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Iraq-Conditions of Service and Morale

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Iraq Index

Conditions of service in the Iraqi army historically have been poor. In addition to receiving low and irregular pay, during much of the country's modern history Iraqi soldiers were involved in a costly and unpopular war with Kurdish rebels. Having to fight the Kurds caused morale problems and desertions, particularly among the army's Kurdish recruits, and on at least two occasions between 1975 and 1979 the government offered amnesties to all soldiers and security personnel who had deserted during Kurdish conflicts. Between 1975 and 1980, Baghdad made some progress in solving long-standing morale problems and in improving conditions of service. The 1975 victory against the Kurds and increased oil income contributed to these improvements. A reversal recurred in 1981, however, when many of the Iraqi military failed to cope with combat stress, and thousands experienced psychological problems because of their war experiences. The surrender rate was also high, as prisoner-of-war statistics indicated, and that further demoralized loyal troops.

In 1975 Baghdad adopted a comprehensive Military Service and Pension Law that established pay scales, allowances, benefits, and retirement pay designed to attract officers and enlisted men from the civilian sector. A second lieutenant was authorized ID65 (ID or Iraqi dinar--for value of dinar see Glossary) a month as base pay, with an increase of ID20 for each higher rank. Moreover, an adjustable cost-of-living allowance was established, as was a family allowance amounting to a 5 percent increase in salary for each dependent. Service allowances were also granted to those with special skills or duties. Retirement pay was commensurate with rank and with civilian retirement benefits, and indemnities were established for the families of soldiers disabled or killed in action.

After the military defeats of 1982, the entire chain of command suffered low morale. On several occasions, signs of mutiny in opposition to the war emerged. According to unverified Iraqi dissident reports, the number of deserters reached 100,000, and in central and in southern Iraq, they formed armed groups that were opposed to the regime. Many soldiers refused to fight in Kurdistan, and many more joined the armed Kurdish resistance movement.

Data as of May 1988

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