Interfluve, historical the area of modern Iraq is the place where the history of human civilization began.
Here writing was born and the earliest cities on Earth appeared. In these places, people first baked bread, invented a wheel, a plow, and ceramics.
Presumably, in the vastness of modern Iraq, there was Eden, a paradise from which Adam and Eve were expelled, and the ancient city of Ur that has survived to this day is the birthplace of the biblical character Abraham. Founded by Caliph Al Mansur, Baghdad was the capital of the Arab Caliphate for several centuries.
This is a sacred place for many religions, reserved land, which left a huge mark in the history of mankind.
Unfortunately, in recent years, Mesopotamia has become one of the most dangerous places on the planet, associated primarily with the ongoing war, terrorism and humanitarian catastrophe.
Today, when the land of Iraq, along with its peoples and invaluable archaeological riches, is enveloped in the flame of war, 25 is celebrating years of events, which largely determined everything that is happening there now.
On the night of August 2, 1991, the Iraqi army, numbering about 100 thousand military personnel and up to 700 tanksinvaded the territory of neighboring Kuwait. The armed forces of the tiny emirate, numbering then 16 thousand people, could not provide almost any resistance to one of the most powerful armies of the time by regional standards.
Emir of Kuwait Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, together with his closest associates, fled to Saudi Arabia.
28 August, the emirate was called the “19 province of Iraq” and practically ceased to exist as an independent country.
As a formal reason for the invasion, Baghdad called Kuwait’s “destructive” economic policy, which expressed itself in exceeding OPEC oil production quotas, which allegedly entailed a decline in hydrocarbon prices and significantly damaged Iraq’s economy.
According to popular opinion, the real reason was the fact that Baghdad had large debts to the Kuwaiti authorities in the amount of 14 billion dollars for the assistance rendered during the Iran-Iraq war. And the richest country in oil reserves could solve many economic problems at once.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was due to historical background.
The “Kuwaiti Question” arose over 100 years ago when these territories were part of the Ottoman Empire. In the 17th century, the port city and fortress of Kuwait was placed under the administrative administration of Sabah ibn Jaber, a sheikh of a local tribe whose descendants are the rulers of the country today. True, it was then assumed that this territory was part of the Ottoman Empire, not even endowed with the rights of a separate vilayet (province), of which there were three in Iraq, Mosul, Baghdad and Bassor. In those years, no one considered this small desert area as a claim to an independent administrative-territorial unit.
Only in 1899, the English, who were interested in having access to a convenient port, signed a secret agreement with the then Sheikh Mubarok ibn Sabah to grant a protectorate that lasted until the 1961 year. This laid the foundation for future conflicts.
Iraq itself gained independence in the 1932 year. However, the territory of Kuwait was already in fact another country, which was perceived by Baghdad as an injustice and a mistake that gave no rest to the government or a significant part of the population. Almost from the first days of independence, the authorities began to consider the possibility of the return of these lands.
In 1938, the king of Iraq, Gazi ibn Faisal, announced his plans to annex Kuwait in the near future. But they were not destined to come true: less than a year after that, he died in a car accident under strange circumstances. A common version is that the king was the victim of a secret British conspiracy precisely because of the announced intentions regarding the southern neighbor.
In the 1961 year, when Kuwait became an independent country, similar statements were made by the head of Iraq of that time, General Abdel Kerim Kasem, but then it did not go further than words.
The emirate in the 1990 year ranked fourth in the world in proven oil reserves, and after the annexation Baghdad could easily claim to be the world leader in terms of reserves and in the extraction of black gold, which greatly increased the economic importance of the country.
Political motives are also obvious: having joined Kuwait, Saddam Hussein could count on the growth of popularity among a considerable part of the population of his country, since he had done an act which until then had not been decided by any of the previous rulers.
