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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Gulf War

On 2 August 1990 Iraq invaded its southern neighbour, Kuwait, and rapidly occupied the country; its reasons included long-standing claims to all or part of *Kuwait, and a more recent dispute over oil prices and the extraction of oil near the border. The UN Security Council immediately condemned this aggression and applied trade sanctions against Iraq. As Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi Arabian border, the USA and the UK decided to send troops to protect the Saudis and to enforce UN resolutions concerning Iraq's withdrawal. Twelve Arab nations also agreed to join the allied UN force, as did France and Italy.

President Saddam Hussein of Iraq rounded up all the westerners he could find in Kuwait and took them to Baghdad (among them were the British passengers from flight *BA 149), saying that he would deploy them as a human shield against air attack. During the autumn of 1990 a succession of foreign dignitaries visited Baghdad to plead on behalf of the hostages (including Edward *Heath from Britain and Willy Brandt from Germany), each returning with some they had rescued; Saddam Hussein then surprised everyone, on December 6, by releasing all the remaining western hostages.

The United Nations gave 16 January 1991 as the final deadline by which Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait; Saddam Hussein merely promised in return the 'mother of battles'. Air strikes on Iraqi positions in Kuwait and on selected military targets in Iraq began during the night of January 16–17 – it was the start of Operation Desert Storm. Soon, on television screens around the world, US guided missiles were seen seeking out their targets with uncanny precision. Iraq in return launched Russian-supplied Scud rockets against Israel and Saudi Arabia, most of which were intercepted and destroyed during flight by US Patriot missles.

By late January the Iraqis were pumping vast quantities of Kuwaiti oil into the gulf to form a huge slick, and in February they began setting fire to Kuwaiti oil fields. An allied ground offensive began on February 24, and met very little resistance. Kuwait City was liberated on February 26. And on February 27 the allies engaged the best trained and equipped of Saddam Hussein's forces, the Republican Guard, in a final tank battle west of the city of Basra in southern Iraq; it was during this engagement, on the last day of the war, that nine British soldiers were killed in their armoured vehicles when they were fired on in error by US planes. The allied offensive was suspended in the early hours of the following morning. The total number of British casualties was 24.

There then began years of frustrating effort in the attempt to force Saddam Hussein to comply with the UN requirement that his war machine be destroyed; this included research establishments working on nuclear and chemical weapons. At the same time it proved necessary to take steps to protect Iraq's large minorities – the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south – from their president's savage attentions.

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