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Gulf War (1991)

Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The justification was an old territorial claim on the Gulf state, but the main reasons were economic.

Iraq had built enormous debts with its neighbours, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, during the Iran-Iraq War and one solution was to annex oil-rich Kuwait.

The Iraq invasion was swift and successful. Saddam Hussein appointed a cousin as Governor and appeared on TV with Western hostages.


Iraq could be forgiven for thinking they could act in their own backyard with impunity – they had been armed by US and Saudi Arabia in support of their war with Iran and were equipped for military victory.

Following a UN resolution, an international coalition force was assembled, led by the USA in Operation Desert Storm in January 1991.

Although the war lasted barely a month and a half, Desert Storm Generals Norman Schwarzkopf (pictured below) and Colin Powell became household names thanks to hourly televised updates of events in the Persian Gulf.

Desert Storm trading cards helped American youngsters keep abreast of the latest weaponry . . .

Primarily as a result of overwhelming air superiority, by the end of February Iraq was out of Kuwait.

Bush was also out from under Reagan‘s shadow and America was “standing tall” again after successive humiliations in Vietnam and Iran.

His ill-considered and disastrous invasion of Kuwait did not shake Saddam Hussein, nor did it weaken his grasp of power in Iraq. The coalition cease-fire and apparent failure to optimise their strategic advantage puzzled many.

The Bush administration recognised the cost of pursuing regime change. They also thought that Saddam would be overthrown by his own people after the defeat.

He would, in fact, remain in power for another 12 years, allowing him to celebrate Bush’s defeat in the 1993 election.