Regime Strategic Intent

We will never lower our heads as long as we live, even if we have to destroy everybody. -- Saddam Husayn, January 1991



Key Findings
Who Made Iraq’s Strategic Decisions and Determined WMD Policy
Saddam’s Effect on the Workings of the Iraqi Government
How Saddam Saw His Subordinates
How Saddam Saw Himself
Desire . . . Dominance and Deterrence Through WMD
Realizing Saddam’s Veiled WMD Intent


A. The Quartet—Influence and Disharmony Among Saddam’s Lieutenants
B. Iraq’s Intelligence Services
C. Iraq’s Security Services
D. Saddam’s Personal Involvement in WMD Planning


Key Findings

Saddam Husayn so dominated the Iraqi Regime that its strategic intent was his alone. He wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted.

  • Saddam totally dominated the Regime’s strategic decision making. He initiated most of the strategic thinking upon which decisions were made, whether in matters of war and peace (such as invading Kuwait), maintaining WMD as a national strategic goal, or on how Iraq was to position itself in the international community. Loyal dissent was discouraged and constructive variations to the implementation of his wishes on strategic issues were rare. Saddam was the Regime in a strategic sense and his intent became Iraq’s strategic policy.
  • Saddam’s primary goal from 1991 to 2003 was to have UN sanctions lifted, while maintaining the security of the Regime. He sought to balance the need to cooperate with UN inspections—to gain support for lifting sanctions—with his intention to preserve Iraq’s intellectual capital for WMD with a minimum of foreign intrusiveness and loss of face. Indeed, this remained the goal to the end of the Regime, as the starting of any WMD program, conspicuous or otherwise, risked undoing the progress achieved in eroding sanctions and jeopardizing a political end to the embargo and international monitoring.
  • The introduction of the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) in late 1996 was a key turning point for the Regime. OFF rescued Baghdad’s economy from a terminal decline created by sanctions. The Regime quickly came to see that OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to further undermine sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development.
  • By 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime, both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo, by the end of 1999.

Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability—in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks—but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.

  • Iran was the pre-eminent motivator of this policy. All senior level Iraqi officials considered Iran to be Iraq’s principal enemy in the region. The wish to balance Israel and acquire status and influence in the Arab world were also considerations, but secondary.
  • Iraq Survey Group (ISG) judges that events in the 1980s and early 1990s shaped Saddam’s belief in the value of WMD. In Saddam’s view, WMD helped to save the Regime multiple times. He believed that during the Iran-Iraq war chemical weapons had halted Iranian ground offensives and that ballistic missile attacks on Tehran had broken its political will. Similarly, during Desert Storm, Saddam believed WMD had deterred Coalition Forces from pressing their attack beyond the goal of freeing Kuwait. WMD had even played a role in crushing the Shi’a revolt in the south following the 1991 cease-fire.
  • The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent, but firm, verbal comments and directions to them.


Note on Methodological Approach

Interviews with former Regime officials who were active in Iraq’s governing, economic, security, and intelligence structures were critical to ISG’s assessment of the former Regime’s WMD strategy. While some detainees’ statements were made to minimize their involvement or culpability leading to potential prosecution, in some cases those who were interviewed spoke relatively candidly and at length about the Regime’s strategic intent.

  • ISG analysts—because of unprecedented access to detainees—undertook interviews of national policy makers, the leadership of the intelligence and security services, and Qusay’s inner circle, as well as concentrated debriefs of core Regime leaders in custody, to identify cross-Regime issues and perceptions.
  • As part of the effort aimed at the core leadership, analysts also gave detainees “homework” to give them more opportunity to discuss in writing various aspects of former Regime strategy. Many of these responses were lengthy and detailed. Secretary of the President, ‘Abd Hamid Al Khatab Al Nasiri, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq ‘Aziz ‘Aysa, and Minister of Military Industry ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh answered questions in writing several times, providing information on both the former Regime and the mindset of those who ran it.
  • Saddam’s debriefer was fully aware of ISG’s information needs and developed a strategy to elicit candid answers and insights into Saddam’s personality and role in strategy-related issues. Remarks from the debriefer are included.
  • Analysts also used working groups to study themes and trends—such as intelligence and security service activity, weaponization, dual-use/break-out capabilities and timeline analysis—that cut across ISG’s functional teams, as well as to pool efforts to debrief members of the core leadership.

Analysts used subsource development and document exploitation to crosscheck detainee testimony, leverage detainees in debriefs, and to fill gaps in information. For example, analysts interviewing Huwaysh gained insights into his personality from subsources, while translated technical and procurement-related documents were critical to verifying the accuracy of his testimony. Likewise, we confronted Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan Al Jizrawi with a captured document indicating his major role in allocating oil contracts and he divulged details on corruption stemming from the UN’s OFF program.

Nonetheless, the interview process had several shortcomings. Detainees were very concerned about their fate and therefore would not be willing to implicate themselves in sensitive matters of interest such as WMD, in light of looming prosecutions. Debriefers noted the use of passive interrogation resistance techniques collectively by a large number of detainees to avoid their involvement or knowledge of sensitive issues; place blame or knowledge with individuals who were not in a position to contradict the detainee’s statements, such as deceased individuals or individuals who were not in custody or who had fled the country; and provide debriefers with previously known information. However, the reader should keep in mind the Arab proverb: “Even a liar tells many truths.”

Some former Regime officials, such as ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid Al Tikriti (Chemical ‘Ali), never gave substantial information, despite speaking colorfully and at length. He never discussed actions, which would implicate him in a crime. Moreover, for some aspects of the Regime’s WMD strategy, like the role of the Military Industrialization Commission (MIC), analysts could only speak with a few senior-level officials, which limited ISG’s assessment to the perspectives of these individuals.


Former Iraqi Regime Officials Varied in Their Level of Cooperation

The quality of cooperation and assistance provided to ISG by former senior Iraqi Regime officials in custody varied widely. Some obstructed all attempts to elicit information on WMD and illicit activities of the former Regime. Others, however, were keen to help clarify every issue, sometimes to the point of self-incrimination. The two extremes of cooperation are epitomized by ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid—a key Presidential Adviser and RCC member—and Sabir ‘Abd-al-Aziz Husayn Al Duri, a former Lieutenant General who served in both the Directorate of General Military Intelligence and the Iraqi Intelligence Service. ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid was loquacious on many subjects, but remained adamant in denying any involvement in the use of CW in attacks on the Kurds and dissembling in any discussion of the subject. His circumlocution extends to most other sensitive subjects of Regime behavior. By contrast, Sabir has been forthcoming to the point of direct association with a wide range of Iraqi activities, including the management of Kuwaiti prisoners, the organization of assassinations abroad by the former Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), and the torture of political prisoners.

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Who Made Iraq’s Strategic Decisions and Determined WMD Policy

Saddam’s Place in the Regime
The Apex of Power

Saddam controlled every peak position of authority in Iraq and formally dominated its state, administrative, Ba’th party and military hierarchies. By the time of Desert Storm, there was no constitutional threat to his position of authority. He had also appointed himself “Paramount Sheikh” in a bid to dominate the country’s tribal system. By the late 1990s, he began seeking more formal control over the nation’s religious structures.

  • Saddam was simultaneously President, Prime Minister, Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), General Secretary of the Ba’th Party, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Also directly reporting to him were the Republican Guard (RG), Special Republican Guard (SRG), Fedayeen Saddam, the four intelligence agencies, the Military Industrialization Commission (MIC)a and the Al Quds Army.
  • Tariq ‘Aziz says that Saddam had enhanced the role of the tribal leaders, giving them money, weapons, land and authority, to turn them into an instrument of support for himself.

Personalized Rule

Saddam dominated all Iraqi institutions by the early 1990s and increasingly administered by personal direction. Major strategic decisions were made by Saddam’s fiat alone, although subordinates acted upon what they perceived to be indirect or implied orders from him. Moreover, Saddam, particularly early in his rule, was fond of micromanagement in all aspects of government.

  • Former advisors suggest that Saddam was healthy, rational and deliberate. He would ponder key decisions—such as the invasion of Kuwait—for months but share his thoughts with few advisors. He was cool under pressure. Even his firmest supporters, such as ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri, the former presidential secretary from 1991 to 2003, characterize his decision-making style as secretive.
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh—former Deputy Prime Minister from 2001 to 2003 and Minister of Military Industrialization from 1997 to 2003—believed there was a “big gap” between Saddam and his advisors and that, despite the lengthy pondering of an issue, he could be emotive at the point of decision. For example, Huwaysh, while not in a position of power at the time, pointed to the sudden and unconsultative manner in which Saddam ordered the invasion of Kuwait, despite the amount of planning and forethought that had gone into the scheme.
  • Saddam had shown a detailed, technical interest in military affairs during the Iran-Iraq war, frequently visiting army units and giving direct instructions, whether or not the defense minister or the chief-of-staff was present. In contrast, limited evidence suggests that after 1991 Saddam attempted to detach himself from the minutiae of working with the UN.
  • Nevertheless, Saddam was prone to take personal control of projects that spanned military industry, higher education, electricity, and air defense, according to former Presidential Advisor ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid.


Saddam’s Unsettled Lieutenants

Most of Saddam’s key lieutenants were active, experienced and committed to the Regime, but by the mid-1990s they were tightly constrained by their fear of Saddam, isolation and a loss of power. Many accepted the limits of their personal influence in return for membership in a privileged class, because of a personal identification with the goals of the Regime and realization of the personal consequences should it fall.

Key Iraqi Organizations and Officials (2003)

(Note: Names bolded and italicized have been interviewed by ISG)

President Saddam Husayn
Prime Minister Saddam Husayn
Vice President Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf [still at large]
Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan Al Jizrawi
Secretary of the President ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri
Deputy Prime Ministers Tariq ‘Aziz ‘Issa
  Ahmad Husayn Khudayr Al Samarra’i
Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim Al ‘Azzawi
  ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh
Chairman, Presidential Diwan Ahmad Husayn Khudayr Al Samarra’i
Minister of Foreign Affairs Naji Sabri Ahmad Al Hadithi
Minister of Defense Staff Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad Al Ta’i
Army Chief-of-Staff Staff Gen. Ibrahim Ahmad ‘Abd-al-Sattar Muhammad
Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh
National Monitoring Directorate  
Committee of Three (Military Matters)  
  Husam Muhammad Amin Al Yasin, Director
  Qusay Saddam Husayn [deceased]
  Staff Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad Al Ta’i
  Staff Gen. Husayn Rashid Muhammad ‘Arab Al Tikriti
Council of Ministers Heads of all major departments
Revolutionary Command Council  
  Saddam Husayn (Chairman)
  ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri (Vice-Chairman) [still at large]
  Taha Yasin Ramadan Al Jizrawi
  Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf [still at large]
  Tariq ‘Aziz Issa
  ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid
  Mizban Khadr Hadi
  Muhammad Hamzah Al Zubaydi (retired 2001)
Committee of Four (“The Quartet”)  
  ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri [still at large]
  Taha Yasin Ramadan Al Jizrawi
  Tariq ‘Aziz Issa
  ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid
National Security Council  
  ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri (Chairman) [still at large]
  Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri (Secretary)
  Qusay Saddam Husayn, Special Security Organization [deceased]
  Tahir Jalil Habbush, Iraqi Intelligence Service [still at large]
  Zuhayr Talib ‘Abd-al-Sattar, DGMI
  Rafi’ ‘Abd-al-Latif Tulfah Al Nasiri, Directorate of General Security [still at large]
Higher Inspection Committee  
  Taha Yasin Ramadan Al Jizrawi (Chairman 2002-2003)
  Tariq ‘Aziz Issa (Chairman 1991-1998)
  ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh
  Naji Sabri Ahmad Al Hadithi
  Husam Muhammad Amin Al Yasin
  Qusay Saddam Husayn [deceased]
  Amir Muhammad Rashid Al ‘Ubaydi
  ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi (scientific advisor)
  Ja’far Diya’ Ja’far Hashim (scientific advisor)


  • Tariq ‘Aziz described the requirements for a leader in Iraq as “power and an iron fist.” He was happy initially with Saddam’s use of these attributes and “for the first ten years we thought he was doing the right thing.”
  • Former RCC member Muhammad Hamzah Al Zubaydi was totally acquiescent, uncritical, and thought Saddam was “a good president.”
  • According to former Vice President Ramadan, when Saddam announced to the RCC in 1990 that he was going to invade Kuwait, only he and Tariq ‘Aziz expressed doubts about the plan, but they felt they could only do so on preparedness grounds. Nevertheless, the invasion resolution passed unanimously and whatever dissent Ramadan and Tariq ‘Aziz registered was insufficiently robust to have stayed in the memories of other participants in the meeting.
  • Yet Saddam’s lieutenants in the RCC and other upper echelons were seen by lower levels of the Regime and the public as powerful and influential. Saddam was keen to maintain this perception. Opposition to his lieutenants’ views from within the Regime was discouraged as criticism of them reflected on him. “When he gave his trust to someone, he didn’t want to hear criticism about that person,” according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid.


A Few Key Players in an Insular Environment

Iraq’s policymaking on national security issues, including WMD, rested with Saddam and major decisions were by his fiat. He consulted a few long-serving advisors, but large deliberative bodies like the RCC, the Ba’th Party leadership, Cabinet, Ministries, the military or the intelligence agencies and industrial establishment were incidental to critical decisions. Saddam reserved the right to make final decisions, and former advisors reveal that he often disregarded their advice. Saddam made few public statements regarding WMD, and his deliberations were tightly compartmented and undocumented after the 1980s. Saddam’s advisors have revealed much about a deliberate, secretive decision-making style, which accounts for the lack of information (for example, the lack of documentary evidence) on his strategic intent for WMD. Many, however, believe that Saddam would have resumed WMD programs after sanctions were lifted.

  • Saddam maintained continuity and secrecy by repeatedly turning to a few individuals and small-compartmented committees for foreign policy and national security advice. Tariq ‘Aziz, although deputy prime minister, served as the pre-eminent foreign policy advisor from the early years of the Regime until 2001. Saddam praised ‘Aziz for his knowledge of the west and foreign affairs, in general, despite ‘Aziz falling out of favor in the later stages of the Regime. Two successive committees deliberated over foreign policy issues referred to them by Saddam: the Political Operations Room (1991 to mid-1990s), and its successor the Committee of Four (the “Quartet” from1996 to 2003), (see Annex A, The Quartet—Influence and Disharmony Among Saddam’s Lieutenants for additional information). Additionally, Iraq established the Higher Committee in 1991 to orchestrate relations with UN Weapons inspectors (see section on the Higher Committee).


Life Near Saddam—A Characterization

Saddam’s Iraq was similar to other dictatorships. The primary characteristics of such regimes are: (1) an almost exclusive reliance upon a single decision-maker, his perceptions and objectives; (2) fear and intimidation; (3) little dissent from the “leader’s” views; (4) compartmented expertise with little or no cross-fertilization; (5) the passing of misinformation through the chain of command; (6) internal personal conflicts among second and third tier leadership; (7) a second level of leadership whose power and influence is derived entirely from above, not particularly from the constituencies they represent; (8) avoidance of responsibility. Toward the end of his rule Saddam became more reclusive and relied even less upon advisors for decision-making, while turning more and more to relatives.


  • Party and governmental organizations implemented and legitimized Saddam’s foreign policy decisions more than they directed them. Saddam routinely met with the Cabinet, its committees and the RCC, but participants say they often had little latitude. He also met frequently with key technocrats, such as in the Minister of Military Industrialization, who oversaw MIC. Detainees from various organizations suggest they carried out national security policy rather than created it, although Huwaysh had considerable autonomy in his planning efforts. Nonetheless, even as a favored technocrat, Huwaysh found his decisions subject to Saddam’s changes.
  • Saddam lacked a full grasp of international affairs, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam perceived Iraqi foreign policy through the prism of the Arab world and Arabic language. He listened to the Arabic services of Voice of America and the BBC, and his press officers would read him translations of foreign media, but he appeared more interested in books and topics about the Arab world. Secretary of the President ‘Abd claimed that Saddam was open to American culture—he watched classic US movies—and that he did not perceive the US-Iraqi relationship to be necessarily one of conflict. Saddam told a US interviewer he tried to understand Western culture, and admitted he relied on movies to achieve this.


Saddam Calls the Shots

Saddam’s command style with subordinates was verbal and direct. Detainees frequently mention verbal instructions from Saddam. His subordinates regarded these commands, whether given in private or in public, as something to be taken seriously and at face value. Saddam was explicit—particularly on issues of a personal or state security nature, which were one and the same to him. The Regime did not take action on WMD or security issues in a documented way using the Iraqi equivalent of public policy statements, cabinet minutes or written presidential executive orders.

  • Saddam verbally referred matters for consideration to the Quartet. He was verbally back-briefed by ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri on the results.
  • According to Husayn Rashid Muhammad ‘Arab Al Tikriti, a former Iraqi Army Chief-of-Staff, Saddam established a key state committee—the Committee of Three, which managed the military—without any initiating or directing documentation. The three members were ordered verbally by Saddam to form and operate the committee.

Saddam’s custom of verbal instructions to subordinates on key issues was a preference driven largely by his security concerns, which fitted well with the style and capability of Iraqi public administration.

  • Close documentation of decision-making chains was incomplete in Iraq, and there was inconsistency in what was recorded. Regime policy files on security issues have not been found following the fall of the Regime and—judging by the ashes found in Iraqi Government offices—may have been comprehensively destroyed. We do not have a complete paper trail of the execution of Saddam’s decisions on state security issues or WMD at a senior level. But there is some documentary evidence.


Former Director of the Directorate General of Military Intelligence Discusses Information for Strategic Operational Planning

“We gathered information from the five embassies where we have (military) attaches: Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, Yugoslavia and Russia. Another source is the Internet—it has everything. For example, the attaché in Qatar reports that the coalition [as it prepares for war] has 15,000 to 18,000 [troops] arriving. We could see it on the Internet, as well—it was all there. For another example, we know that there was pre-planned storage equipment in Qatar and Kuwait, equipment without personnel. [We got these messages by] electronic format or the officer would hand-carry the information back to Iraq.”


  • Instead, voluminous files were often kept on personnel management issues, and trivial and non-official aspects of even very junior personnel were recorded.
  • Official record keeping was highly inconsistent in content and form. Access to electronic information technology varied widely. Even manual typewriters were not available in some places. Pre-electronic copying systems such as carbon paper do not appear to have been widespread. Hand-written records (including many of limited legibility) are common. A high level order in the 1980s directed that Top Secret orders were to be hand-written to avoid the need for typing staff to see them.

Saddam’s subordinates feared him and sought to anticipate his wishes on matters where he had not yet issued characteristically clear and unquestionable orders. At the very least they would seek to avoid outcomes he was known to detest or dislike.
Senior subordinates would in these circumstances issue instructions reflecting what they believed was Saddam’s line of thinking on an issue. His more experienced associates, such as Ramadan, found Saddam to be predictable and they were able to work to the limits of his tolerance. That said, fear of Saddam meant that rumor about his wishes could acquire considerable force and make Regime attempts to change course sometimes awkward to implement. MIC staff, for example, initially did not believe that Saddam had decided to abandon the program to withhold information from inspectors. They were accustomed to the earlier Saddam-endorsed policy of deception, and feared transgressing what they earlier knew to be Saddam’s wishes. Vice President Ramadan had to be dispatched in early 2003 to personally explain the new policy to skeptical and fearful MIC staff.

  • Ramadan spoke for three hours at a mass meeting of MIC staff in 2003 to overcome their skepticism, according to Huwaysh.

Saddam’s penchant for both centralized verbal instruction and administrative compartmentation lent itself to accidental or intended competition among subordinates.
Compartmentation, when accompanied by his encouragement of backchannel communication, (see Harvesting Ideas and Advice in Byzantine Setting section), occasionally led to two (or more) teams working the same problem. This was particularly the case in security and intelligence issues, allowing the possibility that more than one “order” might be given. Saddam was normally able to realign projects when he needed to but checks and balances among political and security forces of the Regime remained a feature of his rule to the end.

  • Intended competition resulting from two competing “orders” possibly occurred in WMD activities. For example, the Regime had two competing ballistic missile programs under Ra’id Jasim Isma’il Al Adhami and Muzhir Sadiq Saba’ Al Tamimi in 1994, as well as the separate development of two different binary CW rounds by the Al Muthanna State Establishment (MSE) and the Technical Research Centre (TRC) in the late 1980s.


Saddam Shows the Way

Saddam gave periodic unambiguous guidance to a wider audience than his immediate subordinates. He wrote his own speeches. He was unafraid of detail and personally intervened with instructions in all areas of government administration at all levels. Problems arose if Saddam or his lieutenants had not given junior subordinates his views on an issue, leaving them in doubt about policy or their authority in a system where conformity was valued and failure to follow orders often brutally punished. Initiative suffered and the system could be inflexible as it worked on old interpretations of Saddam’s wishes. This latter problem became acute after 1998 when Saddam became more reclusive and his comprehensive speeches became less frequent. A problem also arose when subordinates occasionally moved ahead of Saddam’s decisions, relying on older guidance to anticipate his wishes.

  • During a custodial interview, Saddam said major speeches he drafted and gave, such as the June 2000 speech, on why Iraq could not give up its strategic weapons capability if its neighbors did not, were intended to shape internal and external conditions, in this case the positions of both Iran and the UN.
  • Saddam also wrote key speeches of officials, notably that of Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmad Al Hadithi to the UNGA on 19 September 2002, following President Bush’s ‘Grave and Gathering Danger’ speech to the same body on 12 September.
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh said Saddam “intervened in all of his ministries and agencies where and when he saw fit.”
  • Saddam appointed Ramadan to lead the “Higher Committee” in 2002 to implement UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1441. Ramadan was unsure of his authority to deal with UN inspectors under this arrangement, and he would guess at both the limits of his authority and his personal safety from Saddam’s wrath, a situation compounded by the inability to contact Saddam at critical moments.
  • Tariq ‘Aziz said that in reporting to Saddam on the proceedings of the Committee of Four (the Quartet), chairman ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri would guess at what he thought Saddam wanted to hear. ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid supported ‘Izzat Ibrahim in this approach.
  • Ramadan pointed to the overactive attitude of factory managers in 2002-2003 in blocking UN inspectors as an example of Iraqis anticipating a position Saddam wanted them to take, when in fact his policy had moved in a different direction.

Saddam was strictly opposed to corruption—in the sense of Regime personnel soliciting bribes or expropriating public assets—on the part of family members or subordinate members of the Regime, seeing it as corrosive of respect for authority. Personal corruption could be punished drastically and Saddam issued many directions about what he expected in terms of personal financial behavior. Instead, Saddam reserved for himself the right to dispense the fruits of the Regime, thereby making those who benefited from power sure they were doing so exclusively at his will.

  • According to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, Saddam required all official personnel to submit periodic inventories of their assets. Assets could not be above “sufficient” levels, nor could assets be listed under other people’s names. He directed that half of hidden property be given as a reward to whoever reported the deception.


Harvesting Ideas and Advice in a Byzantine Setting

Saddam did not encourage advice from subordinates unless he had first signaled he wanted it. Advisory groups he established, such as the Committee of Four (the Quartet) on foreign, political and strategic policy, considered only those issues he referred to them. Committees generally assumed Saddam already had a preferred position on such issues and commonly spent time trying to guess what it was and tailor their advice to it. More conscientious members of the Regime sought to work around sycophantic or timid superiors by cultivating alternative, direct lines of communication to Saddam—a development that pleased Saddam because it put another check on subordinates. The result, however, was a corrosive gossip culture in senior government circles that further undercut any semblance of developing policy through conventional government procedures.

  • Ramadan thought Saddam’s preference for informal chains of command encouraged a gossip culture in his immediate circle that undercut good policy development.
  • ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri, Ramadan, and ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid in the Quartet would usually argue for whatever policy they thought Saddam would want, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.
  • In some areas, alternative channels were formalized. Special Security Organization (SSO) personnel were able to regularly bypass superiors, and senior SSO officers bypassed the SSO Director if they had links to Qusay Saddam Husayn. Similarly, certain sections of the SSO could bypass the SSO Director and report straight to Saddam.
  • Saddam claimed he regularly met with the Iraqi people as he found them to be the best source of accurate information. Additionally, Saddam said he found women to be great sources of information, particularly within the various government ministries.
  • Saddam’s interest in science meant that some Iraqi weapons-related scientists were able to use back channels to by-pass military industry gatekeepers such as Huwaysh. This enabled them to sometimes secure Saddam’s support for odd or marginal programs of little use to defense. For example, retired defense scientist ‘Imad ‘Abd-al-Latif ‘Abd-al-Ridha secured Saddam’s backing in January 2000 for the Al Quds UAV program over the objections of Huwaysh. The project never progressed beyond two prototypes and Huwaysh stated that the program was ultimately an expensive failure.
  • Saddam was “like a computer,” according to ‘Abd: if he received reliable information he would make good decisions, but if the inputs were flawed, the resulting policies would suffer.


