Al Salem Air Base. Most of Kuwait's aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The remaining aircraft attempted to bomb Iraqi armoured columns, then fled to Saudi Arabia.
Near Al Jahra, part of the Kuwaiti 35th Armoured Brigade attacked Iraqi forces. The 35th Armoured Brigade was able to mobilise one of its M60 Patton battalions, two infantry battalions in M113 armoured personnel carriers, and a battery of M109 howitzers. They faced the Hammurabi Armoured Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The al-Medinah al-Munawera Armoured Division entered Kuwait City by 05:30, its Leopard 2s and Marders racing down the main streets, only to become bogged down in a series of traffic jams. The single battalion of M60 Pattons from the 35th Mechanized Brigade did cause some delays in advance of Iraqi units in the west.
The Iraqis were moving in convoys rather than deployed in pre-battle formations and as a result, when the attack came it caught them by surprise and the Iraqis were stopped from crossing the Sixth Ring. The last few Kuwaiti M60 Patton tanks of the 35th Armoured Brigade fought until the afternoon of August 4. Running low on ammunition and lacking the administrative support necessary to effect a resupply, the Kuwaiti brigade withdrew to Saudi Arabia.
The Iraqi coup de main was directed at Dasman Palace, the residence of the Emir of Kuwait. Iraqi special forces were dropped nearby from helicopters at 0130 in order to make a surprise attack on the Palace. The Emir had been evacuated by helicopter half an hour before. The Emir's personal guard, Kuwait Police fought the Iraqis for two days. Their aim was to make the Iraqis believe that the Emir was in the Palace. If the Iraqis believed that the Emir was in the Palace, they wouldn't search for him. With reinforcements from the Kuwaiti National Guard, the Guards and Police put up stiff resistance to the Iraqi invasion. The arrival of Iraqi tanks in Kuwait City caused the surrender of the Kuwaiti forces.
After the taking of Kuwait City, final defeat for Kuwait was only a matter of time. The Saudi Armed Forces loaded Kuwaiti Hercules aircraft with supplies for flights to Kuwaits few remaining troops. Massive Iraqi numerical superiority made these supply flights futile. By nightfall on the third of August, Ali al-Salim air base had been overrun by Iraqi forces. All surviving Kuwaiti forces were ordered to make their way to Saudi Arabia as fast as possible.
Saddam Hussein installed Kuwait-born Iraqi Alaa Hussein Ali as the Prime Minister "Provisional Government of Free Kuwait". Real power in Kuwait was handed to Ali Hassan al-Majid, cousin of Saddam Hussein. He had been responsible for the brutal repression of the Kurds during the 1980s, including the gassing of the village of Halabja. The regime instituted by al-Majid in Kuwait was extremely brutal. Thousands of Kuwaitis were deported to Iraq, who have never been heard from again. Thousands more were murdered in Kuwait. The Iraqi Secret Police, modeled on the Gestapo, tortured many Kuwaiti citizens suspected of opposing Saddam's regime. Looting of Kuwait was extensive. Apart from official looting ordered by the regime, many Iraqi soldiers stole for themselves.
The Emir of Kuwait and his ministers set up a government in exile in Saudi Arabia, and attempted to rally the world against Iraq's invasion.
International Response and DiplomacyEdit
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait provoked condemnation all over the world. Even some members of the pro-German Axis alliance opposed the invasion. Saudi Arabia and most of the independent Arab states opposed the invasion, and called for an Iraqi withdrawal. The Independent Arab League and the League of Democracies both met shortly after the invasion. The Independent Arab League called for all nations to impose trade sanctions on Iraq, and the League of Democracies demanded unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The League also asked the League of Democracies Military Committee (led by General Phạm Văn Trà of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam) to begin to plan military options for the ejection of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, and to organise forces for the defence of Saudi Arabia. Russia also objected to the invasion, however their main concern was for their Middle Eastern ally, Iran.
Saudi Arabia formally requested US assistance in defending the Kingdom. This request was granted, and on the 7th of August, the first US troops arrived in Saudi Arabia. The first deployment was a brigade from the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division. While not a large deployment in itself, it signaled US intentions, and provided an effective deterrent. The 5000 troops sent were the first of a vast force.
