TIMELINES: What invasion on Aug. 2, 1990, triggered a 32-country coalition response?

August 2, 2011 Updated: September 29, 2015

Monday, August 2, 2011


On Aug. 2, 1990, then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sends 100,000 troops to invade Kuwait over a border dispute and rights to produce oil from a shared oil field. Within hours, Iraqi forces overwhelm the defenses of the small oil-rich country and Iraq sets up a provisional government in Kuwait City. Hundreds of Kuwaitis are killed during the invasion and Kuwait’s leader, Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah, flees to Saudi Arabia. As a result of the invasion, Iraq gains control of 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves. In a bold and defiant statement to the world, Hussein threatens to turn Kuwait City into a “graveyard” if any nation dares to oppose the “takeover by force.” The United Nations Security Council meets the same day and calls for the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces.” On Jan. 16, 1991, a coalition of 32 countries led by the United States launches an offensive against Iraqi known as Operation Desert Storm. The attack proves overwhelming for Iraq and soon U.S. President George H.W. Bush declares a ceasefire halting the offensive before removing Hussein from power.


Last Wednesday, Iraqi officials issued a statement asking Kuwait to cease construction of the Mubarak Al Kabeer port that is to be located on the Persian Gulf’s northern tip, citing potential infringement of Iraqi’s rights to navigate the Persian Gulf. Currently, Iraq exports nearly 1.8 million barrels of oil daily through two Persian Gulf terminals. Iraq claims the traffic will be negatively affected by the Kuwaiti port. The government of Kuwait has responded with strong words insisting that construction of the port will continue despite Iraqi concerns. Although the surrounding circumstances are much different, the intense back-and-forth rhetoric between the two nations is reminiscent of the strained relations between them leading up to the Gulf War in 1990.