Weaving a Culture of Lies

The growth of a culture of lying to superiors hurt policymaking more than did the attendant gossip. Lying to superiors was driven by fear of the Regime and the inability to achieve results as resources deteriorated under sanctions in the first half of the 1990s. Lack of structural checks and balances allowed false information to affect Iraqi decision making with disastrous effects. Saddam knew his subordinates had a tendency to lie, but his earlier efforts to check their claims by “ground-truthing” them through personal tours of inspection decreased by 1998 as he became more reclusive.

  • Tariq ‘Aziz asserts that before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Iraqi military lied to Saddam about its preparedness, which led Saddam to grossly miscalculate Iraq’s ability to deter an attack.
  • Several sources claim that reporting up the party, government, and military chain of command became less trustworthy before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Key commanders overstated their combat readiness and willingness to fight, and Saddam no longer sought ground truth by visiting units and asking pointed questions as he had during the Iran-Iraq war. He instead relied upon reports by officers who later admitted misleading Saddam about military readiness out of fear for their lives.
  • ‘Abd said key Regime members “habitually” concealed from Saddam unpleasant realities of Iraq’s industrial and military capabilities and of public opinion. Fear of the loss of position motivated this deception, which continued until the final days of the Regime.
  • Asked how Saddam treated people who brought him bad news, ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid replied, “I don’t know.” ISG assesses that ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid has never known any instance of anybody bringing bad news to Saddam.


Saddam Became Increasingly Inaccessible

Saddam encouraged a sense of his omnipotence among his subordinates, a condition that increased after 1998 as Saddam became more physically reclusive. The former workaholic and micromanager appeared less engaged after this time, although he would involve himself in issues of interest, such as air defense. Saddam’s inaccessibility was driven by an extreme fear of assassination and also apparently by a personal prioritization of other activities, including writing. While there is no evidence Saddam’s control of the Regime slipped, many of his lieutenants saw a sharp lessening of Saddam’s attention to detail and an absence of his previous desire to “ground proof” high level advice through field inspections. They suggest his formerly detailed interest in military affairs diminished compared to that shown during the Iran-Iraq war or Desert Storm.

  • By Saddam’s own account, he had only used a telephone twice since 1990, for fear of being located for a US attack.
  • According to Ramadan, he never phoned Saddam directly after 1991, never privately socialized with him and was often unable to locate Saddam for days, even in periods of crisis. Simply locating Saddam could be a problem even for senior officials. Ramadan said, “Sometimes it would take three days to get in touch with Saddam.”
  • Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim Al ‘Azzawi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, thought that because of extensive security measures, there was little possibility that Saddam would be assassinated. Hikmat said Saddam was confident no one could assassinate him because no one knew where he slept, and ministerial meetings were held at undisclosed locations. Ministers were picked up and driven to the meeting locations in vehicles with blacked out windows, and they were never told where they were once they arrived at meetings, according to a former senior official.
  • According to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, notice of RCC meetings was given only hours and sometimes minutes before they occurred; it was normal for RCC members to be collected by official cars, and then be switched to different cars between the pick-up point and the meeting place, and sometimes the meeting place would be changed as well.
  • Despite the extensive measures used to protect Saddam, his family, and senior leaders, an assassination attempt in December 1996 seriously wounded ‘Uday Saddam Husayn. This critical failure of the Regime’s security infrastructure is likely to have contributed significantly to Saddam’s withdrawal.
  • Saddam was more reclusive during his last years as president, according to a former senior official. He lost much of his contact with the government. He still attended RCC meetings, but he met only infrequently with the Quartet. Beginning in 1999, “when he was writing his novels,” Saddam would often come to his ministers’ meetings unprepared. “He had not even read the summary notes his staff prepared for him for the meeting,” according to the Minister of Military Industrialization.
  • Tariq ‘Aziz stated that during the 1990s, Saddam became less involved in tactical issues and concentrated more on strategic matters. During the late 1990s, he spent more time in his palaces; subordinates had to forward documents to him because they could no longer communicate directly with him. ‘Aziz claims that in the months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, he had little interaction with Saddam and he was reduced to spending the time watching TV and reading newspapers (part of ‘Aziz’s isolation was a result of the growing prominence, at ‘Aziz’s expense, of Foreign Minister Naji Sabri). Although Saddam still sought detailed reporting, he did not process it with the diligence that characterized his approach to paperwork a decade earlier. In ‘Aziz’s view, Saddam listened less to advisory boards such as the Quartet and rejected their advice more frequently. Instead, he turned more toward family members, such as Qusay.


Saddam’s Command By Violence

Saddam used violence liberally as an administrative method, to ensure loyalty, repress even helpful criticism and to ensure prompt compliance with his orders. Saddam’s use of violence stood in stark contrast to the public image he created of a benevolent father figure, interested in all aspects of Iraqi life, from children’s poetry to public hygiene.

  • In 1979, during Saddam’s transition from Vice President to President, he directed the execution of a “number of the leadership” for supposedly plotting with Syrian Ba’thists against him. Tariq ‘Aziz described this episode as the cruelest action he witnessed under Saddam.
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh confirmed that in 1982, Saddam ordered the execution of his Health Minister Riyad Al ‘Ani (a relative of Huwaysh) and delivery of the dismembered body to the victim’s wife. Riyad, in response to an appeal by Saddam for creative ideas on how to end the war with Iran, had made the fatal mistake of suggesting that Saddam temporarily resign and resume office after peace was achieved.
  • Muhsin Khadr Al Khafaji, Ba’th Party Chairman in the Al Qadisiyah Governorate, “never refused to do anything he was asked to by Saddam as he fully expected to be executed if he failed to comply with orders given to him. In the 1980s, (he) witnessed a number of soldiers being executed after they deserted.”


Saddam’s Use of Execution—Management by Threat

Fear of Presidential violence was widespread under the former Regime, but some situations merited explicit threats. The return from Jordan in February 1996 of Saddam’s son-in-law, Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid, “the traitor,” was such an event. This SSO administrative order was found after Operation Iraqi Freedom:

An administrative order

The order of the Special Security Organization Director

The traitor Husayn Kamil Hasan is to be treated as any citizens in the state and his, or his traitorous group’s orders are not to be obeyed in any way or in any location in the country. Anyone who obeys his orders will be punished by execution, by order of the Leader, The President, God Bless Him.

This order is posted by the Security Unit division manager and it is timed below.

Dated 20 Feb 96.

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Saddam’s Effect on the Workings of the Iraqi Government

Suspicion of Structures

Saddam profoundly distrusted constitutional structures because they risked accruing power independent of his. The legally powerful cabinet never met in later years as a deliberative body. When it did meet—for information or ratification purposes—Saddam avoided agendas. The same occurred at RCC meetings. Instead, when business required an agenda, such as dealing with issues requiring cross-portfolio decisions, Saddam met Ministers individually or as sub-committees. Likewise, attendees often had no preparation for what Saddam might raise.

  • “Meetings of the political leadership were not scheduled . . . many times they were convened without knowing the subject of the meeting. He would simply raise an issue . . . without warning,” according to Tariq ‘Aziz.


Powerless Structures

Iraq under Saddam had all the formal decision-making structures and staff of a modern state, but they did not make national strategic policy. Iraq possessed a skilled foreign ministry and able technocrats in all branches of government. They could route proposals upward in the Regime almost to its end, but not if they conflicted with Saddam’s strategic intent or if they proposed an alternate national strategy.

Iraq possessed a full array of government organs familiar to any “Western” country: president, national assembly, judiciary, civil service; but their actual functions and relationship with each other bore no resemblance to Western counterparts. Instead, they filled control or cosmetic roles in support of Saddam’s dictatorship. They played little part in the effective chain of command under Saddam, and they did not exercise a decision-making or executive role comparable to nominally similar organs in Western states.

After the Ba’thist seizure of power in 1968, the RCC became a key Regime institution. It gave Saddam the right to make emergency decisions in its name in the 1980s, and he used this authority to reduce the RCC to irrelevance. This propensity extended to Saddam assuming authority over national policy on WMD development and retention.

  • According to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, the RCC had voted in the 1980s to allow Saddam to make decisions in its name. Since then, Saddam made such decisions “whenever he liked.” By the 1990s, RCC members often first heard on the radio or television about decisions made by Saddam in their name. Moreover, only Saddam could call an RCC meeting.
  • According to Ramadan, the RCC discussed UNSCR 687 after Desert Storm, but Husayn Kamil was placed in charge of implementation, even though he was not a RCC member. Communication between Saddam and Husayn Kamil on WMD therefore bypassed the RCC. After 1991, the RCC had no collective decision-making about retention or development of WMD.
  • After 1995, Saddam would usually have his decisions drafted by the Legal Office in the Presidential Diwan and then proclaimed without reference to the Cabinet or the RCC.
  • Muhammad Hamzah Al Zubaydi said of the RCC, that Saddam made decisions and “there was never any objection to his decisions.”
  • Similarly, membership of the RCC became a matter of Saddam’s fiat, not a reflection of internal party election or opinion. Saddam had ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri, Deputy Chairman of the RCC, order members who he wished to move off the RCC to retire. Soon to be ex-members were told not to submit their nominations for “re-election.” Similarly, ‘Izzat notified individuals chosen as new members they were to “nominate” themselves as candidates, according to Muhammad Hamzah.
  • ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid said “I don’t remember the Cabinet ever discussing foreign affairs” and that the Foreign Minister reported directly to Saddam. Saddam exercised a high degree of personal control by taking over leadership of the ministers’ council and by getting involved in its details. He additionally enhanced his control through regular meetings with experts and leaders in industry and academia, according to Ramadan.


The Higher Committee

Saddam established the Higher Committee in June 1991 following Desert Storm to manage Iraq’s relationship with the UN on WMD disarmament. The Committee was also to develop a strategy for determining what WMD information would be disclosed to the UN. The Higher Committee displayed from the outset all the dysfunctional characteristics of administration under Saddam. It was beset by backchannel communications to Saddam from individual members that prevented the Committee from developing policy on WMD that was not prone to intervention from Saddam. The Committee was plagued by a lack of transparency, gossip and family court interests. According to presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri, the Committee was disrupted by a philosophical tug-of-war between Husayn Kamil, Saddam’s favorite son-in-law and military industry czar—who sought to limit UN access to hidden nuclear and biological programs—and Tariq ‘Aziz, the chairperson, who pursued greater cooperation with the UN, including advocating early acceptance of OFF. This unresolved dispute contributed to Iraq’s conflicted posture in dealing with UNSCOM.

  • Saddam gave the committee a substantial amount of working level leeway, according to the former presidential secretary. He only wanted to retain oversight on decisions that the committee found insolvable or costly, such as the destruction of a large industrial complex.
  • Nevertheless, Husayn Kamilsought to undermine Tariq ‘Aziz’s influence by going directly to Saddam and misrepresenting UN policies to him. He sought to turn Saddam against the UN by telling him that UNSCOM wanted to destroy facilities created solely for civilian use when the reality was they were dual use facilities, according to the former presidential secretary, ‘Abd.
  • Husayn Kamil masterminded the undeclared destruction of large stocks of WMD in July 1991. This undermined Iraq’s and specifically Tariq ‘Aziz’s credibility with the UN. Husayn Kamil also persuaded Saddam to hide and to deny the existence of Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991, conceal the biological weapons program, and to reject early UN offers (UNSCR 712, a forerunner to the OFF program) of monitored oil sales as a means of limited sanctions relief.
  • Tariq ‘Aziz said that in contrast he sought concessions from the UN in return for Iraq’s gradual compliance with UN sanctions. He cooperated with the UN, but was undercut by Husayn Kamil’s machinations and was unable to extract concessions, an outcome that eventually led Saddam and other leaders to criticize him, according to the presidential secretary.


The Foreign Policy Committees

Saddam created a committee called the Political Operations Room after 1991 as a deliberative body to provide political advice. The committee, comprising Foreign Minister Ahmad Husayn Khudayr Al Samarra’i, Prime Minister Sa’dun Hamadi (chair), Tariq ‘Aziz and either Latif Nusayyif Jasim Al Dulaymi or Hamid Yusif Hammadi, replaced a system in which ministers met with Saddam individually to discuss such issues. Tariq ‘Aziz was assigned to chair the committee when Saddam fired Hamid in October 1991.

  • Important decisions were left to Saddam, althoughthe committee sought to react quickly to secondary political developments by issuing statements and comments according to Tariq ‘Aziz.

Saddam created the Committee of Four, or Quartet, in 1996 as a foreign policy advisory body to replace the Political Operations Room. Vice President ‘Izzat Ibrahim al Duri served as the informal chair and Tariq ‘Aziz, Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan and ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, who was put on the committee to monitor the others, served as members. Saddam set the agenda, which was ad hoc and varied. The Quartet might consider WMD-related topics such as UNSCOM cooperation, but it did not address overall strategy for acquiring or employing WMD, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.

Neither the Political Operations Room nor the Quartet had a policymaking role. Instead, they offered advice, but only on issues referred to them by Saddam. They had none of the proactive or directive powers normally associated with such senior committees in the West or elsewhere. Moreover, they were weakened by the Byzantine administrative practices common to the higher levels of the Regime.

  • The Quartet addressed an extensive range of topics, including policies toward Russia, France, Syria, the UN and the Kurds. It also discussed the Arab-Israeli situation and the dispatch of envoys. ‘Izzat Ibrahim would prepare a few working minutes, uncoordinated with any of the other members, after the meeting and forward them to Saddam.
  • The Quartet assigned specific government agencies to research specific topics and provide answers to Saddam, if the president required it, but did not have a dedicated assessments staff of its own.
  • The RCC also considered foreign policy issues but usually in the form of briefings from Saddam or expert staff and usually did little more than endorse the decision Saddam had already determined. It served increasingly as a forum for Saddam to make announcements or as a face-saving foil to explain Iraq’s policy changes.
  • Saddam would on occasion elicit foreign policy advice from the RCC, but would not accept it very often, even after lengthy discussion, according to former Vice President Ramadan. The RCC at other times would simply parrot what they knew was Saddam’s opinion. Saddam was more inclined to accept RCC advice about more junior level government appointments.
  • The RCC represented the outer limit of awareness in government circles of WMD in Iraq and was not part of the normal decision-making process on the issue. Saddam’s address to the RCC in late 2002 announcing Iraq had no WMD was news to many members. WMD-related topics were never discussed outside the RCC and rarely outside the Quartet members, according to the former presidential secretary. The RCC had no role in WMD or missile strategy, according to former Vice President Ramadan, and did not usually consider military issues, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.
  • Saddam approached the RCC for recommendations on how to deal with UNSCR 1441 of 8 November 2002, but he opened the discussion by stating that Iraq would not accept reconnaissance flights, interviews with scientists, or visits to presidential sites such as palaces. These topics would not be open for discussion. Ramadan, along with other key members, realized limited compliance with UNSCR 1441 would be futile and counterproductive, but he did not use the RCC to debate Iraq’s response to UNSCR 1441. Instead he first used the Higher Committee to lobby Saddam to approve UN over flights and to allow UN inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists, but without success. Faced with a UN ultimatum to agree, and with Saddam in one of his periods of self-imposed seclusion, Ramadan exhibited a rare display of independent decision-making and exercised his own authority to authorize the UN over flights.


Saddam’s Grip on National Security and WMD Development

Saddam’s disregard for civil and constitutional forms of administration meant he turned to an array of security and military industrial organizations to implement policy or to provide technical advice during the sanctions period. Paramount among these were the SSO, IIS, RG, MIC and the armed forces, all of which answered directly to him.

  • Saddam addressed military and military industrialization issues directly with the people he installed in the positions of Defense Minister or the Minister of Military Industrialization, according to the former Defense Minister, without the filter of the Cabinet, the RCC or any equivalent of a National Security Council. Similarly, Saddam discussed any Republican Guard issues directly with Qusay and the RG Chief-of-Staff.
  • The defense minister, who had no authority over the Republican Guard, forwarded all other military matters of any significance to Saddam, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.

Saddam had direct command of the Iraqi intelligence services and the armed forces, including direct authority over plans and operations of both. The Directorate of General Military Intelligence (DGMI) and the IIS assembled detailed orders of battle and summaries of the general military capability of potential adversaries, particularly Iran, Israel and the United States, and gave them to Saddam and his military leadership. The IIS also ran a large covert procurement program, undeclared chemical laboratories, and supported denial and deception operations (See Annex B “Iraqi Intelligence Services” and Annex C “Iraqi Security Services” for additional information).

  • The intelligence services collected foreign intelligence and relayed the raw reporting to Saddam via his presidential secretary. The Regime tightly controlled dissemination of such material. Material going to Saddam would not necessarily be shared with the responsible deputy prime minister or the military.

Saddam’s hold on the state and its security infrastructure extended to the military-industrial complex. MIC oversaw Iraq’s substantial and centrally planned military-industrial infrastructure. MIC at certain times in its history covered all industries and most activities that supported the research, development, production and weaponization of CBW agents and missile delivery systems. While as an institution MIC had organizational continuity, substantively there were two MICs, each distinguishable by unique historical circumstances and its links to a prominent leader. Both leaders were close protégés of Saddam and answered directly and continuously to him. Husayn Kamil created the first MIC in 1987, which continued in various forms—including a major overhaul in 1992—until his flight to Jordan in 1995. ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh restructured the organization in 1997 into its second form, which remained until the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Both Husayn Kamil and ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh represent partial anomalies in Saddam’s command and control structure. Saddam was interested in their loyalty, discretion and ability to achieve results. The assets they commanded were not threats to his rule in the way the army or the Ba’th Party could be. Both Husayn Kamil and Huwaysh were therefore given more license and less direct oversight than the army leadership or the RCC, although Saddam would often ask about particular projects or facilities. Ironically, in Husayn Kamil’s case, this lack of oversight eventually created major problems for the Regime.

  • When Husayn Kamil assumed responsibility for military scientific research adn industry in 1987, Saddam gave him broad administrative and financial authority to consolidate Iraq’s research, development, and industrial resources into military capabilities essential for winning the Iran-Iraq war. Husayn Kamil had notable successes, developing long-range missiles and BW and CW capabilities for Saddam. In the aftermath of Desert Storm, Husayn Kamil used MIC in attempts to conceal banned weapons and deceive UNSCOM inspectors. His capricious and self-serving leadership of MIC and lack of accountability eventually destroyed its institutional integrity, a process further aggravated by his departure in 1995.
  • By 1997, MIC was on the verge of collapse. The Ministry of Defense, MIC’s primary customer, had lost confidence in its ability to meet military production requirements. To halt the slide, Saddam plucked ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh from nine years of bureaucratic exile, and installed him as the Minister of Military Industrialization. Huwaysh instituted strict organizational and financial reforms, centered on mandatory planning and personnel accountability. By 2002, MIC was thriving, its total revenues increasing over forty fold as had its revenue base, despite continuing UN sanctions and coalition attacks on its facilities.


The Military Industrialization Commission

As an institution, the MIC had historical continuity emerging in the 1980s from the State Organization for Technical Industries (SOTI) as the “Military Industrialization Organization,” progressing through the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI), and finally in 1991, transforming into the MIC.

The MIC ran Iraq’s military-industrial complex, including at certain times, all weaponization of chemical and biological agents and delivery systems. Iraq’s nuclear program, however, was separate from MIC’s institutional framework through much of its history. Operation Desert Storm destroyed much of Iraq’s military-industrial infrastructure, including many chemical bombs and rockets. But, despite the war, some of Iraq’s WMD arsenal remained intact, and was preserved by the MIC. The MIC assisted in concealing banned weapons and attempting to deceive the UN weapon inspectors up until 1995, when Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid, Saddam’s son-in-law and MIC director, fled to Jordan (see the “Husayn Kamil” text box for additional information).

By 1997, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MoD) had lost faith in the ability of the MIC to develop or produce the goods required of it. Re-creation of the MIC began in 1997 under Huwaysh, who by 1999 had reorganized and completely restructured the organization. Saddam’s growing confidence in Huwaysh saw him eventually appointed as the Minister of Military Industrialization and, later, as one of the Deputy Prime Ministers of Iraq. The MIC’s re-emergence provided the research, development and industrial base upon which Saddam hoped to rebuild and modernize Iraq’s military-industrial capabilities. Huwaysh introduced mandatory planning, financial oversight and personal accountability in order to set the organization on a modern accountable management base. Salaries were raised and re-engagement with the MoD took place. Universities were encouraged to contribute to MIC projects and research, while production was outsourced to the private sector, with considerable success.


Saddam Holding Court

Saddam made shells of state institutions that in most other countries would be organs of executive power. Under Saddam, they existed largely for appearance and as lightning rods for blame. For example, the RCC would be summoned for a public session so that a potentially embarrassing change of course could be attributed to the RCC, rather than be seen as an earlier misjudgment on Saddam’s part. This division of responsibilities allowed Saddam to take the credit, while institutions took the blame.

  • For example, according to Taha Yasin Ramadan, he, the RCC and the Higher Committee assumed responsibility for embarrassments such as acquiescence to UN “intrusions” and agreeing to U2 flights. Blame shifting was typical of Saddam. Nonetheless, from time to time in uncontroversial non-crisis situations, Saddam would revert back to formal decision-making structures to conduct business. Ramadan commented that he did not know what would prompt Saddam to resort to the formal chain of command at a particular point of time.


Saddam and Fiscal Policy

Saddam ignored his economic advisors in the Ministries of Finance and Planning with respect to strategic planning. For example, Saddam entered the Iran-Iraq war heedless of Ministry warnings about the economic consequences. He had no plan or strategy for how the war was to be financed and generally displayed little interest in economic policy. He showed little concern about adjusting disastrous economic policies (such as those causing inflation) in the interests of social stability. He did, however, pay close attention to disbursements. He made sure he could take the credit for public sector pay raises or special allocations such as bonuses to particular sections of the Iraqi population. He took less interest in whether such outlays were affordable or their effect on fiscal management.

  • A senior Iraqi Finance Ministry official said the Ministry consciously conducted its budgeting in the 1980s as if foreign debt did not exist. Internal debt was paid by printing dinars and concocting artificial exchange rates, regardless of the inflationary consequences.
  • Saddam appointed Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim Al ‘Azzawi as Finance Minister in 1995 and Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Financial Committee in 1999. He reported directly to Saddam and not to the cabinet. Saddam gave direct instructions to Hikmat on how to allocate funds for salaries, bonuses, farm subsidies and to adjust ration prices, according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid.
  • Financial matters were Saddam’s third governmental priority after security and political management, but ahead of technical, industrial and social administration according to ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh reviewing in 2004 the last years of Saddam’s governance. Huwaysh’s description of Saddam’s financial discussions, however, shows Saddam was preoccupied with disbursals and cash flow, not fiscal policy or macroeconomic management. Huwaysh based his view of Saddam’s priorities on the order of precedence of the four Deputy Prime Ministers who were responsible respectively for international security (Tariq ‘Aziz), political management through the Presidential Diwan (Ahmad Husayn Khudayr Al Samarra’i), Finance (Hikmat) and finally Huwaysh.

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How Saddam Saw His Subordinates

Mining Respect and Expertise

Saddam recognized and respected talent and public esteem in individual subordinates and area experts, but not to the point where they could contradict his goals, power or his judgment. He worked systematically to extract what they could contribute to the Regime, while keeping them politically isolated. Saddam was careful to keep subordinates from gaining popularity.

  • According to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, “If some person makes good work and gets the admiration of . . . the Ba’thists, he does not keep that person . . . he never let an official admired by the Iraqis [stay] in the same position for more than three years.”


Mutuality of Fear

Saddam feared that his subordinates could gather enough strength to challenge his position, or even a particular policy, and he acted to prevent it. He was routinely suspicious of subordinates—even those with long standing loyalty. His subordinates remained fearful of him, and they were incapable of common action against him or key policies.