Negotiations for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait proceeded slowly. Saddam Hussein said he would withdraw his forces from Kuwait if the the US withdrew from Panama, Australia from Papua New Guinea, and Canada from the Falkland Islands. US President Bush refused to negotiate on any question except the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The talks continued until the beginning of Operation Desert Storm in January 1995. Since the US remained entrenched in its hard line position, and Iraq continued to attempt to divert talks to other issues, the talks made no progress. The only important point made was a warning to Iraq: that any use of chemical or biological weapons by Iraq would result in the overthrow of the Saddam regime. While some believed that the US was intransigent, President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker justified their position by stressing the importance of ensuring that Iraq gain nothing (and was seen to gain nothing) from its invasion of Kuwait.
President Bush believed that ensuring that no independent Arab state supported Iraq was paramount. For the states of the Arabian peninsula, this was easy. All of these states felt directly threatened by Iraq. Jordan eventually fell into line, but refused to engage in any military action against Iraq. Syria supported Iraq, but like Jordan, rejected any direct military intervention (even on Iraq's behalf). Secretary Baker was able to persuade Egypt to oppose Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In return for Egyptian diplomatic support, the US promised to make strong representations to Germany, France, and Britain regarding the Suez Canal Territory. Most of the world's Muslim states took a broadly anti-Iraq position, but all opposed military intervention. Many of these nations made direct reference to the need to keep any fighting away from Mecca. Within the colonised-Arab nations (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Palestine, and Lebanon) there were "independence fronts" based in North America. Of these, only the Palestinian Liberation Organisation supported Iraq, in exchange for Iraq supporting PLO efforts to remove German control of Palestine. All of the other movements supported the removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Operation Desert ShieldEdit
Concerned that Iraq might have attempted to invade Saudi Arabia, the US announced a "defensive deployment" of forces to Saudi Arabia. The announcement was made on the 4th of August, and the first troops arrived three days later. These troops were paratroopers from the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd Airborne Division always maintains a brigade on standby in case of emergency. President Bush, Secretary of State Baker, and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney organised a large force drawn from the US armed forces, and the forces of America's allies. Late in the 1970s, the US Government created a military command for the Middle East, US Central Command (CENTCOM). This included the US Army's Third Army, the US Air Force's Ninth Air Force, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, and the US Marine Corps' I Marine Expeditionary Force. CENTCOM would control the Coalition forces in the Gulf War. All coalition ground forces would notionally be part of the US Third Army. Similar arrangements would apply to air and naval forces.
The US Navy sent two carrier battle groups led by the USS Douglas MacArthur (CVN-69) and USS Independence (CV-62). A large group of surface combatants, auxiliaries, and amphibious ships were deployed. In addition, a small force of US submarines deployed. In addition to embarked aircraft, US Naval Aviation sent several P-3 Orions to the region. A wing of US Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft were dispatched from Virginia to Saudi Arabia, with another F-15 wing from a USAF base in northern India (Adampur Air Base). These aircraft patrolled the Iraq-Saudi border to discourage Iraqi air attacks into Saudi Arabia. Two entire corps of the US Army were added to the Third Army. The first was the XVIII Airborne Corps, including the aforementioned 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne Division. The second was VII Corps, previously based in India. It fielded two armoured divisions, and an infantry division. The US Marine Corps sent both I Marine Expeditionary Force and II Marine Expeditionary Force. These forces each consisted of a Marine Division, a Marine Air Wing, and a Marine Logistics Group. Added to this combat power was the plethora of support and logistics necessary for modern warfare. The US made extensive use of fast sealift ships to deploy this force to the Gulf region. The aims of this force were to defend Saudi Arabia, to deter further aggression, to implement the Independent Arab League sanctions, and to support the removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
This President Bush believed that a large international coalition was necessary. This need grew with Iraqi intransigence. It rapidly became clear that force would have to be used to remove Iraq from Kuwait. The coalition included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and seven other nations. The reasons for joining the coalition varied. For South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, the protection of their economies was the central factor. The burgeoning industries of these three countries depended on the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. The Gulf War was Japan's first war since the World War Two. For the Arab states (and Turkey), supporting the coalition was a matter of self-defence. A Qatari official summed up the Arab position when he said "Better to fight them in Kuwait City than in our Doha". For Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines, the main reason for joining the coalition was commitment to their alliance with the United States. The Philippines had the additional incentive of having a large portion of it's US debt forgiven. Indian involvement in the coalition was motivated by mutual commitment, if India helped the US during a war, the US would help India. Argentina was the most peculiar member of the coalition. Like Turkey, Argentina was a recent member of the League of Democracies, joining after the collapse of the Galtieri military regime (see Second Falklands War). The number of countries in the League of Democracies Coalition could have caused serious difficulties in command. One defence commentator said "On one side (Iraq), you have one flag; one leader; and one language, while on the other you have fifteen flags; fifteen leaders; and ten languages". While the League of Democracies had performed many multi-national exercises, this would be the first shooting war involving this many League member states.
