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Iraq - DEFENSE
SOCIAL UPHEAVALS HAVE PLAYED a major role in Iraq's perception of its national security. Internal political instability, coupled with recurrent revolts by the Kurdish minority, mobilized the energies of successive regimes to crush opposition forces and to restore order. During the mid- and late 1970s, however, the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party leaders succeeded in establishing a revolutionary government, which temporarily subdued the Kurdish revolt in northern Iraq and, using repressive measures, consolidated its power.
The higher prices of petroleum following the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and the Arab oil embargo, resulted in an accumulation of wealth that enabled Iraq to expand its armed forces in an attempt to match, in strength as well as in strategic importance, the capacity of its neighbor, Iran. Having signed a border treaty with Tehran in 1975, Baghdad assumed that its search for military parity would not result in conflict, in particular because the two states enjoyed economic prosperity; however, regional events, ranging from the Soviet Union's expulsion from Egypt in 1972 to Egypt's eventual expulsion from the League of Arab States (Arab League) in 1979, following the signing of the separate Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, strengthened Baghdad's resolve to make a bid for regional leadership. Armed with modern weapons and with sophisticated equipment from the Soviet Union and France, Iraq gained a sense of invincibility and, when the opportunity arose, implemented its resolve. Threatened by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and by its potential influence on Iraq's majority <"glossary.htm#Shia">Shia (see Glossary) population, Iraq attacked Iran on September 22, 1980.
For most of the 1980s, Iraq has been preoccupied with that war. In contrast to the first forty years of Iraqi independence, when the military participated in several coups, the Iraqi armed forces demonstrated growing professionalism in the 1980s by limiting their direct role in the country's political life. The armed forces' loyalty has also been assured by the Baath Party, however, which--after conducting purges against the military during the 1970s--continued to maintain a close eye on every aspect of military life and national security in the late 1980s.
Like most developing states, but perhaps to a greater extent because of internal schisms, Iraq was plagued with insecurity and with political instability after independence in 1932. When Britain and France redrew boundaries throughout the Middle East following the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the region that eventually became Iraq (under the Sykes-Picot Agreement) included a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups with little sense of national unity. The absence of nation-building elements encouraged various sectors of Iraqi society to oppose the establishment of central authority, often for personal and ideological reasons. Consequently, clandestine activities against the state's budding political and military institutions threatened Iraq's political leaders. Insecurity arising from domestic opposition to the state was compounded by Iraq's longstanding isolation from neighboring countries because of ideological rivalries, ethnic and religious differences, and competition for influence in the Persian Gulf. The Iraqi political agenda was further burdened in the late 1970s by the newly inherited Arab leadership role that came with Egypt's isolation in the wake of the Camp David Accords and the ensuing separate Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty.
The Baath Party that ruled Iraq in early 1988 came to power in July 1968 determined to restore order to a country where political turmoil was the norm. Despite several coup attempts during the intervening twenty years, notably in 1970 and in 1973, the Baath successfully ended the political turbulence of the 1950s and the 1960s. Yet, this level of stability was achieved only through harsh methods imposed by an increasingly disciplined, if intolerant, party. Antistate conspirators, including fellow Baathists, were rushed into exile, were kept under house arrest, or were executed. Actual or alleged coup attempts were forcefully put down and were followed by systematic purges of the bureaucracy and the armed forces; moreover, the party's vigilance on internal security was supported by a thorough indoctrination program to gain and to maintain formerly uncertain loyalties, both within the armed forces and in the civilian population.
Baathist success in maintaining internal security resulted partly from its 1975 limited victory against the Kurds. The Iraqi-Iranian border agreement of March 1975, subsequently formalized in the Baghdad Treaty in June 1975, resolved a number of disputes between the two states. Its provisions ended Iranian support for Iraqi Kurds, whose struggles for autonomy had troubled Iraqi governments since 1932. Bolstered by this limited success, Baghdad adopted a variety of measures in the succeeding decade in order to emerge from its political isolation and assert its strategic value. The 1970s closed under a cloud of insecurity, however, as the Baathists took stock of the revolutionary Islamic regime in Tehran. Threatened by Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini's repeated calls to Iraqi Shias to follow in the Iranian people's footsteps by overthrowing usurpers of power, the Baathist leadership embarked on an adventurous war. Seven years later, Baghdad was nowhere near its objective, and it was struggling to avoid a military defeat. Nevertheless, the Baath Party continued to maintain its influence in Iraq throughout the early and mid-1980s. For the most part, the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and its chairman, President Saddam Husayn (also seen as Hussein), maintained their political positions through repressive means and by what was justified as a defensive Iraqi war against a perceived threat. Foreign observers believed that the government remained vulnerable to challenges to its authority the lack of any legitimate means of political dissent because of and because of the reverberations of a war of attrition with mounting casualties.
Iraq had enjoyed a relatively favorable national security situation in the late 1970s, but practically all its perceived politico-military gains were lost after it attacked Iran in 1980, and in 1988 Iraq faced serious economic and military difficulties.
During the late 1970s and the mid-1980s, the Iraqi armed forces underwent many changes in size, structure, arms supplies, hierarchy, deployment, and political character. Headquartered in Baghdad, the army--of an estimated 1.7 million or more Iraqis, including reserves (actual numbers not available) and paramilitary--in 1987 had seven corps, five armored divisions (each with one armored brigade and one mechanized brigade), and three mechanized divisions (each with one armored brigade and two or more mechanized brigades). An expanded Presidential Guard Force was composed of three armored brigades, one infantry brigade, and one commando brigade. There were also thirty infantry divisions, composed of the People's Army (Al Jaysh ash Shaabi--also cited as the Popular Army or People's Militia) brigades and the reserve brigades, as well as six Special Forces brigades.
This growth in the manpower and equipment inventories of the Iraqi armed forces was facilitated by Iraq's capacity to pay for a large standing army and was occasioned by Iraq's need to fight a war with Iran, a determined and much larger neighbor. Whereas in 1978 active-duty military personnel numbered less than 200,000, and the military was equipped with some of the most sophisticated weaponry of the Soviet military arsenal, by 1987 the quality of offensive weapons had improved dramatically, and the number of new under arms had increased almost fourfold (see <"appendix.htm#table10">table 10, Appendix).
Army equipment inventories increased significantly during the mid-1980s. Whereas in 1977 the army possessed approximately 2,400 tanks, including several hundred T-62 models, in 1987 the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that Iraq deployed about 4,500 tanks, including advanced versions of the T72 . Other army equipment included about 4,000 armored vehicles, more than 3,000 towed and self-propelled artillery pieces, a number of FROG-7 and Scud-B surface-to-surface missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometers, and an array of approximately 4,000 (some self-propelled) antiaircraft guns. The vast majority of the army's equipment inventory was of Soviet manufacture, although French and Brazilian equipment in particular continued to be acquired in Iraq's ongoing attempt to diversify its sources of armaments (see <"appendix.htm#table11">table 11, Appendix). This mammoth arsenal gave Iraq a clear-cut advantage over Iran in 1987. Iraq had an advantage of more than four to one in tanks (4,500 to 1,000); four to one in armored vehicles (4,000 to 1,000); and two to one in artillery and antiaircraft pieces (7,330 to 3,000). Despite this quantitative and qualitative superiority, the Iraqi army by the end of 1987 had not risked its strength in a final and decisive battle to win the war.
Headquartered in Basra, the 5,000-man navy was the smallest branch of the armed forces in early 1988, and, in contrast to the Iranian navy, had played virtually no role in the war. Iraq's second naval facility at Umm Qasr took on added importance after 1980, in particular because the Shatt al Arab waterway, which leads into Basra, was the scene of extensive fighting. It was at Umm Qasr that most of the Iraqi navy's active vessels were based in early 1988. Between 1977 and 1987, Iraq purchased from the Soviet Union eight fast-attack OSA-class patrol boats--each equipped with Styx surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs). In late 1986, from Italy, Iraq obtained four Lupo class frigates, and six Wadi Assad class corvettes equipped with Otomat-2 SSMs. Although the four frigates and the six corvettes was held in Italy under an embargo imposed by the Italian government, these purchases signaled Iraq's intention to upgrade its naval power. Observers speculated that the end of the war with Iran could be followed by a rapid expansion of the Iraqi navy, which could exercise its influence in northern Persian Gulf waters (see <"appendix.htm#table12">table 12, Appendix).
In 1987 the Iraqi air force consisted of 40,000 men, of whom about 10,000 were attached to its subordinate Air Defense Command. The air force was headquartered in Baghdad, and major bases were located at Basra, H-3 (site of a pump station on the oil pipeline in western Iraq), Kirkuk, Mosul, Rashid, and Ash Shuaybah. Iraq's more than 500 combat aircraft were formed into two bomber squadrons, eleven fighter-ground attack squadrons, five interceptor squadrons, and one counterinsurgency squadron of 10 to 30 aircraft each. Support aircraft included two transport squadrons. As many as ten helicopter squadrons were also operational, although these formed the Army Air Corps. The Air Defense Command piloted the MiG-25, MiG-21, and various Mirage interceptors and manned Iraq's considerable inventory of surfaceto -air missiles (SAMs).