  • Tariq ‘Aziz said that he opposed the invasion of Kuwait, but could not dissuade Saddam. Asked why he did not resign in protest, he denied he thought he would be killed, but said, “ . . . there would be no income, no job.” Tariq ‘Aziz denied Saddam killed anyone personally while President. “But he would tell the security services to take care of things [dissenters], and they would take care of it.”
  • Ramadan believed that from late 2002, Iraqi policy toward the UN and the United States was taking the Regime toward a disastrous war, but he said, “I couldn’t convince Saddam that an attack was coming. I didn’t try that hard. He was monitoring my performance in managing [UN] inspectors.”
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh was sacked as Minister of Industry in 1988 after a clash with Husayn Kamil and was ostracized for nine years. He believed he only avoided prison because of Ramadan’s intervention with Saddam. According to Huwaysh, no minister ever argued in meetings against Saddam’s stated position because it “ . . . was unforgivable. It would be suicide.”
  • ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid said he feared Saddam and cited the killing of many people close to Saddam as the basis of his fear.
  • Huwaysh said Saddam “loved the use of force.”
  • Fear worked both ways. At Saddam’s “one-on-one” weekly meetings with individual heads of security agencies, he would always be accompanied by a bodyguard, according to Hamid Yusif Hammadi, Minister of Culture and Information. “Saddam did not trust anyone, even his cousin.”
  • Nevertheless, Saddam said he believed “Good personal relations bring out the best in people.”


Dazzled by Science

Saddam was awed by science and inspired by the possibilities it offered for national development and military power. Saddam had an enthusiastic attitude toward science dating back to when, in the early 1970s, he found himself in charge of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) as part of his responsibilities as Vice President. Saddam venerated Iraq’s history as a center of scientific achievement under individuals like the famous mathematician and astronomer Ibn Al Haytham (c. 965 AD—c. 1040 AD). He retained a respect for many aspects of science to the end, but became less interested in detail and more detached from developments in Iraq’s scientific infrastructure.

  • Deputy Prime Minister ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh believed Saddam had “a special affection for his nuclear scientists” from the inception of the Iraqi nuclear program in the 1970s.
  • ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid noted Saddam’s expansion of the university system “ . . . to the point of [having] a university in every governorate of the country.”
  • Saddam kept three scientific advisers on his staff: ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, former deputy director at MIC, who held that position since 1994, ‘Amir Muhammad Rashid Al ‘Ubaydi, the former Minister of Oil, and Ja’far Diya’ Ja’far Hashim, former head of PC-3.


“A Man Can Be Destroyed, But Not Defeated”

Ernest Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea

Saddam’s fondness for certain examples of Western culture was highly selective and did not reflect a sophisticated awareness of Western cultural values or motivations. Saddam—not unlike other dictators throughout history—fixed upon foreign cultural examples to reinforce his view of himself and his own behavior, not to moderate it through the development of a broader, global or more inclusive perspective. One of Saddam’s favorite books is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, the Nobel Prize-winning story of one man—Santiago, a poor Cuban fisherman—and his struggle to master the challenges posed by nature. Saddam’s affinity for Hemingway’s story is understandable, given the former president’s background, rise to power, conception of himself and Hemingway’s use of a rustic setting similar to Tikrit to express timeless themes. In Hemingway’s story, Santiago hooks a great marlin, which drags his boat out to sea. When the marlin finally dies, Santiago fights a losing battle to defend his prize from sharks, which reduce the great fish, by the time he returns to his village, to a skeleton. The story sheds light on Saddam’s view of the world and his place in it.

The parallels that Saddam may have drawn between himself and Santiago were in their willingness to endure suffering and hardship to prove a point and in their willingness to inflict pain on the victims of their struggles to accomplish their objectives. Saddam’s rise to “greatness” is marked by jail and exile, as well as violence. Saddam tended to characterize, in a very Hemingway-esque way, his life as a relentless struggle against overwhelming odds, but carried out with courage, perseverance and dignity. Certainly in the context of the “Mother of All Battles”—his name for the 1991 Gulf War—and his subsequent struggle against UN sanctions, Saddam showed a stubbornness arising from such a mindset and a refusal to accept conventional definitions of defeat. Much like Santiago, ultimately left with only the marlin’s skeleton as the trophy of his success, to Saddam even a hollow victory was by his reckoning a real one.

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How Saddam Saw Himself

Saddam’s Psychology

Saddam’s psychology was shaped powerfully by a deprived and violent childhood in a village and tribal society bound by powerful mores. Many of his associates noted how early experiences had a lasting effect on Saddam’s outlook.

  • ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid thought that “As any village child, he was affected by the traditions and customs of his tribe . . . you see him having an influence on most . . . Iraqis because they have come from the same country and tribal origin.”
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh believed much of Saddam’s personality was shaped by the circumstances of his childhood, particularly his violent and xenophobic guardian uncle.
  • Saddam had few friends among top leaders even in the 1970s and 1980s. These ties diminished further after 1995 and he focused more on relatives, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.


Saddam’s Personal Security

Saddam thought he was under constant threat and he prioritized his personal safety above all administrative issues. ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh said Saddam put the priority for personal safety at the absolute peak of a hierarchy of interests. Some of his fear was well founded, but he grew increasingly paranoid as the 1990s progressed. His personal security measures were extreme. For example, the SSO operated a laboratory specifically for the testing of Saddam’s food. An outgrowth of his fear was the building of multiple palaces, in part designed to foil attempts by attackers or assassins to locate him. The palaces also reflected the fact that Saddam increasingly saw himself as the state and that what was good for him was good for Iraq.

  • Saddam went on a palace and mosque building extravaganza in the late 1990s, employing 7000 construction workers, when much of the economy was at the point of collapse. His rationale for this was concern for his personal security. He stated that by building many palaces the US would be unable to ascertain his whereabouts and thus target him.
  • Military officers as senior as the Commander of the SRG, who was responsible for physical protection of Presidential palaces, were barred from entering any palace without prior written permission.
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh attributed much of this paranoia to Saddam’s sense of betrayal following the defection of Husayn Kamil in 1995, shohe had previously seen as close to him as a son. The attempt on ‘Uday’s life in December 1996 also had a deep impact on Saddam, because the extensive security infrastructure designed to protect him and his family failed in a spectacular and public way. The attack marks the start of Saddam’s decreased visibility with senior officials and increased preoccupation with Regime security.


Saddam the Dynasty Founder

Saddam’s resort to dynastic and familial means of running Iraq did the most to undermine institutional decision-making. Saddam saw the state in personal terms and his career was marked by a steady retreat from the Ba’thist ideal of a modern state to governance modeled on a rural Arab clan. His administration became reliant on family and clan members throughout the 1990s. Tariq ‘Aziz and Taha Yasin Ramadan commented on the growing and corrosive influence of the Tikriti clan on state control at this time. Relatives dominated leadership positions and progressively diminished the policy (as opposed to coercive) role of the Ba’th Party. Every senior non-Tikriti in the Regime has pointed to Saddam’s increasing and destructive resort to family and clan members to staff sensitive government positions. Nevertheless, while inclined toward a dynastic succession, Saddam prioritized preservation of his legacy. He was still searching for a competent and reliable succession that would guarantee his legacy at the time of his fall.

  • Saddam gradually shifted his reliance on advice from technocrats to family members from 1995 onward, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. This favored family, who was not necessarily competent, such as ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, weakened good decision-making, according to former Vice President Ramadan. Nonetheless it was accepted as a seemingly normal part of administration in Iraq.
  • Ramadan thought, “The last three years with Saddam bothered me the most. There were too many relatives in sensitive jobs. When I was put in charge of inspections, I was qualified to do the job. My staff will tell you I could have fixed it.”
  • He said, “Saddam was weak with his family members. He punished them, but let them go right back to doing what they were doing in the first place.” Moreover, ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid thought the only occasions he saw Saddam yield under “pressure” was in dealing with relatives. “He used to stand by their side regardless of any reason.”

It seems clear that Saddam was grooming Qusay as his heir by gradually giving him increasing responsibilities starting in the late 1990s. According to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, “He was paving the way for his son Qusay more than ‘Uday, because Qusay was lovely, having a noble character.” For many senior Iraqis, however, Qusay’s significance stemmed from his perceived influence on his father. These former senior officials dismiss Qusay’s intelligence and leadership ability. Saddam gave him security, and some military responsibilities, but never significant political, scientific or economic tasks in government. There was also a view that Qusay already had more responsibility than he could handle.

  • Saddam gave Qusay control of the RG, SRG, and SSO. He was elected in 2001 to the Ba’th Party Command, a stepping-stone to eventual RCC membership, which would have been the most significant mark of his growing importance in the Regime hierarchy.
  • Saddam also assigned Qusay to the Higher Committee as a watchdog in 2002 in response to Saddam’s dissatisfaction with committee concessions to the UN, according to Ramadan.


The Heir Apparent

Different sources portray Qusay Saddam Husayn, Saddam’s potential successor, as ambitious, distrustful and fawning.

  • Qusay in 1998 began to marginalize certain senior Regime officials who had been appointed by Saddam and installed his own trusted aides in key positions, including within the SSO, according to a former senior official.
  • Qusay was a member of the (military) Committee of Three, which controlled armed forces officer promotions and recommended to Saddam General Officer appointments and promotion. He showed himself profoundly suspicious of recommendations from within the army and often disregarded them, according to a former senior officer.
  • Qusay was keen to provide Saddam with good military news, according to Walid Hamid Tawfiq. However, he lived in fear of incurring Saddam’s displeasure and optimistically exaggerated information that he gave to Saddam.
  • The former MIC director, Huwaysh, recounted that on one occasion in late 2002 when he met with Saddam and Qusay, Qusay boasted to his father, “we are ten times more powerful than in 1991.” Immediately disagreeing, Huwaysh said, “Actually, we are 100 times weaker than in 1991, because the people are not ready to fight.” Saddam did not respond, but Qusay was angry that Huwaysh had contradicted him.


Saddam and His Sense of Legacy

Saddam was most concerned with his legacy, and he saw it in grand historic terms. His management of the present was always with a view to its appearance in the future, and this tended to distort foreign protagonists’ perceptions of his current motivations. He wanted to be remembered as a ruler who had been as significant to Iraq as Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezzar and Salah-al-Din [Saladin]. His problem lay in how to define and to achieve this greatness. Even what it was to consist of was hazy. His drive to preserve his place in Iraqi history outweighed even his feelings toward his family. Saddam wanted a dynasty as seemingly the best way to guarantee his legacy, but he was clear about the distinction between dynasty and legacy and of the two, he was most concerned about legacy. At the time of the fall of the Regime, he was leaning toward Qusay as successor, but with his second son still very much on probation.

  • A US interviewer noted Saddam spoke of his place in Iraqi history and his family in the same context, but showed a far greater concern for the former.
  • ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh thought Saddam saw himself in “larger than life” terms comparable to Nebuchadnezzar and Salah-al-Din [Saladin]. More modestly, Saddam when speaking to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid compared his rule to Al Mansur, the Abbasid Caliph who founded Baghdad, and Al Hajjaj, the Umayyad founder of Arab rule in Iraq. ‘Ali also thought Saddam “dreamed of making Iraq the biggest power in the region and the Middle East.”
  • According to Huwaysh, Saddam’s economic vision for Iraq—looking out ten years—was a recreation of Iraq’s industrial strength and a planned manufacturing economy that would not be dependent on oil exports. Saddam, however, had no plans for an information-based or service sector economy, nor was there a place for tourism. The likelihood was that even with peace and no sanctions, Iraq would have been as self-isolated and unconnected to a free world as it ever had been under his rule.

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Desire . . . Dominance and Deterrence Through WMD

Saddam’s Role in WMD Policy

Saddam’s centrality to the Regime’s political structure meant that he was the hub of Iraqi WMD policy and intent. His personalized and intricate administrative methods meant that control of WMD development and its deployment was never far from his touch (see the “Excerpts from a Closed-Door Meeting” inset). His chain of command for WMD was optimized for his control rather than to ensure the participation of Iraq’s normal political, administrative or military structures. Under this arrangement, the absence of information about WMD in routine structures and the Iraqi military’s order of battle would not mean it did not exist. Even so, if WMD existed, its absence from Iraqi military formations and planning when war was imminent in 2003 would be hard to explain.

As with past use, Saddam would have rigorously and personally controlled the relevant formations, and have had sole release authority. Saddam’s doctrine in the Iran-Iraq war was to separate WMD control from the military’s leadership, but to have its use available (and controlled by security agencies) if military operations required it.

The defense ministry and the senior military staffs formulated national war plans, but according to Staff Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad Al Ta’i, the former Minister of Defense, these organizations did not incorporate WMD in their planning, training, and supply systems during the Iran-Iraq war. Sultan’s recollection, however seems thin given the likely degree of planning and training necessary for the extensive use of CW by both sides during the conflict.

  • During and after the late 1990s, the few times Saddam evidently asked about the potential of certain Iraqi WMD options suggest he was not consistently focused on this issue. He asked ad hoc questions about feasibility of reconstituting programs and confined his confidences to hinting that Iraq might reconstitute WMD after sanctions. While he may have said he had the desire, no source has claimed that Saddam had an explicit strategy or program for the development or use of WMD during the sanctions period. Given the sensitivity of the subject, however, to share such thinking with anybody but a few close associates would have been out of character for Saddam. This lack of a formal statement would chime with his autocratic style of governance—especially given past experience with UN inspections searching for documents.
  • Saddam spoke often in one-to-one sessions with first Husayn Kamil and later ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh on research and industrial issues supporting WMD. There are no indications that Saddam issued detailed written instructions to either individual to direct WMD work, as was the practice in the 1980s when the programs were highly active.
  • There are multiple references, however, to Saddam ordering the MIC to pursue military technology “pet projects” he had received from other government agencies, individual scientists, or academics. Often the projects’ proponents had exaggerated their technical merits to obtain Saddam’s backing. Desperate to find and exploit any potential military advantage, Saddam would direct the projects for further research and development. However, none of these projects involved WMD.

Saddam’s rationale for the possession of WMD derived from a need for survival and domination. This included a mixture of individual, ethnic, and nationalistic pride as well as national security concerns particularly regarding Iran. Saddam wanted personal greatness, a powerful Iraq that could project influence on the world stage, and a succession that guaranteed both. Saddam sought the further industrialization of Iraq, held great hopes for Iraqi science, and saw himself as the liberator of Palestine. His vision was clearest—and seemingly most achievable—in terms of leaving Iraq militarily strong, within appropriate borders and safe from external aggressors, especially Iran. WMD was one of the means to these interrelated ends.

Saddam felt that any country that had the technological ability to develop WMD had an intrinsic right to do so. He saw WMD as both a symbol and a normal process of modernity. Saddam’s national security policy demanded victory in war, deterrence of hostile neighbors (including infiltration into Iraq), and prestige and strategic influence throughout the Arab world. These concerns led Iraq to develop and maintain WMD programs.

  • Saddam sought foremost personal and Regime survival against several foreign and domestic enemies. At the same time, he sought to restoreIraq’s regional influence and to eliminate sanctions.
  • In particular, Saddam was focused on the eventual acquisition of a nuclear weapon, which Tariq ‘Aziz said Saddam was fully committed to acquiring despite the absence of an effective program after 1991.


What Saddam Thought: The Perceived Successes of WMD

The former Regime viewed the four WMD areas (nuclear, chemical, biological, and missiles) differently. Differences between the views are explained by a complex web of historical military significance, level of prestige it afforded Iraq, capability as a deterrent or a coercive tool, and technical factors such as cost and difficulty of production. We would expect to see varying levels of attention to the four programs and varying efforts to prepare for, or engage in, actions to restart them.

Saddam concluded that Iraq’s use of CW prevented Iran, with its much greater population and tolerance for casualties, from completely overrunning Iraqi forces, according to former vice president Ramadan. Iraq used CW extensively in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) to repel the Iranian army.

  • Iraq suffered from a quantitative imbalance between its conventional forces and those of Iran.
  • Saddam’s subordinates realized that the tactical use of WMD had beaten Iran. Even Taha Yasin Ramadan, one of Saddam’s more independent-minded underlings, acknowledged that the use of CW saved Iraq during ground fighting in the Iran-Iraq war.
  • Saddam announced at the end of the war that the Iranian army’s backbone had been shattered by the war, according to the presidential secretary. Saddam stated that Iran would be unable to confront Iraq for a decade. Political divisions in Iran, weaknesses in Iranian military capabilities, and Iran’s inability to sustain long-term offensive operations also reduced the risk of attack, according to the former chief-of-staff.
  • Hamid Yusif Hammadi, former Secretary of the President and presidential office director (1982-1991), said that after the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam was intoxicated with conceit. He believed he was unbeatable. He spoke of this to the Iraqi Government officials and to visiting dignitaries from other Arab countries.”


Iraq’s Use of CW in 1991 Against Internal Unrest

The former Regime also saw chemical weapons as a tool to control domestic unrest, in addition to their war-fighting role. In March 1991, the former Regime used multiple helicopter sorties to drop CW-filled bombs on rebel groups as a part of its strategy to end the revolt in the South. That the Regime would consider this option with Coalition forces still operating within Iraq’s boundaries demonstrates both the dire nature of the situation and the Regime’s faith in “special weapons.”

  • All but two of Iraq’s provinces in 1991 were in open revolt and the Regime was worried. The fall of Karbala deeply affected key decision-makers. According to a former senior member of the CW program, the Regime was shaking and wanted something “very quick and effective” to put down the revolt.
  • In the early morning of 7 March 1991 an unidentified Iraqi requested permission to use “liquids” against rebels in and around An Najaf. Regime forces intended to use the “liquid” to defeat dug-in forces as part of a larger assault.
  • Husayn Kamil, then Director of MIC, ordered senior officials in the chemical weapons program to ready CW for use against the revolt. His initial instruction was to use VX. When informed that no VX was available he ordered mustard to be used. Because of its detectable persistence, however, mustard was ruled out and Sarin selected for use.
  • On or about 7 March 1991, R-400 aerial bombs located at the Tamuz Airbase were readied for use. Al Muthanna State Establishment (MSE) technicians mixed the two components of the Iraqi “binary” nerve agent system inside the R-400s. Explosive burster charges were loaded into the bombs and the weapons assembled near the runway.
  • Helicopters from nearby bases flew to Tamuz, were armed with the Sarin-laden R-400s and other conventional ordnance. Dozens of sorties were flown against Shi’a rebels in Karbala and the surrounding areas. A senior participant from the CW program estimates that 10 to 20 R-400s were used. Other reporting suggests as many as 32 R-400s may have been dropped. As of March 1991, about a dozen MI-8 helicopters were staged at Tamuz Airbase.
  • MI-8 helicopters were used during the Iran-Iraq war to drop chemical munitions, according to an Iraqi helicopter pilot.
  • Following the initial helicopter sorties, the senior chemical weapons program officer overseeing the operation received an angry call from Husayn Camel’s office. The caller said the attacks had been unsuccessful and further measures were required. The R-400s were designed for high-speed delivery from higher altitude and most likely did not activate properly when dropped from a slow-moving helicopter.
  • As an alternative to the R-400s, the Al Muthanna State Establishment began filling CS (tear gas) into large aerial bombs. Over the next two weeks helicopters departed Tamuz Air Base loaded with CS-filled bombs. One participant estimated that more than 200 CS filled aerial bombs were used on rebel targets in and around Karbala and Najaf.
  • Trailers loaded with mustard-filled aerial bombs were also transported to the Tamuz Air Base. A participant in the operation stated that mustard gas was not used on the rebels because of the likelihood of discovery by the Coalition. According to the source, the mustard filled bombs were never unloaded and were not used.
  • Reports of attacks in 1991 from refugees and Iraqi military deserters include descriptions of a range of CW and improvised poisons used in the areas around Karbala, Najaf, Nasiriyah, as well as Basrah.


Saddam concluded that missile strikes on Tehran, late in the Iran-Iraq war, along with the Al Faw ground offensive had forced Iran to agree to a cease-fire, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization.

  • Saddam’s logic was that the “war of the cities”—when Al Husayn missiles were fired at Iranian targets from February to April 1988—had shown that Tehran was more vulnerable to missiles because its population density was greater than Baghdad’s. Thisgave Iraq a strategic incentive to maintain ballistic-missile capabilities.
  • According to Saddam, Iraq accelerated its missile development after Iran demonstrated the range capability of its imported ballistic missiles in the 1980s. Saddam said missile technology had been important to Iraq because Iraq could build its own ballistic missiles whereas Iran could not.

Saddam saw Iraq’s nuclear program as a logical result of scientific and technical progress and was unconvinced by the notion of non-proliferation. He considered nuclear programs a symbol of a modern nation, indicative of technological progress, a by-product of economic development, and essential to political freedom at the international level (what he described as “strategic balance”). He wanted nuclear weapons to guarantee his legacy and to compete with powerful and antagonistic neighbors; to him, nuclear weapons were necessary for Iraq to survive. Saddam wished to keep the IAEC active and his scientists employed and continuing their research. “I,” maintained Saddam, “am the Godfather of the IAEC and I love the IAEC.” In a captured audio tape, Saddam said in a conversation (of unknown date) with Tariq ‘Aziz and other unidentified senior officials:

This conversation was very useful. We have had a look at the international situation, and arrange (present tense) our present and future steps during these studies. I believe that the USA is concentrating on the Far East, and all of the areas of South East Asia, for two main reasons—Korea and Pakistan. The existence of the nuclear weapons in other countries makes the USA and Europe get worried. Having nuclear weapons in these areas, with their economic situation known by the US, gives these countries a chance to face the European countries and the Americans. A long time ago economic recovery existed in only in two areas of the world. In the last fifteen years Japan appears to have improved itself to what they see now. Not only Japan but all of these countries have developed economically. When it appears that there are nuclear weapons in Korea others will be allowed, under the doctrine of “self defense and balance of power,” to create the same industry. As a result, when South Korea or Japan decides to create nuclear weapons they won’t need a long time to produce it. The money and the weapons will be in an area outside Europe and the USA. At the same time there will be more pressure on China to stop their [South Korea or Japan’s] nuclear experiments. When nuclear centers are allowed in different places this pressure will decrease, and China will have the chance to develop its nuclear programs with less pressure from USA and Europe. As a result, as it was previously with China, with the high technology, will put the USA and Europe in the situation we mentioned before: they will be worried about their international trading and their international effect. This is what the USA is interested in.


Excerpts from a Closed-Door Meeting Between Saddam and Senior Personnel, January 1991

The Iraqi Regime routinely, almost obsessively, engaged in the recording of its high level meetings, not in the conventional documentary form of more ordinary bureaucracies, but by way of audio and videotapes. Despite the highly secret and sensitive nature of CBW, even discussions in this area are known to have been recorded in this manner. Below is an example of an audio recording recovered by ISG, probably made during the second week of January 1991. Saddam and senior officials move from making routine, even jocular, small talk about ceremonial clothing, to engaging in a detailed discussion of chemical and biological weapons. The following are excerpts from a conversation lasting a quarter of an hour between Saddam, director of the MIC Husayn Kamil Hasan al Majid, Iraqi Air Force Commander Muzahim Sa’b Hasan Muhammad Al Masiri, and, at least, one other senior official in which they discuss the prospect for WMD attacks on Saudi and Israeli cities (see Annex D “Saddam’s Personal Involvement in WMD Planning” for the complete meeting transcript).

Begin Transcript:

Speaker 2: Sir, the design of the suit is with a white shirt and a collar (neck line) like dishdasha.

Saddam: Then my design is right.

Husayn Kamil and Speaker 2: Absolutely right, sir . . .

Saddam: I want to make sure that—close the door please (door slams)—the germ and chemical warheads, as well as the chemical and germ bombs, are available to [those concerned], so that in case we ordered an attack, they can do it without missing any of their targets?

Husayn Kamil: Sir, if you’ll allow me. Some of the chemicals now are distributed, this is according to the last report from the Minister of Defense, which was submitted to you sir. Chemical warheads are stored and are ready at Air Bases, and they know how and when to deal with, as well as arm these heads. Also, some other artillery machines and rockets (missiles) are available from the army. While some of the empty “stuff” is available for us, our position is very good, and we don’t have any operational problems. Moreover, in the past, many substantial items and materials were imported; now, we were able to establish a local project, which was established to comply with daily production. Also, another bigger project will be finalized within a month, as well as a third project in the coming two to three months that will keep us on the safe side, in terms of supply. We, Sir, only deal in common materials like phosphorus, ethyl alcohol and methyl (interrupted) . . .

