In a sneak attack, President Saddam Hussein of Iraq ordered an army of more than 100,000 soldiers and 700 tanks to cross the Iraqi border into Kuwait at 1 a.m. on August 2, 1990. As this force descended on Kuwait City from two directions, the city was bombed from the air and attacked from the sea by commandos delivered ashore from boats and helicopters.
Receiving advance intelligence of the Iraqi intention to execute the royal family, the Emir and his household left
Dasman Palace in Kuwait City at 3 a.m. and escaped to Saudi Arabia. Fahad, one of the Emir’s younger brothers returned to his
country from London on August 2 on British Airways’ “last
flight to Kuwait” and was executed that day.
The main battles were fought in the air over Kuwait City
and on land at Dasman Palace and Al-Jahra (the Battle
of the Bridges). After two days of fighting, Kuwait was
overrun and the occupation began.
International condemnation of the invasion was swift.
Saddam responded by warning to turn Kuwait into
a "graveyard" if other nations intervened.
In the months preceding the invasion, Iraqi delegations
had visited Kuwait's industrial centers and airport
ostensibly on a mission to study modernization.
Iraq's attack on Kuwait was not a contest among equals.
Kuwait has 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi) compared with
Iraq's 434,072 sq km (167,600 sq mi). At the time of the
invasion, Kuwait's population was 2 million. About 25%
were citizens; the rest were foreign workers. By contrast,
Iraq's population numbered nearly 19 million with a total
military force about 34 times larger than Kuwait's.
Iraqi Troops Crossing the Border
During the dead of night, the world's fourth largest military force rolled across Kuwait's northern border. Kuwait's armed forces, tiny in comparison, could resist only briefly and withdraw to Saudi Arabia. Iraqi tanks, trucks, and helicopters were at the edge of Kuwait City an hour later.