The equipment of the air force and the army's air corps, like that of the other services, was primarily of Soviet manufacture. After 1980, however, in an effort to diversify its sources of advanced armaments, Iraq turned to France for Mirage fighters and for attack helicopters. Between 1982 and 1987, Iraq received or ordered a variety of equipment from France, including more than 100 Mirage F-1s, about 100 Gazelle, Super-Frelon, and Alouette helicopters, and a variety of air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles, including Exocets. Other attack helicopters purchased included the Soviet Hind equipped with AT-2 Swatter, and BO-105s equipped with AS-11 antitank guided weapons. In addition, Iraq bought seventy F-7 (Chinese version of the MiG-21) fighters, assembled in Egypt. Thus Iraq's overall airpower was considerable (see <"appendix.htm#table13">table 13, Appendix).
Although Iraq expanded its arms inventory, its war efforts may have been hindered by poor military judgment and by lack of resolve. Saddam Husayn was the country's head of state and premier as well as the chairman of both the RCC and the Baath Party; moreover, in 1984 he assumed the rank of field marshal and appointed himself commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces. Iraqi propaganda statements claimed that Saddam Husayn had "developed new military ideas and theories of global importance," but few Western military analysts gave credence to such claims. Since 1980 General Adnan Khairallah, who served as both deputy commander in chief of the armed forces and minister of defense, was the highest officer in the military chain of command. In 1987 he also assumed the position of deputy prime minister. His multiple roles reflected the predominance of the army in the organizational structure of the armed forces. Sattar Ahmad Jassin was appointed secretary general of defense and adjutant of the armed forces in 1985. General Abd al Jabar Shanshal assumed the position of chief of the armed forces general staff in 1984. Frequent changes at the general staff level indicated to foreign observers that Iraq's military failures were primarily the result of poor leadership and an overly rigid command structure. Defective leadership was evident in the lack of clear orders and in the poor responses by the army in the occupation of Susangerd. In October 1980, armored units twice advanced and withdrew from the city, and later in the same operation, the army abandoned strategic positions near Dezful. Rigid control of junior officers and of noncommissioned officers (NCOs) frustrated their initiative and may have been the reason for the high casualty figures in the infantry, where initiative and spontaneity in decision making can be of paramount importance. The command structure reportedly was even more inflexible and slow in the People's Army detachments, where political commanders routinely made military decisions.
Historically, under Turkish rule, Iraqi conscripts were often transported to distant locations within the vast Ottoman Empire, and they were not allowed to return home for many years. During the early years of independence, conditions of service were nearly as onerous: pay was irregular, troops were misused, and retention beyond the compulsory period remained a common practice. Throughout modern history, the majority of conscripts have fulfilled much of their service obligation in the rugged mountains of northern Iraq, where conditions were Spartan at best and were often very dangerous. Although conditions improved markedly during the 1970s, and conscription was no longer as widely resented as it had been for more than a century, there were still draft dodgers, and they were routinely court-martialed and executed in public.
In the past, deferments and exemptions from conscription were usually granted generously. Until 1958 exemptions could be bought. In 1988 deferments were still available to full-time students, to hardship cases, and to those with brothers serving in the military. The increase in manpower needs created by the rapid growth of the army after 1973 and the war with Iran after 1980 resulted in a tightening of previously liberal exemption policies, however. In 1987 observers estimated that a total of 3 million Iraqi males, aged eighteen to forty-five, were fit for military service. An additional 2 million Iraqi females in the same age group were potentially available for military service.
Males were liable to conscription until the age of fortyfive . In 1980 the two-year compulsory period of service was extended without specific time limitations, to support the war effort; many trained technicians started serving as long as five years. A man could also volunteer--for a two-year term that could be extended by periods of two years--as an alternative to conscription or for additional service at any time between ages eighteen and forty-three. After two years of compulsory active service, both conscripts and volunteers were obliged to spend eighteen years in a reserve unit. These reserve units received intensive training during the mid-1980s because many reservists were called up to fill manpower shortages caused by the Iran-Iraq War and to relieve temporarily those on active duty.
Although women were not conscripted, under a law passed in 1977 they could be commissioned as officers if they held a health-related university degree, and they could be appointed as warrant officers or NCOs in army medical institutes if they were qualified nurses. The vast majority of women in the armed forces held administrative or medical-related positions, but an increasing number of women performed in combat functions after 1981. Women were serving in combat roles both in the air force and in the Air Defense Command in 1987. This integration of women into the military reflected the shortage of trained males.
Most army officers came from the Military College in Baghdad, which was founded in 1924. Candidates for the college were physically qualified, secondary-school graduates of Iraqi nationality, who had demonstrated political loyalty. Cadets were divided into two groups, combatant (combat arms) and administrative (technology and administration). They studied common subjects during the first two years, and they specialized according to their group designation in the final year. On graduation cadets received commissions as second lieutenants in the regular army. Some were granted higher ranks because of voluntary service on the war front.
Another source of army officers was the Reserve College founded in 1952. This school enrolled two classes annually, one for those who held professional degrees, such as medicine and pharmacy, and one for secondary-school graduates. During the 1970s, approximately 2,000 reserve officers were graduated each year; those with professional degrees were commissioned as second lieutenants, and those without a college education were appointed as warrant officers. The army also maintained a system of service schools for training in combat arms as well as in technical and administrative services. Most of those schools, located in or near Baghdad, have conducted additional courses for both officers and NCOs since 1980. Since 1928 the army has also maintained a two-year staff college to train selected officers in all services for command and staff positions.
In mid-1977 the navy opened its own officer training academy. This comparatively new institution was called the Arabian Gulf Academy for Naval Studies. Since 1933 the air force has maintained its own college as a source of officer personnel. In 1971 the college was moved from Rashid Airbase (southeast of Baghdad) to Tikrit. It offered administrative and flight training courses as well as training for technical specialists. (Iraqi officers and pilots received training in several foreign countries as well in the 1970s; pilots were trained in India and in France, and especially in the Soviet Union.)
The highest level of military training in Iraq was a one-year course conducted at Al Bakr University for Higher Military Studies (also called the War College) in Baghdad, founded in 1977. At the War College, high-ranking officers studied modern theories and methods of warfare in preparation for assuming top command and staff positions in the armed forces. Little was known about the content of Iraq's military training, although political and ideological indoctrination appeared to accompany military training at all levels. In any case, the seven years of combat in the Iran-Iraq War could only have enhanced technical skills; many of these officers presumably applied their theoretical training in conducting the war. By Western accounts, however, the battlefield performance of military leaders did not reflect sophisticated grasp of strategy and tactics.
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) 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.
Both political offenders and ordinary criminal offenders in the armed forces were tried in the military courts, but Iraq's military courts had no jurisdiction over civilians accused of security-related crimes. Such cases were reviewed by revolutionary courts. Military tribunals were held in camera and were often summary in nature. Although little information was available in early 1988, observers believed that the system of military justice differed little from the system in operation at the time of the 1968 Baath Revolution. At that time a permanent military court of at least five members was usually established at each division headquarters and wherever large concentrations of nondivision troops were stationed. In addition, emergency military courts could be set up in combat areas to expedite the trial of offenders there. Such courts usually consisted of three members, a president with the rank of lieutenant colonel and two members with the rank of major or above.
The highest court was the Military Court of Cassation, which sat in Baghdad. It was appointed by the minister of defense and was composed of a president with the rank of brigadier general or above and two members with the rank of colonel or above. Appeals from the sentences of lower military courts were heard in the Military Court of Cassation; it also conducted trials of the first instance of senior officers.
A number of changes were introduced into the Penal Code of the Popular Army since 1980. Law No. 32 of 1982, for example, made several offenses by service personnel punishable by death. In its 1985 report, Amnesty International noted that RCC Resolution No. 1370 reaffirmed the death penalty for various offenses. These included fleeing or defaulting from military service, conspiring against the state, espionage, and joining the Ad Dawah al Islamiyah (the Islamic Call), commonly referred to as Ad Dawah.
In the late 1980s, Iraqi uniforms consisted of service and field attire for both summer and winter and a dress uniform and mess jacket for officers. The winter service dress uniform, of olive drab wool, consisted of a single-breasted coat having patch pockets with flaps, a khaki shirt and tie, and trousers that were usually cuffless. The summer uniform was similar but was made of light tan material. The winter field uniform consisted of an olive drab shirt, wool trousers, and a waist-length jacket. The summer field uniform was identical in style but was made of lighter material. Both field uniforms included a web belt, a beret or helmet, and high-top shoes.
Commissioned officers' rank insignia were identical for the army and for the air force except that shoulder boards were olive drab for the army and were blue for the air force. Naval officer rank insignia consisted of gold stripes worn on the lower sleeve. Army and air force enlisted personnel wore stripes on the sleeve to designate rank, while the top noncommissioned officer rank, sergeant major and chief master sergeant, respectively, consisted of a gold bar on top of the shoulders.
In 1987 the People's Army (Al Jaysh ash Shaabi--also cited as the Popular Army or People's Militia), standing at an estimated 650,000, approached the regular armed forces' manpower strength. Officially, it was the Iraqi Baath Party Militia and included a special youth section. Formed in 1970, the People's Army grew rapidly, and by 1977 it was estimated to have 50,000 active members. Subsequently, a phenomenal growth, giving the militia extensive internal security functions, occurred. Whereas its original purpose was to give the Baath Party an active role in every town and village, the People's Army in 1981 began its most ambitious task to date, the support of the regular armed forces.
