This Day In History: Iraq Invaded Kuwait (1990)

On this day in history, in the middle of the night, Iraqi forces invade Kuwait. The Iraqi dictator took the world by surprise when he annexed his neighbor, which until recently had been his ally.  Iraq’s tiny, oil-rich neighbor. Kuwait’s army was forced to surrender. The ruler of the country, the Emir of Kuwait, his family,  the government found refuge in  Saudi Arabia.

In 1990 Iraq had one of the biggest armies in the world and had just emerged from a brutal war with Iran. Soon the Iraqi army was in control of the tiny country. The world condemned the invasion and saw it as an act of brutal aggression.

Why did Sadam Hussein the Iraqi leader, invade his neighbor. Firstly, Iraq had long regarded the country as part of its historic territory. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait had helped to finance Iraq’s war efforts. It had lent Baghdad billions of dollars. After the end of the war in 1988, Kuwait demanded its money back. This enraged the Iraqi dictator because he believed that he had been defending Sunni Arab nations from Shite and Persian Iran. Also, Iraq had no real access to the Persian Gulf and it wanted a significant port.

President George Bush visiting troops during Desert Shield.

By invading Kuwait, Iraq gained control of twenty percent  of the world’s oil supplies. If Iraq was allowed to keep its conquest then it could dictate to the world the price of oil. This was not acceptable to America or Europe.  On the 2nd of August, the United Nations Security Council  demanded Iraq withdraw all its military forces from Kuwait. The country was immediately placed under a strict sanctions regime.

The small country was occupied by the Iraqi military and any opposition to the occupiers was brutally suppressed.

Iraq believed that the world would do nothing. It expected helped from the Soviet Union. They believed that Moscow would not let America expel them from Kuwait. However, this was a miscalculation. Moscow was in crisis and the Soviet Union was in crisis and it would eventually collapse the year later.

In response to the invasion, the UN empowered the Americans to lead an international coalition against the Iraqis. Washington announced Operation Desert Shield. Its immediate aim was to protect Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia, which was defenseless before the might of the Iraqi army.

General Norman Schwarkorpff was made commander of the coalition of international military forces. In February 1991, the international coalition launched Operation Desert Storm. In a brutal display of military power, the allies led by America ejected Iraq from Kuwait and even pushed into Iraq.