So, Kuwait is annexed. International reaction followed immediately: most states strongly condemned the invasion and demanded the withdrawal of troops. The Arab countries, although they did not welcome this adventure, did not take decisive steps. Only Saudi Arabia and Egypt acted most actively, and at first they limited themselves to diplomatic measures. Kuwait was left alone, contrary to all his hopes for the help of Arab neighbors.
The reasons for this passivity are primarily in the military power of Baghdad, created by 30-year military-technical cooperation with the USSR. It is logical that Iraq’s closest neighbors chose not to take drastic actions, fearing a collision with an army armed to the teeth.
Despite the condemnation by most Arab state leaders, the population of the region perceived these events ambiguously. This was due to the ideological component of the annexation of Kuwait, which was as follows.
After the military coup of 1968, the Baath party became the main political force in Iraq. Its full name is Hezb Al Ba'as Al Arabi Al Ishtiraki (Arabic - Party of the Arab Socialist Renaissance), although often in Russian-language sources the word "Ba'ath" is mistakenly indicated as an abbreviation.
It was created in 1947 year and is today the dominant parliamentary party in Syria, and in Iraq stood at the head of the country until 2003 year.
The basis of its ideology follows from the name: the revival of the great Arab nation, which means avoiding the colonial past and Western influence, overcoming backwardness, progress in all spheres, building a united, just and indestructible state. According to the founders of the party, this can be achieved only through maximum integration, up to erasing borders between countries, introducing socialist principles into the economy, eliminating cronyism, religious, ethnic and other differences in Arab states. The party has a secular character, and its slogans were supported by the widest masses of Arab society.
As for Iraq, historians have given a mixed assessment of the more than 30-year period of Baathist rule. On the one hand, the party has become a totalitarian repressive body that does not tolerate dissent, controls all spheres of public life and mercilessly punishes people it dislikes. It is believed that the conscience of the party and intelligence services lives of thousands of innocent citizens arrested and executed.
On the other hand, during the Baath reign in Iraq, large-scale reforms in the economic and social sphere were carried out, hundreds of infrastructure projects were implemented, and the health system even in the West was recognized as one of the best in the region.
Saddam Hussein often criticized the rich oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf, accusing them of conspiring with the imperialists, betraying the interests of the Arab nation, especially in matters of confrontation with Israel. The essence of the claims was that these sparsely populated states, appropriating the income from hydrocarbon wealth, live in luxury, selling themselves to the West and forgetting about the common interests and goals of the Arab nation, while some other fraternal countries live in poverty. After the accession of Kuwait, this inequality, according to Saddam Hussein, was partially eliminated, and the wealth of the emirate was distributed “more fairly”.
Although the twentieth century already knew examples of implementing the slogan "Take Everything and Divide", the invasion of Kuwait contributed to the growth of the popularity of the Baath and Saddam Hussein parties in the Arab world, especially in the low-income strata. It is logical that the annexation was supported by Palestine and Yemen - the two poorest countries of the time in the region. Mass popular performances in support of Baghdad swept through many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab society was actually divided in those days.
At trial, the once all-powerful head of state appeared a tired and battered man. Reuters Photos
It is difficult to say what impact on the future political processes in the Arab world would have the annexation of Kuwait, if not the intervention of the international coalition from 28 countries, in which the main role was played by the USA and the UK, sent 540 thousand and 53 thousand soldiers, respectively. The coalition has focused 186 warships, including 6 aircraft carrier connections.
Military operation "Desert Storm" began on January 17 of the year 1991. London, although he participated in the coalition, but acted according to his own plan, conducting the operation "Granby". Since the Second World War, it was the largest military operation conducted by the forces of an international alliance. Payment of military expenditures was carried out mainly due to the money of the oil-producing monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Japan, which is interested in a stable supply of hydrocarbons.
It was supposed to conduct a military campaign consisting of two phases: massive air strikes with disabling the military and economic infrastructure of Iraq, and then the ground phase.
Over the next month, Iraq was shelled using almost all types weapons, 700 tons of bombs and shells were dropped on its territory. The main target was Baghdad. In this war, for the first time, ammunition filled with depleted uranium was used.
