The Intelligence War in the Gulf


The Persian Gulf War, commonly referred to as the Gulf War was a combat operation waged against Iraq by a coalition force comprised of 40 nations. It was codenamed Operation Desert Shield for the period that involved forming troops and deploying them to defend Saudi Arabia (2 August, 1990 – 17 January, 1991). It was later renamed Operation Desert Storm after the attacks began, and lasted from 17 January to 28 February, 1991. The United Nations (UN) authorized the attack in response to Iraq’s invasion and subsequent occupation of the State of Kuwait, which violated the organization’s resolutions. Saddam Hussein waged the war in order to secure Kuwait’s oil reserves, expand his power into the Islands of Warba and Bubiyan, and revoke a $40 billion war debt it owed Kuwait (Carlisle, 2003). The war was fought between August 2, 1990 and February 28, 1991, lasting for approximately seven months. The Iran-Iraq War ended with a truce brokered by the UN, with both nations agreeing to sign a permanent peace treaty that would end their conflicts. However, Saddam Hussein contravened the agreement and accused Kuwait of stealing oil from the Ar-Rumaylah oil fields, which was a border shared by the two nations. Efforts by Egypt’s leader Hosni Mubarak failed, and Iraq troops invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The move was condemned by members of the Arab League, the US, the Soviet Union, and Britain, and economic sanctions were issued against Iraq. Members of the UN Security Council declined to offer financial aid to Iraq for the attack contravened UN resolutions (Loges, 1996). The war was fought by the Allied Coalition, an alliance of forty nations, including the US, France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Argentina, Afghanistan, Australia, the UK, and Saudi Arabia among others. The operational names of the war included Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, and Operation Desert Sabre, Operation Granby, and Operation Desert Farewell.


Intelligence Operation in Gulf War

The success of intelligence operation in the Gulf War can be attributed to the cordial relationship between US intelligence at all operational levels and the other forces of the allied coalition. Generally, the US and the 39 coalition partners exchanged intelligence openly since the commencement of combat (Carlisle, 2003). United States’ intelligence officers received support from coalition intelligence liaison officers and vice versa. The success of Desert Storm/Shield was primarily due to the incorporation of advanced technologies in intelligence collection as well as the concerted efforts of intelligence professionals, especially groups like the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).

The DIA contributions were immense: it created an Intelligence Task Force that resided in the Pentagon, and its role was to collect and disseminate short-term intelligence and brief the warfighters and the Joint Staff. The Operational Intelligence Crisis Center was located at Bolling Air Force Base, and its role was to collect, analyze, and disseminate long-term intelligence to campaign planners and Joint Staff (Bird, 2004). DIA also positioned 11 National Military Intelligence Support Teams (NMISTs), comprising of intelligence analysts, in the field to serve as liaison personnel between the tactical commanders and the intelligence community (Bird, 2004). The National Security Agency had two roles: to support tactical commanders by providing Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and serve as liaison points for operational commands (Bird, 2004). The intelligence operation led to the defeat of the Iraqis because of the application of technologies that gave the allied forces an edge (Carlisle, 2003). For instance, the use of satellite surveillance systems intercepted secret communications that exposed the plans and strategies of Saddam Hussein (Tucker-Jones, 2014). Moreover, the forces were able to attack with precision because of the intelligence collected from behind enemy lines.

Intelligence regarding combat was collected by Battalion Task Force Intelligence Officers. Moreover, national intelligence agencies provided the battalions with information that was used for operational planning. Tactical and operational intelligence collection incorporated the capabilities of Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) to provide appropriate information to commanders (Bird, 2004). Counterintelligence (CI) personnel briefed the US military forces about potential terrorist attacks and about conditions in Kuwait. Interrogators and debriefers also provided intelligence, operating from Border Stations guarded by coalition forces (Carlisle, 2003). Iraqi defectors came to these stations and provided intelligence about the Iraqi troops’ objectives and military capabilities. Special Operations Forces (SOFs) and Long Range Surveillance Detachment (LRSDs) collected and disseminated intelligence from Iraq (Bird, 2004). They gave information on the mood of Iraqi troops, the nature of landing zones, and the site feasibility of river crossing points.

The United States incorporated several technologies in the Gulf War operations to collect and disseminate intelligence: satellite surveillance systems, global positioning system (GPS, and holographic One-Tube light amplifying goggles. Spy satellites were used to intercept Iraqi military communications and generate useful intelligence (Bird, 2004). During Operation Desert Storm, military troops used handheld GPS receivers to navigate the rough terrains in the deserts (Carlisle, 2003). NAVSTAR GPS was applied immensely during the Gulf War to conduct land navigation. This gave the coalition forces an advantage over the Iraqis. Meal trucks and tanks were installed with GPS receivers to enhance access to soldiers who were located in several regions within the desert (Bird, 2004). The Holographic One-Tube light amplifying goggles gave the allied forces an edge over the Iraqis during the night.

