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A Look Back: Operation Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm was the first major foreign crisis for the United States after the end of the Cold War.

On Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein led a well-equipped Iraqi army into Kuwait, a major supplier of oil to the United States.

The U.S. had supplied Iraq with military aid during its eight-year war with Iran, giving Iraq the fourth-largest army in the world at that time. This posed a threat to Saudi Arabia, another major exporter of oil. If Saudi Arabia fell, Iraq would control one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. The Iraqi leader also was repeatedly violating United Nations resolutions, so the U.S. had U.N. support in responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

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  1. More than 500,000 American troops deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield, in case Iraqi troops attacked Saudi Arabia.
  2. On Jan. 15, 1991, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm, backed by public support after diplomacy failed.
  3. Desert Storm became the largest air campaign since the conflict in Southeast Asia.
  4. The U.S. and 40 allied nations, including several Arab nations, flew more than 18,000 air deployment missions, more than 116,000 combat air sorties and dropped 88,500 tons of bombs.
  5. After air attacks that lasted for six weeks, the ground campaign lasted only 100 hours before Kuwait was liberated.
  6. Iraq tried to split the coalition by launching Scud missiles at Israel, but Israel refrained from responding, thanks to its partnership with the United States.
  7. Desert Storm saw the first use of the MIM-104C Patriot missile system in combat, where it was used to intercept Scud missiles. It was also the first time the Air Force used stealth and space systems support capabilities against a modern, integrated air defense.
  8. About 697,000 U.S. troops took part in the war, with 299 losing their lives.
  9. The United States remains in good standing with many of the countries involved in the coalition that began with Operation Desert Storm 27 years ago.

Source: Department of Defense

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