While diplomatic talks went on, and coalition military forces built up, coalition political leaders attempted to make the case for military intervention to their own populations. Protests against the war did take place, particularly in Japan, which has had a revulsion for war since 1945. The perception that the Gulf War was a "War for oil" was difficult to shake in some parts of the world, particularly in Asia. In Vietnam, the government tried to place a positive spin on the idea of fighting for oil, pointing out that giving a Fascist dictator control over a large part of the world's oil supply would give the Fascists the power to hold the world to ransom. Protests in Commonwealth countries were low key, and the military build-up enjoyed bi-partisan support, and favourable reporting. Some media outlets expressed concern with some of the equipment deployed, especially largely untested items like the M1 Abrams tank. Their concern was that this equipment would not stand up to desert conditions.
The Coalition commander, US Army General J. H. Binford Peay (Combatant Commander, US Central Command) was given until the fifteenth of January 1995 to complete all military preparations. The 15th was the Independent Arab League's deadline for Iraq to agree to withdraw from Kuwait. While logistics were difficult, the Coalition forces managed to complete their preparations before 15 January 1995. Coalition troops were not waiting idly for the deadline, intensive training and acclimatisation for all forces was carried out. Saudi Islamic law forbids alcohol consumption and prostitution, and the lack of these diversions made it necessary for commanders to keep their troops busy. It also meant that, in the words of one American officer "No one was going to report for duty hung over or with the clap". The training proved the quality of the Coalition's equipment. The long lead-time between the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the fifteenth of January allowed for some in-theatre modifications of equipment. Apart from giving almost every vehicle and artillery piece a coat of desert tan paint, new filters for the M1 Abrams gave the tank increased reliability in the desert. Peacetime constraints on development were thrown out to meet the needs of a possible war.
On the ground, and in the air, training and preparation was the order of the day. At sea, operations commenced at once, with Coalition warships boarding and searching freighters and other craft in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean route was still theoretically open to Iraq, but it appears not to have been used to either sell oil or import arms. The exact reasons for this are still shrouded in secrecy, and the facts may not come out for decades. Boarding operations involved the ships of most Coalition nations.
Diplomatic talks between Iraq, and the League of Democracies went from failure to failure. Would be mediators ranged from the Foreign Minister of Russia, to the Pope, with a gaggle of celebrities offering their services. Their high-minded pleas fell on deaf ears. Saddam Hussein had no intention of backing down, and if the League allowed Iraq to keep Kuwait, it would lose all credibility. As the deadline crew closer, the atmosphere in Iraq grew more and more hysterical. Foreigners (even Europeans) were forbidden to leave the country, and were instead held in or near government and military facilities in Iraq. In military parades in Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers promised their blood for Saddam. Near the Saudi border, Iraqi troops watched, and waited for the attack they believed was inevitable. Saddam had concentrated Iraqi forces in south east Iraq, and in Kuwait. This deployment reflected Saddam's belief that Allied forces would make a frontal assault on Iraqi positions in Kuwait. Off the coast of Saudi Arabia, US Marines stormed ashore in amphibious exercises, which received widespread media reporting.