Despite the losses incurred (at least 15 aircraft), aviation In the early days, coalitions won air supremacy, and in January and February they flew 65 sorties. A significant part of the air defense forces and means was suppressed. The air force of Iraq suffered serious damage, but they were not completely destroyed.
In response, the Iraqi command ordered the shelling of Scud tactical missiles on the territories of Israel and Saudi Arabia. This caused a shock in Jerusalem. However, contrary to the hopes of Saddam Hussein, Israel did not start retaliatory hostilities.
Then the soldiers of the Iraqi army set fire to 789 wells in Kuwait and dumped several million tons of crude oil into the waters of the Persian Gulf. The Kuwaiti sky was shrouded in black smoke, which hampered the work of aviation. Because of the fires, one of the airplanes of Saudi Arabian Air Force with 92 Senegalese soldiers crashed while landing, which is considered to be the largest loss suffered by the Coalition over the entire war period. Over the region, the threat of a full-scale environmental disaster, especially in Saudi Arabia. It was possible to extinguish the wells only eight months after the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
However, despite significant losses during the raids, estimated at 50 thousands of Iraqi troops, as well as civilian casualties and enormous damage to the economy, air strikes did not bring a decisive victory: Iraqi units continued to be in Kuwait. And on January 29, units of the Iraqi armed forces even raided Saudi Arabia, capturing the city of Khafj. Attempts by the Coalition to seize a settlement resulted in losses of several dozen people. Including killed 11 US military. It was possible to beat the city off only after two days. Iraq began to prepare for a full-scale offensive deep into Saudi Arabia.
The need for a Coalition of ground operation in Kuwait, which began on February 24 of the year 1991, became obvious. True, the number of countries that wanted to fight on land was thinner: only 11 countries from 28 members of the temporary alliance took part in the offensive. In the very first days, the Coalition units managed to make significant progress deep into the territory and inflict tangible losses on Iraq, especially in tanks, and effectively deprive Baghdad of the possibility of further advance.
In this war, for the first time, great attention was paid to such a type of combat support as information-psychological. It consists in the moral suppression, panic and split in the ranks of the enemy units, the formation of the necessary public opinion, the discrediting of authorities, the dissemination of false information in order to bring chaos and confusion in the management of the army and the country. The 4 group of psychological operations (PSO) located in the state of North Carolina is responsible for conducting actions of this kind.
In practice, the described tactic is expressed in the dissemination of propaganda materials, including leaflets, magazines, brochures, broadcasting on radio and television, other methods of informational influence, as well as in suppressing and destroying pro-government radio, television channels and other media.
In 1991, the units of the 4-group of PSO actively collaborated with specialists from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in order to prepare propaganda materials appropriate to the mentality of the local population. From the territory of neighboring states, a specially created station, South Khalidzhi (Voice of the Gulf), was broadcasting to discredit the Iraqi authorities. Broadcasting in Arabic was conducted through other channels. In order to force the Iraqi units to capitulate, leaflets were distributed with false information about the military successes of the Coalition, about great losses in the ranks of Iraqi units and even about the use of weapons of mass destruction.
It is difficult to say how much this really contributed to the military success of the American units. What really managed to be realized was the uprising in the north and south of the state.
Iraq is an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous country: according to various sources, from 30 to 40% of the population are Shiite Muslims, mainly in the southern regions. About 20% of the population is represented by Kurdish ethnic groups. There are smaller communities of Christians, Yezidis and other confessional and religious minorities. At the same time, Saddam Hussein and most of the top leadership of the party and the country came from the Sunni tribes inhabiting the central provinces of Iraq. Skillfully using this factor, in a matter of days, an anti-government movement on confessional and ethnic grounds, in Shiite and especially in Kurdish areas, was provoked in Iraq. 15 February 1991, US President George W. Bush openly called for Iraqis to revolt, which soon began, greatly fueled by expectations of a full-scale military invasion.
