From Baghdad to Basra, Kirkuk to Babylon, Iraqis agree that the incursion "marked the beginning of the end."

In this file photo taken on February 25, 1991, US military vehicles are seen in the desert in Iraq on the second day of the massive ground assault into Kuwait and Iraq.
In this file photo taken on February 25, 1991, US military vehicles are seen in the desert in Iraq on the second day of the massive ground assault into Kuwait and Iraq. (AFP)

Thirty years have passed since Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein invaded neighbouring Kuwait, but despite hints of a diplomatic rapprochement, people in both countries say the wounds have yet to heal.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam sent his military, already exhausted by an eight-year conflict with Iran, into Kuwait to seize what he dubbed "Iraq's 19th province."

The two-day operation turned into a seven-month occupation and, for many Iraqis, opened the door to 30 years of devastation that has yet to end.

On July 18, 1990, tensions spiralled after Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing petrol from the Rumaila oil field and encroaching on its territory.

Saddam demanded $2.4 billion from the emirate.

Kuwait countered, saying Iraq is trying to drill oil wells on its territory.

It was one of several disputes, the most complex involving their border – a bone of contention since Kuwait's independence in 1961.

Attempts by the Arab League and Saudi Arabia to mediate an end to the crisis failed and talks were suspended on August 1.

Then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein holds up a gun in this 1991 photograph, which was exhibited at The Leader’s Museum in Baghdad on September 24, 2002.
Then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein holds up a gun in this 1991 photograph, which was exhibited at The Leader’s Museum in Baghdad on September 24, 2002. (Reuters)

The next day, Iraq invaded.

"Iraqi troops began at 11 pm GMT (2 am local time)  to violate our northern borders, to enter Kuwait territory and to occupy positions within Kuwait," Radio Kuwait announces in its first news bulletin.

Faced with 100,000 Iraqi troops and 300 tanks, the 16,000-strong Kuwaiti army was overwhelmed.

The capital fell that morning and Kuwait's head of state Sheikh Jaber al Ahmad Al Sabah fled to Saudi Arabia.

This file photo taken on August 16, 1990 shows Egyptian refugees loading their luggage atop a bus at the Iraq-Jordan border checkpoint as thousands of foreigners flee the war in Iraq and Kuwait.
This file photo taken on August 16, 1990 shows Egyptian refugees loading their luggage atop a bus at the Iraq-Jordan border checkpoint as thousands of foreigners flee the war in Iraq and Kuwait. (AFP)

The international community condemned the invasion and oil prices soared on world markets.

At an emergency meeting, the UN Security Council demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

The Soviet Union, Iraq's main arms supplier, halted its deliveries.

This picture taken on July 27, 2020 shows a Soviet-built Iraqi tank outside al Qurain Martyr’s Museum, home to a battle which lasted 10 hours between invading Iraqi troops and a group of Kuwaiti fighters during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, in Kuwait City.
This picture taken on July 27, 2020 shows a Soviet-built Iraqi tank outside al Qurain Martyr’s Museum, home to a battle which lasted 10 hours between invading Iraqi troops and a group of Kuwaiti fighters during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, in Kuwait City. (AFP)

Washington froze Iraqi assets in the US and its subsidiaries abroad, along with Kuwaiti assets, to prevent them benefiting Baghdad.

On August 6, the UN Security Council slapped a trade, financial and military embargo on Iraq.

Two days later, the US president George HW Bush announced he was sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

In this file photo taken on August 28, 1990, US Army tanks from the 24th Infantry Division are unloaded during military manoeuvres in Saudi Arabia as US army was deployed in the Persian Gulf.
In this file photo taken on August 28, 1990, US Army tanks from the 24th Infantry Division are unloaded during military manoeuvres in Saudi Arabia as US army was deployed in the Persian Gulf. (AFP)

On August 8, Baghdad announced Kuwait's "total and irreversible" incorporation into Iraq.
Later in the month, Iraq annexed the emirate as its 19th province.

On November 29, the UN Security Council authorised the use of "all necessary means" to force Iraq out of Kuwait if it did not voluntarily withdraw its troops by January 15, 1991.

Baghdad rejected the ultimatum.

On January 17, after diplomatic initiatives failed, Operation Desert Storm launched with intensive bombardments of Iraq and Kuwait.

On February 24, Bush announced a ground offensive.

The allied troops then freed the emirate in days. 

Kuwaiti exiles read a local newspaper announcing the start of the Gulf War in Dubai in this January 17, 1991 file photo.
Kuwaiti exiles read a local newspaper announcing the start of the Gulf War in Dubai in this January 17, 1991 file photo. (Reuters Archive)
US President George HW Bush and Secretary of State James Baker study prepared remarks at Bush's desk in the Oval Office on February 22, 1991.
US President George HW Bush and Secretary of State James Baker study prepared remarks at Bush's desk in the Oval Office on February 22, 1991. (Reuters Archive)

Bush announced on February 27 the liberation of Kuwait and the cessation of hostilities the next day, at 4 am GMT.

Iraq accepted all UN resolutions.

Kuwaiti and Saudi soldiers dance as they arrive in downtown Kuwait city after the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from Kuwait on February 27, 1991.
Kuwaiti and Saudi soldiers dance as they arrive in downtown Kuwait city after the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from Kuwait on February 27, 1991. (Reuters)

The crisis divided Arab states.

Egyptian and Syrian armies took part in the coalition, but it was denounced by other Arab countries.

In this file photo taken on March 26, 1991, two Kuwaiti men walk in al Ahmadi oil field next to a burning oil well set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops.
In this file photo taken on March 26, 1991, two Kuwaiti men walk in al Ahmadi oil field next to a burning oil well set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops. (AFP)

Even politically, the war's bitter legacy took years to undo.

The UN only lifted the last of its sanctions on Iraq in 2010, and Baghdad has paid around $50 billion in the last three decades in reparations.

US protestors hold up a banner during a news conference outside the United Nations offices in Amman, 1997, December 2.
US protestors hold up a banner during a news conference outside the United Nations offices in Amman, 1997, December 2. (Reuters)

While Iraq languished, Kuwait prospered: its currency is one of the most valuable in the world and its people are some of the wealthiest.

Kuwait has demonstrated some goodwill: in 2018, it hosted a global summit to gather funds to rebuild Iraq, ravaged by the three-year fight against Daesh.

But it remains bitter over two issues: borders and bodies.

Kuwait is lambasting Iraq for delays in identifying the remains of Kuwaiti victims buried in Iraq.

The fate of around 1,000 citizens from each country remains unknown, after years of war and chaos.

A girl looks up at pictures of hundreds of people missing since the 1990-1991 Gulf Crisis, on display at a major celebration marking the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait 10 years ago, in Kuwait City, February 25, 2001.
A girl looks up at pictures of hundreds of people missing since the 1990-1991 Gulf Crisis, on display at a major celebration marking the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait 10 years ago, in Kuwait City, February 25, 2001. (Reuters)

More than a decade later, in 2003, Kuwait served as a bridgehead for the US-led invasion of Iraq, which leads to the overthrow of Saddam.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies