America’s Longest War – A Brief Timeline of US Military Campaigns in the Middle East

America’s longest war in the Middle East. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Editors

Historically, the US policies in the Middle East have been predicated on firepower, as a fundamental way of influencing geopolitics. Here are a few examples.

The United States and Britain carried out strikes against Yemen in the early hours of Friday local time.

Massive explosions occurred in Sanaa, Hodeidah, and other cities, the Yemen Ansarallah movement and eyewitnesses said, leading to the death of five people and the wounding of six others.

The action comes after Washington and London vowed to retaliate against Ansarallah’s prevention of Israel-bound ships from traveling in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, in the Red Sea.

Following the attack, Ansarallah said that they will continue to target ships going to or returning from Israeli ports until Tel Aviv ends its genocidal war on Gaza and allows for critical aid to reach the starving population of the Strip.

Refusing to apply any pressure on Israel, Washington opted to attack Ansarallah targets in Yemen. 

US officials – including the Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House John Kirby – have said that Washington hopes that the Yemeni group has “received the message”.

An Ansarallah spokesperson told the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen channel on Friday morning, however, that his group’s message is, in fact, directed to the Palestinians themselves, particularly those in Gaza, that Ansarallah will continue to stand by their side against Israeli crimes. 

History of War 

Historically, the US policies in the Middle East have been predicated on firepower, as a fundamental way of influencing geopolitics and resolving issues that it could not achieve through other means.  

Here is a short timeline of some of these wars and military interventions.

1982–1983: War on Lebanon

In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. It was not the first time that Tel Aviv carried out a major military aggression against its small Arab neighbor. 

As Israel was trying to eliminate Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab Resistance in the country, Washington came to the rescue. 

In September 1982, the US dispatched the battleships USS John Rodgers and nuclear cruiser USS Virginia to the Lebanese shores in a military operation justified on the basis of the so-called “aggressive self-defense”. 

American gunboats engaged in the bombing of several targets, including the town of Suk Al-Gharb.

1986 – War on Libya

In March 1986, the Reagan Administration authorized a massive military strike on Libyan military targets focused mostly on Tripoli, Benghazi, Mitiga International Airport, and Benina International Airport.

In the following month, US air and naval forces carried out a series of naval strikes on the Libyan capital of Tripoli, resulting in the death of at least 40 Libyans, including the adoptive daughter of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

1991 – The First War on Iraq

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, a post-Cold War triumphant US galvanized a 42-country coalition, carrying out a major war against Iraq. 

The American war, which resulted in the death of tens of thousands, came in two phases: the so-called Operation Desert Shield, which lasted from August 1990 to January 1991, and Operation Desert Storm, which began with a massive bombardment campaign against Iraq in January 1991. 

The war resulted in the establishment of many US military bases in the Gulf region, and sowed the seeds of many other military interventions and conflicts, which continue to be felt throughout the region until this day.

1991 – 2003 – Also Iraq

Following the war in Iraq, the US and its allies have demarcated geographic areas in the northern and southern parts of the country as no-fly zones, in which the Iraqi military was not allowed to operate. 

Habitually, the US bombed numerous Iraqi targets, leading up to so-called Operation Desert Fox in 1998, and ultimately to another major war on Iraq in 2003.

1998 – Afghanistan and Sudan

The Clinton Administration ordered a massive aerial attack on targets in both Afghanistan and Sudan, under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The attack, however, especially in the case of Sudan, seemed to target civilian infrastructure, particularly the country’s largest pharmaceutical company, Al-Shifa, an event that proved disastrous for the coming months and years. 

But the so-called Operation Infinite Reach, of August 1998 seemed to be motivated by something else entirely, a distraction from Clinton’s sexual scandal at the White House, which ultimately resulted in his impeachment. 

1998 – Iraq again

In that same year, also the Clinton administration carried out the so-called Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq, which lasted from December 16-19. 

As is often the case, Washington was joined by London in its brief but deadly war. Both countries claimed that Iraq was being punished for interfering with the work of United Nations Special Commission inspectors who were looking for weapons of mass destruction. 

Later years proved that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Sporadic attacks on Iraq continued for years. 

2001–2021 – War on Afghanistan

Dubbed a ‘War on Terror’, Washington and its Western allies launched a major war and invasion of Afghanistan in October 2021.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan was subjected to 20 years of a relentless war, which resulted in the death and wounding – whether directly or as a result of war-related famine and conflicts – of hundreds of thousands of Afghans. 

2003 – 2011 – The Second War on Iraq

The second US-led Western war on Iraq was also conducted under the guise of fighting terrorism, though Iraq had no proven links to the September 11 2001 attacks, nor were WMDs found in the country. 

The official goal of the military operation, according to Washington, was “to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States.”

Aside from over one million dead Iraqis, the US-led war has destabilized the Middle East until this day, resulting in the collapse of the Iraqi state and the rise of regional militancy.

2011 – War on Libya

After misinterpreting UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the US and other NATO members launched on March 19, a war against Libya, dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn. 

Though the war ultimately led to the collapse of the Libyan state, it resulted in an equally deadly civil war and the division of the country, which remains in effect until this day. 

2018 – Attack on Syria

The US and its allies carried out military strikes against the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs in April 2018, alleging that Syria had used chemical weapons in an attack in the city of Douma.

2021 – Syria again

In February 2021, the US carried out airstrikes on a border region in eastern Syria, claiming that the attack was in retaliation to a previous attack against US and coalition forces in Iraq. 

2014 – to date

In 2014, US and other NATO members, but also regional militaries, began to strike positions belonging to a movement calling itself the Islamic State, or ISIS. 

The ‘War against ISIS’ also included other groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front. The attacks took place in regions across Iraq and Syria. 

American attacks also took place in various parts of the Middle East and Africa, according to a list of targets designated by the Pentagon and approved by the White House. 

This resulted in attacks that took place in Yemen, Somalia, and other parts of the Middle East and East Africa. 

The Kill List 

The so-called Disposition Matrix, or, informally the kill list, is a “database of information for tracking, capturing, rendering, or killing suspected enemies of the United States.”

The kill list was developed by the Obama administration in 2010. Although Obama had acquired a reputation of being a man of peace, his kill list allowed him to reach targets anywhere in the world, and allowed the US military and intelligence to conduct a covert war without an official declaration of war or approval from Congress. 

2000 – 2023 – War on Yemen

US attacks on Yemen have taken place under several US administrations, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden, resulting in the killing and wounding of thousands.

US attacks often took place through the use of the US military drone program, and were often justified as part of US ‘war on terror’, particularly, Al Qaeda. 

Most of the attacks took place during the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

2023 – Operation Prosperity Guardian 

On December 18, 2023, the Biden administration launched so-called Operation Prosperity Guardian, with the aim of protecting the safety of commercial ships in the Red Sea. 

On January 11, a US draft resolution was approved by the United Nations Security Council, which condemned the Yemeni Ansarallah movement, but without authorizing any military action against Yemen. 

On January 12, at dawn, the US and the UK launched a major aerial strike against Yemeni targets.

(Note: Since many US military operations are carried out without congressional approval, it is not easy to sum up all US military interventions and attacks in the Middle East. The so-called Obama Kill List is a case in point. For more information on US strikes on Yemen in particular, click here.) 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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