Saddam: what is it doing with you, I need these germs to be fixed on the missiles, and tell him to hit, because starting the 15th, everyone should be ready for the action to happen at anytime, and I consider Riyadh as a target . . .

Husayn Kamil: (door slams) Sir, we have three types of germ weapons, but we have to decide which one we should use, some types stay capable for many years (interrupted).

Saddam: we want the long term, the many years kind . . .

Husayn Kamil: . . . There has to be a decision about which method of attack we use; a missile, a fighter bomb or a fighter plane.

Saddam: With them all, all the methods . . . I want as soon as possible, if we are not transferring the weapons, to issue a clear order to [those concerned] that the weapon should be in their hands ASAP. I might even give them a “non-return access.” (Translator Comment: to have access to the weapons; to take them with them and not to return them). I will give them an order stating that at “one moment,” if I ‘m not there and you don’t hear my voice, you will hear somebody else’s voice, so you can receive the order from him, and then you can go attack your targets. I want the weapons to be distributed to targets; I want Riyadh and Jeddah, which are the biggest Saudi cities with all the decision makers, and the Saudi rulers live there. This is for the germ and chemical weapons . . . Also, all the Israeli cities, all of them. Of course you should concentrate on Tel Aviv, since it is their center.

Husayn Kamil: Sir, the best way to transport this weapon and achieve the most harmful effects would come by using planes, like a crop plane; to scatter it. This is, Sir, a thousand times more harmful. This is according to the analyses of the technicians (interrupted) . . .

Saddam: May God help us do it . . . We will never lower our heads as long as we are alive, even if we have to destroy everybody.


Iraq began a nuclear program shortly after the Ba’thists took power in 1968. The program expanded considerably in 1976 when Saddam purchased the Osirak reactor from France, which was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in 1981. Saddam became very concerned about Iran’s nuclear weapons program late in the Iran-Iraq war and accelerated Iraq’s nuclear weapons research in response, according to Vice President Ramadan. Massive funds were allocated to develop infrastructure, equipment, scientific talent, and research. By January 1991, Iraq was within a few years of producing a nuclear weapon.

Coalition bombing during Desert Storm, however, significantly damaged Iraq’s nuclear facilities and the imposition of UN sanctions and inspections teams after the war further hobbled the program. It appears Saddam shifted tactics to preserve what he could of his program (scientific talent, dual-use equipment, and designs) while simultaneously attempting to rid Iraq of sanctions.

In comparison to Iraq’s nuclear and CW programs, the BW program was more dependent upon a smaller body of individual expertise. Iraq’s BW program began in the 1970s under President Ahmad Hasan Al Bakr. Scientists conducted research into fundamental aspects of bacteria, toxins, and viruses, emphasizing production, pathogenicity, dissemination and storage of agents, such as Clostridium botulinum, spores of Bacillus anthracis, and influenza. Despite investing considerable effort in this first attempt, Iraq’s BW program faltered. In 1979, after Saddam assumed the Presidency, Iraq reorganized its CW and BW effort. Iraq rebuilt and expanded the infrastructure for BW research between 1979 and 1985, but undertook little work on military applications, aside from assassination-related research for the IIS (see Annex B “Iraq’s Intelligence Services” for additional information).

At the height of the Iran-Iraq war in 1985, the Regime revitalized the BW program. A new BW group was recruited and research began on gas gangrene and botulinum toxin. In 1986, the Regime developed a 5-year plan leading to weaponization of BW agents. By early 1990, Iraq was methodically advancing toward the addition of a BW component to its WMD arsenal. In April 1990, Husayn Kamil gave orders to weaponize BW as quickly as possible and by August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the BW program had moved into high gear to field BW-filled weapons. By the time of the Desert Storm, Iraq had a BW program that included production of large quantities of several agents—anthrax, botulinum toxin, Clostridium perfringens, aflatoxin, and small quantities of ricin. Iraq successfully weaponized some of these agents into ballistic missiles, aerial bombs, artillery shells, and aircraft spray tanks.

The Coalition destroyed all of Iraq’s known BW facilities and bombed some of the suspect BW sites during the 1991 Gulf war. After the Desert Storm, the Regime fabricated an elaborate cover story to hide the function of its premiere BW production facility at Al Hakam, while at the same time it continued to develop the sites potential. The UN suspected but could not confirm any major BW agent production sites until Iraq partially declared its BW program prior to the departure of Husayn Kamil in 1995. Iraq eventually owned up to its offensive BW program later that year and destroyed the remaining facilities in 1996 under UN supervision. From 1994 until their departure at the end of 1998, and from late 2002 until the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, UN inspectors monitored nearly 200 sites deemed to have some potential use in a BW program. Iraq’s actions in the period up to 1996 suggest that the former Regime intended to preserve its BW capability and return to steady, methodical progress toward a mature BW program when and if the opportunity arose. After 1996, limited evidence suggests that Iraq abandoned its existing BW program and that one Iraqi official considered BW personnel to be second rate, heading an expensive program that had not delivered on its potential (see the BW chapter for additional information).


What Saddam Thought: External Concerns

Saddam viewed Iraq as “underdeveloped” and therefore vulnerable to regional and global adversaries. Senior Regime members generally ranked Tehran first and Tel Aviv as a more distant second as their primary adversaries, but no Iraqi decision-maker asserted that either country was an imminent challenge between 1991 and 2003. Late during this period, Saddam became concerned about the growing military imbalance between Iran and Iraq; Iran was making significant advances in WMD while Iraq was being deprived of the opportunity to maintain or advance its WMD capacity. He also privately told his top advisors, on multiple occasions, that he sought to establish a strategic balance between the Arabs and Israel, a different objective from deterring an Iranian strategic attack or blunting an Iranian invasion.

  • According to ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, Saddam “desired for Iraq to possess WMD, nuclear, biological, and chemical because he always said that he desired for balance in the Middle East region.” Saddam said this was because there were other countries in the area that possessed such weapons, like Israel, and others on the way to possession, like Iran.



Saddam believed that WMD was necessary to counter Iran. He saw Iran as Iraq’s abiding enemy and he sought to keep it in check. Saddam was keenly aware that, in addition to the potential of invasion, Iranian infiltrators could cause internal unrest. Therefore, the orientation of most Iraqi ground forces toward the Iranian border remained unchanged throughout the sanctions period. Saddam argued Iraqi WMD development, while driven in part by the growth of Iranian capabilities, was also intended to provide Iraq with a winning edge against Iran.

  • Saddam considered WMD as the only sure counterbalance to an enemy developing WMD of its own. He said Iran was the main concern because it wanted to annex southern Iraq. Saddam said US air strikes were less of a worry than an Iranian land attack.
  • Ramadan thought WMD programs might only be suspended for a short period of time in order to normalize Iraq’s relations with the international community, and would have to be resumed if no substitute counterbalance to Iran was forthcoming.
  • Saddam and the Quartet discussed Iran many times, according to officials close to Saddam. Both ‘Aziz and Huwaysh have stated in interviews that Saddam’s main focus was the danger from Iran.
  • Iran attacked a Mujahiddin è Khaliq (MEK) facility in April 2001 with more than 60 missiles. Earlier strikes on MEK targets had occurred in November 1994 and June 1999, but Iran had only fired a small number of rockets.

Saddam was very concerned about Iranian military production capabilities, particularly its nuclear weapons program, according to former Vice President Ramadan. A Ministry of Defense conference concluded in January 2003 that Iranian WMD posed a looming menace to Iraq and the region, according to a sensitive source. Attended by 200 senior officers, the conference discussed Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, acquisition of suitable delivery systems, and possession of missiles capable of carrying CW or BWwarheads over a range of 1,000 kilometers. Saddam believed that Iran had benefited from the breakup of the former Soviet Union by gaining access to WMD as well as conventional technologies.

Iraqi military troops trained with the expectation that Iran would use CW if Iran invaded. If Iraq came under chemical or biological attack, the army would attempt to survive until the international community intervened. Tariq ‘Aziz also expressed hope that the close UN monitoring of Iraq might force international intervention in this scenario. Saddam felt that the United States would intervene to protect oilfields, according to a former senior Iraqi official.

A former Corps commander stated that Saddam believed the next war would be fought in a chemical environment with heavy reliance upon missiles. Iraq assumed that Iran could manufacture CW and would use it, according to a former senior Iraqi intelligence officer. The Iraqis had identified Iranian nuclear and chemical facilities as well as 240 factories in Iran that they assessed produced missile components.

Between 1998 and 2003, Iraqi leaders determined that Tehran was more of a long-term danger than an imminent one because of deficiencies in Iranian readiness and morale when compared against Iraqi training and preparedness. Some Iraqis also believed the international community would halt if not deter an Iranian invasion. Saddam accordingly decided to use diplomacy as his primary tool against Iran, but he never wielded it successfully. Iraq really had no coherent policy on how to deal with Tehran after Desert Storm, although, from the Iraqi point of view, the immediate risk was deemed to be low.

  • According to the former Iraqi Army Chief-of-Staff (COS), Iran would have difficulty conducting a large surprise attack because Iraq would detect the extensive mobilization required for it. Iraqi forward observers would detect Iranian troops as they assembled along probable invasion corridors.
  • Iraqi units were at least as good as their Iranian counterparts. The former Iraqi Army COS said Iran enjoyed quantitative—not qualitative—ground superiority, according to the former defense minister. Although sanctions would have had a major impact, Iraqi forces arrayed along the border could survive the first two echelons of an Iranian invading force without resorting to WMD. After that they would be overrun.
  • One senior Regime official, however, said that although the Iranian threat was real, Saddam exaggerated it. Iraq considered Iran a historical enemy with desires for Iraqi territory.


Iraqi Intelligence Collection Against Iran

Iraq’s intelligence services collected foreign intelligence on Iran and relayed the raw reporting to Saddam via his presidential secretary. The government tightly controlled dissemination of material. This raw intelligence that went to Saddam would not necessarily be shared even with the deputy prime minister or military.

  • The National Security Committee, the body thatcoordinated Iraq’s intelligence services, advised the vice president in October 2001 that Iran would remain Iraq’s foremost enemy and that the Iranians would rely heavily on missiles in a future war, according to captured documents.
  • IIS conducted extensive collection operations against Iran, according to a former IIS senior officer and various captured documents. Intelligence collection as a whole targeted Iran’s weapons programs, its nuclear program, economic issues, and international relations. Human intelligence sources were the primary means of intelligence collection against Iran, supported by signals intelligence conducted by the IIS Directorate for Signals Intelligence (M17).
  • IIS had assigned 150 officers to work the Iranian target, according to a former senior IIS officer. The IIS relied heavily on the MEK and independent assets in every province to monitor Iranian military and WMD developments. The Iraqis also studied Jane’s publications for information on foreign weapons systems. One senior officer spotlighted how important the Internet was to their understanding of general threat capabilities.
  • DGMI maintained over 10,000 files on Iranian order of battle, including 3,000 photographs, according to a former intelligence officer. Intelligence reports with detailed, tactical information about Iranian infiltration attempts also were forwarded directly to Saddam, according to captured documents.
  • The RG and Air Force provided detailed air order of battle information for Israel and Iran, according to captured Iraqi documents. The documents assessed probable Israeli Air Force tactics against Iraqi forces. Although much of this information could be obtained from open sources, it is significant that Iraq could “mine” it and apply it to military planning.
  • Iraqi intelligence collected on the Iranian nuclear program in 2001, but did not contradict Iranian claims that their reactors being used for peaceful purposes, according to the former deputy director of the IIS. Regardless, Iraq assumed Iran was attempting to develop nuclear weapons. IIS assets often passed along open source information as if it were intelligence, allowing disinformation to reach the upper levels of the former Regime. Iraqi leaders acknowledged Iran’s advantages in population, income, and access to international arms markets—especially as Iraq’s former ally Russia began to arm Iran.



“There can never be stability, security or peace in the region so long as there are immigrant Jews usurping the land of Palestine,” Saddam Husayn, Baghdad TV political discussion, 17 January 2001

Saddam’s attitude toward Israel, although reflecting defensive concerns, was hostile. Saddam considered Israel the common enemy of all Arabs and this mirrored the attitudes of the Arab street in their opposition to a Zionist state. Moreover, it was reported that he considered himself the next Salah-al-Din (Saladin) with a divine mission to liberate Jerusalem. This was a tactic to win popular support in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. He was aware of his prestige as a champion of Palestine against Israel and consistently called for the liberation of Palestine from the “river to the sea” and warned that any Arab ruler who abandoned the Palestinians would “pay a heavy price.” In February 2001, he said publicly:

“When we speak about the enemies of Iraq, this means the enemies of the Arab nation. When we speak about the enemies of the Arab nation, we mean the enemies of Iraq. This is because Iraq is in the heart, mind, and chest of the Arab nation,”

Saddam implied, according to the former presidential secretary, that Iraq would resume WMD programs after sanctions in order to restore the “strategic balance” within the region. Saddam was conscious of Israel’s WMD arsenal and saw Israel as a formidable challenge to Arab interests. Israel appeared to be a rival that had strategic dominance because it possessed WMD and the ability to build relations with countries neighboring Iraq, such as Turkey and Iran, which could destabilize Iraq from within using the Shi’a or Kurds. Iraq faced a more focused risk of air and missile strikes from Israeli strategic forces, rather than a ground attack. According to a former senior official, Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor spurred Saddam to build up Iraq’s military to confront Israel in the early 1980s. Other Iraqi policy makers stated they could otherwise do little to influence Israel. Saddam judged Israel to be a lesser adversary than Iran because Israel could not invade Iraq, according to former Vice President Ramadan.


The United States

Saddam did not consider the United States a natural adversary, as he did Iran and Israel, and he hoped that Iraq might again enjoy improved relations with the United States, according to Tariq ‘Aziz and the presidential secretary. Tariq ‘Aziz pointed to a series of issues, which occurred between the end of the Iran-Iraq war and 1991, to explain why Saddam failed to improve relations with the United States: Irangate (the covert supplying of Iran with missiles, leaked in 1986), a continuing US fleet presence in the Gulf, suspected CIA links with Kurds and Iraqi dissidents and the withdrawal of agricultural export credits. After Irangate, Saddam believed that Washington could not be trusted and that it was out to get him personally. His outlook encouraged him to attack Kuwait, and helps explain his later half-hearted concessions to the West. These concerns collectively indicated to Saddam that there was no hope of a positive relationship with the United States in the period before the attack on Kuwait.

Although the United States was not considered a natural adversary, some Iraqi decision-makers viewed it as Iraq’s most pressing concern, according to former Vice President Ramadan. Throughout the 1990s, Saddam and the Ba’th Regime considered full-scale invasion by US forces to be the most dangerous potential threat to unseating the Regime, although Saddam rated the probability of an invasion as very low. Throughout the UNSCOM period, Iraqi leaders extended a number of feelers to the United States through senior UNSCOM personnel offering strategic concessions in return for an end to sanctions. The stumbling block in these feelers was the apparent Iraqi priority on maintaining both the Saddam Regime and the option of Iraqi WMD.

  • In a custodial debriefing, Saddam said he wanted to develop better relations with the US over the latter part of the 1990s. He said, however, that he was not given a chance because the US refused to listen to anything Iraq had to say.
  • In 2004, Charles Duelfer of ISG said that between 1994 and 1998, both he and UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus were approached multiple times by senior Iraqis with the message that Baghdad wanted a dialogue with the United States, and that Iraq was in a position to be Washington’s “best friend in the region bar none.”

While Iran was a more enduring enemy, after 1991, the temporary challenge from the United States posed a more immediate danger. Those who had detailed information about US capabilities also concluded there was little Iraq could do to counter a US invasion. Iraqi military commanders who did perceive the risk of invasion realized that the imbalance in power between Iraq and the United States was so disparate that they were incapable of halting a US invasion. Even if Iraq’s military performed better during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq would only have increased the number of Coalition casualties without altering the war’s outcome, according to the former defense minister.

Saddam failed to understand the United States, its internal or foreign drivers, or what it saw as its interests in the Gulf region. Little short of the prospect of military action would get Saddam to focus on US policies. He told subordinates many times that following Desert Storm the United States had achieved all it wanted in the Gulf. He had no illusions about US military or technological capabilities, although he believed the United States would not invade Iraq because of exaggerated US fears of casualties. Saddam also had a more pessimistic view of the United States. By late 2002 Saddam had persuaded himself, just as he did in 1991, that the United States would not attack Iraq because it already had achieved its objectives of establishing a military presence in the region, according to detainee interviews.

  • Saddam speculated that the United States would instead seek to avoid casualties and, if Iraq was attacked at all, the campaign would resemble Desert Fox.
  • Some Iraqi leaders did not consider the United States to be a long-term enemy, but many knew little about the United States and less about its foreign policy formulation. Former advisors have also suggested that Saddam never concluded that the United States would attempt to overthrow him with an invasion.

Saddam, however, portrayed the United States and Israel as inseparable and believed Israel could not attack Iraq without permission from the United States. In February 2001, Saddam stated in a television broadcast, “The United States and Israel are one thing now . . . the rulers of the United States have become a toy in the hands of the Zionist octopus, which has created the midget Zionist entity at the expense of Arabs in occupied Palestine.” In May of the same year he stated, “We will draw the sword against whoever attacks us and chop off his head.” Saddam directed the Iraqi media “to highlight the motive of the covetous [US] leadership that succumbs to the wishes of Zionism” and “seeks to establish an artificial homeland at the Arabs’ expense.” Ramadan noted that the Regime considered Israel to be an extension of the danger posed by the United States.


Iraq’s Limited Intelligence on US Military Operations

Iraq derived much of its understanding of US military capabilities from television and the Internet, according to the former DGMI director. Iraq obtained only limited information about US military capabilities from its own intelligence assets, although they closely monitored the US buildup in Kuwait.

  • The army staff prepared a comprehensive study on how US attacks against Iraq might unfold in 2002, according to captured documents. The assessment evaluated the size, composition, and probable disposition of US forces and identified the US aircraft carriers immediately available to attack Iraq.
  • The DGMI provided the Higher Military College an assessment about how the US XVIII Airborne Corps might attack Iraq, according to captured documents. The Al Bakr University was using this information in computer modeling and war gaming.
  • Iraq collected reliable tactical intelligence against US forces in Kuwait and even knew when Operation Iraqi Freedom would start, according to a former field-grade Republican Guard officer. One senior officer spotlighted how important the Internet was to their understanding of general threat capabilities.


Saddam’s handling of Iraq’s response to the 9/11 attacks probably reflects a lack of understanding of US politics and may explain why Baghdad failed to appreciate how profoundly US attitudes had changed following September 2001. Saddam’s poor understanding of US attitudes contributed to flawed decision-making, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. According to ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh, Saddam rejected advice from his cabinet to offer condolences after the attacks:

  • Ministers discussing the attacks recommended that Iraq should issue an official statement condemning the terrorists and offering condolences to the people of the United States, despite American hostility toward Iraq.
  • Saddam refused on the grounds that he could not extend official condolences, given the hardships the Iraqi people had suffered at the hands of the US Government—without any US apology. Saddam was happy after the 11 September 2001 attacks because it hurt the United States, according to Tariq ‘Aziz, and he declined to issue any statements of condolence.
  • Saddam’s response dissatisfied most ministers, who saw the catastrophe as being beyond state-to-state relations. They feared that official Iraqi non-reaction would associate Baghdad with Al Qa’ida. Moreover, they perceived that the net result of the attack would align the United States against Islam and the Arabs.
  • Saddam dismissed these concerns, but he authorized Tariq ‘Aziz to pursue a “people to people” program by privately expressing condolences individually to a few US officials.
  • Iraq’s media was unique among Middle Eastern services in praising the attackers, according to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service.

Former Iraqi officials concluded, time and time again, that the threat inherent in their WMD arsenal and weapons delivery systems helped preserve Saddam’s Regime.

  • In April 1990, Saddam threatened “by God, we will make fire eat up half of Israel, if it tried [to strike] against Iraq.” Saddam’s statement was part of a lengthy speech in which he denied having a nuclear weapons program. His warning might have been meant to deter Israel from preemptively attacking an industrial facility, which manufactured electrical capacitors alleged to be used in the trigger of a nuclear device, as it had done when it struck the Osirak reactor in June 1981.
  • Prior to Desert Storm, Saddam threatened to use missile- and aircraft-delivered chemical and biological munitions to deter Israel and the coalition from attacking Iraq or at worst unseating the Regime. Former Iraqi officials concluded the threat inherent in their WMD arsenal and delivery systems helped preserve the Regime when Coalition Forces did not invade Baghdad in 1991.
  • Saddam’s public and private statements in 1990 and 1991 reveal that Iraq envisioned using WMD against Israel and invading Coalition Forces under certain conditions. Iraq later declared to UNMOVIC inspectors that just prior to the Gulf war it dispersed CBW munitions to selected airfields and other locations. This included 75 “special warheads” for the Al Husayn missile deployed at four sites, with the warheads and missile bodies stored separately. Iraq told UNMOVIC these weapons were only to be used in response to a nuclear attack on Baghdad, and that the government had delegated retaliatory authority to field commanders. (See “Excerpts from a Closed Door Meeting” inset below for additional information).
  • Public statements, intensified research and development, production, weaponization, and dispersal of WMD suggest that Saddam sought the option of using WMD strategically before and during Desert Storm. He hoped to prolong the war with the United States, expecting that the US population would grow war-weary and stop the attack.
  • Saddam announced on the eve of the ground campaign that the Al Husayn missile was “capable of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological warheads.” He warned that Iraq “will use weapons that will match the weapons used against us by our enemy, but in any case, under no circumstances shall we ever relinquish Iraq.” He explained that “Iraq” included territory extending from “Zakho in the north to the sea in the south, all of Iraq.”
  • Saddam warned in a statement to the press in February 1993 “any attempt to strike against our scientific or military installations will be confronted with a precise reaction.” He also used a Quranic citation he rarely used “God be my witness that I have delivered the message.” He used a similar construct in a July 1990 warning to Kuwait.


WMD Possession—Real or Imagined—Acts as a Deterrent

The Iran-Iraq war and the ongoing suppression of internal unrest taught Saddam the importance of WMD to the dominance and survival of the Regime. Following the destruction of much of the Iraqi WMD infrastructure during Desert Storm, however, the threats to the Regime remained; especially his perception of the overarching danger from Iran. In order to counter these threats, Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability. This led to a difficult balancing act between the need to disarm to achieve sanctions relief while at the same time retaining a strategic deterrent. The Regime never resolved the contradiction inherent in this approach. Ultimately, foreign perceptions of these tensions contributed to the destruction of the Regime.

  • Saddam never discussed using deception as a policy, but he used to say privately that the “better part of war was deceiving,” according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid. He stated that Saddam wanted to avoid appearing weak and did not reveal he was deceiving the world about the presence of WMD.
  • The UN’s inconclusive assessment of Iraq’s possession of WMD, in Saddam’s view, gave pause to Iran. Saddam was concerned that the UN inspection process would expose Iraq’s vulnerability, thereby magnifying the effect of Iran’s own capability. Saddam compared the analogy of a warrior striking the wrist of another, with the potential effect of the UN inspection process. He clarified by saying that, despite the strength of the arm, striking the wrist or elbow can be a more decisive blow to incapacitate the entire arm; knowledge of your opponents’ weaknesses is a weapon in itself.


Saddam’s Prioritization of Getting Out From Under Sanctions

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 led to the imposition of comprehensive and mandatory trade and financial sanctions under UNSCR 661 of 6 August 1990. These sanctions remained in place after the military ceasefire on 28 February 1991. The “Political Ceasefire” incorporated in UNSCR 687 of 3 April 1991 explicitly linked Iraq’s WMD disarmament to Iraq’s right to resume oil exports. Withdrawal of wider sanctions was made dependent on this step.

Saddam continually underestimated the economic consequences of his actions. His belief that sanctions would prove ineffective led him to conclude he could avoid WMD disarmament. (Saddam may have been encouraged in this belief by a miss-appreciation of the relative effectiveness of sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa.) As early as 1992, however, Saddam began to form a more sober impression of the power of sanctions and their deleterious effect on Iraq.

