Three Decades Since the Conflict

Published: 21. 4. 2021
Author: Silvia Mária Petrovits
Photo: Photo Shutterstock.com
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30 years ago, the Persian Gulf was plagued by a huge war. It was preceded by the bloody, first Iraq-Iran war (1980–1988), which ruined the Iraqi regime. As a result, Iraq owed Kuwait and Saudi Arabia 15 billion dollars each.

Kuwait as a sovereign state was a thorn in the side of Iraq, which considered it its 19th province. With no more loans available, Saddam Hussein accuses Kuwait of drawing more from the common oil rigs than allowed by the OPEC quota and thus keeping oil prices low. This pretext serves him to unleash the second war in the Persian Gulf in order to build his position of power.

Operation Desert Shield

On 2nd August 1990 the Iraqi army launches a lightning invasion of Kuwait and annexes its territory to Iraq. The UN Security Council declares the annexation invalid and calls on Iraq to leave Kuwait. Iraq threatens to use chemical weapons if US or Israeli troops attack. Saudi Arabia, fearing the expansion of Iraq, asks the US for help. With the entry of the US military, Operation "Desert Shield" begins, lasting until 16th January 1991.

From shield to storm

The crisis seems impossible to resolve through diplomacy. Saddam Hussein refuses to withdraw the army from Kuwait and threatens that any attempt to expel them will lead to the "mother of all battles." The UN Security Council responds with an ultimatum to withdraw from Kuwait by 15th January 1991. Given Iraq's reluctance, it authorizes member states cooperating with the Government of Kuwait to use all "coercive" measures against them. An international coalition of 28 states forms against Baghdad. Most of the coalition forces are US troops.

Once the ultimatum expires, Operation "Desert Storm" follows. The coalition of allied forces with a UN Security Council mandate to liberate Kuwait consists of the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and 22 other countries, including the then CSFR. Hussein seeks to break the coalition by bombing Israel. However, by maintaining its neutrality, Israel seals the fate of the war. The operation lasts less than 43 days and consists of air raids by allied air forces and an attack by ground forces. Three days later, the Iraqis withdraw from Kuwait. The anti-Iraq coalition ends its military action on 28th February 1991. The allies defeat the Iraqi army of one million soldiers, killing nearly 100 thousand, 65 thousand are injured and more than 50 thousand captured. 3000 of Iraq's tanks and armoured vehicles, and more than 2000 artillery sets are destroyed. The allies lose 234 soldiers, dozens are wounded and missing.

Endless instability

Kuwait is liberated but devastated. The UN Security Council Resolution in 1991 orders Iraq, among other things, to end all military operations as well as the annexation. During the retreat, Iraqi troops pour 6 to 8 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf, creating the largest oil spill in history. The war is over, but it has ultimately brought persistent and never-ending instability to Iraq. The coalition didn’t have a UN mandate to overthrow Hussein. This didn’t happen until 12 years later.


The Czechoslovak Special Anti-Chemical Battalion was our first military unit deployed in a combat mission since the end of World War II. In Operation Desert Storm, they performed tasks in securing  radiation, chemical and biological protection. One member of the Czechoslovak anti-chemical battalion died during the operation.


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