It seemed that the path to Baghdad was open to the Coalition.
Even today, these events are described in the European and American press as vivid evidence of the absolute superiority of Western armaments over the Soviet ones, which the Iraqi army of that period was equipped with. However, such conclusions are clearly exaggerated: it is important to understand that Iraq was under pressure from economic sanctions and arms embargoes, and, most importantly, the Soviet Union completely suspended military-technical cooperation and withdrew most of its military and other advisers, condemning the occupation of Kuwait. Therefore, the use of their own weapons from Baghdad was significantly limited. In addition, the main damage was inflicted on the group directly involved in the invasion. A significant number of army reserves, including the most combat-ready part of the aircraft fleet in the amount of about 100 units, the Iraqi command managed to save, preparing for the battle for Baghdad.
The offensive was also accompanied by losses in the units of the Coalition, which would inevitably increase as they advanced.
Against the backdrop of a humanitarian catastrophe that broke out in Iraq, there was growing discontent among the population in Arab countries, especially those that joined the Coalition (such as Morocco, Egypt). Massive anti-government demonstrations swept across the region, demanding that they stop providing help to the West in a barbaric attack on Iraq.
But there was no clarity in the main thing: what will happen to Iraq after the overthrow of the regime in Baghdad. Fearing the possibility of a repetition of the events of 1979 of the year, when a regime hostile to the West came to power as a result of the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, the US political leadership set a course to end the war. Especially since the Shiite uprising in the south, on which a large stake was made, played into the hands of Iran, then perceived as the main rival of Western policy in the region.
The result for the United States was already impressive: Kuwait was able to defend, and the units of the American army managed to gain a foothold in such an important region as the Persian Gulf, having the opportunity not to leave it ever.
The futility of the war then became clear in Baghdad: in the conditions of sanctions, the damage caused by the actions of the Coalition and the lack of international support could not exist for a long time.
25 February 1991, Iraqi units received an order to withdraw from Kuwaiti territory, and on February 28 Coalition forces stopped the offensive operation.
It is estimated that 1000 citizens of Kuwait became victims of the Iraqi occupation, 600 people were still missing. For a tiny country, it was a tremendous grief that affected almost every family. Still, it was not an act of genocide, and the number of victims as a result of the Coalition’s actions is incomparably greater: since the beginning of hostilities, the battle losses of Baghdad have been estimated at 100 thousand dead and 300 thousand wounded.
However, Iraq’s suffering did not end there. After the cessation of strikes by the Coalition, Baghdad managed to recover quickly and began to suppress the uprising in the southern regions inhabited by Shiites. The main striking force consisted of the most combat-ready and dedicated to the regime part of the Republican Guard, which acted mercilessly against the local population. Cities were bombed, many residents were arrested and executed, and at times reprisals took place right on the streets. The leaders of the uprising appealed for help to the American command, but no response followed, which is still perceived as an act of cynicism and betrayal.
According to Western journalists, after the uprising was crushed, some bombed out Iraqi cities resembled London during World War II. The number of victims is not precisely known, the data diverge from 50 to 100 thousand people. Mass graves of the dead are found in the sands of Iraq even today. Tens of thousands of refugees rushed to neighboring Iran and Saudi Arabia, fleeing repression from the authorities. And although the control over the territories was restored, having sunk an uprising in the blood, individual anti-government sabotage continued throughout the following years, which forced Baghdad to again resort to punitive actions.
On the other hand, the Iraqi government made concessions to the Shiites on many issues and in the following years made considerable efforts to maintain loyalty among the Shiite population, including economic and social policies. But the events of 1991 of the year and a huge number of victims dealt a serious and irreparable blow to the country, causing serious interfaith controversies, the consequences of which are still felt.
