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F-14 fighter flying over burning Kuwaiti oil wells

6 little known facts about the Gulf War

Image: F-14 fighter flying over burning Kuwaiti oil wells set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces |

Whether you’ve heard it called the Gulf War, the Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm or otherwise, it’s worth learning about. Saddam Hussein first invaded Kuwait on 2nd August 1990, starting the Gulf War. While most people are aware of the when and why, there are still plenty of aspects to the war that aren’t often explored, like the leading causes of death during the war, or how quickly things moved.

Here are some of the facts that you might not have heard.

1. Iraq had the fifth-largest army in the world in 1991

During the war, Iraq had one of the largest armies in the world. More than one million men in uniform were available for Saddam Hussein to use during the invasion, and 120,000 of them, along with 2,000 tanks, were sent to Kuwait.

After Iraq and Iran’s peace began, Hussein increased his number of occupying forces in Kuwait to 300,000, However, the training and skills of these individuals were not equal, and only around one-third of them were experienced and properly trained. Among them were conscripted soldiers between the ages of 15-49.

2. Desert Storm played a role in Bill Clinton's presidency

Due to the economy struggling as a result of the Iraqi invasion, Americans began to lose trust in the current president George H.W. Bush. The price of oil had more than doubled, which in turn led to a worldwide recession - something that Bill Clinton used to aid his presidential campaign.

3. The war was not the leading cause of death for Americans in 1991

While war is often one of the leading causes of casualties for the involved countries, Operation Desert Storm was not the leading cause of death for Americans. Despite the estimated 100,000 Iraqi solder casualties in 1991, America only suffered 383 fatalities in the same region.

At the same time as the war, AIDS/HIV was at its peak, and the rate of infection had increased by around 15% compared to the previous year. In 1991, the infection claimed the lives of more than 29,000 Americans, a number that doubled during the next few years.

4. Iraq took over Kuwait in just two days

While you would expect wars and invasions to take a long time, it took just two days for Iraq to take over Kuwait. After the invasion began, Iraq’s forces reached Kuwait in just one hour. Most of the Kuwaitis were forced out into neighbouring territories over the next few days, although Iraq was not met without resistance.

An underground resistance movement started to fight back against the invasion, but it was made up of mostly untrained individuals. The resistance wasn’t able to match the number of forces Iraq had sent and was ultimately defeated.

5. Saddam Hussein believed he had permission to invade Kuwait

Before the invasion, Bush’s ambassador to Iraq had meetings with Hussein, and there were talks about the US being against war with Iraq. It was stated during these meetings that the US would have had no opinion in so-called ‘Arab-Arab’ conflicts.

During this time, Iraq had an ongoing border disagreement with Kuwait, and after being met with no resistance from the US, Hussein began his invasion, all the while maintaining his interest in friendship and peace with America. Following the invasion, Bush condemned his actions and so Operation Desert Storm was put in place. Hussein believed that the US would have no problem with the invasion and saw it as permission.

6. The Allied Coalition consisted of 39 different countries

The US wasn’t the only opposition to Iraq’s invasion, and the Allied Coalition consisted of 39 different countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Despite the number of countries in the coalition, the US still made up for more than 60% of the forces used in Operation Desert Storm beginning in January 1991.