The compounding economic, military, and infrastructure damage caused by sanctions—not to mention their effect on internal opinion in Iraq—focused Saddam by the mid-90s on the need to lift sanctions before any thought of resuming WMD development could be entertained. Saddam’s proximate objective was therefore lifting sanctions, but efforts had to be compatible with preservation of Regime security.

While it appears that Iraq, by the mid-1990s, was essentially free of militarily significant WMD stocks, Saddam’s perceived requirement to bluff about WMD capabilities made it too dangerous to clearly reveal this to the international community, especially Iran. Barring a direct approach to fulfillment of the requirements of 687, Iraq was left with an end-run strategy focusing on the de facto elimination of sanctions rather than the formal and open Security Council process.

  • In the late 1990s, Saddam realized he had no WMD capabilities but his ego prevented him from publicly acknowledging that the Iraqi WMD program was ineffective, according to the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Humam ‘Abd-al-Khaliq ‘Abd-al-Ghafur. He added that Saddam never talked openly about bluffing in regard to WMD.


Efforts To Lift Sanctions

As part of his efforts to escape sanctions, Saddam launched a vigorous campaign to shape international opinion. The Regime drew attention to everything from poor sanitation to the absence of electric power; the main effort, however, focused on the impact of sanctions upon children, especially those under five years of age. Sanctions did indeed have an enormous impact upon Iraq, and Saddam’s campaign utilized and amplified that impact. The campaign eventually involved everyone from ministers of the Iraqi Government to journalists around the world, humanitarian groups, and UN officials.

  • The London Observer amplified a BBC2 documentary which aired in 2002 and exposed Saddam’s tactics. “Small coffins, decorated with grisly photographs of dead babies and their ages—’three days’, ‘four days’, written useful for the English-speaking media—are paraded through the streets of Baghdad on the roofs of taxis, the procession led by a throng of professional mourners.” There is only one problem, the program observes: because there are not enough dead babies around, the Regime prevents parents from burying infants immediately, as is the Muslim tradition, to create more powerful propaganda. An Iraqi taxi driver interviewed on the program observed, “They would collect bodies of children who had died months before and been held for mass processions.” A Western source visited an Iraqi hospital and, in the absence of his “minder,” was shown “a number of dead babies, lying stacked in a mortuary, waiting for the next official procession.”

Saddam used Iraq’s oil resources, in what Baghdad perceived to be a moderately successful attempt, to undermine and remove UN sanctions. Iraq’s proven oil reserves are assessed to be second only to those of Saudi Arabia, with estimates ranging from 90.8 to 147.8 billion barrels (the most common is 112.5 billion barrels). The former Regime played its “oil card” in two distinct ways: first, Saddam either stopped or reduced oil exports to increase upward pressure on world oil prices. Iraq successfully used this tactic from November 1999 through the spring 2000. Second, Saddam attempted to link the interests of other nations with those of Iraq through the allocation of OFF oil and trade contracts, which were granted to companies whose governments were willing to exercise their influence within the Security Council to lift sanctions. This effort also included the award of oil contracts to individuals and groups willing to use their influence with their governments to encourage policies favorable to removing sanctions.


Buying Your Way Out

As a way of generating international support, the Regime gave to others an economic stake in the Regime’s survival; an example of this is the curious cash disbursement to a senior member of Russian Intelligence.

  • According to ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri, the Secretary of the President, Tariq ‘Aziz and the Iraqi Ambassador to Russia, ‘Abbas Al Kunfadhi, arranged the payment of 15-20 million USD to a female colonel in the Russian Intelligence Service. She wanted ‘Aziz to accommodate the companies nominated by the Russian Intelligence. Saddam was approached with this issue by ‘Aziz during or after the Council of Ministers’ meeting. Later, Saddam called ‘Abd and told him to expect a call from Tariq ‘Aziz to authorize the payment and channel it through Muhib ‘Abd-al-Razzaq, the director of the accounting office of the Presidential Diwan. The payments were made in installments rather than a lump-sum over every six months starting on or about 20 September 2002.


The condition of international oil markets after the adoption of OFF in 1996 enabled Saddam to use his oil resources in disputes with UN Sanctions Committee 661, and he did so until other oil producing nations began to cope with his tactics. Saddam intended to use the threat of higher oil prices, or market uncertainty (volatility), to influence UN decision-making toward the removal of sanctions. He was initially successful, but he could not sustain pressure on oil markets, in part because he could not always time his threats to when the balance between world supply of and demand for oil would favor upward pressure on prices. Second, oil-producing states eventually started to adjust their production and exports to lessen the impact of Saddam’s tactics. As a result, Saddam had far less effect than he wished or intended.

  • Saddam stopped oil exports in November-December 1999 in an effort to prevent the passage of UNSCR 1284, which called for sanctions renewal. Oil prices increased slightly more than a dollar a barrel between November and December and by almost a dollar between December 1999 and January 2000 (see Figure 2). Nevertheless, UNSCR 1284 was adopted.
  • Saddam reduced Iraqi oil exports from January through March 2000 in an effort to force the delivery of spare parts held up by UN Committee 661. The price of a barrel of oil increased from $23 in December 1999 to $27 in March. The UN released the parts, Saddam started exporting, and the cost of a barrel of oil fell to $22 in April.
  • When the United States and United Kingdom announced plans in June 2001 to impose “smart sanctions,” Saddam once more stopped exporting oil to halt the effort. This time, however, the price of a barrel of oil declined to $23 in July from a price of $25 in May. Saddam restarted exporting the following month, August.
  • The Iraqi Presidential Council in September 2000 received a staff paper proposing that Iraq threaten to withdraw oil from the OFF program to induce upward pressure on world oil prices. The paper claimed that this would compel the United States and United Kingdom to remove their objections to contracts being held up in UN Committee 661. The paper also assumed that there was insufficient excess capacity among oil producing nations to counter Iraq’s move. The Council, however, disagreed and did not approve the proposal.
  • In addition, Saddam introduced a “surcharge” on Iraqi oil exports in September 2000. The UN objected to the surcharge because it would give Iraq more money than it was authorized under the OFF program. Attempting to defeat the UN’s objections, Saddam once again stopped oil exports in December, and between December 2000 and January 2001 oil increased by 3 dollars a barrel but thereafter declined. Saddam restarted oil exports but the surcharge stayed in place, although “under the table.”

Figure 1. Average oil price per year (1973-2003).

The former Regime also used Iraq’s oil resources to seek diplomatic support for the lifting or easing of sanctions. According to Rashid, in early 1997 Foreign Minister ‘Aziz and Vice President Ramadan approached him to propose selling oil only to those who were “friendly” toward the former Regime. By “friendly,” Rashid said that ‘Aziz and Ramadan meant “those nations that would help [Iraq] get sanctions lifted or individuals who were influential with their government leaders and who could persuade them to help get sanctions lifted.” Saddam ordered the proposal be undertaken.

  • Saddam gave preferential treatment to Russian and French companies hoping for Russian and French support on the UN Security Council. (See the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter for additional information.)

Figure 2. Average oil price by month (1999-2001).

Figure 3. OPEC oil production (1973-2003).


Iraq’s Surcharge on Oil and Regime Decision Making

The description of the surcharge episode by the former Minister of Oil, ‘Amir Muhammad Rashid Al ‘Ubaydi, while a detainee, provides an interesting example of the Regime’s decision-making process.

In the autumn of 2000 the talk of a surcharge began. Saddam never asked me about the surcharge. He talked to a group of sycophants who simply told him he had a great idea. Huwaysh would make a recommendation and Saddam would follow him blindly. Huwaysh suggested 10 percent [suggesting 10 percent of the oil company’s profit margin]. I never attended a meeting and without me it was not a proper meeting. Ramadan formed a committee to determine how to divert some fixed part of the buyer’s profit margin to the Iraqi Government. The idea was supported by both Ramadan and ‘Aziz. They finally agreed on 10 percent a barrel.

What happened? The professionals (France, Italy, Spain, Russia) refused to buy from us. [The effect of the surcharge was to remove Iraqi oil from the market.] However, the individuals with whom we were trading had contracts with the trading companies. I went to the trading companies to get them to share their profit margin with us. They refused. Saddam was very critical of my efforts but I didn’t care if I lost my job.

A new committee was formed. This committee included the sycophants and the “genius.” When I went to the meeting I brought the three top experts from SOMO. They told the committee that it was impossible to do more than 10 cents a barrel. Nevertheless, the committee recommended 50 cents. What happened? They stopped buying from us. Our exports were about 2.2 to 3.1 mbd over the time period in question.

After two weeks I went to Saddam and got him to lower the price to 40 cents. Our exports rose about 30%. The companies put pressure on SOMO to lower the price.

A third meeting was held. I participated together with SOMO. ‘Aziz and Ramadan supported me, but they were afraid to speak up. Finally we decided on 30 cents a barrel selling to the US and 25 cents a barrel selling to Europe.

Now the problem became how to explain the situation to OPEC. We couldn’t tell them about the surcharge because it was illegal. Of course we thought the oil was Iraq’s and we could do what we wished with it. But that was not the international situation.

This situation remained through part of 2002. I decided to fight. No one was lifting Iraqi oil. I talked to Foreign Minister ‘Aziz and he pointed out that we had lost all our friends. So we finally went back to 10 cents a barrel for the last part of 2002.

Overall, we lost $10,000,000 in exports.

Iraq’s Relationship With Russia

The former Iraqi Regime sought a relationship with Russia to engage in extensive arms purchases and to gain support for lifting the sanctions in the UNSC. Saddam followed a two-pronged strategy to pursue weapons capability while also coping with sanctions imposed following invasion of Kuwait. The Regime continued to import weapons and technical expertise, while seeking diplomatic support for lifting/easing sanctions. Iraq sought to tie other countries’ interests to Iraq’s through allocating contracts under the OFF program and entering into lucrative construction projects to be executed once sanctions had been lifted. At best, the Iraqi strategy produced mixed results. Russian commercial interests provided a motivation for supporting Iraq; Russian political and strategic interests set limits to that support.

  • March 1997: Russian Energy and Fuels Minister Rodinov went to Baghdad to discuss a $12 billion deal in an effort to build economic relations with Iraq. The deal was signed and was scheduled to begin once sanctions were lifted.
  • 1999: A Russian delegation traveled to Iraq to provide expertise on airframes and guidance systems for missiles.
  • Under OFF, 32 percent of the Iraqi contracts went to Russia.

Iraqi attempts to use oil gifts to influence Russian policy makers were on a lavish and almost indiscriminate scale. Oil voucher gifts were directed across the political spectrum targeting the new oligarch class, Russian political parties and officials. Lukoil, a Russian oligarch-controlled company received in excess of 65 million barrels (amounting to a profit of nearly 10 million dollars); other oligarch companies such as Gazprom and Yukos received lesser amounts; the Liberal Democratic Party leader Zhirinovsky was a recipient, as was the Russian Communist party and the Foreign Ministry itself, according to Iraqi documents. (See Oil Voucher Allocations within the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter for additional information.)


  • In 1991, only 15 of Iraq’s 73 discovered fields had been exploited. Development of these reserves in the post-sanctions period would provide the former Regime with greater leverage in the world oil market. Accordingly, Iraq entered into lucrative oil exploration and exploitation contracts. The lion’s share of these contracts went to Russian companies. For example, Lukoil received a $4 billion contract in 1997 to develop the second Qurna field, and in April 2001 Zarubezhchneft and Tatneft received a contract worth $11.1 billion to drill in three Iraqi oil fields. In 2002, a contract was negotiated—but not signed—for Russian firms to begin exploration of several Iraqi oil fields over a ten-year period. Execution of these contracts was to commence during sanctions and be fully implemented once sanction had been lifted. Iraq hoped these contracts would provide Russia, and other nations, with a significant economic interest in pushing for the removal of sanctions.


Iraq’s Relationship With France

The former Iraqi Regime sought a relationship with France to gain support in the UNSC for lifting the sanctions. Saddam’s Regime, in order to induce France to aid in getting sanctions lifted, targeted friendly companies and foreign political parties that possessed either extensive business ties to Iraq or held pro-Iraqi positions. In addition, Iraq sought out individuals whom they believed were in a position to influence French policy. Saddam authorized lucrative oil contracts be granted to such parties, businesses, and individuals.

  • In 1988, Iraq paid 1 million dollars to the French Socialist Party, according to a captured IIS report dated 9 September 1992. ‘Abd-al-Razzaq Al Hashimi, former Iraqi ambassador to France, handed the money to French Defense Minister Pierre Joxe, according the report. The IIS instructed Hashimi to “utilize it to remind French Defense Minister, Pierre Joxe, indirectly about Iraq’s previous positions toward France, in general, and the French Socialist party, in particular”.
  • ‘Aziz says he personally awarded several French individuals substantial oil allotments. According to ‘Aziz, both parties understood that resale of the oil was to be reciprocated through efforts to lift UN sanctions, or through opposition to American initiatives within the Security Council.
  • As of June 2000, Iraq had awarded short term contracts under the OFF program to France totaling $1.78 billion, equaling approximately 15 percent of the oil contracts allocated under the OFF program. (See the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter.)

The IIS flagged two groups of people to influence French policy in the UNSC: French Governmental officials and influential French citizens. IIS documents recovered by ISG identify those persons of interest, to include ministers and politicians, journalists, and business people. On 25 January 2004, the Baghdad periodical Al Mada published a list of names of companies, individuals and other groups that received oil allocations from the former Regime under the auspices of the OFF program. These influential individuals often had little prior connection to the oil industry and generally engaged European oil companies to lift the oil, but were still in a position to extract a substantial profit for themselves. Individuals named included Charles Pascua, a former French Interior Minister, who received almost 11 million barrels; Patrick Maugein, whom the Iraqis considered a conduit to Chirac (which we have not confirmed), who received 13 million barrels through his Dutch-registered company, Michel Grimard, founder of the French-Iraqi Export Club, who received over 5.5 million barrels through Swiss companies and the Iraqi-French Friendship Society, which received over 10 million barrels. The French oil companies Total and SOCAP received over 105 million and 93 million barrels, respectively (see Oil Voucher Allocations of the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter for additional information).

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Realizing Saddam’s Veiled WMD Intent

Regime Strategy and WMD Timeline

For an overview of Iraqi WMD programs and policy choices, readers should consult the Regime Strategy and WMD Timeline chart, enclosed as a separate foldout and tabular form at the back of Volume I. Covering the period from 1980 to 2003, the timeline shows specific events bearing on the Regime’s efforts in the BW, CW, delivery systems and nuclear realms and their chronological relationship with political and military developments that had direct bearing on the Regime’s policy choices.

Readers should also be aware that, at the conclusion of each volume of text, we have also included foldout summary charts that relate inflection points—critical turning points in the Regime’s WMD policymaking—to down arrowparticular events, initiatives, or decisions the Regime took with respect to specific WMD programs. Inflection points are marked in the margins of the body of the text with a gray triangle.

In the years following Iraq’s war with Iran and invasion of Kuwait, Saddam’s Regime sought to preserve the ability to reconstitute his WMD, while seeking sanctions relief through the appearance of cooperation with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the UN Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Saddam’s initial approach under sanctions was driven by his perceived requirements for WMD and his confidence in Iraq’s ability to ride out inspections without fully cooperating. Interwoven into this basic fabric of Iraq’s interaction with the UN were equally significant domestic, international, and family events, all influenced by and reflective of Saddam’s strategic intent. These events can be divided into five phases that cover the entire period 1980 to 2003.


Ambition (1980-1991)

down arrowThe opening years of Saddam’s Regime are defined by a period of ambition.The 1980 to 1991 period is dominated by the Iran-Iraq war and its aftershock.

The war was costly in financial, human and materiel resources and led Iraq towards a period of insolvency and decline. Further, the war taught Saddam the importance of WMD to national and Regime survival; in doing so, however, it also highlighted Iraq’s active WMD program to the world.

A sharp increase in the price of oil in 1979, following a series of earlier spikes, provided Saddam with a financial base that he hoped to use to improve Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and modernize its military. Indeed the 1979 gains created a new plateau for higher prices (more than $30 a barrel) through the mid-1980s and created a hard currency windfall for Iraq in 1980.

The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, however, interrupted Saddam’s plans. Although Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini threatened to “export [his] revolution to the four corners of the world,” he viewed his best opportunity to be among Iraq’s Shi’a majority in southern Iraq. Khomeini therefore supported Shi’a demonstrations in 1979 and an civil unrest in 1980. Saddam sought to punish Khomeini for his meddling and also sought to reestablish total Iraqi control over the Shatt al-’Arab waterway, Iraq’s primary outlet to the Persian Gulf. In 1975, Saddam had agreed under duress to share the waterway with the Iranians. In the fall of 1980, with Iran’s military weakened by internal purges, Saddam believed an attack would be successful. down arrowHe also felt that attacking Iran would enhance his prestige with fellow Arab leaders who feared Khomeini’s influence. Saddam launched in September what he expected to be a short “blitzkrieg” campaign to take and hold territory in southern Iran to extort concessions from Khomeini and possibly cause his overthrow. The plan backfired. After several initial Iraqi victories, stiff Iranian resistance, stopped and then rolled back Iraqi gains with heavy casualties on both sides. This pattern of brutal thrusts, counterattacks, and prolonged stalemate continued for another eight years, eventually drawing in the United States and the Soviet Union (both supporting Iraq), the UN, and several other regional and Third World states.

Hostilities ended in August 1988, with no change from the 1980 political status quo, after both parties agreed to a cease-fire on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 598. The war exacted a significant toll on Iraq, which lost an estimated 375,000 casualties and 60,000 prisoners and cost $150 billion, much of it borrowed from Gulf neighbors and the Soviet Union (for arms). Having survived, Saddam learned that defeating superior numbers of Iranian forces, especially massed infantry attacks, required the use of CW. He was also convinced that Iraq’s ability to retaliate with missile strikes against Tehran in the 1988 “War of the Cities” finally forced Khomeini to agree to a ceasefire. The importance of a mutually supporting system of WMD, with theater ballistic missiles in securing Iraq’s national security became an article of faith for Saddam and the vast majority of Regime members.

Despite Iraq’s heavy burden of debt after the war, Saddam emerged with an experienced and expanded military force, poised to dominate the Gulf. down arrowEconomic difficulties were Saddam’s main motive for the invasion of Kuwait, with irredentist grievances a secondary concern. Absorbing Kuwait as Iraq’s 19th province was viewed as having historical justification and being the key to revitalizing Iraq’s economy. Saddam had planned for an invasion of Kuwait for some weeks beforehand, but the timeframe in which to conduct the attack had not been formalized. The impulsive decision to invade in August 1990 was precipitated by what Saddam chose to perceive as Kuwait’s arrogance in negotiations over disputed oil drilling along the common border.

As in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam’s ambition led him to miscalculate the impact of his actions. He was unprepared for the harsh reaction to the Kuwaiti invasion by the United States and the other permanent members of the UNSC, especially the Soviet Union, and surprised by the condemnation of fellow Arab leaders, many of whom he knew detested the Kuwaitis. In the face of this criticism, however, Saddam refused to back down, believing he could prevail, just as he did against Iran. While Coalition forces ousted Iraq from Kuwait, Saddam maintained his grip on power inside Iraq, as well as his conviction that the key to successfully defending Iraq was to possess WMD and an effective means of delivering them.


Decline (1991-1996)

The costliness of the Iran/Iraq war and the resulting invasion of Kuwait ushered in a period of economic and military decline. The years 1991—1996 were a tense and difficult period that threatened Regime survival. The Iraqi economy hit rock bottom in 1995 and forced Saddam to accept the OFF program the following year; bolstering the position of the Regime generally and Saddam’s survival specifically.

UNSCR 715, passed on 11 October 1991, required Iraq’s unconditional acceptance of an ongoing monitoring and verification presence to verify Iraq’s compliance with the weapons-related provisions of UNSCR 687 (1991). UNSCR 715 also required national implementing legislation to ban future Iraqi WMD work. The former Regime refused to accept these provisions until November 1993. (However, national implementing legislation was not enacted until February 2003.) The former Regime objected to the open-ended nature of long-term monitoring, because Iraq equated the presence of inspectors with the continuation of sanctions. As this wrangling continued, sanctions took their toll on the Iraqi economy—government and private-sector revenues collapsed, rampant inflation undermined business confidence, and Iraqis at all levels were impoverished—and the former Regime in late 1994 threatened to end cooperation with inspectors unless the oil embargo was lifted. The Iraqi Government was unable to invest in rebuilding its infrastructure, already devastated by the Gulf war and the Iran-Iraq war.

The “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq, patrolled by Coalition aircraft, were an affront to Iraqi sovereignty. Although severely weakened militarily, Iraq used troop movements into southern Iraq in 1994 to threaten the Kuwaitis and into northern Iraq in 1996 to punish disaffected Kurds. Internally, the departure to Jordan in August 1995 of Saddam’s son-in-law and close confidante Husayn Kamil created further disarray among senior members of the Iraqi Regime. Through it all, Saddam endured and his desire to end sanctions and rebuild his WMD capability persisted.


Selected UN Security Council Resolutions

UNSCR 687, 3 April 1991—created the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and required Iraq to accept “the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision” of its chemical and biological weapons and missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers and their associated programs, stocks, components, research, and facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was charged with abolition of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.

UNSCR 706, 15 August 1991—proposed allowing Iraq to export oil to pay for food, medicine, and compensation payments to Kuwait and cost of UN operations.

UNSCR 707, 15 August 1991—noted Iraq’s “flagrant violation” of UNSCR 687 and demanded that Iraq provide “full, final, and complete disclosure” (FFCD) of its WMD programs, provide inspectors with “immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access” to inspection sites, and cease all attempts to conceal material or equipment from its WMD and missile programs.

UNSCR 712, 2 September 1991—Authorizes immediate release of funds from escrow to finance payments for the purchase of foodstuffs, medicines and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs, and confirmed that funds from other sources may be deposited in the escrow account to be immediately available to meet Iraq’s humanitarian needs, and urges that any provision be undertaken through arrangements which assure their equitable distribution to meet humanitarian needs.

UNSCR 715, 11 October 1991—approved UNSCOM and IAEA plans for Ongoing Monitoring and Verification (OMV) to prevent Iraq from reconstituting its WMD programs.

UNSCR 986, 14 April 1995—allowed Iraq to export $1,000,000,000 of petroleum and petroleum products every 90 days, placed the funds in an escrow account, and allowed Iraq to purchase food, medicines, and humanitarian supplies with the proceeds. Laid the groundwork of what came to be known as the Oil-For-Food Program.

UNSCR 1051, 27 March 1996—approved a mechanism for monitoring Iraqi imports and exports as required by UNSCR 715. The mechanism allowed the UN and the IAEA to monitor the import of dual-use goods in Iraq.

UNSCR 1154, 2 March 1998—provide Security Council endorsement for a Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Secretary General and the Iraqi Regime that governed the inspection of presidential palaces and other sensitive sites.

UNSCR 1194, 9 September 1998—condemned Iraq’s decision to halt cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA inspections in August 1998 as a “flagrant violation” of its obligations and demanded that Iraq restore cooperation with UNSCOM. The resolution suspended sanctions reviews but promised Iraq a “comprehensive review” of its situation once cooperation resumed and Iraq demonstrated its willingness to comply.

UNSCR 1205, 5 November 1998—condemned Iraq “flagrant violation” of earlier UNSCRs in suspending cooperation with UN monitoring activities in Iraq on 31 October 1998.

UNSCR 1284, 17 December 1999—established the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to take over the responsibilities mandated to UNSCOM under UNSCR 687. It also linked Iraqi cooperation in settling disarmament issues with the suspension and subsequent lifting of sanctions. UNSCR 1284 also abolished the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports.

UNSCR 1441, 8 November 2002—declared Iraq in material breach of its obligations under previous resolutions including 687, required new weapons declarations from Iraq, and included stringent provisions for Iraqi compliance, including access to all sites, interviews with scientists, and landing and over flight rights.


Scientific Research and Intention to Reconstitute WMD

Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that hemade a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs.Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period.