The official functions of the People's Army were to act as backup to the regular armed forces in times of war and to safeguard revolutionary achievements, to promote mass consciousness, to consolidate national unity, and to bolster the relationship between the people and the army in times of peace. The People's Army dispatched units to Iraqi Kurdistan before 1980 and to Lebanon to fight with Palestinian guerrillas during the 1975-76 Civil War. Foreign observers concluded, however, that the primary function of the People's Army was political in nature; first, to enlist popular support for the Baath Party, and second, to act as a counterweight against any coup attempts by the regular armed forces.
Beginning in 1974, Taha Yasin Ramadan, a close associate of President Saddam Husayn, commanded the People's Army, which was responsible for internal security. The command of such a large military establishment gave Ramadan so much power, however, that some foreign observers speculated that the primary function of his second in command was to keep him from using the People's Army as a personal power base.
People's Army members were recruited from among both women and men (who had completed their regular army service) eighteen years of age and older. It was unclear whether or not Baath Party membership was a prerequisite--especially after 1981, when the numerical strength of the People's Army ballooned--but, clearly, party indoctrination was at least as important as military training. Members usually underwent a two-month annual training period, and they were paid from party funds. Although the extent of their training was unknown in early 1988, all recruits were instructed in the use of a rifle. Graduates were responsible for guarding government buildings and installations, and they were concentrated around sensitive centers in major towns. Militia members possessed some sophisticated arms, and it was possible that disgruntled officers contemplating a challenge to Saddam Husayn could rally the support of a force of such militiamen.
Futuwah (Youth Vanguard) was a paramilitary organization for secondary-school students founded by the Baath Party in 1975. Boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen could join Futuwah and receive training in light arms, in the use of grenades, and in civil defense work. By early 1988, several thousand Iraqi youth had volunteered for Futuwah training, and they had been organized into youth platoons. Unverified reports claimed that some People's Army units and Futuwah units were dispatched to the war front for short periods of time in 1983 and 1985. Visitors to Baghdad in the 1980s, however, reported that most civil defense activities in the capital were performed by young People's Army members.
Iraq's armed forces were heavily dependent on foreign military assistance after the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. In 1921 British Mandate authorities undertook the training of Iraqi soldiers who had served under the Ottomans. The British reorganized the former Ottoman units into a force designed to uphold internal law and order and to serve British interests by putting down frequent tribal revolts. Until 1958 British officers guided the development of the armed forces, and British influence was reflected in the organization, training, and equipment of the Iraqi military. Senior Iraqi officers regularly were sent to Britain or to India to receive advanced training. Iraq's generally Western-oriented military posture throughout this period culminated in the 1955 Baghdad Pact.
The revolution of July 14, 1958, and the coming to power of Abd al Karim Qasim completely altered Iraq's military orientation. Disagreement with the British (and with the Western world's) stance vis-a-vis Israel, and growing pan-Arab sentiment led Qasim to abrogate the Baghdad Pact and to turn to the Soviet Union for arms. Since 1959 the Soviet Union has been Iraq's chief arms supplier and its most essential foreign military tie. In April 1972, the two states signed a fifteen-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in which Iraq and the Soviet Union agreed to "continue to develop cooperation in the strengthening of the defense capabilities of each."
By no means, however, was Iraq a "satellite" of the Soviet Union. Baghdad consistently insisted on its independence in policy making, and on a number of key issues, including the ArabIsraeli conflict, Syria's role in Lebanon, and the Nonaligned Movement, the two states held opposing views. Furthermore, Iraq's Baathist ideology remained fundamentally antithetical to communism. As a further sign of its staunch independence, Iraq insisted on its freedom to purchase weapons from Western sources, and in 1980 it demonstrated its intention to diversify its source of armaments. Although France and Britain both had sold some arms to Iraq during the 1966 to 1968 regime of Abd ar Rahman Arif, between 1974 and 1980 Iraq increased its purchases from France by acquiring helicopters, antitank missiles, and high performance Mirage jet fighters.
Despite these expressions of Iraqi independence, both mutual interests and practical necessity dictated the Iraqi air forces's reliance on Soviet support. Total Soviet military aid to Iraq between 1958 and 1974 was estimated at the equivalent of US$1.6 billion; in 1975 alone such Soviet aid was estimated at US$1 billion. Soviet deliveries of military hardware of increasingly higher quality between 1976 and 1980 were estimated at US$5 billion. In 1977, for example, Iraq ordered the Ilyushin Il-76 long-range jet transport, the first such Soviet aircraft provided to a foreign state. Until 1980 nearly 1,200 Soviet and East European advisers, as well as 150 Cuban advisers, were in Iraq. Iraqi military personnel were also trained in the use of SAMs, and observers estimated that between 1958 and 1980, nearly 5,000 Iraqis received military training in the Soviet Union.
Although receiving arms and training from foreign sources itself, Iraq provided some military aid to irregular units engaged in pro-Iraqi "national liberation movements" in the Middle East and in Africa prior to 1980. Most of this aid was in monetary grants and in armaments, which amounted to more than US$600 million annually. Pro-Iraqi Palestinian groups, such as the Arab Liberation Front, received the bulk of the aid, but some African organizations, including the Eritrean Liberation Front, also received some. Volunteer Iraqi soldiers fought on the side of Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon on at least two occasions, in 1976 against Syrian troops and in March 1978 against Israeli troops.
As a result of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was obliged to extend its search for arms in 1981. By the time the war entered its eighth year in September 1987, Iraq had become the world's biggest single arms market. In addition to its purchases from the Soviet Union and France, Iraq sought to buy armaments from China, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy, Brazil, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Egypt, among others. The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency estimated in 1987 that Iraq had imported about US$24 billion worth of military equipment during the period from 1981 to 1985.
From 1972 to 1979, the percentage of Iraq's military equipment supplied by the Soviet Union declined from 95 to 63 percent. Even so, in 1987 the Soviet Union, having provided more than US$8 billion worth of weapons since 1980, was Iraq's most important arms supplier. In its 1987 annual study, Soviet Military Power, the United States Department of Defense stated that, while maintaining official neutrality in the IranIraq War, the Soviet Union had provided extensive military assistance to Iraq, and at the same time, continued its efforts to gain leverage on Iran. In early 1987, Moscow delivered a squadron of twenty-four MiG-29 Fulcrums to Baghdad. Considered the most advanced fighter in the Soviet arsenal, the MiG-29 previously had been provided only to Syria and India. The decision to export the MiG-29 to Iraq, also assured Iraq a more advantageous payment schedule than any offered by the West and it reflected Soviet support for one of its traditional allies in the Middle East. Caught in a financial crisis, Baghdad welcomed the low-interest loans Moscow extended for this equipment.
Although the Soviets might not receive payments for several years, the sale of military hardware remained a critical source of revenue for them, and they have tried to retain Iraq as a customer. In May 1987, for example, the Soviets provided Iraq with better financial terms in a successful effort to prevent Iraq from buying sixty French Mirage 2000 fighters for an estimated US$3 billion. An additional US$3 billion in sales of helicopters and radar equipment may also have been denied to the French, although it was not possible to determine whether the Soviets agreed to fulfill both requirements. In early 1988, Iraq owed the Soviet Union between US$8 billion and US$10 billion in military debts alone.
France became a major military supplier to Iraq after 1975 as the two countries improved their political relations. In order to obtain petroleum imports from the Middle East and strengthen its traditional ties with Arab and Muslim countries, France wanted a politico-military bridge between Paris and Baghdad.
Between 1977 and 1987, Paris contracted to sell a total of 133 Mirage F-1 fighters to Iraq. The first transfer occurred in 1978, when France supplied eighteen Mirage F-1 interceptors and thirty helicopters, and even agreed to an Iraqi share in the production of the Mirage 2000 in a US$2 billion arms deal. In 1983 another twenty-nine Mirage F-1s were exported to Baghdad. And in an unprecedented move, France "loaned" Iraq five SuperEtendard attack aircraft, equipped with Exocet AM39 air-to- surface missiles, from its own naval inventory. The SuperEtendards were used extensively in the 1984 tanker war before being replaced by several F-1s. The final batch of twenty-nine F1s was ordered in September 1985 at a cost of more than US$500 million, a part of which was paid in crude oil.
In 1987 the Paris-based Le Monde estimated that, between 1981 and 1985, the value of French arms transfers to Iraq was US$5.1 billion, which represented 40 percent of total French arms exports. Paris, however, was forced to reschedule payment on most of its loans to Iraq because of Iraq's hard-pressed wartime economy and did so willingly because of its longer range strategic interests. French president François Mitterand was quoted as saying that French assistance was really aimed at keeping Iraq from losing the war. Iraqi debts to France were estimated at US$3 billion in 1987.
French military sales to Iraq were important for at least two reasons. First, they represented high-performance items. Iraq received attack helicopters, missiles, military vehicles, and artillery pieces from France. Iraq also bought more than 400 Exocet AM39 air-to-surface missiles and at least 200 AS30 laserguided missiles between 1983 and 1986. Second, unlike most other suppliers, France adopted an independent and unambiguous arms sales policy towards Iraq. France did not tie French arms commitments to Baghdad's politico-military actions, and it openly traded with Iraq even when Iranian-inspired terrorists took French hostages in Lebanon. In late 1987, however, the French softened their Persian Gulf policy, and they consummated a deal with Tehran involving the exchange of hostages for detained diplomatic personnel. It was impossible in early 1988 to determine whether France would curtail its arms exports to Iraq in conjunction with this agreement.
