Why did the Gulf War only last for 7 months?

What were the causes of the Gulf War?

There had been a long history of tension between Iraq and Kuwait before the First Gulf War. Both countries had been ruled over by the Ottoman Empire until its defeat in the First World War. After the war, the Treaty of Sevres broke up the Ottoman Empire and both Iraq and Kuwait were ruled by Britain, Iraq as a mandate and Kuwait as a British protectorate.

In 1958, Iraq won its independence from Britain in 1958 through the military coup led by General Qasim. In 1961, Kuwait also became independent from Britain, becoming a parliamentary democracy with an Emir as its head of state. The leader of Iraq, General Qasim, claimed Kuwait as Iraqi territory however the British and other Arab states such as Saudi Arabia refused to acknowledge Iraqi claims and sent soldiers to protect Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion. This was because the Kuwaitis did not want to be ruled by Iraq and wanted to retain their independence. When Saddam’s Ba’ath Party came to power in 1968, they again claimed Kuwait as their territory but were again opposed by Saudi Arabia. In 1990, Iraq began to threaten Kuwait’s independence again.

Saddam’s failure to defeat Iran in the Iran‐Iraq War had led to anger amongst the Iraqi people and the Iraqi army. Saddam believed that a military victory against Kuwait might help to reduce opposition to him. He believed a quick victory would increase his popularity and show the world how powerful he was. Saddam was confident of victory because he had built up a huge army (the fourth largest in the world) and had stockpiled chemical and biological weapons. He also had begun a nuclear weapons programme. He believed that these weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) would deter anyone from opposing his invasion.

Finally, the Iran‐Iraq War had also led Iraq in huge debt ($80 billion) including a $14 billion loan from Kuwait. To pay off this debt, Saddam had wanted to increase Iraqi oil exports. However, Iraq was a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) who controlled oil prices in order to keep them high. Some leading members such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait refused to allow him to increase production whilst also demanding he pay back his war debts to them. Saddam felt insulted by this as he believed he had helped to protect Kuwait from Iran during the war. He also accused Kuwait of slant drilling for oil under Iraqi territory and stealing it.

Facing increasing discontent at home, Saddam decided to invade Kuwait on 2nd August, 1990.

Why did Saddam decide to invade Kuwait?


  • The Iran-Iraq war had resulted in huge debts.Saddam wanted to increase oil production to pay off his debts, but Saudi Arabia and Kuwait refused, while demanding for the debts to be paid.

  • Saddam accused Kuwait of slant drilling for oil under Iraqi territory and stealing it.


  • Saddam claimed Kuwait as Iraqi territory, but Kuwait wanted to remain independent.

  • Saddam wanted to show off his power as his army was now the fourth largest in the world.


  • The Iraqi people and army were angered by Saddam’s loss to Iran, so fearing discontent, he wanted a quick victory against Kuwait to regain confidence.

  • Saddam felt insulted as he believed he had helped protect Kuwait from Iran during the war.

How did Saddam justify his invasion of Kuwait?

  1. Iraq’s economy was declining after the war with Iran had ended. One reason which contributed to this was because Kuwait refused to write off their debts. Saddam believed these debts should be cleared because Iraq had protected Kuwait and other Gulf states from Iranian expansionism.

  2. The US ambassador practically gave him the Green light to invade as he told Saddam that the US had no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like the disagreement with Kuwait.

Why did the US decide to lead the international condemnation and military response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?

  • The international community, including most Arab states, condemned the invasion and the UN Security Council agreed to impose complete economic sanctions on Iraq and ordered Saddam to withdraw his troops.

  • Saddam refused to withdraw and declared Kuwait an Iraqi province. He tried to win support from other Arab states by saying that he would only withdraw if Israel withdrew their forces from Palestine. Although this pleased the Palestinians, it won him little support from other Arab countries.

  • Iraqi troops began committing atrocities against Kuwaiti civilians with many protestors being arrested or killed. Foreigners were also seized as hostages and used as human shields by the Iraqi military.

  • As Iraqi troops massed on Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia, the Americans feared that Saddam might also try to seize the Saudi’s oil fields too. This would have given them control of half of the world’s oil supplies.

  • The King of Saudi Arabia requested the USA to send a military force to help defend against a possible Iraqi invasion. The Americans responded to his request by building up their armed forces in the Gulf.

What happened in the Persian Gulf War?

Why did the War only last 7 months?

  1. Key countries and many armed forces invaded Iraq and outnumbered their Army. While 30,000 Iraqi soldiers died, only 292 of allied forces died.

  2. The allies used many different operations and tactics to overcome the Iraqi army.

  3. The allies were able to use new advanced US technology to destroy key military bases and communication links in Iraq.

A large portion of this page was written by my teacher, Mr Joshua Tillott.