  • Saddam’s primary concern was retaining a cadre of skilled scientists to facilitate reconstitution of WMD programs after sanctions were lifted, according to former science advisor Ja’far Diya’ Ja’far Hashim. Saddam communicated his policy in several meetings with officials from MIC, Ministry of Industry and Minerals, and the IAEC in 1991-1992. Saddam instructed general directors of Iraqi state companies and other state entities to prevent key scientists from the pre-1991 WMD program from leaving the country. This retention of scientists was Iraq’s only step taken to prepare for a resumption of WMD, in Ja’far’s opinion.
  • Presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud wrote that in 1991 Saddam told the scientists that they should “preserve plans in their minds” and “keep the brains of Iraq’s scientists fresh.” Iraq was to destroy everything apart from knowledge, which would be used to reconstitute a WMD program.
  • Saddam wanted people to keep knowledge in their heads rather than retain documents that could have been exposed, according to former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq ‘Aziz. Nuclear scientists were told in general terms that the program was over after 1991, and Tariq ‘Aziz inferred that the scientists understood that they should not keep documents or equipment. ‘Aziz also noted that if Saddam had the same opportunity as he did in the 1980s, he probably would have resumed research on nuclear weapons.
  • Ja’far said that Saddam stated on several occasions that he did not consider ballistic missiles to be WMD and therefore Iraq should not be subject to missile restrictions. Ja’far was unaware of any WMD activities in Iraq after the Gulf war, but said he thought Saddam would reconstitute all WMD disciplines when sanctions were lifted, although he cautioned that he never heard Saddam say this explicitly. Several former senior Regime officials also contended that nuclear weapons would have been important—if not central—components of Saddam’s future WMD force.
  • According to two senior Iraqi scientists, in 1993 Husayn Kamil, then the Minister of Military Industrialization, announced in a speech to a large audience of WMD scientists at the Space Research Center in Baghdad that WMD programs would resume and be expanded, when UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq. Husayn Kamil’s intimate relationship with Saddam added particular credibility to his remarks.


Reaction to Sanctions

down arrowBaghdad reluctantly submitted to inspections, declaring only part of its ballistic missile and chemical warfare programs to the UN, but not its nuclear weapon and biological warfare programs, which it attempted to hide from inspectors.In 1991, Husayn Kamil and Qusay Saddam Husayn attempted to retain Iraq’s WMD and theater missile capability by using MIC, along with the SSO, RG, SRG, and Surface-to-Surface Missile Command to conceal banned weapons and deceive UNSCOM inspectors.

  • MIC organizations–the Technical Research Center and the Al Muthanna State Establishment–dispersed Iraq’s biological and chemical bombs and missile warheads in cooperation with the Iraqi Air Force and Surface-to-Surface Missile Command prior to Desert Storm. These undeclared or partially declared weapons remained in dispersal sites, allegedly, until July 1991.


Husayn Kamil

Saddam Husayn’s family

Born in 1955 within the Al Majid branch of Saddam’s family, Husayn Kamil was the son of Saddam’s first cousin on his father’s side, Kamil Hasan Al Majid ‘Abd-al-Qadir. More importantly, Husayn Kamil became Saddam’s son-in-law, married in 1983 to Saddam’s eldest and favorite daughter, Raghad. Husayn Kamil began his rise to power within the Regime’s security services as part of Saddam’s personal detail. According to Tariq ‘Aziz, Husayn Kamil was a second lieutenant when Saddam became president in July 1979.

In 1983, Saddam appointed him Director of the SSO and later Supervisor, or “Overseer”(Mushrif), of the RG (including the SRG). In effect, he controlled all of Saddam’s security organizations, an unprecedented level of trust for any single individual. In 1987, Saddam appointed Husayn Kamil as Overseer of Military Industrialization. He rose to Minister of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI) in 1988 after acquiring the Ministries of Heavy Industry and Light Industry as well as exerting control over the Ministry of Petroleum, the Atomic Energy Commission, and Petrochemical Complex 3 (Iraq’s clandestine nuclear program). By 1990, Husayn Kamil was, very likely, the second most powerful man in Iraq.

Husayn Kamil received broad administrative and financial authority from Saddam to consolidate both Iraq’s research and development programs, and its industrial resources into military production, including WMD and missile delivery systems production. Although not technically trained, Kamil oversaw Iraq’s program to modify the Regime’s Scud missiles to the longer-range Al Husayn variant, and the development and production of nerve agents, including Tabun, Sarin and VX.

His relationship with Saddam gave Husayn Kamil opportunities to act outside the law and with minimal personal and fiscal oversight. Because of his family ties and proximity to Saddam, he could have anyone fired or placed under suspicion. Although ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi was the Deputy Director of MIC and a key subordinate, Kamil did not rely on deputies. A former subordinate noted: “Husayn Kamil did not have a right-hand man, as he was too arrogant.” His successor at MIC, who was also one of Kamil’s former subordinates said, “No one in MIC could control him and everyone feared him.”

By 1995 the impact of sanctions meant Iraq was on the verge of bankruptcy—Kamil’s capricious and self-serving oversight of MIC, his lack of accountability, and the intrusive nature of UN inspections combined to erode Iraq’s military industrial capability. Husayn Kamil, his brother Saddam Kamil, and their wives and children (Saddam Husayn’s grandchildren) fled Iraq and sought political asylum in Jordan on 9 August 1995.

Various reasons may explain why Husayn Kamil left Iraq. The most important reason may have been the growing tension between him and his bitter family-rival ‘Uday Saddam Husayn. According to King Hussein of Jordan, “as far as we know, this was a family crisis, in the personal context, for a fairly long period.” A further explanation revolves around the terrible state of the Iraqi economy under sanctions and the possibility that he wanted to escape Iraq before a popular or tribal revolt unseated Saddam and his family. For his part, Husyan Kamil said Saddam’s rule had “lost its creditability on the international and Arab level,” and that his defection “shows to what extent the situation in Iraq has deteriorated.” The Iraqi media and leadership first accused him of financial improprieties, and then said he was “no more than an employee in this state and his responsibilities were limited.” Finally, they made him the ultimate “fall guy” for all Iraq’s problems—from the Regime’s decision to invade Kuwait, to Iraq’s duplicitous relations with UNSCOM.

Despite the level of invective on both sides, Husayn Kamil, Saddam Kamil, and their families decided to return to Iraq in February 1996, supposedly with the promise of a pardon from Saddam. Upon their return from Jordan, he and his brother were detained, separated from their families, and placed under house arrest. Within days, Saddam’s daughters divorced their husbands. While under house arrest Husayn Kamil and his brother were confronted by ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid and members of their family tribe, come to reclaim “tribal honor.” Husayn Kamil, his brother Saddam, their father, their sister and her children were killed in the ensuing shoot-out. Saddam Husayn “explicitly endorsed the killings, which, as he saw them, ‘purified’ and healed the family by amputating from the ‘hand’ an ‘ailing finger.’” Trying at the same time to distance himself, however, he assured his listeners that, had he been notified about it ahead of time, he would have prevented the assault, because “when I pardon, I mean it.”


  • The Surface-to-Surface Missile Command concealed undeclared Al Husayn and Scud missiles, launchers, and chemical and biological warheads.
  • Particularly in the early 1990s, the SRG concealed uranium enrichment equipment, missiles, missile manufacturing equipment, “know-how” documents from all the programs, as well as a supply of strategic materials.
  • The RG Security Directorate of the SSO conveyed instruction from Husayn Kamil and Qusay to the SRG elements that were hiding material and documents, and SSO political officers at SRG units often knew the whereabouts of the hidden material.

Senior Regime members failed to anticipate the duration of sanctions and the rigor of UN inspections.

  • Saddam initially expected the sanctions would last no more than three years, and many Iraqis doubted the sanctions would be so comprehensive, according to several detainee interviews. These perceptions probably persuaded senior Regime leaders that they could weather a short-lived sanctions regime by making limited concessions, hiding much of their pre-existing weapons and documentation, and even expanding biological warfare potential by enhancing dual-use facilities.
  • down arrowFollowing unexpectedly thorough inspections, Saddam ordered Husayn Kamil in July 1991 to destroy unilaterally large numbers of undeclared weapons and related materials to conceal Iraq’s WMD capabilities. This destruction–and Iraq’s failure to document the destruction–greatly complicated UN verification efforts and thereby prolonged UN economic sanctions on Iraq. According to Iraqi Presidential Advisor ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, the unilateral destruction decision was comparable in its negative consequences for Iraq with the decision to invade Kuwait.
  • Intrusive inspections also affected potential WMD programs by guaranteeing the presence of inspection teams in Iraqi military, and research and development facilities.
  • Sanctions imposed constraints on potential WMD programs through limitations on resources and restraints on imports. The sanctions forced Iraq to slash funding that might have been used to refurbish the military establishment and complicated the import of military goods. Rebuilding the military, including any WMD capability, required an end to sanctions.
  • The economic bite of the sanctions instead grew increasingly painful and forced the Regime to adopt an unprecedented range of austerity measures by 1996. Disclosure of new evidence of Iraqi WMD activity following Husayn Kamil’s 1995 flight to Jordan undermined Baghdad’s case before the UN.


Husayn Kamil’s Departure

down arrowSenior Iraqi officials—especially Saddam—were caught off-guard by Husayn Kamil’s flight to Jordan in August 1995. The Regime was forced to quickly assess what the fallout would be from any revelations and what damage they would inflict on Iraqi credibility with UNSCOM. Iraqi demands to end sanctions and threats to stop cooperation with UNSCOM became increasingly shrill in the two months prior to Husayn Kamil’s defection. Vice President Ramadan said on 14 June that Iraq had decided “not to continue cooperation with the Council” if UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus’ 19 June 1995 report to the Security Council did not bring about “a positive position that contributes to ending the siege imposed on Iraq.” On 17 July, the anniversary of the Ba’th party revolution, Saddam again threatened to stop cooperation with the UN unless sanctions were lifted. Two days later, after meetings with his Egyptian counterpart, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa’id Kazim Al Sahaf insisted that Iraq had complied with its obligations under UN resolutions and demanded the oil embargo and other sanctions be lifted by the Security Council after the next review on 14 September.

By the time Husayn Kamil fled, Iraq already had submitted another “full, final, and complete declaration (FFCD)” on its biological program to UNSCOM. On 1 July 1995, Iraq had admitted to the production of bulk biological agent, but had denied weaponizing it. To maintain the appearance of cooperation, however, Iraq had to provide more information to inspectors and withdraw the earlier FFCD. After making such strident demands of Rolf Ekeus and the UN, Iraq was now forced—to great embarrassment—to withdraw its threat to cease cooperation with UNSCOM and admit that its biological program was more extensive than previously acknowledged.

  • Husayn Kamil’s flight set the stage for further disclosures to the UN, particularly in the BW and nuclear fields. The UN responded by destroying extensive dual-use facilities critical to the BW program, such as the facilities at Al Hakam and Dawrah. The revelations also triggered contentious UNSCOM inspections in 1996 designed to counter Regime deception efforts and led to showdowns over access to sensitive facilities, including presidential sites.
  • After Husayn Kamil’s departure, about 500 scientists and other nuclear officials assembled and signed documents affirming they would hide neither equipment nor documents, according to a former nuclear scientist.
  • The director of the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) responded to Husayn Kamil’s departure by installing representatives in each ministry and company, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh. These individuals, fully aware of all the UNSC resolutions, were to report any violations to the NMD. When they detected potential violations, such as trying to procure materials and conducting illicit research, they halted them.


Cooperating With UNSCOM While Preserving WMD

Iraq attempted to balance competing desires to appear to cooperate with the UN and have sanctions lifted, and to preserve the ability to eventually reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi behavior under sanctions reflects the interplay between Saddam’s perceived requirements for WMD and his confidence in the Regime’s ability to ride out inspections without full compliance, and the perceived costs and longevity of sanctions. The Iraqis never got the balance right.

  • According to ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, Saddam privately told him that Iraq would reacquire WMD post-sanctions and that he was concerned about Iraq’s vulnerability to Israeli WMD and Iran’s growing nuclear threat.
  • Baghdad tried to balance perceived opportunities offered by denial and deception, and diplomacy, against costs imposed by the continuation of sanctions, the UN’s introduction of more rigorous inspection techniques, and Coalition air attacks.
  • Saddam repeatedly told his ministers not to participate in WMD-related activity, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.
  • A former MIC employee stated he was directed to sign an affidavit in 1993 acknowledging he understood that he was under orders to comply with UN restrictions and that the penalty for non-compliance was death. He signed a similar affidavit in 1994-1995, and again in 1999, under orders from Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh through his supervisor.
  • In 1991, however, Husayn Kamil stated to presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud that it was not necessary to declare Iraq’s BW program to the UN and indicated that he would order the scientists to hide all evidence in their homes.
  • Initially, the Iraqi Regime’s deception strategy responded only to the movement and actions of the UN inspectors. From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqis modified their tactics to continue the concealment of proscribed materials. During the early phases of the inspections in 1991, UNSCOM inspectors often gave notice of inspection sites 24 hours in advance of movements. This gave Iraqi officials a day to remove materials, if required. The materials could then be returned when the inspection was complete.

down arrowThe continual decline led to the economic low point of 1995 and convinced the Regime to adopt different tactics.


Recovery (1996-1998)

down arrowIraq’s economic decline forced the Regime to accept the UN OFF program; this resulted in economic recovery and underpinned a more confident Regime posture.

The tightening economic sanctions, Iraq’s declaration of a BW program, the flight of Husayn Kamil, and the subsequent failure of Iraq’s attempt to disclose the “chicken farm” documents sent the nation into a downward spiral. If Saddam was going to do something—it had to be soon. down arrowIraq’s reluctant acceptance of UNSCR 986—the Oil-For-Food program approved by the UN on 14 April 1995—and its negotiation of the formal, unchallenged trade protocol with Jordan set the pattern for similar illegal deals with Syria and Turkey in 2000. These became the foundation for Iraq’s economic recovery. Although initially approved by the UN in April 1995, Iraq waited until 20 May 1996 to accept UNSCR 986, and it wasn’t until December of 1996 that the actual implementation of the program began funding this recovery.

down arrowAccording to Tariq ‘Aziz, Husayn Kamil’s defection was the turning point in Iraqi sanctions history in that afterwards Saddam agreed to accept OFF. In the early 1990s, Saddam and his advisors had failed to realize the strategic trade (and thereby political) opportunities that OFF program offered Iraq. France, Russia and China pushed Iraq to accept OFF because the Iraqis had consistently complained about the deprivation sanctions had imposed on the populace (‘Aziz had repeatedly tried to get Saddam to accept the program during the early 1990s). In the opinion of senior Iraqi leaders, OFF allowed Iraq to rejoin the world of international trade and its position began to improve by 1997. ‘Aziz said Iraq began “accumulating partners,” life became “less difficult,” and the Iraqi Government increased the amount of rations being provided.

Prior to the implementation of UNSCR 986, internally, the former Iraqi Regime struggled with its Kurdish enemies in northern Iraq, and used military force to recapture the city of Irbil in August 1996. Coalition military retaliation appeared in the form of Desert Strike and the subsequent extension of Iraq’s No-Fly-Zones, further constricting Iraqi controlled airspace. Russian and France continued to chide the United States for, what they viewed as, US unilateral action against the sovereignty of Iraq.

Iraq’s relationship with UNSCOM remained mercurial. Early Iraqi hopes for a quick resolution of outstanding inspection issues were swallowed up in ever increasing mistrust and substantive disputes between the two sides. Saddam had hoped to gain favor after a massive turnover of WMD-related documents that the Regime “discovered” at Husayn Kamil’s “chicken farm”, which validated suspicions about Iraqi concealment operations and raised additional questions. UNSCOM, however, became more suspicious of Iraqi motives and the relationship steadily deteriorated, despite intervention by the UN Secretary General. Eventually, the balance tipped against compliance with inspection requirements in favor of pursuing other avenues of sanctions relief. Saddam’s decisions in 1998 to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) eventually led to UNSCOM’s departure and a Coalition military attack against Iraq, Desert Fox.

Saddam later regarded the air strikes associated with Desert Fox in December 1998 as the worst he could expect from Western military pressure. He noted, but was less influenced by, the limits of international tolerance shown in the UNSC to his hard-line against UNSCOM. He over-estimated what he could, in future, expect from Russia, France and China in the UNC in terms of constraining a more vigorous Coalition response.

  • down arrowIraq accepted OFF in May 1996 and oil began to flow in December 1996; revenues from this program gradually increased to $5.11 billion annually in 1998 (see the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter).
  • Saddam distrusted OFF because he felt it would relieve international pressure on the UNSC to expeditiously lift sanctions. For the same reason, he refused in September 1991 to acknowledge UNSCR 712, to garner international support by claiming that sanctions were starving the Iraqi people.


Impact of the “Chicken Farm” Documents

down arrowThe release of long-concealed WMD documentation planted at Husayn Kamil’s farm in August 1995, and Iraq’s declarations in February 1996 revealing new aspects of the WMD programs were major turning points in the Regime’s denial and deception efforts following the Desert Storm. Iraq considered the declaration to be a measure of goodwill and cooperation with the UN; however, the release of these documents validated UNSCOM concerns about ongoing concealment and created additional questions from the international community. In an attempt to comply with UN requirements:

  • The Iraqi leadership required WMD scientists to sign an agreement in 1996 indicating that they would turn over any WMD documents in their houses and that failure to do so could lead to execution, according to reporting.
  • Huwaysh, in 1997 ordered his employees to sign statements certifying they did not have any WMD-related documents or equipment. The penalty for non-compliance was death. His scientists relinquished rooms full of documents, which MIC turned over to the National Monitoring Directorate. Huwaysh was unsure what the NMD ultimately did with them.

Although Iraq’s release of the “chicken farm” documents initially created a more positive atmosphere with UNSCOM, the relationship grew strained as UNSCOM and the IAEA inspections became more aggressive. The release destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation. UNSCOM concluded that it had been successfully deceived by Iraq and that the deception effort was controlled and orchestrated by the highest levels of the former Regime. UNSCOM therefore directed its efforts at facilities associated with very senior members of the Regime and designed inspections to uncover documents rather than weapons. The situation eventually reached an impasse then escalated to crisis and conflict. From this experience, Iraq learned to equate cooperation with UNSCOM with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war. In response, Baghdad sought relief via a weakening of the sanctions regime rather than compliance with it.


Looking Ahead to Resume WMD Programs

The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions.

  • Presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, while a detainee, wrote: “If the sanctions would have been lifted and there is no UN monitoring, then it was possible for Saddam to continue his WMD activities and in my estimation it would have been done in a total secrecy and [with] concealment because he gained from 1991 and UN decisions.” But in another debrief, Huwaysh said it would take 6 months to reconstitute a mustard program.


The Saga of the “Chicken Farm” Documents

Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid and Qusay Saddam Husayn were behind an effort to conceal WMD documents and strategic materials that only ended after he fled to Jordan in August 1995. After the first Iraqi declaration in April 1991, Husayn Kamil ordered that all “know-how” documents, catalogs, and technical documents from the WMD and missile programs should be gathered and given to the security services for safekeeping. The Director General of each Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) Establishment was to gather his organization’s important technical documents, and they were told that the documents were so important that the documents were to be destroyed only by the security services. Establishments were asked to deliver their documents to MIC security elements, which trucked them to a central rendezvous point in Baghdad where the trucks were turned over to the Special Security Organization (SSO) and the Special Republican Guard (SRG). On two or three occasions in April and May 1991, MIC security officers turned over truckloads of program documents.

A separate effort collected the documents of the PC-3 nuclear weapons organization. Security personnel hid these documents for a time in Duluiyah and Tarmiyah. Some nuclear documents were also loaded into a railroad car and shuttled between Baghdad and Hadithah in western Iraq.

The documents were later delivered to a house that belonged SRG training officer Lt. Col. Sufyan Mahir Hasan Al Ghudayri in the Ghaziliyah section of Baghdad. After Sufyan transferred to the Republican Guard in 1993, SRG Chief of Staff Col. Walid Hamid Tawfiq Al Nasiri took control of the documents and moved them to a new safe house in the Hay at-Tashri section of Baghdad near the Republican Palace.

An SRG element led by Col. Najah Hasan ‘Ali Al Najar was also selected to conceal several truckloads of metals—aluminum billets and maraging steel disks—that had been purchased for the uranium centrifuge enrichment program. The SRG loaded this material onto civilian trucksand drove them to various locations outside of Baghdad to evade inspectors. Col. Walid also managed and coordinated this activity.

Husayn Kamil’s flight to Jordan raised concerns that he would tell the UN about the hidden documents and materials. Qusay summoned Col. Walid to his office and quizzed Walid about the documents. Walid explained to Qusay about the Hay at-Tashri safe house. Shortly after this meeting, Walid was ordered by his former SRG commander, Kamal Mustafa ‘Abdallah, to move the documents out of Baghdad. Walid used seven to nine SRG trucks to haul the documents to a farm near ‘Aqarquf, west of Baghdad, where they were stored for a number of days. When Walid inquired of Kamal Mustafa what he should do with the documents, and Kamal Mustafa told him to burn them. After nearly two days of burning, Walid and his crew destroyed approximately a quarter of the documents.

At that point, Walid was contacted by Khalid Kulayb ‘Awan Juma’, the head of the SSO Republican Guard Security Directorate, who ordered that the documents be moved to Salman Pak and from there to a final destination. Walid and a convoy of trucks carried the boxes of documents in the middle of the night to Salman Pak where they were guided to Husayn Kamil’s “chicken farm” near Al Suwayrah. A number of people in civilian clothes met the convoy when it arrived at the farm and directed the unloading of the vehicles. The boxes of documents were all unloaded at the farm by 7 o’clock in the morning.

Walid also reportedly called Col. Najah the same night and directed Najah to meet his convoy of trucks containing the aluminum and steel at the SRG office in Amiriyah. Col. Walid subsequently led the convoy to Husayn Kamil’s farm where these vehicles were also unloaded.

UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus and IAEA Action Team leader Mauricio Zifferero were in Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. They had conducted several days of talks with the Iraqis and were about to depart for Amman, Jordan to talk with Husayn Kamil. Husam Muhammad Amin Al Yasin, Director General of the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD), received a telephone call from presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri explaining that Ekeus and Zifferero should view some documents found at Husayn Kamil’s farm.

Husam Amin was able to reach Ekeus about one hour prior to Ekeus’ scheduled departure from Baghdad. Ekeus, along with the IAEA’s Gary Dillon, set off for Husayn Kamil’s farm, guided by two minders sent by the presidential secretary.

Reportedly, the original plan for the documents was to burn them all, and Walid and his crew had begun that process at the farm in ‘Aqarquf. Then someone had the “bright idea” to incriminate Husayn Kamil in the concealment of the documents, so they took the materials to his “chicken farm.” When inspectors examined the material at the farm, they noticed the presence of pebbles among the dust on top of the document boxes, as though someone had simply thrown dirt on top of the boxes in an attempt to make it appear that the boxes had been at the farm for a long time. When the UN began an inquiry into how the documents were discovered at the farm, the Iraqis produced several fanciful stories that quickly unraveled.


  • Saddam had said that after sanctions Iraq would resume production of WMD to “achieve international balance and protect the dignity of Iraq and Iraqis and the Arab nations,” according to former presidential secretary ‘Abd. ‘Abd wrote while a detainee, “He [Saddam] would say if only Iraq possessed the nuclear weapon then no one would commit acts of aggression on it or any other Arab country, and the Palestinian issue would be solved peacefully because of Iraq.”
  • Saddam would have restarted WMD programs, beginning with the nuclear program, after sanctions, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam never formally stated this intention, according to ‘Aziz, but he did not believe other countries in the region should be able to have WMD when Iraq could not. ‘Aziz assessed that Iraq could have a WMD capability within two years of the end of sanctions.
  • Saddam’s intent to maintain and compartment WMD capabilities was well known and often acknowledged by high level authorities, according to a senior Al Kindi State Company official. The Minister of Military Industrialization allegedly told the source that Saddam wanted a WMD program “on the shelf.” Huwaysh, in a written statement, explained instead that Saddam briefed senior officials on several occasions saying, “We do not intend or aspire to return to our previous programs to produce WMD, if the Security Council abides by its obligations pertaining to these resolutions [UNSCR 687, paragraph 14].” Saddam reiterated this point in a cabinet meeting in 2002, according to Dr. Humam ‘Abd-al-Khaliq ‘Abd-al Ghafur, the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
  • Huwaysh believed that Saddam would base his decision regarding future Iraqi WMD development on how the Security Council followed through on its promise in paragraph 14 to establish “in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery.” If this promise was not fulfilled, Iraq should be free to act in its own interests. During an earlier debrief Huwaysh speculated that Iraq would have reconstituted many of its proscribed programs within five years if OIF had not occurred.
  • During a custodial interview, Saddam, when asked whether he would reconstitute WMD programs after sanctions were lifted, implied that Iraq would have done what was necessary.