On June 7, 1981, Israeli air force planes flew over Jordanian, Saudi, and Iraqi airspace to attack and destroy an Iraqi nuclear facility near Baghdad. In a statement issued after the raid, the Israeli government stated that it had discovered from "sources of unquestioned reliability" that Iraq was producing nuclear bombs at the Osiraq (acronym for Osiris-Iraq) plant, and, for this reason, Israel had initiated a preemptive strike. Baghdad, however, reiterated a previous statement that the French atomic reactor was designed for research and for the eventual production of electricity.
The attack raised a number of questions of interpretation regarding international legal concepts. Those who approved of the raid argued that the Israelis had engaged in an act of legitimate self-defense justifiable under international law and under Article 51 of the charter of the United Nations (UN). Critics contended that the Israeli claims about Iraq's future capabilities were hasty and ill-considered and asserted that the idea of anticipatory self-defense was rejected by the community of states. In the midst of this controversy, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) came under fire from individuals and from governments who complained that the Vienna-based UN agency had failed to alert the world to developments at Osiraq. IAEA officials denied these charges and reaffirmed their position on the Iraqi reactor, that is, that no weapons had been manufactured at Osiraq and that Iraqi officials had regularly cooperated with agency inspectors. They also pointed out that Iraq was a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (informally called the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT) and that Baghdad had complied with all IAEA guidelines. The Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona, it was pointed out, was not under IAEA safeguards, because Israel had not signed the NPT and had refused to open its facilities to UN inspections.
After the raid, Baghdad announced that it planned to rebuild the destroyed facility. Although France agreed in principle to provide technical assistance, no definitive timetable had been announced as of early 1988.
Of the many conflicts in progress around the world in early 1988, the Iran-Iraq War was by far the bloodiest and the costliest. The Iran-Iraq War was multifaceted and included religious schisms, border disputes, and political differences. Conflicts contributing to the outbreak of hostilities ranged from centuries-old Sunni-versus-Shia and Arab-versus-Persian religious and ethnic disputes, to a personal animosity between Saddam Husayn and Ayatollah Khomeini. Above all, Iraq launched the war in an effort to consolidate its rising power in the Arab world and to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Phebe Marr, a noted analyst of Iraqi affairs, stated that "the war was more immediately the result of poor political judgement and miscalculation on the part of Saddam Hussein," and "the decision to invade, taken at a moment of Iranian weakness, was Saddam's".
Iraq and Iran had engaged in border clashes for many years and had revived the dormant Shatt al Arab waterway dispute in 1979. Iraq claimed the 200-kilometer channel up to the Iranian shore as its territory, while Iran insisted that the thalweg--a line running down the middle of the waterway--negotiated last in 1975, was the official border. The Iraqis, especially the Baath leadership, regarded the 1975 treaty as merely a truce, not a definitive settlement.
The Iraqis also perceived revolutionary Iran's Islamic agenda as threatening to their pan-Arabism. Khomeini, bitter over his expulsion from Iraq in 1977 after fifteen years in An Najaf, vowed to avenge Shia victims of Baathist repression. Baghdad became more confident, however, as it watched the once invincible Imperial Iranian Army disintegrate, as most of its highest ranking officers were executed. In Khuzestan (Arabistan to the Iraqis), Iraqi intelligence officers incited riots over labor disputes, and in the Kurdish region, a new rebellion caused the Khomeini government severe troubles.
As the Baathists planned their military campaign, they had every reason to be confident. Not only did the Iranians lack cohesive leadership, but the Iranian armed forces, according to Iraqi intelligence estimates, also lacked spare parts for their American-made equipment. Baghdad, on the other hand, possessed fully equipped and trained forces. Morale was running high. Against Iran's armed forces, including the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) troops, led by religious mullahs with little or no military experience, the Iraqis could muster twelve complete mechanized divisions, equipped with the latest Soviet materiel. In addition, the area across the Shatt al Arab posed no major obstacles, particularly for an army equipped with Soviet river-crossing equipment. Iraqi commanders correctly assumed that crossing sites on the Khardeh and Karun rivers were lightly defended against their mechanized armor divisions; moreover, Iraqi intelligence sources reported that Iranian forces in Khuzestan, which had formerly included two divisions distributed among Ahvaz, Dezful, and Abadan, now consisted of only a number of ill-equipped battalion-sized formations. Tehran was further disadvantaged because the area was controlled by the Regional 1st Corps headquartered at Bakhtaran (formerly Kermanshah), whereas operational control was directed from the capital. In the year following the shah's overthrow, only a handful of company-sized tank units had been operative, and the rest of the armored equipment had been poorly maintained.
For Iraqi planners, the only uncertainty was the fighting ability of the Iranian air force, equipped with some of the most sophisticated American-made aircraft. Despite the execution of key air force commanders and pilots, the Iranian air force had displayed its might during local riots and demonstrations. The air force was also active in the wake of the failed United States attempt to rescue American hostages in April 1980. This show of force had impressed Iraqi decision makers to such an extent that they decided to launch a massive preemptive air strike on Iranian air bases in an effort similar to the one that Israel employed during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
On September 22, 1980, formations of Iraqi MiG-23s and MiG21s attacked Iran's air bases at Mehrabad and Doshen-Tappen (both near Tehran), as well as Tabriz, Bakhtaran, Ahvaz, Dezful, Urmia (sometimes cited as Urumiyeh), Hamadan, Sanandaj, and Abadan. Iranian defenses were caught by surprise, but the Iraqi raids failed because Iranian jets were protected in specially strengthened hangars and because bombs designed to destroy runways did not totally incapacitate Iran's very large airfields. Within hours, Iranian F-4 Phantoms took off from the same bases, successfully attacked strategically important targets close to major Iraqi cities, and returned home with very few losses.
Concurrently with its air attack, Iraq ordered six of its divisions across the border into Iran, where they drove as far as eight kilometers inland and occupied 1,000 square kilometers of Iranian territory. As a diversionary move, a mechanized division overwhelmed the border garrison at Qasr-e Shirin, while five armored and mechanized divisions invaded Khuzestan on two axes, one crossing over the Shatt al Arab near Basra, which led to the siege and eventual occupation of Khorramshahr, and the second heading for Susangerd, which had Ahvaz, the major military base in Khuzestan, as its objective. In addition, Dehloran and several other towns were targeted and were rapidly occupied to prevent reinforcement from Bakhtaran and from Tehran. By mid-October, a full division advanced through Khuzestan headed for Khorramshahr and Abadan and the strategic oil fields nearby.
Iraq's blitz-like assaults against scattered and demoralized Iranian forces led many observers to think that Baghdad would win the war within a matter of weeks. Indeed, Iraqi troops did capture the Shatt al Arab and did seize a forty-eight-kilometer- wide strip of Iranian territory. But Tehran rejected a settlement offer and held the line against the militarily superior Iraqi force. It refused to accept defeat, and slowly began a series of counteroffensives in January 1981. Iran stopped Iraqi forces on the Karun River and, with limited military stocks, unveiled its "human wave" assaults, which used thousands of Basij (Popular Mobilization Army or People's Army) volunteers. The recapture of Abadan, Iran's first major victory, came in September 1981.
In March 1982, Tehran launched its Operation Undeniable Victory, which marked a major turning point, as Iran penetrated Iraq's "impenetrable" lines, split Iraq's forces, and forced the Iraqis to retreat. In late June 1982, Baghdad stated its willingness to negotiate a settlement of the war and to withdraw its forces from Iran. Iran refused, and in July 1982 Iran launched Operation Ramadan on Iraqi territory, near Basra. Tehran used Pasdaran forces and Basij volunteers in one of the biggest land battles since 1945. Ranging in age from only nine to more than fifty, these eager but relatively untrained soldiers swept over minefields and fortifications to clear safe paths for the tanks. In doing so, the Iranians sustained an immmense number of casualties, but they enabled Iran to recover some territory before the Iraqis could repulse the bulk of the invading forces.
By the end of 1982, Iraq had been resupplied with new Soviet materiel, and the ground war entered a new phase. Iraq used newly acquired T-55 tanks and T-62 tanks, BM-21 Stalin Organ rocket launchers, and Mi-24 helicopter gunships to prepare a Soviet-type three-line defense, replete with obstacles, minefields, and fortified positions. The Combat Engineer Corps proved efficient in constructing bridges across water obstacles, in laying minefields, and in preparing new defense lines and fortifications.
In 1983 Iran launched three major, but unsuccessful, humanwave offensives, with huge losses, along the frontier. On February 6, Tehran, using 200,000 "last reserve" Pasdaran troops, attacked along a 40-kilometer stretch near Al Amarah, about 200 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Backed by air, armor, and artillery support, Iran's six-division thrust was strong enough to break through. In response, Baghdad used massive air attacks, with more than 200 sorties, many flown by attack helicopters. More than 6,000 Iranians were killed that day, while achieving only minute gains. In April 1983, the Mandali-Baghdad northcentral sector witnessed fierce fighting, as repeated Iranian attacks were stopped by Iraqi mechanized and infantry divisions. Casualties were very high, and by the end of 1983, an estimated 120,000 Iranians and 60,000 Iraqis had been killed. Despite these losses, in 1983 Iran held a distinct advantage in the attempt to wage and eventually to win the war of attrition.