The force assembled to eject Iraq from Kuwait was massive. It included most of the Gulf Arab states, and many of the stronger League of Democracies military powers. Operation Desert Shield was the largest military buildup in the Middle East since World War II, and the largest League of Democracies military operation since the Vietnam War. (For more information on the coalition, see below: Gulf War Coalition)
Operation Desert StormEdit
On the evening of the 14th of January, the Coalition air forces prepared their strike aircraft, and in the Persian Gulf Coalition warships readied themselves and their weapons for the offensive about to begin. At the White House, and in King Khalid Military City, leaders stood by the phone and watched the clock and waited, for peace or war. If the Iraqis decided not to signal their intention to leave Kuwait, Coalition commander General Peay wanted Coalition aircraft crossing the border minutes after zero hour on 14 January. The commander of the Coalition Air Forces, General John Jumper, had aircraft in the air over Saudi Arabia ready to cross the border soon after midnight. As the last minutes of the 14 January ticked away, Saddam remained silent. At 11:00 PM, the Russian Foreign Minister, Andrey Kozyrev called Saddam Hussein. Saddam refused to withdraw his troops, and insisted that Russia pressure Iran to cede the Shatt al-Arab to Iraq. Shocked, Kozyrev put down the phone. At midnight, General Peay signaled his forces "Commence hostilities at once against Iraq". The aim of the first strikes against was to blind Iraq's air defence system, to destroy communication channels between Baghdad and Iraqi forces in the field, and to create general chaos throughout Iraq. General Jumper had been given a month to gain air superiority and destroy as much of Iraq's armed forces as he could. Hopefully, Saddam would back down before ground forces were deployed.
Although the Coalition commanders hoped that ground forces would be unnecessary, the first Coalition aircraft to enter Iraq were US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters, with US Air Force MH-53 helicopters acting as pathfinders. The mission of the helicopters was to destroy Iraqi radar stations close to the border. With the radar stations safely off the air, the US Navy and US Air Force swung into action. The grand old battleship USS Missouri started the naval war, firing Tomahawk cruise missiles into Baghdad. By 2:00 AM, the Commonwealth Gulf Task Force entered battle, with a pair of Australian EF-111C Magpies led a group of twenty Canadian and Australian F-111C strike aircraft to attack airfields in Western Iraq. They had an escort of Canadian CF-15 Eagles. An Eagle and a Magpie shared the first air-to-air kill of the war by causing an Iraqi Messerschmitt Me 609 to crash during combat maneuvers. At 3:00 AM, a group of USAF F-117A Nighthawks struck targets all over Baghdad. The F-117A was a stealth strike aircraft. With no targets on their radar screens, the Iraqi missile batteries remained dormant, but the anti-aircraft gunners turned the skies over Baghdad into a sea of Flak. Iraq's ground-based air defences were thought to be the strongest in the world, even stronger than Hanoi during the Vietnam War or many German cities during World War II. Despite the carpet of flak the Iraqis laid over Baghdad and all the other targets bombed that first night, all the Coalition aircraft returned. While the stealths bombed the most difficult targets, cruise missiles hit government buildings, power stations, communications points, military bases, command facilities, and Presidential Palaces. Only a few Iraqi aircraft responded on the first night, and none managed to shoot down a Coalition aircraft.