Guarding WMD Capabilities

The abortive efforts to outwardly comply with the UN inspection process from 1995 onward slowly shifted to increased efforts to minimize the impact of the inspection process on Regime security, military, and industrial and research capabilities. Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.

  • Increasingly after September 1997, Iraq burned documents, barred access to sites to UNSCOM, banned US inspectors, and threatened to shoot down UNSCOM U-2 missions until the UN forced compliance in November of the same year.


Security Services

Instruments of Denial and Deception

Iraq placed high priority on monitoring UN inspection teams, as well as the political dynamic of UN policy toward Iraq. Former Regime officials state that the Iraqi security services, along with select military elements, played critical roles in guarding Saddam and other key members of the Regime, enforcing Regime policies, and protecting Iraqi military and security activities. (See Annex B “Iraqi Intelligence Services” and Annex C “Iraqi Security Services” Annex for additional information.)

The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS)

The IIS, responsible for counterintelligence, was the lead organization charged with monitoring UN inspection activities and personnel. IIS directorates carried out human, technical and electronic surveillance of the UN in Iraq to detect intelligence agents and to predict which sites were to be inspected so that those sites could be sanitized.

  • IIS personnel accompanied all UNSCOM and UNMOVIC inspection convoys, according to a former senior Iraqi official. The IIS believed that all foreigners were spying on the security of Saddam Husayn or were seeking military or security information. The IIS believed that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was very tough and that it was important to engage in counterintelligence activities to protect against the loss of important information. IIS “minders” traveled with communications intercept equipment in their vehicles in order to listen to UNSCOM communications while on the move, though this strategy was not used against UNMOVIC in 2002 and 2004 out of fear of detection.
  • In the early and mid-1990s, the IIS was tasked with clandestine monitoring of UNSCOM weapons inspectors and their communications, as well as attempting to recruit or turn UNSCOM members, according to a former IIS official. As soon as the UNSCOM mission began focusing on presidential sites, the SSO became actively involved in the inspection process.
  • IIS personnel were directed to contact facilities and personnel in advance of UNMOVIC site inspections, according to foreign government information. The IIS developed penetrations within the UN and basic surveillance in country to learn future inspection plans. IIS officials also had the responsibility of organizing protests at UNMOVIC inspection sites.
  • According to presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri, during the mid-to-late 1990s Saddam issued a presidential decree directing the IIS to recruit UNSCOM inspectors, especially American inspectors. To entice their cooperation, the IIS was to offer the inspectors preferential treatment for future business dealings with Iraq, once they completed their duties with the United Nations. Tariq ‘Aziz and an Iraqi-American were specifically tasked by the IIS to focus on a particular American inspector.
  • The IIS Directorate of Signals Intelligence (M17) conducted surveillance and collection activities directed against UNSCOM and the UN, according to a former M17 officer. As with the rest of the IIS effort, M17’s objectives were the identification of spies and intelligence activities and the determination of inspection sites before the inspection took place. M17 used a number of techniques including signals intelligence collection from fixed sites and mobile platforms, the bugging of hotel rooms, and eavesdropping on inspector conversations. The IIS also intercepted inspectors’ phone calls. As noted above, M17 did not carry out these activities during 2002 and 2003.
  • During UNMOVIC inspections in 2002 and 2003, the IIS was determined not to allow inspection teams to gather intelligence as the Iraqis perceived had been done in the past. Members of the IIS Directorate of Counterintelligence (M5) dramatically increased their physical observation of UN personnel during site visits, having as many as five minders per inspector. The IIS also attempted to be extremely cautious in monitoring UNMOVIC inspections in order to avoid international incidents or being caught hindering inspection activities.

The Special Security Organization (SSO)

The SSO was primarily responsible for the security of the President and other key members of the Regime, security of Presidential palaces and facilities, and ensuring the loyalty of key military units, principally the RG and SRG. SSO personnel also played an important coordinating role between Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid and the SRG elements that engaged in concealment of weapons, documents, and materials in the early 1990s. An SSO element also coordinated flight planning for UNSCOM and UNMOVIC aviation elements and provided warning of UN flight activities to the Iraqi Government. The SSO reportedly worked with the IIS to develop a database of inspectors.

  • SSO minders also accompanied inspection teams involved in inspections of “sensitive sites,” which included RG, SRG, and security service sites. Their role, ostensibly, was to facilitate quick access to the facilities and prevent controversy. In 2002 and 2003, SSO minders accompanied many inspection teams because of the requirement laid down by UNSCR 1441 to provide immediate access to all facilities, including presidential sites. They also served to warn Saddam Husayn’s security personnel that inspectors were approaching presidential locations.
  • Qusay also ordered SSO personnel to hide any orders from Saddam when UN teams came to inspect SSO sites, according to two high-level SSO officers. They were also to hide any contingency war plans, anything dealing with Saddam’s family, SSO personnel rosters, or financial data which could have posed a risk to Iraq national security. Officers would keep materials in their homes and return it once inspectors left.


  • The SSO recruited sources on inspection teams to uncover information on planned inspection visits, according to a former SSO security officer. When the SSO officer assigned to an UNSCOM inspection team learned which site was due for inspection, he notified the target site via walkie-talkie using a predetermined code system. The SSO officer on-site had authority to use whatever means was necessary to keep the team from entering the site before it was fully sanitized.
  • Concealment failures ultimately compounded issues raised by UNSCOM. The most notorious failure was UNSCOM’s discovery in July 1998 discovery of the “Air Force Document” which called into question Iraq’s declaration of destroyed chemical munitions. Inspectors found the document despite extensive Iraqi efforts to sanitize the site prior to inspector arrival. The discovery resulted in a presidential decree creating a committee to purge such documents from MIC facilities to prevent other such occurrences.


Iraq’s Internal Monitoring Apparatus: The NMD and MIC Programs

In 1998, after the Air Force Document incident, Saddam personally ordered the establishment of a Document Committee under the purview of the NMD to purge all MIC establishments of records of past-prohibited programs to prevent their discovery.

  • The NMD oversaw the destruction of redundant copies of declared documents, as well as continued the concealment of documents of past programs that would cause additional problems with the UN. Financial documents that were deemed too valuable to destroy but too controversial to declare were placed in a lockbox in the care of a special agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
  • According to NMD Director Husam Muhammad Amin, the NMD continued in its role of enforcing UNSC resolutions, despite its subordination to MIC and the departure of UNSCOM inspectors on 15 December 1998. For example, the NMD carried out the destruction of missile production components, such as the 300-gallon mixer, that MIC had reconstructed against Security Council resolutions in 2002. This role prompted MIC to undertake an internal deception campaign to withhold information regarding the procurement of dual-use material from the NMD, which was viewed as an obstacle to MIC progress.


VX Warhead Samples & The Iraqi Air Force Document Story

Two events in mid-1998 defined a turning point in UNSCOM/Iraq relations: The detection of VX-related compounds on ballistic missile warhead fragments and the discovery of a document describing the use of special weapons by the Iraqi Air Force. Both events convinced inspectors that their assessment of ongoing Iraqi concealment was correct. Conversely, the discoveries convinced Iraqi authorities of the futility of continued cooperation.

“You overlook many truths from a liar.”—’Amir Al Sa’adi in reference to an old Arabic proverb

In order to verify Iraqi declarations and special weapons accounting, wipe samples of ballistic missile warhead remnants were taken by an UNSCOM sampling mission in April 1997. These samples were analyzed by laboratories designated by the Special Commission, which detected the presence of degradation products of nerve agents, in particular VX, on a number of warhead remnants. In addition to these chemicals, a VX stabilizer and its degradation product were identified in some of the samples. A second round of sample testing was conducted by the United States in February 1998, confirming the previous findings. However, subsequent analysis performed by French and Swiss labs was been inconclusive.

In June 1998, in multiple statements, including from Iraq’s Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative to the UN, Iraq categorically denied the outcome of the testing and argued that the results could not have been accurate since VX was not used in any kind of munitions in Iraq due to continuous production failure. According to the former the Minister of Military Industrialization, the Iraqi leadership viewed this episode as one more example of collusion between the US and UNSCOM to discredit Iraqi compliance efforts and lengthen sanctions.

UNSCOM submitted a report to the Security Council, which stated that the existence of VX degradation products conflicted with Iraq’s declarations that the unilaterally destroyed special warheads had never been filled with any CW agents.

In response, Iraq claimed that the contamination of the warhead fragments had been the result of a deliberate act of tampering with samples taken to the United States. In public statements following an August 1998 announcement of Iraq’s suspension of cooperation with UNSCOM, Tariq ‘Aziz denied Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction and accused UNSCOM of catering to hostile American policy by prolonging the inspection process. Said ‘Aziz, “the manner in which the inspection teams have acted recently is neither honest nor fast. This policy serves the United States. I have had . . . the impression that UNSCOM is back to its old games and tricks.” Al Sa’adi saw the VX issue as the critical catalyst in feeding Iraqi distrust of UNSCOM and convincing Iraqi officials that no matter what they did, it would never be enough to achieve sanctions relief. He summed up the matter by stating, “We lost faith with UNSCOM after VX; we determined they were after us by hook or crook.”

On 18 July 1998, another incident created a confrontation between UNSCOM and Iraqi officials. During an inspection of the operations room at Iraqi Air Force Headquarters, an UNSCOM team found a document containing information about the consumption of special (chemical) munitions during the Iran-Iraq War.

According to Husam Muhammad Amin, former director of the National Monitoring Directorate, “It was laziness on behalf of the Brigadier that the document was found. The Brigadier had more than one hour to hide the document while the inspectors waited at the entrance of the Air Force command. The Brigadier was sent to court and his judgment was imprisonment for 5-10 years in jail.”

The inspection team felt that this document could be helpful in their efforts to verify the material balance of Iraq’s chemical munitions. Rather than take possession of the document, the chief inspector on the team requested a copy. Initially Iraqi officials on the scene agreed; then reneged, saying inspectors could only take notes on the document or receive a redacted copy. The chief inspector objected to these restrictions after which Iraqi officials seized the document from the chief inspector’s hands and refused UNSCOM any further access to the papers. According to Amin, Iraq considered any documentation or discussions detailing the use of chemical weapons to be a redline issue. Iraq did not want to declare anything that documented use of chemical weapons for fear the documentation could be used against Iraq in lawsuits. Iraqi Regime leadership was concerned Iran would seek legal reparations for the death and suffering of Iranian citizens due to Iraq’s use of CW in the 1980s.

From 1998 until 2003, Iraq was unwilling to hand over the Air Force document. According to Tariq ‘Aziz, “In most cases Saddam listened and agreed with me when I would tell him that we must be forthcoming with the UN.” However, ‘Aziz added, “The Higher Committee did not want to release the document to the UN because the delivery times and methods contained in the document were thought to be sensitive.” When pressed further on why the Iraqis were so adamant about maintaining the Air Force document ‘Aziz paused, then stated, “We did not have to hand over the document because it was a matter of our national security.”


  • MIC employees in 1999 had to sign an affidavit stating that they would not import restricted materials or withhold documents, according to a former senior Iraqi officer who worked in MIC. The Minister of Military Industrialization claimed that although he prohibited any research that would violate UN sanctions, some scientists conducted research in secret. The deputy of NMD requested scientists to turn in documents that might be stored in their home in 2001, according to a sensitive source.


Suspending Cooperation With UNSCOM

The tension that had built between Iraq and UNSCOM over 1997 began to ease in 1998 with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s visit in February and the subsequent draft of a Memorandum of Understanding that restricted the criteria for presidential site visits. A month later, the UNSC decided to review the status of sanctions every sixty days, giving the former Regime hope that the end of sanctions was nearing. These two concessions to Iraq calmed the situation and gave the appearance that things were moving forward. Over the summer of 1998, however, pressure on Iraq began to build again as the VX findings leaked in June, and the Air Force document was discovered in July. Tariq ‘Aziz, in a carefully scripted early August performance, demanded that UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler report to the Security Council that Iraq had met its disarmament obligation, but Butler refused to do so.

UNSCOM and the IAEA failed to close any of the outstanding WMD case files during the summer of 1998—despite high Iraqi hopes to the contrary. Saddam’s profound sensitivity over palace inspections and growing Iraqi bitterness about prolonged cooperation with the UN without getting anything in return also complicated Iraqi-UN relations.These events created breakdowns in the process that probably would have occurred whether or not Iraq retained WMD.

down arrowSaddam, Tariq ‘Aziz, and other senior Regime officials realized by August 1998 that Iraq would not be able to satisfy UNSCOM and the UN Security Council and have sanctions lifted.This led Saddam to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 5 August and to halt all UNSCOM activities in Iraq, including monitoring, on 31 October. Even though Saddam revoked this decision on 14 November (under the threat of an American air strike), it had so poisoned the atmosphere with UNSCOM that the relationship could not be repaired. UNSCOM inspectors returned in November and December 1998, but in a letter to the UN Secretary General on 15 December, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler noted that “Iraq’s conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in either the fields of disarmament or accounting for its prohibited weapons programmes.” Iraqi behavior, the VX detection, the Air Force document and other indications all conspired to eliminate any UN acceptance of imperfect compliance. Later that day UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors withdrew from Iraq; in the early morning hours of 16 December the Coalition launched a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq designated Desert Fox. On 19 December, Baghdad declared that UNSCOM would never be allowed to return to Iraq.


Transition (1998-2001)

down arrowThe suspension of cooperation with UN inspectors ushered in a period of mixed fortunes for the Regime.This transitional phase was characterized by economic growth on the one hand, which emboldened and accelerated illicit procurement and programs. On the other hand Saddam’s increasing physical reclusiveness and the nature of the revenue streams weakened the routine functioning of the Regime and its governance structures.

At the conclusion of Desert Fox on 19 December 1998, Vice President Ramadan announced the end of Iraq’s cooperation with UNSCOM at a press conference in Baghdad. He declared, “The issue of UNSCOM is behind us now. The commission of spies is behind us now. It no longer has a task . . . all that has to do with inspection, monitoring, and weapons of mass destruction is now behind us.” The Security Council, however, created three panels on 30 January 1999 under the direction of Brazilian Ambassador Celso L.N. Amorim to re-start the process of inspections. The panel on Disarmament and Current and Future Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Issues reported its results on 27 March 1999 and recommended to the Security Council that it create a new monitoring and verification apparatus, within the existing framework of UNSC resolutions, to replace UNSCOM and tackle remaining Iraqi disarmament issues. Iraq’s agreement to inspections, however, was still needed for a successful effort. The recommendations from the panels formed the basis of UNSCR 1284, ratified on 17 December 1999. Resolution 1284’s first priority was the establishment of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to replace UNSCOM. The Security Council in January 2000 appointed Hans Blix as UNMOVIC’s Executive Chairman. Obtaining Iraq’s cooperation with UNMOVIC so inspectors could return, however, took nearly three more years. Resolution 1284 also included language at Russia’s insistence that obligated the Security Council to consider lifting economic sanctions. UNSCR 1284 also provided the background to Iraq’s failure to accept renewed inspections from 2000 to late 2002.

Despite the end of the former Regime’s cooperation with UNSCOM, the OFF program continued without interruption. The Security Council not only renewed the original OFF mandate under UNSCR 986, but raised the revenue ceiling for Iraqi oil exports in October 1999 with UNSCR 1266. The ceiling was then eliminated with UNSCR 1284 (although the resolution reaffirmed sanctions). While the former Regime managed to collect significant hard currency revenues by illicitly exploiting the OFF contracting process, Saddam chafed under OFF controls, even as benefits to the Iraqi people increased and the Security Council raised oil production ceilings. On 17 July 1999, in a speech commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Ba’thist revolution in Iraq, Saddam stated, “Arab oil must be for the Arabs. It has become clear now that the oil is for foreigners . . . . The United States determines the amounts and prices of oil, with the help of its fleets and the occupation forces . . . in the Arabian Gulf countries [and is] now dictating to others what they should sell or manufacture, the goods and commodities they purchase, how much and how many. Such a situation makes economic progress an unattainable wish in our greater Arab homeland.”

The former Regime attempted to use Iraq’s oil resources to leverage the world community, and from 1999 to 2001 repeatedly—but with varying success—reduced or suspended oil production in an attempt to influence decision-making in the Security Council. Iraq controlled the contracting process for both selling its oil and arranging purchases of humanitarian goods and it took advantage of lax UN oversight. To try to garner diplomatic support in the UN, the former Regime ensured that Chinese, French and Russian energy firms, as well as others representing states sympathetic to Iraq, were prominent recipients of oil contracts. Iraq also manipulated oil contracts by imposing an illegal “surcharge” on every barrel sold. Furthermore, Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Turkey negotiated formal, but technically illegal trade protocols which allowed Iraq to provide oil at discounted prices for hard currency or items it could not obtain through OFF. Trade with Syria flourished, providing Iraq with the largest share of its illegal hard currency revenues by 2002. (See Syrian Trade Protocol, under the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter for additional information.)

Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists. The departure of UN inspectors and Iraq’s refusal to allow their return permitted MIC to purchase previously restricted dual-use materials and equipment that it needed for both weapons development and civilian applications. In addition, MIC had greater flexibility in adapting civilian technology to military use. Yet without inspectors to certify Iraq’s ultimate compliance with UNSC resolutions, the UN could perpetuate sanctions indefinitely. The actions of Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab Al Mullah Huwaysh reflected this situation: he said he gave explicit directions to MIC leadership and workforce to avoid any activities that would jeopardize lifting UN sanctions. But, according to reports from his subordinates, he disregarded UN restrictions; acting, as if Saddam had instructed him to do so and justifying his actions by telling his employees that no matter how much evidence Iraq provided it would never satisfy the UN. For example, Huwaysh authorized in 2000 the repair of two 300-gallon mixers, and two solid propellant casting chambers in 2002 (all rendered inoperable by UNSCOM inspectors in 1992), for possible use in building solid propellant missiles that exceeded the 150 km range restriction fixed by UNSCR 687.

While international sympathy for the plight of the Iraqi people increased and support for sanctions progressively eroded, Saddam was unable to capitalize on these shifting moods to strengthen his bargaining position with the UN. down arrowIsolated internally by his paranoia over personal security, and externally by his misreading of international events, Saddam missed a major opportunity to reduce tensions with the United States following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. By failing to condemn the attacks and express sympathy to the American people, Saddam reinforced US suspicions about his connections to Al Qa’ida and certified Iraq’s credentials as a rogue state. He told his ministers that after all the hardships the Iraqi people had suffered under sanctions he could not extend official condolences to the United States, the government most responsible for blocking sanctions relief. From a practical standpoint, Saddam probably also believed—mistakenly—that his behavior toward the United States was of little consequence, as sanctions were on the verge of collapse.


Nullifying All Obligations To UNSC Resolutions

Saddam, angered by sanctions, inspections, and the Desert Fox attacks, unilaterally abrogated Iraq’s compliance with all UN resolutions—including the 1991 Gulf war ceasefire—with a secret RCC resolution, according to both presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud and Diwan President Ahmad Husayn Khudayr. Tension within the former Regime over the inspections process had been building since 1995, but Saddam did not formalize his decision to cut Iraq free from UN-imposed limitations until 1998.The RCC resolution was unique because of its confidential nature, according to Ahmad Husayn. The RCC never repealed the resolution nor published it. The secret RCC resolution most likely represented—beyond a personal and impetuous swipe by Saddam at those he saw as his tormentors—an attempt by Saddam to create a legal foundation for future action, as well as preserve his standing in Iraqi history.

  • According to ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, on the second day of Desert Fox, Saddam said, “[T] he cease-fire principle is over; the US broke the international law and attacked a country, which is a member in the UN.” He drafted a resolution which called for the RCC “to cancel all the international obligations and resolutions, which Iraq has agreed upon.” ‘Abd said that Saddam blamed the United States for attacking “Iraq without the UN permission, and [pulling] the inspectors out of Iraq.” As a result, “Iraq [had] the right to cancel all these resolutions to get rid of the sanction which was imposed for more than seven years.”
  • The RCC resolution formally ended all Iraqi agreements to abide by UN resolutions. Ahmad Husayn Khudayr recalled that Saddam’s text ordered Iraq to reject every Security Council decision taken since the 1991 Gulf war, including UNSCR 687. Ahmad said the resolution was worded in careful legal terms and “denied all the previously accepted [resolutions] without any remaining trace of them [in the Iraqi Government].”
  • Saddam stressed to all those present in the office that his decision was secret and not to disclose it until the decision was publicly announced, according to ‘Abd this admonition was also passed to RCC members.
  • Later that evening, Saddam addressed the RCC; Tariq ‘Aziz, Taha Yasin Ramadan, and Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf were among those present. Saddam asked the group’s opinion of his draft resolution. ‘Abd remembered, “Tariq ‘Aziz started talking, because he has an experience in international foreign politics and was following the UN resolutions from 1991 to 1998, and also a leader of the committee that worked with the WMD inspectors in Iraq. He supported the resolution along with Ramadan and Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf.”
  • Saddam signed three copies of the RCC-approved resolution. One was passed to ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri, another went to Ahmad Husayn Khudayr, and the last was held by ‘Abd. According to both ‘Abd and Ahmad the resolution was kept secret for the remainder of the Regime. ‘Abd noted, however, that Saddam said, “One day I will declare this resolution.” The secret nature of the RCC resolution meant that it did not see widespread implementation in ongoing administrative processes, notably NMD operations.

We do not know what measures were taken by the former Regime after the secret resolution was approved, but a number of events may be linked to it. The former Regime made public statements and undertook potential WMD-related activities that would seem to follow from the December 1998 RCC resolution (for more information, see examples from 1999 in the “Preserving and Restoring WMD Assets and Expertise” sub-section below). ‘Abd and Ahmad, however, claim that they know of no specific responses by the former Regime to the resolution. ‘Abd stated that no action was taken because the secret resolution—despite its apparent gravity—was not distributed and remained limited to the three original copies.

  • Taha Yasin Ramadan, also present for the secret RCC decision, held a press conference shortly after the end of the Desert Fox campaign and repeatedly termed Iraq’s compliance with UN requirements as something in the past: “The same applies to the blockade, which has lasted too long and which is now behind us,” he declared. “There are no terms [to end the conflict]. We don’t accept any conditions. Everything in the past is behind us now.” “I am not talking about the details. What I am saying is that all that has to do with inspections, monitoring, and weapons of mass destruction is now behind us.” UN inspectors were denied access to Iraq until late 2002, when the threat of war caused Saddam to relent.
  • Struggling to explain Saddam’s motives behind the secret resolution, Ahmad Husayn Khudayr offered that Saddam might have been attempting to save “face” by publicly accepting UN mandates but rejecting them in private. By doing this he could then reveal the resolution in the future and claim that he had never really stopped fighting. However, Ahmad’s reasoning is debatable: Saddam passed the secret order in the midst of an attack—suggesting a more resolute frame of mind—rather than immediately prior to an act of forced compliance.


Preserving and Restoring WMD Infrastructure and Expertise

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise. In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted. The infrequent and uninformed questions ascribed to him by former senior Iraqis may betray a lack of deep background knowledge and suggest that he had not been following the efforts closely. Alternatively, Saddam may not have fully trusted those with whom he was discussing these programs. Both factors were probably at play. All sources, however, suggest that Saddam encouraged compartmentalization and would have discussed something as sensitive as WMD with as few people as possible.