Most foreign military analysts feel that neither Iraq nor Iran has used its modern equipment efficiently. Frequently, sophisticated materiel had been left unused, when a massive modern assault could have won the battle for either side. Tanks and armored vehicles were dug in and used as artillery pieces, instead of being maneuvered to lead or to support an assault. William O. Staudenmaeir, a seasoned military analyst, reported that "the land-computing sights on the Iraqi tanks [were] seldom used. This lower[ed] the accuracy of the T-62 tanks to World War II standards." In addition, both sides frequently abandoned heavy equipment in the battle zone because they lacked the skilled technical personnel needed to carry out minor repairs.
Analysts also assert that the two states' armies have shown little coordination and that some units in the field have been left to fight largely on their own. In this protracted war of attrition, soldiers and officers alike have failed to display initiative or professional expertise in combat. Difficult decisions, which should have had immediate attention, were referred by section commanders to the capitals for action. Except for the predictable bursts on important anniversaries, by the mid-1980s the war was stalemated.
In early 1984, Iran had begun Operation Dawn V, which was meant to split the Iraqi 3rd Army Corps and 4th Army Corps near Basra. In early 1984, an estimated 500,000 Pasdaran and Basij forces, using shallow boats or on foot, moved to within a few kilometers of the strategic Basra-Baghdad waterway. Between February 29 and March 1, in one of the largest battles of the war, the two armies clashed and inflicted more than 25,000 fatalities on each other. Without armored and air support of their own, the Iranians faced Iraqi tanks, mortars, and helicopter gunships. Within a few weeks, Tehran opened another front in the shallow lakes of the Hawizah Marshes, just east of Al Qurnah, in Iraq, near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iraqi forces, using Soviet- and French-made helicopter gunships, inflicted heavy casualties on the five Iranian brigades (15,000 men) in this Battle of Majnun.
Lacking the equipment to open secure passages through Iraqi minefields, and having too few tanks, the Iranian command again resorted to the human-wave tactic. In March 1984, an East European journalist claimed that he "saw tens of thousands of children, roped together in groups of about twenty to prevent the faint-hearted from deserting, make such an attack." The Iranians made little, if any, progress despite these sacrifices. Perhaps as a result of this performance, Tehran, for the first time, used a regular army unit, the 92nd Armored Division, at the Battle of the Marshes a few weeks later.
Within a four-week period between February and March 1984, the Iraqis reportedly killed 40,000 Iranians and lost 9,000 of their own men, but even this was deemed an unacceptable ratio, and in February the Iraqi command ordered the use of chemical weapons. Despite repeated Iraqi denials, between May 1981 and March 1984, Iran charged Iraq with forty uses of chemical weapons. The year 1984 closed with part of the Majnun Islands and a few pockets of Iraqi territory in Iranian hands. Casualties notwithstanding, Tehran had maintained its military posture, while Baghdad was reevaluating its overall strategy.
The major development in 1985 was the increased targeting of population centers and industrial facilities by both combatants. In May Iraq began aircraft attacks, long-range artillery attacks, and surface-to-surface missile attacks on Tehran and on other major Iranian cities. Between August and November, Iraq raided Khark Island forty-four times in a futile attempt to destroy its installations. Iran responded with its own air raids and missile attacks on Baghdad and other Iraqi towns. In addition, Tehran systematized its periodic stop-and-search operations, which were conducted to verify the cargo contents of ships in the Persian Gulf and to seize war materiel destined for Iraq.
The only major ground offensive, involving an estimated 60,000 Iranian troops, occurred in March 1985, near Basra; once again, the assault proved inconclusive except for heavy casualties. In 1986, however, Iraq suffered a major loss in the southern region. On February 9, Iran launched a successful surprise amphibious assault across the Shatt al Arab and captured the abandoned Iraqi oil port of Al Faw. The occupation of Al Faw, a logistical feat, involved 30,000 regular Iranian soldiers who rapidly entrenched themselves. Saddam Husayn vowed to eliminate the bridgehead "at all costs," and in April 1988 the Iraqis succeeded in regaining the Al Faw peninsula.
Late, in March 1986, the UN secretary general, Javier Perez de Cuellar, formally accused Iraq of using chemical weapons against Iran. Citing the report of four chemical warfare experts whom the UN had sent to Iran in February and March 1986, the secretary general called on Baghdad to end its violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons. The UN report concluded that "Iraqi forces have used chemical warfare against Iranian forces"; the weapons used included both mustard gas and nerve gas. The report further stated that "the use of chemical weapons appear[ed] to be more extensive [in 1981] than in 1984." Iraq attempted to deny using chemicals, but the evidence, in the form of many badly burned casualties flown to European hospitals for treatment, was overwhelming. According to a British representative at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in July 1986, "Iraqi chemical warfare was responsible for about 10,000 casualties." In March 1988, Iraq was again charged with a major use of chemical warfare while retaking Halabjah, a Kurdish town in northeastern Iraq, near the Iranian border.
Unable in 1986, however, to dislodge the Iranians from Al Faw, the Iraqis went on the offensive; they captured the city of Mehran in May, only to lose it in July 1986. The rest of 1986 witnessed small hit-and-run attacks by both sides, while the Iranians massed almost 500,000 troops for another promised "final offensive," which did not occur. But the Iraqis, perhaps for the first time since the outbreak of hostilities, began a concerted air-strike campaign in July. Heavy attacks on Khark Island forced Iran to rely on makeshift installations farther south in the Gulf at Sirri Island and Larak Island. Thereupon, Iraqi jets, refueling in midair or using a Saudi military base, hit Sirri and Larak. The two belligerents also attacked 111 neutral ships in the Gulf in 1986.
Meanwhile, to help defend itself, Iraq had built impressive fortifications along the 1,200-kilometer war front. Iraq devoted particular attention to the southern city of Basra, where concrete-roofed bunkers, tank- and artillery-firing positions, minefields, and stretches of barbed wire, all shielded by an artificially flooded lake 30 kilometers long and 1,800 meters wide, were constructed. Most visitors to the area acknowledged Iraq's effective use of combat engineering to erect these barriers.
On December 24, 1986, Iran began another assault on the Basra region. This annual "final offensive" resulted in more than 40,000 dead by mid-January 1987. Although the Iranian push came close to breaking Iraq's last line of defense east of Basra, Tehran was unable to score the decisive breakthrough required to win outright victory, or even to secure relative gains over Iraq.
Naval operations came to a halt, presumably because Iraq and Iran had lost many of their ships, by early 1981; the lull in the fighting lasted for two years. In March 1984, Iraq initiated sustained naval operations in its self-declared 1,126-kilometer maritime exclusion zone, extending from the mouth of the Shatt al Arab to Iran's port of Bushehr. In 1981 Baghdad had attacked Iranian ports and oil complexes as well as neutral tankers and ships sailing to and from Iran; in 1984 Iraq expanded the socalled tanker war by using French Super-Etendard combat aircraft armed with Exocet missiles. Neutral merchant ships became favorite targets, and the long-range Super-Etendards flew sorties farther south. Seventy-one merchant ships were attacked in 1984 alone, compared with forty-eight in the first three years of the war. Iraq's motives in increasing the tempo included a desire to break the stalemate, presumably by cutting off Iran's oil exports and by thus forcing Tehran to the negotiating table. Repeated Iraqi efforts failed to put Iran's main oil exporting terminal at Khark Island out of commission, however. Iran retaliated by attacking first a Kuwaiti oil tanker near Bahrain on May 13 and then a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters five days later, making it clear that if Iraq continued to interfere with Iran's shipping, no Gulf state would be safe.
These sustained attacks cut Iranian oil exports in half, reduced shipping in the Gulf by 25 percent, led Lloyd's of London to increase its insurance rates on tankers, and slowed Gulf oil supplies to the rest of the world; moreover, the Saudi decision in 1984 to shoot down an Iranian Phantom jet intruding in Saudi territorial waters played an important role in ending both belligerents' attempts to internationalize the tanker war. Iraq and Iran accepted a 1984 UN-sponsored moratorium on the shelling of civilian targets, and Tehran later proposed an extension of the moratorium to include Gulf shipping, a proposal the Iraqis rejected unless it were to included their own Gulf ports.
