Start date: 1991, 2004
Total length: 120-135 miles
Official purpose: Defense
In August 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, a small, oil-rich monarchy along the Persian Gulf. The act was widely condemned, and the United Nations approved military action against Iraq. In early 1991, the United States military led an effort that quickly expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait; fighting continued into Iraq, whose military suffered tremendous losses. After what became known as the first Persian Gulf War, the U.N. established a demilitarized zone to separate the countries. With American help, after the war Kuwait began building a fence 120 miles long. (The entire border measures about 135 miles.) The U.N. has maintained a presence along the border.
A decade later, it was not Iraq but the United States that wanted to cross the border. In March 2003, U.N. observers discovered holes in the border fence; Kuwaiti workers, apparently under instruction by the U.S. military, had cut holes in the border fence that were large enough for military vehicles to pass through. The U.N. also witnessed U.S. military activity in the demilitarized zone. Days later, the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq.
Afterwards, Kuwaiti officials decided that the fence was not sufficiently strong or durable. In 2004, Kuwait announced plans to add an iron partition along the entire 135-mile border.