Having dealt with the Shiites in the south, in March 1991, Baghdad threw power against the Kurds. Hundreds of settlements in the Kurdish provinces were obliterated, roads were destroyed, water sources were destroyed, and blows were struck at refugee sites. More than 2 million people were forced to leave their homes and go into the mountains, where they died from cold and hunger. From the extermination of the Kurds saved only the UN intervention.
And if the victims suffered during the liberation of Kuwait can somehow be justified by the need to protect the sovereignty of the country, then the uprising provoked by the West and the victims suffered at the same time were absolutely meaningless from all points of view.
During the war, all the obvious advantages were taken into account in the conduct of military operations by the forces of international coalitions, which were later repeated in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and again in Iraq.
In the Arab countries, it was during this war that an informal military alliance of the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) was created, which still interacts in various forms when confronting common threats.
"SYNDROME OF WAR IN THE BAY"
After 25 years, the events of those days cause no emotion except sorrow: this war brought grief and suffering to all parties to the conflict. Even in the USA, which have positioned themselves as absolute winners, veterans are not particularly happy about that victory. Thousands of war veterans suffer from a complex of diseases called the “Gulf War Syndrome”, in the form of endless pain, insomnia, neurological and mental disorders, suicidal tendencies. And even in the conditions of the United States to help these people is not possible: modern medicine is often powerless against such diseases.
According to American doctors, in addition to the effects of stress experienced in any military conflict, the special impact on the health of military personnel in this war caused the massive use of injections and medication to protect personnel from the possible use of chemical weapons. But the main blow to their own army was the use of ammunition with depleted uranium in the amount of 350 tons, the radioactive contamination from which also extended to serving personnel. By the way, for some Western armies the use of such ammunition was the first and last time: seeing the detrimental effect on the health of their soldiers, the governments decided to abandon it. And no one objectively and not evaluated the consequences for the health of Iraqis in the form of high infant mortality and cancer diseases.
The problem of cleaning the territory of the country from radioactive projectiles today is one of the main in Iraq. True, the US military circles associated with the program to use depleted uranium insist that such statements are false, and the increase in oncological and other diseases in the areas of use of ammunition is due to other reasons.
At the same time, the influence of radical Islamists, who scored points on the discontent of the population of the Arab countries with their governments, helped the former colonialists in the devastation and destruction of the neighboring Arab country intensified. It is unlikely that anyone would guess what this would lead to over 20 over the years.
And although Baghdad withstood, it was decided to finally weaken Iraq with perennial sanctions and to overthrow the regime in 12 years according to approximately the same pattern. The result is known - the country has slipped into the abyss of inter-ethnic and inter-religious hostility and in fact ceased to be a single state. The largest casualties during the second war in Iraq were in the central Sunni provinces.
Most of the government in Baghdad was now Shiite. The Ba'ath Party was banned, and many of its members were repressed and persecuted. True, they continued to conduct underground activities.
And two years after the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi territory, in January 2014, the city of Fallujah was captured by the then little-known Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (IG is a banned organization in Russia), which was quite expected: By the policy of official Baghdad, part of the population of the Sunni provinces organized an uprising to seize power in the country. They were joined by many former members of the Ba'ath Party and officers of the Iraqi army, eager for revenge and revenge on the government in Baghdad for past events. It was the presence of the former officers of the overthrown regime in the ranks of the group that formed the backbone of its military leadership that explains its military success: by the summer of 2014, they had succeeded in capturing large parts of the country. One of the first statements of the IG then was the announced intention to seize and annex Kuwait in the near future.
The Gulf countries were again forced to unite and assist the international coalition led by the United States. True, military successes no longer accompanied the Coalition, as was the case in 1991: fighting with a group based on religious fanaticism turned out to be a more difficult task than with an army weakened by sanctions.
As you can see, history repeats itself. Only the scale of this time is completely different: if in 1991, grief and suffering affected the main population of Iraq, now terrorism and other consequences of the war are spreading far beyond the region, affecting even a prosperous Europe. The Desert Storm, launched by 25 years ago, will obviously last more than one year.