Iraq began ignoring the moratorium soon after it went into effect and stepped up its air raids on tankers serving Iran and Iranian oil-exporting facilities in 1986 and 1987, attacking even vessels that belonged to the conservative Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Iran responded by escalating its attacks on shipping serving Arab ports in the Gulf. As Kuwaiti vessels made up a large portion of the targets in these retaliatory raids, the Kuwaiti government sought protection from the international community in the fall of 1986. The Soviet Union responded first, agreeing to charter several Soviet tankers to Kuwait in early 1987. Washington, which has been approached first by Kuwait and which had postponed its decision, eventually followed Moscow's lead. United States involvement was sealed by the May 17, 1987, Iraqi missile attack on the USS Stark, in which thirtyseven crew members were killed. Baghdad apologized and claimed that the attack was a mistake. Ironically, Washington used the Stark incident to blame Iran for escalating the war and sent its own ships to the Gulf to escort eleven Kuwaiti tankers that were "reflagged" with the American flag and had American crews. Iran refrained from attacking the United States naval force directly, but it used various forms of harassment, including mines, hit-and-run attacks by small patrol boats, and periodic stop-and-search operations. On several occasions, Tehran fired its Chinese-made Silkworm missiles on Kuwait from Al Faw Peninsula. When Iranian forces hit the reflagged tanker Sea Isle City in October 1987, Washington retaliated by destroying an oil platform in the Rostam field and by using the United States Navy's Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) commandos to blow up a second one nearby.
Within a few weeks of the Stark incident, Iraq resumed its raids on tankers but moved its attacks farther south, near the Strait of Hormuz. Washington played a central role in framing UN Security Council Resolution 598 on the Gulf war, passed unanimously on July 20; Western attempts to isolate Iran were frustrated, however, when Tehran rejected the resolution because it did not meet its requirement that Iraq should be punished for initiating the conflict.
In early 1988, the Gulf was a crowded theater of operations. At least ten Western navies and eight regional navies were patrolling the area, the site of weekly incidents in which merchant vessels were crippled. The Arab Ship Repair Yard in Bahrain and its counterpart in Dubayy, United Arab Emirates (UAE), were unable to keep up with the repairs needed by the ships damaged in these attacks.
In modern Iraq, the armed forces have intervened in the political life of the state. Military interventions were concentrated in two periods, the first from 1936 to 1941, when there were seven coups d'etat, and the second between 1958 and 1968, when there were five military seizures of power. Because Iraq had a highly developed military institution and chronically weak civilian regimes, the armed forces felt that they alone were capable of providing strong and stable governments; however, personal and ideological factionalization within the armed forces fostered heightened instability and a cycle of coups that culminated in the Baathist takeover on July 17, 1968.
As the leadership in the previous military regime became increasingly fragmented and weak, and as resistance movements grew, Baathist officers, intending to end the cycle of military intervention in the government, carried out a coup. Baath Party officials believed the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and various Kurdish movements were using the military as a vehicle to promote their own interests. Consequently, the Baath decided to weaken the military's political power gradually and to turn the army into a loyal and strong defensive force. Accordingly, they steadily reduced military participation in the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC); whereas the five-member 1968 RCC was composed exclusively of military men, only three of the RCC's twenty-two members in 1978 were active-duty officers.
To transform the military into an ideological army (Al Jaysh al Aqidi), the Baath undertook purges of the armed forces and granted military posts to civilians. They also tried to "purify" the armed forces by providing propaganda pamphlets and indoctrination lectures.
To institutionalize its control of the army, the Baath Party adopted an eclectic strategy. First, it restricted admission to military colleges and institutions to members of the Baath Party. Those accepted could expect generous financial rewards if they remained loyal, but, if they did not, they could expect the death penalty. Second, discrimination, in recruitment and in promotion, on religious and nationality grounds was intensified. At one point in 1979, all senior posts were restricted to officers related to Saddam Husayn or to other individuals from Tikrit.
The Ideological Army advocated national socialism, and the Baath Party used the army to fulfill Baath objectives. By 1980 the Ideological Army was an organized, modern force capable of rapid movement and, strengthened by an overwhelming feeling of historical responsibility. The officers were firmly convinced that theirs was an elite role, that of the leading patriotic force in Iraqi society, and they, too, were inspired to carry out the national "historical mission." In short, the Baathization of the armed forces, based on an indoctrination in national socialism, in reliance on force, and in a vision of this historical mission, completed the emergence of the new army as a national force.
During the 1970s, military officers unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the Baathist regime, however, on at least two occasions. In January 1970, an attempted coup led by two retired officers, Major General Abd al Ghani ar Rawi and Colonel Salih Mahdi as Samarrai, was discovered and thwarted as the conspirators entered the Republican Palace. In June 1973, a plot by Nazim Kazzar, a Shia and the director of internal security, to assassinate President Ahmad Hasan al Bakr and Saddam Husayn was foiled. Kazzar, who resented both Sunni and Tikriti domination of the Baath Party, had taken a prominent part in organizing the massacre of communists in the anarchy that followed the military's seizure of power in February 1963. He had acquired a reputation as a torturer, and the old palace that he had taken over as headquarters was known as "Qasr an Nihayah," the "Palace of the End." Few who entered ever came out, nor did their bodies receive public burial. When his coup plans failed, Kazzar fled toward the Iranian border. Before being apprehended, he killed the minister of defense, Hammad Shihab, who happened to be in the area inspecting border posts. Shortly afterward he was executed. Both coup attempts were followed by summary trials, executions, and purges of the armed forces.
Although rumors about foiled coup attempts have circulated periodically, the most serious attempt to assassinate Saddam Husayn reportedly occurred in 1982, after both a military defeat on the battlefield and an erosion in the economy. On July 11, 1982, the presidential party was traveling through the mixed Shia-Sunni village of Ad Dujayl, about sixty kilometers northeast of Baghdad, when it was surrounded by Shia villagers and held for several hours before it was rescued by the army. Subsequent reports revealed that a number of Saddam's bodyguards and of the villagers were killed. As punishment, the Baath government deported the villagers to Iran and razed their houses.
The armed forces in 1988 conceivably could have been expected to reflect the varied ethnic, religious, and class components of Iraqi society, because universal male conscription has been compulsory since 1934. To a certain extent the enlisted men did reflect society, especially after seven years of war. Indeed, for the purpose of unifying the diverse minority groups in this extremely heterogeneous country, the armed forces was one of the most important institutions in Iraq. For political reasons, this unification was never fully accomplished, however. Selective recruitment policies for the Military College, for example, were instituted by the British in the 1920s to favor the Sunni Arab community, and this bias was perpetuated by the Sunni political and military elite, which has also tended to dominate the Baath party. The Shia majority was represented in the officer corps, but in a proportion far below that of their numerical presence in society.
The majority of the officers were of lower middle class urban background; they were the sons of minor government officials and small traders, for whom a career in the military promised considerable social advancement. Family ties to officers also played an important role in the recruitment of new personnel, and in the mid-1980s, Iraq's top military commanders were from the small town of Tikrit, on the Euphrates River in the heart of Iraq's Sunni Arab community.
Military expenditures before 1980 fluctuated between 15 and 21 percent of the gross national product. In 1975, for example, Iraq allocated to its defense budget an estimated US$3 billion, representing 17.4 percent of GNP, whereas in 1979, military expenditures were estimated at US$6.4 billion, or 14.9 percent of GNP. After 1980, however, defense expenditures skyrocketed, exceeding 50 percent of GNP by 1982. The 1986 military budget was estimated at US$11.58 billion.
The war's staggering financial and economic costs have proved to be more severe than anticipated, and, because of them, most large-scale infrastructure development projects have been halted. In 1980 Iraqi revenues from oil exports amounted to US$20 billion, which, when added to Iraq's estimated US$35 billion in foreign exchange reserves, permitted the country to sustain rapid increases in military expenditures. By 1984, however, oil revenues were so low that Iraq sought loans from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and from its foreign creditors. In 1986 annual oil revenues were estimated at US$5 to US$8 billion, whereas the war cost between US$600 million and US$1 billion per month. Military and financial experts estimated that by the end of 1987, Iraq had exhausted its US$35 billion reserves, and had incurred an additional US$40 to US$85 billion debt. Most of the money (US$30 to US$60 billion) came from GCC members, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which, some experts believed, may not demand repayment. The Baathist regime adopted a strategy of "guns and butter," trying to absorb the economic shock of the war without imposing undue hardships on the population. Through a subsidy program, the government continued to provide ample food and basic necessities to the population. The policy succeeded, but it also mortgaged the state's future. In early 1988, as the war dragged on and as military expenditures rose, it was difficult to ascertain whether this strategy could be sustained.
Casualty figures in the Iran-Iraq War could not be estimated accurately because neither belligerent permitted independent observers to assist in verifying records, and both belligerents rarely allowed foreign observers to visit combat areas. At the end of 1986, the most frequently cited estimate of casualties since September 1980 was about 1 million--350,000 dead and 650,000 wounded. According to this estimate, 250,000 Iranians and 100,000 Iraqis had been killed, while 500,000 Iranians and 150,000 Iraqis had been wounded. These estimates were probably conservative. Another reliable source claimed that the combined death toll was between 600,000 and 800,000. In 1987, the Iraqi minister of defense reported that as many as 1 million Iranians had been killed and almost 3 million had been wounded, but this was impossible to verify. During large offensives, reports indicated that casualty figures ranged between 10,000 and 40,000, primarily because of Iran's "human wave" tactics. The impact of this loss of life on both societies was immense as was that of the high number of prisoners of war (POWs). The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross estimated the number of POWs at nearly 50,000 Iraqis and 10,000 Iranians in early 1988.
For Iraq, the most damaging social repercussion in 1988 was the knowledge that the toll in casualties would continue to increase. Drafting young men, and at times women, from school and from work became unpopular, and the loss of young life weakened the regime. This human drain also created shortages in the labor force. These shortages forced an integration of women into the work force, a move that further disrupted Iraq's traditional social environment.
