Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia


Origins of the First Gulf War

This revision podcast is aimed at GCSE and IGCSE History students, although AS and IB students may find it a helpful introduction to events in the Gulf in the later 20th Century.  This episode focuses on the origins of the Gulf War, with a focus on the causes and consequences of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The podcast begins with an overview of the background factors to the invasion of Kuwait, and then outlines the events of the invasion itself. The podcast concludes with a description of the effect that the invasion had on the international community, and how foreign nations responded.

The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these issues, and provide an explanation of how the events contributed to international action against Iraq that was to become known as the First Gulf War.


Operation Desert Storm

The start of Operation Desert Storm and the First Gulf War

On the 17th January 1991, the combat phase of the Gulf War began as Operation Desert Storm was launched to destroy Iraq’s military and civilian infrastructure through an enormous aerial bombing campaign. Over 2,250 coalition aircraft flew in excess of 1,000 sorties a day for five weeks, after which the ground campaign to force Iraqi troops from Kuwait began.

The trigger for the Gulf War was Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on the 2nd August, 1990. Driven by a desire to seize Kuwait’s vast oil reserves and relieve Iraq of crippling debts accrued during the Iran-Iraq War, the invasion was completed within just three days. International condemnation of Iraq was immediate and far-reaching.  The UN began by imposing complete economic sanctions, but on the 29th November 1990 gave Iraq an ultimatum: withdraw from Kuwait by the 15th January 1991 or face military force. In preparation, US Secretary of State James Baker secured support from 34 separate countries for a multi-national coalition force.

Meanwhile over 500,000 troops were sent to defend Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield, in case Iraq chose to attack. However, even as the UN’s deadline approached Saddam refused to withdraw from Kuwait. Consequently Operation Desert Storm began shortly after midnight on the 17th January. Just a few hours later, Saddam Hussein appeared on state radio saying that “The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins.” He couldn’t have been more wrong. Following five weeks of aerial bombardment, the Coalition’s ground assault forced the Iraqi troops from Kuwait in just four days.

Gulf War

The First Gulf War: Course and Consequences

This revision podcast is aimed at GCSE and IGCSE History students, although AS and IB students may find it a helpful introduction to events in the Gulf in the later 20th Century.  This episode focuses on the events and the aftermath of the First Gulf War.

The podcast begins with an overview of Operation Desert Shield and Iraq’s retaliation, before moving on to the effect of the ground invasion by Coalition forces. The podcast concludes with a description of the UN weapons inspection and the economic sanctions imposed by the ceasefire.

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Arab Revolt

The Battle of Mecca and the start of the Arab Revolt

The Arab Revolt began fully on June 10th 1916 when Grand Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the guardian of the holy city of Mecca, ordered his troops to attack the Ottoman Caliphate’s garrison in the city.

Hussein’s troops, drawn from his tribe, significantly outnumbered the Ottoman soldiers but were considerably less well equipped. Consequently, despite impressive initial gains, Hussein’s troops were unable to win the battle until Egyptian troops sent by the British arrived to provide artillery support.

Through correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner of Egypt at the time, Hussein had become convinced that the Revolt would be rewarded with an independent Arabian empire stretching through the Middle East. The British supported the Revolt as it distracted tens of thousands of Ottoman troops from joining other fronts in the First World War.

Captain T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia for his involvement in the Revolt, did not join with the Arab forces until October 1916. Although he was just one of many British and French officers who worked closely with the Arabs during the Revolt, newspaper reports of his guerrilla tactics and close relationship with Hussein’s sons Faisal and Abdullah earned him fame.

The Revolt was an enormous success, but the outcome was not what was agreed in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. The British and French instead divided the land according to the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement that they had negotiated between themselves in 1916. Hussein was given the Hejaz region in the Arabian Peninsula, but was defeated in 1925 by Ibn Saud.