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Persian Gulf War

  • Date Submitted: 04/15/2012 08:01 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 51 
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Persian Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War in 1991 had a variety of environmental consequences for the Middle East. The most devastating of these effects were from the oil spills and oil fires deliberately committed by the Iraqi army. There were extensive press coverage of these events at the time, and the United States accused the Iraqis of "environmental terrorism." These accusations were seen by some as propaganda effort, and there was almost certainly some political motivation to both how the damage was estimated and how it was characterized during the war. But it is clear now that the note of outrage often struck by the Allies was not out of place. The devastation, though not as extensive as originally supposed, was still substantial.

The Iraqis began discharging oil into the Persian Gulf from the Sea Island Terminal and other supertanker terminals off the coast of Kuwait on January 23, 1991. Allied bombers tried to limit the damage by striking at pipelines carrying oil to these locations, but the flow continued throughout the war. Estimates of the size of the spill have varied widely and the controversy still continues, with a number of diplomatic and political pressures preventing many government agencies from committing themselves to specific figures. But it now seems likely that this was the worst oil spill in history, probably 20 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and twice the size of the 1979 spill from the blowout of Ixtoc I well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Whatever the actual size of the spill, it occurred in an area that was already one of the most polluted in the world. Oil spills and oil dumping are common in the Persian Gulf; it has been estimated that as many as two million barrels of oil are spilled in these waters every year. Some ecologists believe that the ecosystem in the area has a certain amount of resistance to the effects of pollution. Other scientists have maintained that the high level of salinity in...


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