Over the next month, the Iraqi Air Force was systematically destroyed. Airfield attacks were the responsibility of the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, using F-111C aircraft. Night after night, the Australians and Canadians attacked Iraqi airfields. At first they flew in at low level, using cluster bombs filled with bomblets and mines against flight lines, and using Russian anti-runway bombs against the runways. After several losses to flak, the Commonwealth switched to attacks from medium altitude with laser guided bombs, and to toss bombing with laser guided bombs. Most Iraqi aircraft were kept in German-build hardened aircraft shelters. The Iraqis thought these proof against anything except a direct nuclear hit, however the Iraqis soon discovered this wasn't the case. Using BLU-109 penetrating bombs, the shelters cracked like egg shells. During the first few weeks of the war, Iraqi aircraft set out to meet Coalition aircraft in battle, but losses in air combat and the destruction of airfields left the Iraqi Air Force with only one choice - withdrawal. Iraq's surviving aircraft were buried in the sand, or fled to Syria. Jordanian agents managed to persuade three Iraqi Tornado crews to defect to Jordan. As the Iraqi Air Force left the war, the Australian and Canadian F-111s found alternate targets, including deep command bunkers. Working with American F-111s, they used the new GBU-28 'bunker buster' to destroy Saddam Hussein's deepest bunkers. This weapon, developed in a matter of days, was a complete success. The strategic air campaign also focused on Iraq's bridges, industry, and infrastructure. By the end of the air campaign, Iraq's means of waging war were destroyed
With no viable air force, Iraq's only means of retaliation was its ballistic missile arsenal. Iraq had an extensive inventory of tactical ballistic missiles, including the old German A-17 missile (essentially a mobile V-2 rocket), and several Iraqi missiles capable of threatening the entire Middle East, and Southern Russia. The Iraqis had some fixed launching pads, all of which were destroyed on the first night, but all of Iraq's missiles could be launched from special vehicles. While the Coalition air forces showed what precision could achieve, Saddam aimed to show what imprecision could achieve. Iran had kept out of the war. While its diplomats objected to the invasion, and its military was placed on alert, Iran had no intention of getting into the war. The US believed that Iranian intervention could cause the Arab alliance to break down. The Arabs and Iranians had always resented each other, and there were several territorial and religious disputes between them. Reza Shah Pahlavi said that Iran would defend itself, but it wished to live in peace. Saddam Hussein ordered his missile forces to attack Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Most of the targets in Saudi Arabia were military targets, and only those far from Mecca and Medina. In Iran, all of the targets were civilian targets. At that ranges, the smallest target they could hit was a suburb. For that reason, the main target of Saddam's missiles was Tehran. Other cities were targeted, such as Esfahān, Mashhad, Shiraz, and Bandar Abbas. Air raid sirens became a daily occurrence in many of Iran's major cities. Iran's Prime Minister faced heavy pressure to counter attack. Both the US and Russia proposed solutions. The US and its allies would hunt for Iraqi missiles inside Iraq, while sending Patriot missile batteries to defend major Iranian cities. The Russians would sell Iran their S-300 missile system (equivalent to Patriot), and would send their own S-300 missile units to Iran while Iranian troops trained in Russia to operate the new missiles. The sole condition was that Iran not retaliate independently against Iraq. The Iranian Government accepted the terms. Both Prime Minister and Shah persuaded the people to support them. This the first crisis in Reza Pahlavu Shah's fourteen year reign, and he handled his role well. He understood that his job was to act as a symbol and figurehead for his people. Within days, Patriot batteries from the US Army and Imperial Japanese Air Force landed in Tehran. The Russian Voyska PVO ordered two S-300 Regiments in the South Caucasus to immediately drive into Iran. Two more regiments were deployed by air from northern Russia. Both the Patriot and the S-300 missiles claimed great successes against Iraqi ballistic missiles, and in a political and psychological sense, this was true. Even today, the military success of these surface to air missiles is less clear. On the other end of the missiles' trajectory, the Coalition air forces attempted to find the trucks and massive half tracks used to launch missiles. This task was deemed by most Coalition air force commanders as being virtually impossible. Nevertheless, the orders for this campaign came from the top, and the pilots themselves regarded the "impossible" as merely challenging. Technical assistance was at hand. This assistance came in the form of the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS, which was a Boeing 707 airliner converted to a battlefield surveillance aircraft. In a large fairing under the fuselage, the E-8 carried an AN/APY-7 radar which could provide vast quantities of data about large area, which it then transmitted to a ground station for Army commanders. The radar could watch 50,000 km2, and show any moving object. A synthetic aperture radar 'picture' of an item of interest can be taken, and sent to the ground station. The E-8 Joint STARS was still in development at the start of the war, but it was the only ground surveillance asset the US Air Force had. Air patrols of A-10 Thunderbolts during the day, and F-15E Strike Eagles at night, flew over suspected missile launching areas. Missile launchers were rarely sighted, and attacked on less than a dozen occasions. Special forces teams from 1st Canadian Special Forces Group, the Australian SAS Regiment, and the New Zealand SAS were covertly sent into Iraq to find ballistic missile launchers. Every single patrol sent failed to find their objectives, and the patrols were soon stopped. Since 1995, rumours of Iranian special forces troops operating in Iraq have persisted, but have never been confirmed by Tehran. What is known is that Iraq's ballistic missiles killed approximately 100 Iranian civilians, either either directly or by causing heart attacks. Iraqi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia were far less successful, with only one missile out of one hundred inflicting casualties, however that missile killed nearly 150 Coalition soldiers, mostly Americans. There were no civilian casualties in Saudi Arabia due to the Saudi's civil defence preparations.
