A map of the Persian Gulf in 1991 shows oil and gas fields spread along a northwest to southeast axis through eastern Iraq, Kuwait, the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

Analyze Maps

The Persian Gulf region has seen numerous wars in recent years. What information on this map suggests one reason why this region is so important to the nations of the industrialized world?

Warfare in Iraq

The modern nation of Iraq was carved out of the Ottoman empire after World War I. Its population included Sunni and Shiite Arabs, as well as Kurds who lived in the north. Although Shiites were the majority population, Sunnis controlled the government. Kurds distrusted the government and wanted self-rule.

Divisions among these groups fed tensions in Iraq. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for influence in Iraq, which had vast oil resources and was strategically located on the Persian Gulf.

The Iran-Iraq War

In 1980, Iraq's neighbor Iran was engulfed in its Islamic Revolution. Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, took advantage of the turmoil to seize a disputed border region. His action sparked the long, costly Iran-Iraq War. After both sides attacked foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, the United States sent naval forces to protect shipping lanes. The war ended in a stalemate in 1988, but with huge human and economic costs for both Iran and Iraq.

During the war, Saddam Hussein brutally suppressed a Kurdish revolt, using chemical weapons on civilians. His actions sparked international outrage and charges of genocide.

The 1991 Gulf War

In 1990, Iraq invaded its oil-rich neighbor, Kuwait. Saddam Hussein wanted Kuwait's vast oil fields and greater access to the Persian Gulf. The United States saw the invasion as a threat to its ally, Saudi Arabia, and to the vital oil resources of the region.

In 1991, a U.S.-led coalition of international forces under the UN banner drove Saddam's forces out of Kuwait. Despite this defeat, Saddam remained in power. He brutally crushed revolts by Shiite Iraqis and Kurds. To protect the Shiites and Kurds, the UN set up no-fly zones, or areas where Iraqi aircraft were banned.

The Iraq War

The 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. led to new moves against Saddam Hussein. The United States organized a new international coalition to remove Saddam from power. The U.S. claimed that the Iraqi dictator supported terrorists.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments