The Persian Gulf War

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• Part 2: The Modern War

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Part 1: History of a Conflict

The Persian Gulf War was fought in 1991 but was years in the making.

To understand both sides, it is necessary to go way back in history, to before World War I, to when the Ottoman Empire ruled much of the Middle East.

Turkey was the major power in the Ottoman Empire, and the head of the Empire ruled what is now Kuwait from his seat of power in Constantinople. Kuwait had a sheikh, who was in charge of the day-to-day goings-on in the area, but it was assumed that Kuwait was part of the ottoman Empire.

In 1899, the Ottoman Turks threatened to take control of Kuwait by force. The sheikh appealed to Great Britain for protection, and British troops landed in Kuwait, which became a British protectorate and remained so until 1961.

What is now Iraq was also part of the Ottoman Empire at that time and remained so, off and on, until the end of World War I in 1918. The defeated Ottoman Empire was split up among the victorious nations, and Great Britain was given control of Baghdad (Iraq's present-day capital) and surrounding territories. British officers and others made many improvements in Iraq but also made many Iraqi people angry. They wanted their own country, and they got it, in 1932.

In 1938, Iraq's King Ghazi I announced his plan to annex Kuwait. He wanted to make his country big again, like the Ottoman Empire. But just as Iraqi troops were ready to invade, the king died in a car crash. His successor wanted nothing to do with an invasion of Kuwait.

Then, World War II began. Both Iraq and Kuwait were pro-British during the War and for several years after that. In the years that followed, Great Britain gave up more and more of its influence in other countries, especially in the Middle East. In 1961, Kuwait declared itself and independent country. Almost immediately, the ruler of Iraq, Abdul-Karim Qassem, claimed ownership of Kuwait because both countries were originally part of the Ottoman Empire.

Britain sent troops to protect Kuwait, and Iraq withdrew its claim again.

Next page > The Modern War > Page 1, 2 

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