The war also forced cutbacks in Iraq's economic development, and it wiped out the relative prosperity of the late 1970s. Individuals were pressured to donate savings and gold holdings to the war effort. Experts believed in 1988 that these hardships, endured from 1980 onward, would gradually erode what social cohesion and progress had been achieved over the previous decade, should the war continue for a few more years.
Opposition to the war continued to grow. There were sporadic attempts on the lives of military officers, and especially on the lives of Saddam Hussayn's relatives. As funerals in every neighborhood reminded the masses of the realities they faced, Iraqi morale continued to diminish.
The regime, at least initially, provided substantial sums of money to the families of war "heroes." Parents received, as a lump payment, enough for a car, a piece of land, and a new house. In addition, a victim's brother was assigned a monthly pension of ID500--which was equivalent in purchasing power to somewhat less than the same amount in US dollars in 1987--and his sister, in keeping with "Iraqi tradition," received a pension of half that amount. A widow and surviving children also received monthly pensions, in addition to a guarantee of free university education for the children.
The government reduced its benefits packages in 1985, especially after revenues declined. Survivors of a soldier killed in battle continued to receive the equivalent of US$10,000, and veterans received monthly pensions equivalent to US$500, but women whose husbands and sons were away fighting found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
In maintaining internal security, the Baath regime focused on three main sources of opposition--the Kurds, living primarily near the borders of Iran and Turkey, the ICP and its splinter factions, and Shia revival movements not in sympathy with Baath socialism. In dealing with these groups, the government tended either to provide them with benefits so as to coopt them into the regime, or to take repressive measures against them.
The Kurdish minority offered the most persistent and militarily effective security threat of Iraq's modern history. Although the Kurds had traditionally opposed any central governments in both Iran and Iraq, most Kurdish leaders initially saw the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran as a possible vehicle for promoting Kurdish aspirations toward selfgovernment . The Iranian government's antiminority attitude, however, along with Iraq's attempts to support the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), dashed all hopes for a unified Kurdish independent state. The Iraqi and Iranian regimes each chose to support a Kurdish faction opposing the other's government, and this intervention divided the Kurds along "national" lines. As a result, during the 1980s Kurds in Iraq tended to hope for an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq War, while a number of Kurds in Iran thought that an Iraqi victory would best promote their own aspirations. Because most Kurds were Sunni Muslims, however, their enthusiasm for a Shia government in either country was somewhat limited.
Following the outbreak of hostilities and the ensuing stalemate in the Iran-Iraq War, Kurdish opponents of the Iraqi regime revived their armed struggle against Baghdad. In response to deportations, executions, and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Baath, the Kurds seemed in the 1980s to have renewed their political consciousness, albeit in a very limited way. Differences between the brothers Masud and Idris Barzani, who led the KDP, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Iraqisupported Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as the Kurdish leadership's periodic shifts into progovernment and antigovernment alliances, benefited Baghdad, which could manipulate opposing factions. What the Iraqi government could not afford, however, was to risk the opening of a second hostile front in Kurdistan as long as it was bogged down in its war with Iran. Throughout the 1980s, therefore, Baghdad tolerated the growing strength of the Kurdish resistance, which, despite shortcomings in its leadership, continued its long struggle for independence.
Data as of May 1988
The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) has seen its fortunes rise and fall repeatedly since its founding by Yusuf Salman Yusuf (known as Comrade Fahd, or the Leopard) in 1934. During the next fifty years, the party's fortunes fluctuated with the successes of particular regimes in Baghdad. Although the ICP was legalized in 1937, and again in 1973, the Baath Party regularly suppressed it after 1963 and outlawed it altogether in 1985.
In general, Iraqis rejected communism as contrary to both Islam and Arab nationalism. Yet, the clandestine ICP survived under the repressive policies of the monarchy, which had determined that because of its widespread appeal, the dissemination of communist theory among the armed forces or the police could be punished with death or with penal servitude for life. This persecution under the Hashimite monarchy raised communists to a status near that of martyrs in the eyes of the antimonarchical postrevolutionary leaders plotting the 1958 uprising. Ironically, the ICP was able to use the army to promote its goals and to organize opposition to the monarchy. In August 1949, for example, one of the army units returning from Palestine smuggled in a stencil printing machine for the ICP.
Between 1958 and 1963, the ICP became closely aligned with the Qasim regime, which used the communist militia organization to suppress its traditional opponents brutally. By 1963 Qasim's former allies, except the ICP, had all deserted him. When he was overthrown in February 1963, the new Baathist leaders carried out a massive purge in which thousands of communists were executed for supporting the hated Qasim. Survivors fled to the relatively isolated mountainous regions of Kurdistan. This first Baathist rise to power was short-lived, however, and under Abd as Salam Arif (1963-66) and his brother, Abd ar Rahman Arif (1966-68), both ICP and Baath cadre members were suppressed, largely because of their close connections with the Communist Party of Egypt and, in turn, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Although the Baath hierarchy had earlier perceived the ICP as a Soviet arm ready to interfere in internal affairs, after the successful 1968 coup d'etat, Baath leaders joined ICP officials in calling for a reconciliation of their decade-long rivalry.
This reconciliation was short-lived, however, and in May 1978 Baghdad announced the execution of twenty-one ICP members, allegedly for organizing party cells within the armed forces. Foreign observers contended that the executions, which took place long after the alleged crimes were committed, were calculated to show that the Baath would not tolerate communist penetration of the armed forces with the ultimate aim of seizing control, probably with Soviet assistance. Attempts to organize new communist cells within the armed forces were crushed, as the government argued that according to the 1973 agreement creating the Progressive National Front (PNF), only the Baath Party could organize political activities within the military. Unverified reports suggested that several hundred members of the armed forces were questioned at that time concerning their possible complicity in what was described as a plot to replace Baath leaders with military officers more sympathetic to the Soviet Union.
Despite several decades of arrests, imprisonments, repression, assassinations, and exile, in the late 1980s the ICP remained a credible force and a constant threat to the Baath leadership. After the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, the ICP came to depend heavily on outside support for its survival. Syria, for example, provided material support to the ICP's struggle against the Saddam Husayn regime, and the Syrian Communist Party cooperated with the ICP in strongly condemning the war with Iran.
In addition to relying more heavily on outside financial and moral support, the ICP initiated significant structural and ideological changes in the 1980s. Four Arab leaders (two Shias, two Sunnis) were dropped from the Politburo, and four Central Committee members were reportedly expelled from the party in 1984. Although the reasons for these changes were not clear, observers speculated at the time that party boss Aziz Muhammad and his Kurdish compatriots had gained control of the ICP and that Kurdish interests therefore outweighed national interests. Muhammad's tenacity in supporting the armed struggle of Iraqi Kurds and in totally opposing the Iran-Iraq War helped to bring about a split in the ICP leadership. His keynote address to the 1985 Fourth Party Congress analyzed in detail the course of the Iran-Iraq War; he assigned partial responsibility for the war to Iran, but he blamed the Baath government in Baghdad for prolonging the conflict. In September 1986, the ICP declared the communists' fight against the Baath regime to be inextricably linked to the achievement of peace between Iraq and Iran. A 1986 joint statement of the Tudeh (the Tudeh Party being the leading Marxist party of Iran) and the ICP called for an end to the war and for establishment of "a just democratic peace with no annexations whatsoever, on the basis of respect for the two countries' state borders at the start of the war, each people's national sovereignty over its territory, and endorsing each people's right to determine the sociopolitical system they desire."
Reliable data on ICP membership were unavailable in early 1988. One 1984 estimate was 2,000 members, but other foreign sources indicated a considerably larger ICP membership. Because it was a clandestine party fighting for the overthrow of the Baathist regime, the ICP's true membership strength may never be known, especially because it directed its organizational efforts through the Kurdish Democratic National Front (DNF). The ICP headquarters was partially destroyed in May 1984 following limited Turkish incursions to help Iraq protect its oil pipeline to and through Turkey and was apparently relocated in territories controlled by the DNF in 1988. Ideologically split and physically mauled, the ICP may have lost much of its strength, and it had no influence in the People's Army, which remained in the hands of the Baath Party.
In 1964 Ayatollah Khomeini was expelled from Iran to Turkey, and he was then granted asylum by Iraq. His theological erudition and idealism earned him a significant following in An Najaf, where ulama (religious leaders) and students from throughout the Shia world formed an important circle of learned men. The Baath socialist regime, however, with its secular, anticlerical stance, was never comfortable with Shia religious leaders and their followers.
Relations between the Iraqi regime and the Shia clerics deteriorated during the Imam Husayn celebrations in February 1977, when police interference in religious processions resulted in massive antigovernment demonstrations in An Najaf and in Karbala. Several thousand participants were arrested, and eight Shia dignitaries, including five members of the clergy, were sentenced to death and were executed. In 1978, in an effort to quell the Shia unrest and to satisfy the shah's request, Baghdad expelled Ayatollah Khomeini, who sought refuge in France.
In another attempt to minimize Shia dissent, the Iraqi government had deported to Iran 60,000 Shias of Iranian origin in 1974. In the months following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Iraqi government deported nearly 35,000 more ethnic Iranians.
