What was Operation Desert Storm? SuperNayr

Imagine, if you will, a world where the biggest international crisis involves a disagreement over who owned the biggest sandbox.

This was the sandbox of the rich and powerful, filled not with sand alone, but with liquid gold—oil. In 1990, Iraq, led by the ever-ambitious Saddam Hussein, decided it wanted a bigger sandbox. So, it looked next door at Kuwait, a veritable beachfront property in the world of oil reserves, and said, “Mine, please.” Thus set the stage for Operation Desert Storm, or as one might call it, the most explosive international intervention against a bully seizing another kid’s toys.

Facing massive debts and economic crisis, Saddam accused neighboring Kuwait of overproducing oil and thereby depressing prices, hurting Iraqi oil revenues. In addition to economic disputes, historical claims over Kuwaiti territory further fueled the conflict. On August 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, quickly taking control of the small nation.

The international community condemned the invasion and imposed economic sanctions against Iraq. When diplomatic efforts failed to resolve the situation, a coalition led by the United States, and somewhat begrudgingly joined by Britain, France, and a host of around 34 other countries (including Syria!), decided that Iraq needed a time-out.

The course of the war

Operation Desert Storm began with a massive air campaign, codenamed Operation Instant Thunder, which later became known simply as the Gulf War air campaign. This phase lasted for several weeks, targeting Iraqi command and control centers, communication networks, airfields, and missile launch sites.  For 42 days, the skies over Iraq lit up with the glow of laser-guided bombs and Tomahawk missiles raining down on Saddam’s forces. It was a display of military might unlike anything the world had seen since World War II.

Desert Storm marked the first time the public got a front-row seat to the wonders of modern warfare. Smart bombs, stealth fighters, Patriot missiles – it was like watching a real-life video game unfold. The media coverage was so extensive that some pundits dubbed it the “Video Game War” (a moniker that, in retrospect, seems a bit insensitive to the actual human cost of the conflict).

Following the extensive air campaign, a ground assault was launched on February 24, 1991. The ground phase was remarkably swift, lasting only 100 hours before a ceasefire was declared. Coalition ground forces encountered light resistance, largely due to the prior weakening of Iraqi forces by air attacks. The ground campaign involved a sweeping “left-hook” strategy bypassing many Iraqi defenses along the Kuwaiti border by moving further west into the Iraqi desert, then turning east towards Kuwait.

The ceasefire and aftermath

On February 28, 1991, President Bush declared a ceasefire, and Kuwait was liberated. The aftermath of Desert Storm was a mixed bag. Kuwait was liberated, which was a big tick in the ‘win’ column, but Iraq was left in a state of ruin, leading to years of no-fly zones, sanctions, and humanitarian crises. The operation did not remove Saddam from power, which left many wondering if you could really claim victory in a war when the main antagonist remained at his desk, planning his next season’s villainy.

The U.S. had encouraged uprisings against his regime but then stood by as Saddam massacred his own people. It was a bitter pill to swallow for many Iraqis who had hoped for American support. The war’s end saw the deployment of thousands of American troops to in the Persian Gulf, a move that deeply offended many Muslims and helped fuel the rise of a certain terrorist named Osama bin Laden. You might have heard of him.

Now, some might argue that the whole thing was just a ploy to secure US oil interests in the region. And sure, that probably played a role. But it’s hard to deny that Hussein was a pretty awful guy who had a history of using chemical weapons against his own people . Plus, letting him control a significant chunk of the world’s oil reserves probably wouldn’t have ended well for anyone.

Operation Desert Storm was a military triumph but a political quagmire. It showcased American power but also laid bare the limits of that power in shaping the complexities of the Middle East. It was a war that, in many ways, set the stage for the conflicts and challenges that would define the decades to come.


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