D. The Persian Gulf War

    The United States has had an interest and maintained a presence in Southwest Asia for many reasons and for many years. Ultimately it led to their involvement in the Persian Gulf Conflict. 


Why does the US care about Southwest Asia and why are we there?


The US has had a vested interest in Southwest Asia and the primary reasons are:

  • Access to Oil
  • Security of Israel
  • Geo Strategic Access (meaning they want/need access to the area and allies there)
  • Stability and security of the region as a whole.


The Middle East Controls a large amount of the world’s oil supply.  The United States also has enemies such as the Taliban in Southwest Asia.  The US military is still present in Southwest Asia today as they continue to help Iraq and Afghanistan build up their infrastructures.  The US will likely remain in the region until groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda are defeated and the people there no longer live in fear (of their governments or radicals).


                Documentation as far back as 1833 can be found to show that the US had an interest and presence in the Middle East.  On September 21, 1833, The United States signed the “Treaty of Amity and Commerce” with the country of Oman.   It was the first joint agreement between the US and an Arab Gulf State.  Then in 1838 the United States opened a consulate in Oman.  Morocco developed a relationship with the US in 1866.  The U.S. Navy has patrolled the area of Southwest Asia since 1801 and in 1948 permanent naval presence began being stationed there.  Political, geographic and economic factors continue to keep the United States interested in the Gulf Region.


Before the Gulf War US presence was mostly from behind the scenes, mainly as a show of respect for the sensitive local cultures there.  Many traditional style Gulf Governments want a good relationship with the US, and continue to welcome the Americans.  The consider the US key to the security in the region, but want things kept very low key because they are afraid of the reaction if people knew. 


US presence has frequently been criticized, partly because of local perceptions.  Things like the current “War on Terrorism” have increased the negative attitudes many people in Southwest Asia have towards the United States policies and presence in the region, especially since many of the good things the US does for the area and the people are not widely publicized.


Because of the importance of petroleum to the world’s economy and the geographic importance of the land during historical conflicts, US involvement, interest and presence in Southwest Asia has gotten bigger and has led to their involvement in military conflicts like the Persian Gulf War.  Since that conflict in 1991 the US presence grew even more because it involved enforcing the UN imposed sanctions placed on Iraq.  Hopefully the US being there also helps to keep potential aggressors, such as Iran, from acting against others.


“The mother of all battles”


The U.S. was also strongly involved in a conflict known as the Persian Gulf War.  It was the first major war with U.S. involvement since the Vietnam War. (U.S. involved from Feb. 12, 1955- Jan. 27. 1973)  The Gulf War began when Iraq invaded the country of Kuwait.  Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq, had many unfounded beliefs that Kuwait was mistreating his country.  His reasons for invading were ludicrous, such as Kuwait wanting Iraq to pay back money that they had lent them during the Iran/Iraq War. (1980-1988) Ironically, Kuwait had supported Iraq during the Iran/Iraq War because Kuwaitis feared the Islamic Revolutionary government of Iran.  Iraq showed little thanks to Kuwait and the fight over the borders and oil started again.  The deserts of Southwest Asia make it difficult to define borders, which have led to conflicts over time.


On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.  Hussein did this because he did not think the U.S. or any other country would come to Kuwait’s aid.  To his surprise, within several days of the invasion the U.S., being an ally of Kuwait, demanded that Hussein leave the country.  On November 29, 1990, the United Nations told Hussein to leave Kuwait by January 15, 1991, or face an attack.  Hussein replied by saying that he would not leave, and the “mother of all battles” would commence and he would kill many Americans.


The U.S. and many U.N. member nations began sending troops to Saudi Arabia right after Iraq invaded Kuwait.  This was the beginning of the world-wide coalition that was forming with U.N. endorsement.


President George H.W. Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and her successor Sir John Major, who took office on November 28, 1990, and presided over the British involvement in the Gulf War, used their coalition of 698,000 troops from many countries to attack Iraq.  This coalition was commanded By General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., AKA “Stormin’ Norman”  The detailed plan for this battle, later called Desert Storm, was authored by Schwarzkopf to serve as a training war game against a hypothetical attack by Iraq.  Unbelievably, Iraq invaded Kuwait that same month and his plan gained a practical application when the war started.


"Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation DESERT STORM, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation's resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our Country." -- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA Commander-in-Chief U.S. Central Command, in a message to the command, 16 January, 1991


                Air Attacks started on January 16, 1991, and the air force of Iraq was annihilated fairly quickly.  Hussein was in dire need of help, so he launched SCUD (short range, nuclear capable) missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia.  Saddam wanted Israel to join the fight so the Arab countries on the United State’s side would fight for Iraq instead.  The U.S. supplied Israel with Patriot missiles (defensive missiles designed to shoot down other missiles) to shoot down Hussein’s SCUDs.  He also launched the missiles to divert the U.S.’s attention from attacking Iraq, but this failed.  The coalition continued to target Iraq’s infrastructure so they would not be able to fight back and also to lower the morale of the soldiers and the citizens.


            On February 23, 1991, the ground war began.  In just 100 hours the so called “mother of all battles” was over, but not before Hussein set fire to the oil fields of Kuwait.  Kuwait City was liberated and Iraq gave back all hostages, stolen land, and prisoners of war.  The country of Iraq signed a cease-fire on March 3, 1991.  However, Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein remained in power and still had control of his country.


            As a result of the U.S. and coalition troops fighting in the Persian Gulf Conflict, much of the world’s oil supply was defended and Kuwait was once again a fee nation.  Iraq’s military strength was temporarily weakened and Saddam’s pursuit of nuclear weapons was slowed down.  During the rest of 1991 both the Shiites and the Kurds in Iraq tried to revolt, but were unsuccessful.


            It was important in 1991 for the U.S. to show Interest in Southwest Asia and to have a presence there.  It is still important today for the same reasons.


Current Events
Quick Summary:
  • The U.S. interest in the Middle East is not new to this century, and can be traced back to when the U.S. first achieved it's independence.
  • Interest in energy resources as well as political stability in the region are of interest today.
  • The U.S. was involved in the Persian Gulf War because Iraq invaded Kuwait.
  • A coalition force of 698,000 troops fought Iraq and liberated Kuwait.
  • The U.S. remains in Southwest Asia to help Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild from the catastrophic leaders they once had.

Links to Additional information:

An awesome timeline of the entire conflict!


Written by
Team Noble Editors

Austin A.


Mr. Parker’s Class notebook