Operation Desert Storm was the first major foreign crisis for the United States after the end of the Cold War.
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.
An array of nations joined the coalition, forming the largest military alliance since World War 2. Most of the coalition’s military forces were from the US, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia paid around US$32 billion of the US$60 billion cost. The war marked the introduction of live news broadcasts from the front lines of the battle, principally by the US network CNN. The war has also earned the nickname Video Game War after the daily broadcast of images from cameras on board U.S. bombers during Operation Desert Storm.
The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial and naval bombardment on 17 January 1991, continuing for five weeks. This was followed by a ground assault on 24 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased its advance and declared a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on Saudi Arabia’s border. Iraq launched Scud missiles against Israel and coalition targets in Saudi Arabia.