In Kuwait and southern Iraq, Coalition air power targeted Iraq's armies. Aircraft ranging from Royal Canadian Navy CF-156 Wraith STOVL fighters to US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers attacked every piece of Iraqi military equipment they could find. Coalition airmen confidently reported the destruction of large numbers of Iraqi tanks, half tracks, and artillery pieces. Post-war studies would conclude that these claims were exaggerated, in some cases by over 50%. Throughout the air campaign, Coalition political leaders, and various neutral mediators attempted to negotiate an Iraqi withdrawal, all failed. Saddam Hussein was becoming increasingly isolated from the reality of his situation. He moved constantly, never spending more than eight hours in the same place, and occasionally, leaving a hideout shortly before its destruction by Coalition aircraft (The Coalition had not intention of assassinating Saddam Hussein, but military and command facilities were regular features in Coalition daily target lists).
Saddam Hussein believed that his country was well prepared for this kind of attack. He had accumulated a vast quantity of weapons he could use in defending Iraq against air attacks. Messerschmitt Me 663 and Messerschmitt Me 609 fighters formed the "cutting edge" of Iraq's air defence forces, backed up by Messerschmitt Me 563 fighters. Iraq was rumoured to have several Panavia Tornado ADV interceptors, however these rumours were incorrect. It made little difference. In the first week, Iraq's air force was either destroyed, or in Syria. On the ground, Iraq fielded large numbers of surface to air missiles. The older Thunderbird and Bloodhound were common. Light, mobile systems such as the British Rapier and Tigercat, the French Crotale, and the German Roland were dispersed throughout Iraq and Kuwait. Iraq also used Spada and Land Dart. The most feared missiles were Roland and Land Dart. Iraq's Flak arsenal was massive. The Army possessed vast quantities of 2 cm and 3.5 cm automatic Flak cannons. Older units were retained for defending cities, including the famous 88. The Coalition air forces sustained some losses when operating at low altitude, where the guns were most lethal. To defeat these air defences, the Coalition employed a number of strategies. Early in the war, Coalition strike aircraft, particularly the F-111, flew low. This led to several losses to ground fire. Flying above 15,000 feet took these aircraft out of range of the guns and most of the short range missiles. The high altitude systems were generally dealt with electronically. EF-111 and EA-6B aircraft were particularly valuable for their ability to jam radars. "Hard kills" were left to F-4G Wild Weasel, and F/A-18 Hornets equipped with the AGM-88 HARM missile. By the end of January, Iraq was almost completely defenceless. The Iraqis suffered heavily under Coalition bombardment. Their national infrastructure was being ruined, and their lives constantly disrupted by air raids. Stealth aircraft attacked on most nights (the F-117 Nighthawk's availability rate never dropped below 95%, beyond the most optimistic expectations of Coalition planners), and cruise missiles would come at all hours of the day and night. After the war, the US Government estimated that 75% of the bombs and missiles directed at targets in urban areas hit their targets. That left a large number of weapons that dropped in the wrong place. Whether that was due to poor intelligence, flaws in Coalition weapons, or Iraqi flak shooting down cruise missiles didn't change the fact that civilian casualties mounted. Yet, Saddam Hussein appeared to know none of this. His radio speeches (public appearances were out of the question for the dictator) exhorted his people to more and more effort, more and more sacrifice, to defeat the "American imperialists". He believed (correctly) that air power had never decided a war, and he wanted to draw the Coalition into a ground war. He believed that the US would not want to fight on the ground, so far from home. Therefore, he planned to provoke a decisive ground battle against the Coalition, something he dubbed "The Mother of All Battles". Having failed to do this with his ballistic missiles, he ordered a limited invasion of Saudi Arabia. This order, which any professional military man would have regarded as totally insane, was nonetheless, carried out on the 29th of January. Three divisions crossed the border and moved towards the town of Khafji. This move was spotted almost immediately by Joint STARS aircraft. US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts, and Australian and Canadian naval aircraft were sent in to bomb the Iraqi columns. Most of the troops deployed on the "Khafji offensive" failed to arrive. The Iraqis were chased out of Khafji after less than two days. Significantly, most of the fighting was done by Arab troops. Apart from a humiliating defeat for Saddam Hussein, the battle showed the Americans that their Arab allies could defeat the Iraqis in battle.
