Photographic evidence of the Iraqi regime's destruction in Kuwait from August 1990 through February 1991
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The Retreat: Oil Fires

Saddam seems to have thought that threatening to burn Kuwaiti oil wells would immunize Iraq from attack. If so, this proved to be a miscalculation.

In the event of an Iraqi retreat, Saddam intended for all wells to be ignited. Iraqi demolition experts had begun wiring all 1,294 active wells in mid-August 1990, then had to rush in February 1991 to rewire 788 after Kuwaiti oil workers disabled the initial wiring. Of these, 613 burst into flame and 157 exploded without fire. Huge oil losses and pollution resulted from 114 of these explosions, which created gushers.

In addition to the setting of oil fires, 10 oil storage centers were completely destroyed, oil pipelines were blown up, and oil stored in terminals at the ports was poured into the Gulf. The main purpose of directing oil into coastal waters was to prevent an amphibious landing by coalition troops, but it was also done to wreck marine habitats.

The sabotage included ignition of a few natural gas wells and destruction of gas transport, storage, and processing facilities.

For health reasons, US Army Intelligence warned American troops in January 1991 to stay more than 200 meters away from oil fires. The main concern was the hazard of hydrogen sulfide gas in the smoke.

Most of the sabotage to the wells and other oil facilities, as well as the sinking of five anchored oil tankers, occurred during February 16-22, 1991.

Southeastern Kuwait, where the Burgan complex of oil fields lie, suffered the most oil damage.

Oil Wells Were Prepared for Sabotage
Saddam sent special teams of engineers to Kuwait to rig its oil wells with incendiary devices and later to detonate them. Land mines were planted around each well to hamper efforts to extinguish the fires.
Oil Wells Were Prepared for Sabotage

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