THE 1991 GULF WAR
During the early morning hours of January 17, 1991, an American-led strike began in the skies over Baghdad that damaged Iraqi air bases, missile sites and chemical and nuclear plants. Hundreds of aircraft from the U.S., Britain and other allies participated in the massive raid on the Iraqi capital.
The strike represented the moment that the allies' "Operation Desert Shield" aimed at protecting other nations from Iraq's alleged aggression became "Operation Desert Storm", a war with the specific goal of freeing the small emirate of Kuwait from Iraqi forces.
The conflict that led to war had intensified in July 1990, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accused the Persian Gulf states Kuwait and United Arab Emirates of flooding the oil market and costing Iraq billions in lost revenue.
On July 31, envoys from Iraq and Kuwait met to discuss oil and other contentious issues, but talks broke down just a day later. Iraq invaded Kuwait, breaking through the country's borders in a pre-dawn raid and quickly seizing control.
In an unanimous vote, the United Nations Security Council including the U.S. condemned Iraq's incursion and ordered Saddam to pull his troops out of Kuwait. When the Iraqi leader refused to comply, the U.S., Britain and their allies began to mass troops in nearby Saudi Arabia.
By December, the U.N. Security Council had approved a measure authorizing use of "all necessary means" to pry Iraq from Kuwait if Saddam refused to withdraw his troops by Jan. 15, 1991. When the deadline passed with no Iraqi withdrawal, U.S. President George H.W. Bush had a congressional war resolution in hand and hundreds of thousands of troops prepared for war.
During the early days of the war, U.S. and allied forces focused on neutralizing Iraqi Scud missile sites, but despite this Iraq struck targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia, both U.S. allies. By Jan. 30, Allied Commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said the U.S.-led force had control of the skies over Iraq and Kuwait. Air battles with Iraqi jets continued in succeeding days.
On February 10, 1991, Saddam addressed the Iraqi people, promising victory and applauding them for "steadfastness, faith and light" in battling the allied "warplanes of shame." Just five days later, Saddam offered to withdraw from Kuwait, but only under certain conditions, including an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories and an allied payment of Iraq's rebuilding costs. President Bush rejected the offer, calling it a "cruel hoax."
President Bush also rejected a Soviet-brokered peace plan and, on Feb. 22, announced a next-day deadline for Iraq to retreat from Kuwait and avoid a ground war. Saddam's forces remained in place, and had by that point set fire to one-sixth of Kuwait's 950 oil wells, according to press reports.
The U.S.-led ground assault on the Iraqi military began in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, with President Bush telling Americans in a televised address he had authorized General Schwarzkopf to use "all forces available, including ground forces, to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait."
Allied forces reached the capital, Kuwait City, the following day. By Feb. 26, Brigadier General Richard Neal in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia told "USA Today" that Iraqi forces were "in full retreat." Saddam said his forces were leaving Kuwait in accordance with the Soviet-backed peace plan. On Feb. 27, the Kuwaiti flag was again raised over Kuwait City.
In the wake of the U.S.-Iraq conflict, tensions continued for the next decade. Periodic sparring over military issues, such as U.S. enforcement of U.N.-mandated "no-fly" zones over Iraq's northern and southern regions, have led to several skirmishes, such "Operation Desert Fox" in late 1998.
In 2002, with another President George Bush in the White House expressing concern about Iraq's military strength and Iraq still bristling from harsh U.N. economic sanctions, questions remain about whether another U.S.-Iraq conflict looms on the horizon.
-- By Greg Barber, Online NewsHour