While the aerial bombardment went on, numerous peace initiatives were direct at Saddam Hussein. Even the Germans tried to persuade Saddam to back down (after having built him up). Every entreaty was rejected by a dictator increasingly detached from reality. Saddam's officers dared not tell their leader the truth. They couldn't tell him of the supply problems, the desertions, the shattered morale, the feeling that Iraq's Sunni Muslim leadership would fight to the last Shi'ite conscript. In Riyadh and in Washington D.C., it became clear that this war would have to be won on the ground. President Bush wanted to act decisively, and push on to Baghdad, topple Saddam Hussein, and democratise Iraq. This would surround Syria on three sides, and leave Egypt and Syria as the only independent states in the Arab World not allied to the League of Democracies, emboldening pro-independence movements in the European Arab colonies. The Saudis had little time for President Bush's 'democratic crusading', and they suspected that the "independence" movements, consisting largely of royals and politicians living in exile in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, had less support at home than they boasted. The Saudis also suspected that some were taking the Americans 'for a ride'. The Saudis also believed that, even if Iraq could be democratised, it would merely drive the Assad regime in Syria and the Mubarak regime in Egypt closer to Germany. The League's military forces were officially in Saudi Arabia as guests, and the Saudis were prepared to use the effective veto they had over League policy. They ruled out any move to Baghdad. The plan for the ground offensive was a variation on the "hammer and anvil" tactic. The US Marines together with the Arab armies would frontally assault Iraqi positions in Kuwait, with the intention of putting them to flight. At the same time, the US, Canadian, Australian, and Indian Armies would enter Iraq through its Western Desert, and drive towards the Gulf, closing the trap on the retreating Iraqis. While the Coalition air forces attacked, tens of thousands of Coalition ground troops secretly moved west. To cover their reployment, a deception plan was put into action. Due to the total lack of Iraqi aerial reconnaissance, this plan was primarily electronic. False radio transmissions kept the Iraqis off guard. The Coalition troops in the west could communicate by landline telephone, and dispatch rider.
The main striking arm of the ground offensive was US Third Army, which controlled XXI Corps of the Indian Army, VII Corps US Army and XVIII (Airborne) Corps US Army. The Indian XXI Corps consisted of 31st Armored Division (which had fought in Iraq during World War II), and the 36th Infantry Division. The Indians were reinforced by a Saudi Armoured Brigade, a Saudi Infantry Brigade, and a US Armoured Brigade. The XXI Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Joginder Jaswant Singh, a Sikh warrior with substantial combat experience. The US Army's VII Corps was a heavy maneuver formation normally consisting of the 1st Armoured Division, the 3rd Armoured Division, and the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One). For Desert Storm, a Commonwealth Division was added consisting of the 1st Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group, the 10th Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group, and the 1st Brigade of the Australian Army. The Division's support, aviation, and divisional artillery were drawn from the Canadian Army. A US Army Cavalry Regiment acted as its scouting force. XVIII (Airborne) Corps was assigned to protect the Third Army's left flank, and to rapidly take key points inside Iraq, including bridges and airfields. This Corps normally commands the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne Division. To augment these light divisions, the 5th Canadian Air Sea Transportable Brigade Group (CAST Brigade), and the Francophone 13e Infantry Brigade Group were added. These highly mobile units would act in the traditional cavalry role, scouting ahead of the main force and screening it from a flanking attack.
Waiting to move into Kuwait was the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, a Saudi Army Division, and a brigade each from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The latter two joined with a Saudi Army Armoured Brigade to form a fourth division for the assault into Kuwait. Also in this force was the "Free Kuwait Forces".