Deportations, the suppression of the Shia ulama, and the death under suspicious circumstances of Shia leader Imam Musa as Sadr all contributed to the deterioration of relations between Baathist Iraq and Islamic Iran. The ranking Shia religious leader, Sayyid Abu al Qasim al Khoi, refrained from either sanctioning or opposing the Baath government, but the government feared Sadr because of his leadership qualities and because of his close association with Khomeini.
Beginning in 1980, Iran actively promoted its own revolutionary vision for Iraq. All anti-Iraqi Islamic organizations, including Ad Dawah al Islamiyah, commonly called Ad Dawah and the Organization of Islamic Action were based in Tehran, where they came under the political, religious, and financial influence of the ruling clergy. To control rivalry and infighting among the different groups, Iran helped to set up the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) on November 17, 1982. It was headed by Iraqi cleric Hujjat al Islam Muhammad Baqir al Hakim. Establishing SAIRI was viewed as a step toward unifying the political and military work of all groups and as an attempt to unite them under a single command directly supervised by their Iranian counterparts. In return, SAIRI acknowledged the leadership of Khomeini as the supreme commander of the Islamic nation. Nevertheless, the majority of Iraqi Shias resisted Tehran's control and remained loyal to Iraq.
In addition to the regular armed forces, Iraq's state security system consisted of at least six organizations charged with a wide variety of security functions. Little was publicly known about these paramilitary and police organizations, but their importance was undisputed. In addition to the People's Army, discussed above, internal security organizations consisted of the Security Troops (or Presidential Guard), the Border Guard, the Frontier Force, the regular civil police, and the Mukhabarat (or Department of General Intelligence).
The Security Troops formed an elite group of 4,800 whose primary task was to protect the Baath leadership in Iraq. Their ranks were filled with the most loyal troops serving in the Iraqi armed forces, whose dedication to Baathism and to Saddam Husayn personally had been tested on numerous occasions. These troops faced considerable danger because the frequent assassination attempts on the president and on his close associates usually meant loss of life among bodyguards. Survivors were generously rewarded, however.
The Frontier Guard and the Mobile Force accounted for an estimated 50,000 additional men within the security system. Unlike the People's Army, these forces consisted of full-time, professional men-at-arms. Frontier Guard personnel were stationed principally in northern Iraq along the borders with Iran, Turkey, and Syria to guard against smuggling and infiltrations. Before 1974 the Frontier Guard was under the control of local Kurds, but, after the defeat of the Kurdish revolt in 1975, it was administered by the central government. The Mobile Force was a strike force used to support the regular police in the event of major internal disorders. It was armed with infantry weapons, with artillery, and with armored vehicles, and it contained commando units trained to deal with guerrilla activities.
The regular civil police handled state security in addition to its routine duties of fighting crime, controlling traffic, and the like. After 1982, many of these routine functions were taken over by People's Army "volunteers" to free more able-bodied men for duty on the war front. The regular police were under the Ministry of Interior, and they were commanded by the director of police in Baghdad. There were thought to be several specialized components of the police, including forces assigned exclusively to traffic, to narcotics investigation, and to railroad security. The police operated at least two schools: the Police College for those with secondary degrees and the Police Preparatory School for those without secondary education. Police officers held military ranks identical to those of the regular armed forces, and many were called to serve in the war with Iran.
The Department of General Intelligence was the most notorious and possibly the most important arm of the state security system. It was created in 1973 after the failed coup attempt by Director of Internal Security Nazim Kazzar. In 1982 the Department of General Intelligence underwent a personnel shake-up. At that time, it was headed by Saadun Shakir, who was an RCC member and, like Saddam Husayn, a Tikriti, and who was assisted by Saddam Husayn's younger half-brother, Barazan Husayn. Foreign observers believed that the president was dissatisfied because the agency had not anticipated the assassination attempt at Ad Dujayl. It was also believed that several separate intelligence networks were incorporated within the department, and that Iraqi intelligence agents operated both at home and abroad in their mission to seek out and eliminate opponents of the Baghdad regime.
The Baathist regime introduced a variety of laws, of which the most important was a 1969 penal code that expanded the definition of crime to include acts detrimental to the political, the economic, and the social goals of the state. Baathist hegemony in the political sphere, for example, was enforced by a law making it a crime to insult the state or its leaders publicly. Economic goals were also enforced by several laws--a 1970 trade regulation, for example, made both the selling of goods at prices other than those fixed by the state and the production of inferior products felonies. The government's free education program was enforced by a law making it a crime to refuse to participate.
The more traditionally defined kinds of crime, including theft, forgery, bribery, the misappropriation of public funds, and murder, followed the pattern of most developing states. No adequate statistical data for Iraq were available in 1987, however. Amnesty International reported in 1986 that degrading treatment of prisoners, arbitrary arrests, and denial of fair public trials were common. In 1985 and in 1986, several highranking officials, including the mayor of Baghdad, were tried for corruption, were found guilty, and were executed. Presumably, the purpose of these sentences was to make it clear that criminals would be punished, regardless of their status.
The regular criminal justice system consisted of courts of first instance (including magistrate courts), courts of sessions, and a Court of Cassation. Major crimes against state security were tried in the revolutionary courts, which operated separately from the regular judicial system. In general this court system followed the French pattern as first introduced during the rule of the Ottoman Turks, although the system had undergone several modifications during the twentieth century. Juries were not used anywhere in the Iraqi criminal court system.
Most petty crimes, or contraventions, which carried penalties of imprisonment from one day to three months or of fines up to ID30, were tried in local magistrate courts. These third-class courts, which were found in all local municipalities, were presided over by municipal council members or by other local administrative officials. First- and second-class criminal matters, which corresponded to felonies and to misdemeanors, respectively, were tried within appropriate penal courts attached to civil courts of first instance, located in provincial capitals and in district and subdistrict centers. Misdemeanors were punishable by three months' to five years' imprisonment; felonies by five years' to life imprisonment or by the death penalty. One judge conducted the trials for criminal matters at each of these courts of original jurisdiction.
In 1986 the six courts of session continued to hold jurisdiction in the most serious criminal matters, and they acted as courts of appeal in relation to lower penal or magistrate courts. Four of these courts were identical to the civil courts of appeal; two were presided over by local judges from the courts of first instance. Three judges heard cases tried in the courts of session.
The Court of Cassation was the state's highest court for criminal matters. At least three judges were required to be present in its deliberations, and in cases punishable by death, five judges were required. The Court of Cassation also served as the highest court of appeals, and it confirmed, reduced, remitted, or suspended sentences from lower courts. It assumed original jurisdiction over crimes committed by judges or by highranking government officials.
The revolutionary courts, composed of three judges, sat permanently in Baghdad to try crimes against the security of the state; these crimes were defined to include espionage, treason, smuggling, and trade in narcotics. Sessions were held in camera, and the right of defense reportedly was severely restricted. It was also believed that regular judicial procedures did not apply in these special courts, summary proceedings being common.
On several occasions during the 1970s--after the attempted coups of 1970 and of 1973, after the 1977 riots in An Najaf and in Karbala, and after the 1979 conspiracy against the regime--the RCC decreed the establishment of special temporary tribunals to try large numbers of security offenders en masse. Each of these trials was presided over by three or four high government officials who, not being bound by ordinary provisions of criminal law, rendered swift and harsh sentences. In 1970 fifty-two of an estimated ninety accused persons were convicted, and thirty-seven of these were executed during three days of proceedings. It was believed that about thirty-five had been sentenced to death and about twenty had been acquitted, during two days of trials in 1973. In a one-day trial in 1977, eight were sentenced to death, and fifteen were sentenced to life imprisonment; eighty-seven persons were believed to have been acquitted. Thirty-eight Iraqis were executed between May 24 and May 27, 1978. The majority of them were members of the armed forces, guilty of political activity inside the military. An additional twenty-one leading members of the party, including ministers, trade union leaders, and members of the RCC, were tried in camera and executed in 1979. In general, those sentenced to death were executed, either by hanging or by firing squad, immediately after the trials.
Administered by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the penal system was dominated by the central prison at Abu Ghurayb near Baghdad, which housed several thousand prisoners, and by three smaller branch prisons located in the governorates of Al Basrah, Babylon, and Nineveh. Additional detention centers were located throughout the country. In early 1988, it was impossible to determine the full number of imprisonments in Iraq.
Internal security was a matter of ongoing concern for Iraq in the late 1980s. The end of the war with Iran would presumably bring opportunities for liberalizing the security restrictions imposed by the Baathist regime.
English-language literature on the subject of Iraqi national security was scarce in 1988, largely because of the government's almost obsessive secrecy with respect to security affairs and because of the Iran-Iraq War. Frederick W. Axelgard's Iraq in Transition: A Political, Economic, and Strategic Perspective was the most comprehensive and up-to-date study of the subject in 1988. Majid Khadduri's Socialist Iraq, dealing with military and security affairs in the larger context of post-1968 political developments, continued to be indispensable. Mohammad A. Tarbush's The Role of the Military in Politics: A Case Study of Iraq to 1941, and Hanna Batatu's The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, provided invaluable background information. The rapid growth, in both manpower and equipment, of Iraq's armed forces was best documented in the annual The Military Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Accounts by Efraim Karsh in The Iran-Iraq War, and a series of articles by Anthony H. Cordesman, thoroughly discussed the IranIraq War. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).
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