Top 21 faces of the Gulf War

Published: Updated:

1. Saddam Hussein

Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, accusing his southern neighbor of stealing Iraqi oil through slant drilling.

2. Saudi King Fahd

Saudi King Fahd agreed to host U.S.-led coalition troops from 34 nations, and later allowed American troops to be based in his country. After Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on the United States and other Western nations to intervene.

3. Kuwait's Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah

Kuwait’s Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah fled with his government within hours of the invasion. They ran an exiled government from a hotel in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran.

4. George H W Bush

Former U.S. President George H W Bush saw Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait as a direct threat to the international system. He often compared Saddam to Adolf Hitler, and spoke of Iraq’s aggression in terms of “good and evil.”

5. Husni Mubarak

Egypt’s former President Husni Mubarak made his country a central coalition member during the 1991 Gulf War. Egyptian infantry were among the first to land in Saudi Arabia to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. After the war, the United States, Gulf states and Europe pardoned Egypt’s approximately $20 billion of debt.

6. Dick Cheney

Former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney persuaded Saudi Arabia to allow bases for U.S. ground troops and war planes. According to WikiLeaks, Mubarak urged Cheney “three or four times” not to topple Saddam because “Iraq needed a strong leader,” and doing so would “open the gate to Iran.”

7. Gen. Khaled bin Sultan

Former Deputy Defense Minister and nephew of Saudi King Fahd, General Khaled bin Sultan served in parallel command with General Norman Schwarzkopf in the Gulf War. “We were the two luckiest generals ever to fight a war,” Sultan wrote in his book “Desert Warrior,” adding: “Few commanders in history can ever have been as certain of victory as we were.”

8. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf

Nicknamed Stormin’ Norman by his troops for his apparent temper, Schwarzkopf served as the commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command. He oversaw the build-up of 700,000 coalition troops, including more than 540,000 U.S. forces, after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

“As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist, he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great military man, I want you to know that,” he once told reporters.

9. Jordan's King Hussein

Jordan remained neutral during the crisis. Days after the Iraqi invasion, King Hussein told NBC News that Saddam was “a person to be trusted and dealt with.” The former said the latter was “an Arab patriot in the eyes of many.” King Hussein was slow to comply with U.N. economic sanctions imposed on Iraq.

10. Yasser Arafat

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat had long been supported by both Iraq and Kuwait, but chose to back Baghdad. “It is Saddam Hussein who is my ally, because [he] has accepted the request being offered to him from our people under occupation to make this linkage between the Gulf crisis and the Palestinian cause,” Arafat told CBC in 1991.

11. Hafez Assad

Late Syrian President Hafez Assad, whose country - like Saddam’s Iraq - was ruled by a Baathist one-party system, agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq in 1991. While Assad deployed only a few thousand Syrian troops in Saudi Arabia, an Arab nationalist army gave further weight to the coalition.

12. Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, emerged with Schwarzkopf as national icons. Powell was identified with the “Powell Doctrine” of applying overwhelming force and a clear exit strategy when launching military action.

13. Mikhail Gorbachev

In Jan. 1991, the Soviet Union was economically weak and politically unstable, allowing it to take the role only of a middleman. It condemned Iraq’s aggression, but Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev put forward a six-point peace plan. Moscow’s diplomatic efforts proved futile.

14. Nayirah

A 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, who provided only her first name Nayirah, gave testimony before the non-governmental Congressional Human Rights Caucus on Oct. 10, 1990, saying she had witnessed the murder of infant children by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait.

In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah was the daughter of Saud al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States. It was also revealed that her testimony was fabricated and organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign, which was run by Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government.

15. Tariq Aziz

Tariq Aziz was Iraq’s foreign minister between 1983 and 1991, and deputy prime minister between 1979 and 2003. He condemned Arab states participating in the 1991 Gulf War as “subservient Arab weaklings.” Aziz remained loyal to Saddam until the end of his life.

16. Izzat al-Douri

Izzat al-Douri was a military commander and army vice-chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council until the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. When the 1991 Gulf War broke out, the New York Times quoted Douri as warning the Kurds not to cause trouble.

He allegedly reminded them of the Iraqi army’s chemical attack against them in Halabja in 1988: “If you have forgotten Halabja, I would like to remind you that we are ready to repeat the operation.” Thousands of Kurds were killed in that attack.

17. CNN correspondents

CNN’s Bernard Shaw, John Holliman and Peter Arnett are remembered for their reporting of the 1991 Gulf War. Arnett was the only reporter with live coverage directly from Baghdad. Shaw, who found shelter under a desk as he reported cruise missiles flying past his window at Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, was remembered for his line: “Clearly I’ve never been there, but this feels like we’re in the center of hell.”

18. Ken Karecke's picture

Ken Jarecke, who was a contract photographer for TIME magazine, was on the ground hours after the launch of the air campaign on Jan. 16, 1991, and continued documenting the conflict through the ceasefire on Feb. 28.

Despite restrictions the Pentagon placed on journalists, Jarecke managed to photograph horrific images, including one of an Iraqi soldier burned alive in his truck. The image stirred huge controversy over the representation of conflict in the news media. It was pulled from the American Associated Press (AP) wire, but given extensive coverage in Europe.

19. Hashem Rafsanjani

While Tehran condemned both Baghdad and Washington, Iran’s President Hashemi Rafsanjani offered to mediate in Feb. 1991. He said Iran was ready to assist Iraq, “expecting nothing in return.” He added that “peace and stability” was a function of the “evacuation of the occupiers.” Iran also gave humanitarian help to Iraqi and Kuwaiti victims.

20. James Baker

U.S. Secretary of State James Baker met with his Iraqi counterpart Aziz at a conference in Geneva on Jan. 9, 1991, to find a peaceful solution to the occupation of Kuwait. Iraq refused to withdraw, while the United States and its allies demanded an immediate withdrawal.

21. April Glaspie

Some Iraqi sources said Saddam’s decision to attack Kuwait was made a few months before the invasion on Aug. 2, 1990. However, some observers have blamed then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, for not giving Saddam a stern warning when they met in Baghdad on July 25, 1990.

According to WikiLeaks, she told Saddam: “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction.”