Operation Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm was a 42-day air combat that was led by the United States’ military that was aimed at ejecting Iraqis troop from Kuwait. Prior to its commencement, it was known as Operation Desert Shield. It took place between 17 January 1991 and 28 February, 1991, and it involved the US and troops sent by several Arab countries, Egypt, and NATO allies (Carlisle, 2003). Assets used in the operation included Cruise missiles, bombs with laser-guidance systems, Stealth bombs, war equipment with infrared capabilities, battle tanks, and GPSs (Carlisle, 2003). The operation was characterized by 42 consecutive days of intensive aerial bombing that has been described as one of the greatest in history. More than 88, 5000 tons of bombs were dropped from airborne planes, resulting in the massive destruction of both military and civilian infrastructure (Tucker-Jones, 2014). The campaign was headed by USAF Lieutenant General Chuck Horner, and involved more than 116,000 combat air sorties and 18,000 air missions (Ball, 1991). The operation was successful because of the use of advanced military technology that Hussein’s soldiers did not have.

After the destruction of infrastructure, the operation’s next target was the Iraqis command and communication facilities such as scud missile launchers, naval forces, and weapons research facilities. More than 30% of the coalition’s air machinery was used to attack Scuds. They were difficult to destroy because the majority of them were mounted on trucks (Carlisle, 2003). However, the intelligence produced by US and British special operations forces within the Iraqi jurisdiction aided in their obliteration. The allied coalition had superior air power, and therefore, Hussein’s man-portable air-defense systems were inadequate in their functions (Loges, 1996). Only 77 aircrafts were destroyed by the Iraqis aerial bombardments. The first use of the MIM-104C Patriot missile system in war was during this operation (Carlisle, 2003). It was used to intercept and destroy Scud missiles from the Iraqis. Moreover, the stealth and space systems support capabilities were used for the first time in combat.

In response to the coalition’s intensive assault, Iraq launched Scud missiles at Israel in an effort to split the coalition. Hussein hoped that certain Arab nations would withdraw from the war due to their unwillingness to fight alongside Israel. However, Israel sent several Air Force jets to conduct surveillance on the northern air space, but did not counterattack because President Bush prevailed over Mubarak (Ball, 1991). He feared that a retaliatory attack would compel the Arab states to either join Iraq or leave the coalition. Israel relented after the coalition promised to send Patriot missiles to offer protection. Iraqis Scud missiles against Israel did not cause massive damage because of their highly reduced accuracy and payload (Ball, 1991). 74 Israelis died, 230 were injured, and property was damaged. The use of gas masks and the sturdy construction techniques applied in the construction of Israeli towns limited the casualties of the attacks (Carlisle, 2003). After the Scud attack, the US deployed a Patriot missile air defense battalion to Israel to prevent retaliation and also to protect the civilians. Iraq also fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar, causing a single casualty in all the three attacks (Tucker-Jones, 2014). A similar attack on a US Army barracks of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment based in Saudi Arabia killed 28 soldiers and injured several.

Conflict Management

The two main parties involved in the Gulf War were Iraq and Kuwait. Prior to the war, several efforts had been made for the conflict between the two nations to be resolved amicably. However, after Saddam Hussein failed to honor their agreement for a peaceful resolution, the UN sectioned an attack (Loges, 1996). There were several actors besides the two nations that were responsible for the conflict’s internalization. The United States was a key player in the conflict because the Middle East was the main focus in its effort to create lasting peace in the world, and viewed it as the major obstacle to the goal’s attainment (Carlisle, 2003). President Bush stated that America was against aggression and the use of violence to break laws. The discovery of Oil in the Middle East enhanced its international importance. Therefore, the emergence of the crises in the region placed the interests of America and the world at risk. In that regard, the US had to take swift action by mobilizing the members of the UN Security Council to join forces (Loges, 1996). Several countries joined the call and the UN served as the mediator.

The invasion of Kuwait’s sovereignty was the main issue that caused the conflict. Kuwait was producing more oil that Iraq, and so, joined forces with four other countries to found the Organization of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC). Saddam Hussein was unhappy that the neighboring country was producing more oil than Iraq. As a result, he attacked and occupied Kuwait, a move that was met with harsh criticism. Despite UN Security Council’s resolutions 661,662, and 678, Iraq declined to leave and claimed that the annexation was not negotiable (Carlisle, 2003). Therefore, the allied forces were authorized to use all the measures necessary to eject Iraq from Kuwait. The power relationships of the two countries were different. Kuwait was richer, but Iraq had a bigger and stronger army. Moreover, the formed had never been engaged in a full-blown war, and was therefore inexperienced. These factors rendered the management of the conflict difficult because in Iraqis estimation, victory was guaranteed.