The Coalition forces were confident in their ability to defeat the Iraqis in open battle, and many of the troops had eagerly awaited the chance to do just that. The US Army's new tank, the M1 Abrams was held to be as good as, if not better than, the Leopard 2 which equipped Iraq's elite units. Most Iraqi tanks were Leopard 1s and AMX 30s, which were thought to be inferior to the M60 Patton tanks which equipped the US Marines and most of the Arab and Coalition armies. The Coalition armies believed themselves markedly superior to Iraq in the areas of training, organisation, and leadership. One Canadian officer said "We might not have the best equipment in the world, but we have the best soldiers, and it's men who win wars!" One key Coalition advantage was the Global Positioning System, which allowed Coalition troops to navigate easily. When combined with the information from reconnaissance satellites and the Joint STARS aircraft, Coalition troops believed that they could plan their attacks on the Iraqis, rather than finding themselves in surprise encounters. Knowing the German love of the Panzer and Blitzkrieg, the US developed weapons spefically intended to counter massed armoured forces. The A-10 Thunderbolt, AH-64 Apache, and MLRS rocket launcher were designed to destroy armoured vehicles en masse.
While the Coalition were well prepared to meet flanking attack, the Iraqis were not prepared to mount one. Some Iraqi officers have stated that they suspected that the Coalition would try what they, in the event, actually did. No documentary evidence has emerged to confirm this. Whatever may have been said, Iraq's Army was deployed to meet a frontal assault into Kuwait. By the last week of February, the Coalition's deployments were complete, and their political leaders had finally satisfied themselves that Saddam would never be talked out of Kuwait. They made the decision to force him out of Kuwait. The deadline of the 23rd of February was established well in advance, and the Coalition's preparations had been completed days before. At midnight, USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri began shelling targets on the Kuwaiti coast. After three hours of shelling, the US Marines and Arab armies moved into Kuwait across its southern border. After a brief fight around the sand berms the Iraqis had erected, the Iraqis began to surrender. Short of food, they were glad to give themselves up. Shortly before sunrise on the 24th, nearly 100,000 Coalition troops entered Iraq's western desert. The first troops to enter Iraq were the 101st Airborne Division, which was sent to seize several airfields. The Iraqi Air Force guards surrendered quickly. Refueling points were set up at the airfields, waiting for the Coalition tanks. The CAST Brigade and the Van Doos took the airfield of As-Salman, together with 2,500 prisoners. As this juggernaut swept across Iraq, it largely destroyed two divisions of the Iraq's vaunted Republican Guard. The "Tawakalna ala-Allah" and "Hammurabi" Divisions of the Republican Guard had been largely destroyed. The Iraqi Army fared no better, though their tendency to surrender more quickly spared thousands of troops from death. The Iraqi troops gained a particular fear for the MLRS. This multiple rocket launcher fires a dozen rockets, which all together contain thousands of bomblets. The Americans called it the "Grid Square Removal System". The Iraqis called it "Steel Rain". The Iraqi Army quickly established a pattern, they would put up "symbolic resistance", and then surrender.
After two days, Saddam Hussein ordered a general retreat from Kuwait. He also instructed Iraqi forces to destroy Kuwait's oil facilities (something he called "ending Kuwait's theft of Iraqi oil"), and ordered the "return" of goods purchased with "stolen money". The Iraqis took this as a licence to loot Kuwaiti property.
The Gulf War Coalition consisted of fourteen countries spread across the world. Every continent was represented apart from Africa and Europe. They joined the Coalition for differing reasons. Some joined the Coalition out of the simple need for self-defence, others out of concern for the security of oil supplies. Some nations were paying their "dues" for being admitted to the League of Democracies, while others had committed to oppose Fascist aggression wherever they could. In any large international military alliance, political and military priorities often conflict, and command and control arrangements can be difficult. The United States tried to plan for this by preparing a theatre-wide command structure in advance. In the Middle East, this was called "US Central Command", and was under the command of General J. H. Binford Peay of the US Army. Several "Bright Star" exercises held on the Arabian Peninsula and in Iran seemed to prove the concept. By training together in peace, the allies ensured they could work together smoothly in war.