There are several conflict management strategies, including avoiding, compromising, accommodating, competing and collaborating. Several approaches to addressing conflicts have been identified, and they are contending, problem solving, inaction, and yielding. The allied forces and Iraqi forces used the contending approach to manage the conflict. Contending can be defined as the use of dominance to achieve one’s objectives against an opposing party. In this case, both parties are only concerned about how they can benefit from the situation at the expense of the other. The allied forces and the Iraqi forces used force to resolve the conflict on their own terms, oblivious of the other’s interests (Loges, 1996). On one hand, the allied forces used threats, economic sanctions, and preemptive actions to end the war. On the other hand, the Iraqi forces used threats and violent actions. Both parties applied this strategy because they had made irrevocable commitments and concessions were not among the available options. A stalemate ensued because Iraqis withdrawal was unacceptable and America’s concession would have hurt devalued its superpower title. Therefore, they had to go to war.

Saddam Hussein Military Leadership

Saddam Hussein was the fifth president of Iraq and the leader of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the Iraqi Ba’ath party. He was a key player in the 1968 coup that brought his party to power. As the country’s vice president, Hussein formed security forces whose role was to address the misunderstandings that erupted between the government and the military (Holloway, 2002). He formally because president in 1979, although he had performed presidential roles for several years because General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr was unhealthy and could not handle heavy responsibilities. He attended a nationalistic high school in the city of Baghdad, and later joined Cairo Law School, even though he did not complete his studies. He dropped out after three years and joined the pa-Arab Ba’ath party. In 1963, he joined Baghdad Law College to continue his education.

His leadership style can be described as authoritarian, and his character was defined by traits such as dedication, firmness, fearlessness, determination, and confidence. As a leader, he was visionary and did what was necessary to improve the economic status of Iraq. He was a strategic planner and mainly used deceptive means to attain his goals. His decision to go against the allied forces without external assistance was a show of fearlessness and firmness (Holloway, 2002). Hussein had prior military experience, which helped him to become a top government official. He became a general in the Iraqi armed forces. The war experience gained during the many years of the Iran-Iraq War was valuable in the planning and execution of the invasion of Kuwait.

General Schwarzkopf H. Norman, Jr. Military Leadership

Norman Schwarzkopf was a US army officer who was the leader of the allied forces responsible for commanding Operation Desert Storm. He came from a military background as his father held several leadership positions: he was an army colonel, a brigadier general, and a superintendent of the New Jersey State Police (McNeese, 2004). Schwarzkopf graduated from the US Military Academy in New York in 1956 and he was appointed as a second lieutenant in the army. He pursued higher education and earned a master’s degree in guided-missile engineering from the University of Southern California. He had prior war experience from his many years of service in the US Army. For instance, his first tour of duty took place between 1965 and 1966 in South Vietnam. The sound tour also took place in Vietnam, and lasted for a year, from 1969 to 1970.

His great leadership was primarily responsible for the many positions and promotions that he received. Between 1974 and 1982, Schwarzkopf was given several assignments that lasted two years each, and he was promoted numerous times during that period (McNeese, 2004). He became a major general in 1983, and took part in the US invasion of Grenada as a commander. Three years later, he was promoted to a corps commander, and a four-star general two years later, becoming commander in chief of the US Central Command (McNeese, 2004). Schwarzkopf’s leadership style can be described as charismatic because he was able to lead a diverse group of military troops from different cultural backgrounds and nationalities. His character was characterized by humility, empathy, resilience, and adaptability (McNeese, 2004). His humility endeared him to many people, especially soldiers that were under his command.


Ball, D. (1991). The intelligence war in the Gulf. Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.

Bird, J. J. (2004). Analysis of intelligence support to the 1991 Persian Gulf War: Enduring lessons. Strategy Research Project, US Army War College.

Carlisle, R. P. (2003). Persian Gulf War. Infobase Publishing.

Holloway, D. (2002). Analyzing leaders, presidents and terrorists. iUniverse.

Loges, M. J. (1996). The Persian Gulf War: Military doctrine and strategy. National Defense University.

McNeese, T. (2004). Great military leaders of the 20th century: H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Chelsea House Publishers.

Tucker-Jones, A. (2014). The Gulf War: Operation Desert Storm 1990-1991. Pen & Sword Military.

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