  • Between 1996 and 2002, the overall MIC budget increased over forty-fold from ID 15.5 billion to ID 700 billion. By 2003 it had grown to ID 1 trillion. MIC’s hard currency allocations in 2002 amounted to approximately $364 million. MIC sponsorship of technical research projects at Iraqi universities skyrocketed from about 40 projects in 1997 to 3,200 in 2002. MIC workforce expanded by fifty percent in three years, from 42,000 employees in 1999 to 63,000 in 2002.
  • According to a mid-level IIS official, the IIS successfully targeted scientists from Russia, Belarus, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, China, and several other countries to acquire new military and defense-related technologies for Iraq. Payments were made in US dollars. The Iraqi Government also recruited foreign scientists to work in Iraq as freelance consultants. Presumably these scientists, plus their Iraqi colleagues, provided the resident “know how” to reconstitute WMD within two years once sanctions were over, as one former high-ranking Iraqi official said was possible.
  • Saddam met with his senior nuclear scientists in 1999 and offered to provide them with whatever they needed, and increased funding began to flow to the IAEC in 2001, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization. Saddam directed a large budget increase for IAEC and increased salaries tenfold from 2001 to 2003. He also directed the head of the IAEC to keep nuclear scientists together, instituted new laws and regulations to increase privileges for IAEC scientists and invested in numerous new projects. He also convened frequent meetings with the IAEC to highlight new achievements.
  • Saddam asked in 1999 how long it would take to build a production line for CW agents, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization. Huwaysh investigated and responded that experts could readily prepare a production line for mustard, which could be produced within six months. VX and Sarin production was more complicated and would take longer. Huwaysh relayed this answer to Saddam, who never requested follow-up information. An Iraqi CW expert separately estimated Iraq would require only a few days to start producing mustard—if it was prepared to sacrifice the production equipment.
  • Imad Husayn ‘Ali Al ‘Ani, closely tied to Iraq’s VX program, alleged that Saddam had been looking for chemical weapons scientists in 2000 to begin production in a second location, according to reporting.
  • Huwaysh stated that in 2001 Saddam approached him after a ministers’ meeting and asked, “Do you have any programs going on that I don’t know about,” implying chemical or biological weapons programs. Huwaysh answered no, absolutely not. He assumed that Saddam was testing him, so Huwaysh added that because these programs were prohibited by the UN, he could not pursue them unless Saddam ordered it. Huwaysh said Saddam seemed satisfied, asked no further questions, and directed no follow-up actions. The incident was perplexing to Huwaysh, because he wondered why Saddam would ask him this question. While he had no evidence of WMD programs outside MIC, Huwaysh speculated that Qusay had the ability within the SSO to compartmentalize projects and select individuals to do special work.
  • Saddam stated to his ministers that he did not consider ballistic missiles to be WMD, according to Huwaysh. Saddam had never accepted missile range restrictions and assessed that if he could convince the UN inspectors he was in compliance regarding nuclear, chemical and biological weapons then he could negotiate with the UNSC over missile ranges.
  • Saddam stated publicly in early 2001 that “we are not at all seeking to build up weapons or look for the most harmful weapons . . . however, we will never hesitate to possess the weapons to defend Iraq and the Arab nation”.
  • Purported design work done in 2000 on ballistic and land attack cruise missiles with ranges extending to 1000 km suggests interest in long-range delivery systems.
  • In 2002, Iraq began serial production of the Al Samud II, a short-range ballistic missile that violated UN range limits—text firings had reached 183 km—and exceeded UN prescribed diameter limitations of 600mm. Iraq’s production of 76 al Samud IIs, even under sanctions conditions, illustrates that Iraq sought more than a handful of ballistic missiles, but was deterred by the existing trade restrictions.
  • Saddam directed design and production of a 650 to 750 km range missile in early 2002, according to Huwaysh. Saddam wanted the missile within half a year. Huwaysh informed him, later that year, that Dr. Muzhir Sadiq Saba’ Al Tamimi’s twin Volga engine, liquid-propellant design would reach only 550 km and would take three to five years to produce. Saddam seemed profoundly disappointed, left the room without comment, and never raised the subject again.
  • Other reports suggest work on a ballistic missile designed to exceed UN restrictions began earlier. A high-level missile official of Al Karamahh State Company said that in 1997 Huwaysh requested him to convert a Volga (SA-2) air defense missile into a surface-to-surface missile. When the official briefed Huwaysh on the results, however, he said Huwaysh told him to stop work immediately and destroy all documentary evidence of the tests. In mid-1998, another missile official said Huwaysh ordered ‘Abd-al-Baqi Rashid Shi’a, general director at the Al Rashid State Company to develop a solid-propellant missile capable of a range of 1,000 to 1,200 km. The missile official speculated Huwaysh’s order came directly from Saddam. A senior level official at Al Karamahh, alleged that in 2000 Huwaysh ordered two computer designs be done to extend the range of the al Samud, one for 500 km and the other for 1000 km, which were provided him in late 2000. Huwaysh disputes all these accounts.
  • As late as 2003, Iraq’s leadership discussed no WMD aspirations other than advancing the country’s overall scientific and engineering expertise, which potentially included dual-use research and development, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization. He recalled no discussions among Regime members about how to preserve WMD expertise per se, but he observed there were clear efforts to maintain knowledge and skills in the nuclear field.


Pumping Up Key Revenue Streams

Baghdad made little overall progress in lifting sanctions between December 1998 and November 2002, despite Russia’s pressure to include language in UNSCR 1284 that provided for the end of sanctions. The former Regime, however, was able to increase revenue substantially from several legitimate and illicit sources. Iraq started to receive the revenues of OFF in January 1997. Revenues from this program increased from $4.2 billion in 1997 to a peak of $17.87 billion in 2000 (see the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter).

  • According to his former science advisor, ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, Saddam, by mid-to-late 2002, had concluded that sanctions had eroded to the point that it was inevitable they would be dropped.
  • The Regime also sought diplomatic support for the lifting or easing sanctions by tying other countries’ interests to Iraq’s through allocating contracts under the OFF program and entering into lucrative construction projects to be executed when sanctions were lifted. In addition, Iraq held conferences to recruit and cultivate “agents of influence” to build pressure for lifting sanctions.
  • Iraq negotiated a $40 billion agreement for Russian exploration of several oil fields over a 10-year period. Follow-on contracts called for the construction of a pipeline running from southern to northern Iraq. Performance would start upon the lifting of sanctions. Under OFF, 32 percent of the Iraqi contracts went to Russia. The Iraqis gave preferential treatment to Russian companies mainly to try to gain Russia’s support on the UN Security Council. The Russians, French, Ukrainians, and others succeeded in reducing the amount of OFF money Iraq paid to the UN Compensation Committee (for Gulf war reparations) from 30 to 25 percent thus adding significantly to Iraq’s income stream.
  • The Regime sought a favorable relationship with France because France was influential as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and was in a good position to help Iraq with lifting sanctions.
  • Iraq awarded short term contracts under OFF to companies around the world. As of June 2000, French companies had contracts totaling $1.78 billion.
  • ‘Aziz personally awarded several individuals substantial oil allotments. All parties understood that resale of the oil was to be reciprocated through efforts to lift UN sanctions, or through opposition to American initiatives within the Security Council.


Miscalculation (2002-2003)

The Miscalculation phase was marked by a series of poor strategic decisions that left Saddam isolated and exposed internationally.This period was triggered by the ill-considered reaction of the Regime—driven personally by Saddam—to the 9/11 terrorist attack. down arrowThis refusal to publicly condemn the terrorist action led to further international isolation and opprobrium. This was the first of several miscalculations that inexorably led to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Following President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech on 29 January 2002, senior members of the Iraqi Government were nervous about both Iraq’s inclusion in the “Axis of Evil,” and the promise that “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” Some ministers recognized that the United States intended to take direct unilateral action, if it perceived that its national security was endangered, and argued that the best course of action was to “step forward and have a talk with the Americans.” Also concerned with the assertion of a connection between Iraq and its “terrorist allies,” they felt they must “clarify” to the Americans that “we are not with the terrorists.” Saddam’s attitude, however, toward rapprochement with the UN was well known and remained unchanged. He had posed to his ministers on numerous occasions the following rhetorical question: “We can have sanctions with inspectors or sanctions without inspectors; which do you want?” The implied answer was “we’re going to have sanctions one way or the other for a long time because of the hostile attitude of the United States and Great Britain.”

Iraqi statements on renewing cooperation with the UN varied, perhaps indicating a clash between the private views of some officials and Saddam’s policy. Vice President Ramadan on 10 February 2002 told journalists at the opening of the Syrian Products Exhibition in Baghdad that Iraq was ready to entertain a dialogue with the UN Secretary General for “return of international inspectors to Iraq without any preconditions.” Four days later Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri “ruled out that Iraq would send any signals to the UN regarding its readiness to agree on the return of international inspectors.”

Dialogue, however, did begin between Iraq and the UN. Senior-level talks occurred in March and May 2002 at UN Headquarters in New York among Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix, IAEA Director General Mohammed El-Baradei and an Iraqi delegation headed by Naji Sabri.The results of these meetings were mixed, although both Naji Sabri and Annan agreed that the talks had been a positive and constructive exchange of views on the Iraq-UN relationship. In July 2002, Naji Sabri and Annan met again for talks in Vienna, and Naji Sabri noted that it would take a while to reach agreement on issues where there had been “12 years of lack of contact” and “12 years of conflict.” Despite the positive tone of these meetings, very little substantive progress was made: Iraq still refused to accept UNSCR 1284 or to allow UN weapons inspectors to return. As a result, UNSCR 1441 imposed sanctions more harsh than those of UNSCR 1284.

President Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly on 12 September 2002, emphasizing the threat Iraq’s WMD posed to global peace and security, unsettled Saddam and the former Regime’s leadership. down arrowMost chilling to them was the promise that “the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced—the just demands of peace and security will be met—or action will be unavoidable.” According to ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh, Saddam was “very stiff” when he discussed this situation with his ministers some three weeks later, and was obviously still “feeling the pressure.” Collectively, there was an even greater fear among the Regime’s ministers that the United States unilaterally would attack Iraq, than when Bush made his “Axis of Evil” speech in January 2002. Saddam told them, “What can they discover, when we have nothing?” But some of the ministers were not as sure. Huwaysh said he began to wonder whether Saddam had hidden something: “I knew a lot, but wondered why Bush believed that we had these weapons,” he said. Huwaysh could not understand why the United States would challenge Iraq in such stark and threatening terms, unless it had irrefutable information.

The Security Council’s unanimous decision on 8 November 2002 to adopt Resolution 1441, which found Iraq in “material breach of all its obligations under relevant resolutions,” clearly demonstrated the seriousness of the international community. Resolution 1441 required that Iraq “provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wished to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded and private accessto all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA chose to interview in the mode or location of UNMOVIC’s or the IAEA’s choice pursuant to any aspect of their mandates.” UNMOVIC and IAEA were instructed “to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter.”

Having held out for so long, Saddam initially did not accept much of what UNSCR 1441 required. Although Russia and France were putting pressure on Iraq, Saddam felt the risk of war and even invasion warranted re-acceptance of inspections. According to Vice President Ramadan, Saddam eventually permitted UNMOVIC greater latitude than he had initially intended. Military leaders were instructed at a meeting in December 2002 to “cooperate completely” with the inspectors, believing full cooperation was Iraq’s best hope for sanctions relief in the face of US provocation. According to a former NMD official, one of the Regime’s main concerns prior to UNMOVIC inspections was interviews of scientists. When asked why the former Regime was so worried if there was nothing to hide, the source stated that any such meeting with foreigners was seen as a threat to the security of the Regime.

Iraq’s cooperation with UN inspectors was typically uneven, and ultimately the Coalition considered the Regime’s efforts to be too little, too late. By January 2003, Saddam believed military action was inevitable. He also felt that Iraqi forces were prepared to hold off the invaders for at least a month, even without WMD, and that they would not penetrate as far as Baghdad. He failed to consult advisors who believed otherwise, and his inner circle reinforced his misperceptions. Consequently, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, the Iraqi armed forces had no effective military response. Saddam was surprised by the swiftness of Iraq’s defeat. The quick end to Saddam’s Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving.


Renewing UN Inspections

Iraq allowed the IAEA and UNMOVIC to resume inspections in November 2002 in the face of growing international pressure while apparently calculating a surge of cooperation might bring sanctions to an end.

  • As it was during the period of the UNSCOM inspections, the Higher Committee was re-established in 2002, this time headed by Vice-President Ramadan, in order to prepare for the UNMOVIC missions. According to Tariq ‘Aziz, Saddam believed that the goal of these inspections was to deprive Iraq of any scientific, chemical or advanced technology. Saddam said, “These people are playing a game with us—we’ll play a game with them.”
  • Saddam assembled senior officials in December 2002 and directed them to cooperate completely with inspectors, according to a former senior officer. Saddam stated that the UN would submit a report on 27 January 2003, and that this report would indicate that Iraq was cooperating fully. He stated that all Iraqi organizations should open themselves entirely to UNMOVIC inspectors. The Republican Guard should make all records and even battle plans available to inspectors, if they requested. The Guard was to be prepared to have an “open house” day or night for the UNMOVIC inspectors. Husam Amin met with military leaders again on 20 January 2003 and conveyed the same directives. During this timeframe Russia and France were also encouraging Saddam to accept UN resolutions and to allow inspections without hindering them.
  • The Higher Committee gradually addressed UN concerns as Ramadan relaxed Baghdad’s original opposition to the UN resuming U-2 flights and conducting private, unmonitored interviews with Iraqi scientists. These actions eliminated major stumbling blocks in potential Iraqi cooperation with UNMOVIC.
  • Saddam hoped to get sanctions lifted in return for hosting a set of UN inspections that found no evidence of WMD, according to statements ascribed to him by a former senior officer. The government directed key military units to conduct special inspections to ensure they possessed no WMD-associated equipment.
  • Upon the direction of UNMOVIC, Baghdad started destroying its al Samud II ballistic missiles 1 March 2003 despite disagreements over the actual operational range of the missile.
  • Beginning on 27 November 2002 until United Nations withdrew all its personnel on 18 March 2003, UNMOVIC completed 731 inspections at 411 sites, including 88 sites it had visited for the first time.
  • The NMD published the Currently Accurate, Full, and Complete Declaration on 7 December 2002, and it attempted to resolve the pending issues of the UN’s Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes until the beginning of the war.

Iraqi military industries several times required scientists to sign statements acknowledging the prohibition on conducting WMD research. At a minimum, the forms would have provided documents to offer the UN, but they may also have stopped “free lancing” and thereby ensured that any WMD research underway was tightly controlled to avoid inadvertent disclosures.

  • MIC on 20 January 2003 ordered the general directors of its companies to relinquish all WMD to the NMD and threatened severe penalties against those who failed to comply, according to documentary evidence.
  • The NMD director met with Republican Guard military leaders on 25 January 2003 and advised them they were to sign documents saying that there was no WMD in their units, according to a former Iraqi senior officer. Husam Amin told them that the government would hold them responsible if UNMOVIC found any WMD in their units or areas, or if there was anything that cast doubt on Iraq’s cooperation with UNMOVIC. Commanders established committees to ensure their units retained no evidence of old WMD.

Iraq’s National Assembly passed a law banning WMD, a measure that had been required under paragraph 23 of the Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Plan approved under UNSCR 715—and one Iraq had refused to pass despite UN requests since 1991. On 14 February 2003, Saddam issued a presidential directive prohibiting private sector companies and individuals from importing or producing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons or material, according to documentary evidence. The directive did not mention government organizations.


Iraq’s Other Security Concerns

Iraq engaged in denial and deception activities to safeguard national security and Saddam’s position in the Regime. These surveillance activities and the suspect vehicle movements in and around sensitive sites made it difficult for Western intelligence services to distinguish innoculous security-related measures from WMD concealment activities which added to the suspicion of Iraqi actions.

  • According to a former senior SSO officer, prior to any UN inspection visits, the SSO leadership would instruct the chiefs of each SSO directorate to conceal anything to do with the President or his family, any documents referring to the Scientific Directorate, documents pertaining to human rights violations, documents pertaining to prisoners in custody, and photos of senior Regime personnel.
  • The IIS was determined not to allow UN inspection teams to gather intelligence at sensitive sites, which the Iraqis feared had been done in the past. Members of the Directorate of Counterintelligence (M5) heightened their physical observation of UN personnel during site visits to prevent this, according to sensitive reporting from a source with excellent access.
  • Huwaysh instructed MIC general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors. This was done to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous purchases of illicit conventional weapons and military equipment from firms in Russia, Belarus, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.
  • Saddam was convinced that the UN inspectors could pinpoint his exact location, allowing US warplanes to bomb him, according to a former high-level Iraqi Government official. As a result, in late 1998 when inspectors visited a Ba’th Party Headquarters, Saddam issued orders not to give them access. Saddam did this to prevent the inspectors from knowing his whereabouts, not because he had something to hide, according to the source.

In order to preserve his dignity and security, Saddam wanted to ensure that he had absolutely no contact with UNMOVIC inspectors. SSO “minders” used radios to alert Saddam’s security personnel of UNMOVIC’s actions so he could avoid contact with inspectors. According to a former senior Iraqi official, on one occasion when inspectors arrived at a presidential site, Saddam left through the back gate.


Sorting Out Whether Iraq Had WMD Before Operation Iraqi Freedom

ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but the available evidence from its investigation—including detainee interviews and document exploitation—leaves open the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq although not of a militarily significant capability. Several senior officers asserted that if Saddam had WMD available when the 2003 war began, he would have used them to avoid being overrun by Coalition forces.

  • ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi told an emissary from the RG leadership, on 27 January 2003, that if Saddam had WMD, he would use it, according to a former officer with direct knowledge of Iraqi military ground operations and planning.
  • According to a former senior RG official, Iraq had dismantled or destroyed all of its WMD assets and manufacturing facilities. Had Saddam possessed WMD assets, he would have used them to counter the Coalition invasion.
  • If he had CW, Saddam would have used it against Coalition Forces to save the Regime, according to a former senior official.
  • Iraqi military planning did not incorporate the use—or even the threat of use—of WMD after 1991, according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid. WMD was never part of the military plan crafted to defeat the 2003 Coalition invasion.

Senior military officers and former Regime officials were uncertain about the existence of WMD during the sanctions period and the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom because Saddam sent mixed messages. Early on, Saddam sought to foster the impression with his generals that Iraq could resist a Coalition ground attack using WMD. Then, in a series of meetings in late 2002, Saddam appears to have reversed course and advised various groups of senior officers and officials that Iraq in fact did not have WMD. His admissions persuaded top commanders that they really would have to fight the United States without recourse to WMD. In March 2003, Saddam created further confusion when he implied to his ministers and senior officers that he had some kind of secret weapon.

  • Prior to December 2002, Saddam told his generals to concentrate on their jobs and leave the rest to him, because he had “something in his hand” (i.e. “something up his sleeve”), according to Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh.
  • Saddam surprised his generals when he informed them he had no WMD in December 2002 because his boasting had led many to believe Iraq had some hidden capability, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam had never suggested to them that Iraq lacked WMD. Military morale dropped rapidly when he told senior officers they would have to fight the United States without WMD.
  • Saddam spoke at several meetings, including those of the joint RCC-Ba’th National Command and the ministerial council, and with military commanders in late 2002, explicitly to notify them Iraq had no WMD, according to the former presidential secretary. Saddam called upon other senior officials to corroborate what he was saying.
  • In Saddam’s last ministers’ meeting, convened in late March 2003 just before the war began, he told the attendees at least three times, “resist one week and after that I will take over.” They took this to mean he had some kind of secret weapon. There are indications that what Saddam actually had in mind was some form of insurgency against the coalition.


Iraq’s Movement of Critical Defense Assets

From the mid-1990s to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq continued to move and conceal key air defense equipment and other military assets to ensure their survivability. Interviews with former Regime officials indicate that the Iraqis felt threatened after President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech on 29 January 2002, and they increased movements of critical military equipment soon afterward.

  • The biggest perceived threat to Iraq’s military equipment was cruise missiles; so military items were moved from location to location. The Higher Committee never thought that these movements would be seen as suspicious because they were carried out to preserve military equipment, according to former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq ‘Aziz.
  • Between August 2002 and early January 2003, the Iraqi military had taken measures to prepare for an anticipated US military attack on Iraq, according to a former IIS official. These measures included the movement and hiding of military equipment and weapons. Army leaders at bases throughout Iraq were ordered to identify alternate locations and to transfer equipment and heavy machinery to off-base locations, taking advantage of farms and homes to hide items.

A recovered 2002 document outlines the Iraqi evacuation plan to protect key military industries and equipment from Coalition air strikes or threats. The former Regime developed these concepts in response to lessons learned after Desert Storm and Desert Fox. The report outlines the importance of utilizing a properly concealed Iraqi railroad system along with trucks and pre-equipped trailers to move important laboratories, equipment, and machinery.


  • Just before the war began, Saddam reiterated the same message to his generals. According to Huwaysh, Saddam told them “to hold the coalition for eight days and leave the rest to him. They thought he had something but it was all talk.”
  • Saddam believed that the Iraqi people would not stand to be occupied or conquered by the United States and would resist—leading to an insurgency. Saddam said he expected the war to evolve from traditional warfare to insurgency.


Alternative Hypotheses on Iraq’s Nonuse of WMD During Operation Iraqi Freedom

The view has been advanced widely that if Saddam had WMD at the time of OIF, he would have used it. In the event, there are no indications that WMD was used during OIF.

If Iraq possessed WMD Saddam may have concluded, given his perception of the Coalition threat, he would not need to use WMD. Military commanders consistently over-reported their combat capability and Saddam had concluded most Iraqis would fight to defend the country. He may not have realized that his Regime could not be saved until it was too late to deploy CW from existing storage areas to operational forces. Saddam told his debriefer that it was clear to him, some four months before the war, that hostilities were inevitable. Despite this knowledge, it seems that Saddam and those around him misjudged the nature and intensity of the conflict. It is possible that Saddam’s public statements and those to his chief lieutenants were intended to reassure rather than confide.

  • Former Director of Directorate of Military Intelligence, Staff Gen. Zuhayr Talib ‘Abd-al-Satar: “Two to three months before the war, Saddam Husayn addressed a group of 150 officers. He asked why the Americans would want to come here.


Negative Indicators—What Iraqi Preparations Were Not Observed?

A former Iraqi army officer familiar with ground operations and planning compared ground CW activity required during the Iran-Iraq war to the absence of similar preparations for Operation Iraqi Freedom in the 2nd RG Corps area. He noted that standard operating procedures for CW had been validated during the Iran-Iraq war by experience, with many accidents, as many shells were defective. Unlike during the Iran-Iraq war, during Operation Iraqi Freedom there were:

  • No orders from Baghdad to bring any artillery pieces from indirect support to a special handling point.
  • No meetings to carefully fix friendly and enemy positions.
  • No decontamination unit assigned to the unit engaging in chemical fires.
  • No special security officer informing any commander that a chemical ammunition convoy was coming.
  • No SSO handlers ready to receive convoys.
  • No messages warning chemical battalions to don protective gear and to prepare to receive chemical weapons.

Why would they come here when they don’t need anything from Iraq? They have already fulfilled the goals that the military established in the first Gulf war. They wanted to occupy the Gulf States and look it has happened. Everyone except for Saddam Husayn, his children, and his inner circle, everyone else secretly believed that the war would continue all the way to occupation. Saddam and his inner circle thought that the war would last a few days and then it would be over. They thought there would be a few air strikes and maybe some operations in the south.”


  • Former Minister of Defense Sultan Hashim Ahmad Al Ta’i: “We knew the goal was to make the Regime fall . . . . We thought the forces would arrive in Baghdad or outside Baghdad in 20 days or a month. We accepted that the cities on the way would be lost. All commanders knew this and accepted it. Saddam Husayn thought that the people would, of their own accord, take to the streets and fight with light arms, and that this would deter the US forces from entering the cities.”
  • Former commander of the Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Division, Staff Maj. Gen. Hamid Isma’il Dawish Al Raba’i: “We thought the Coalition would go to Basrah, maybe to Amarra, and then the war would end . . . Qusay Saddam Husayn never took any information seriously. He would just mark on the map. He thought most of us were clowns. We pretended to have victory, and we never provided true information as it is here on planet earth. Qusay always thought he’d gain victory. Any commander who spoke the truth would lose his head.”
  • Saddam’s draft speeches and public addresses conveyed this theme—an attack was unlikely, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.
  • Saddam was convinced that a show of force would be sufficient to deter an invasion. The United States would seek to avoid another Vietnam, according to a former senior Ba’th party member.
  • Saddam had concluded time was on his side and that the Coalition would never be allowed to attack, according to the former science advisor.

If WMD stocks existed, timing was the problem. The Coalition attack moved so rapidly that Saddam was unable to exercise any options to use WMD and when he realized the end of the Regime was near, he was not prepared tactically to use any WMD he might have had.Based on the statements of former senior officers, the Iraqi military—including the RG—allegedly had no plans for employing WMD, had not practiced tactical use of WMD since 1991, had no available stockpiles of WMD, had not deployed any WMD to tactical units, and had no special infrastructure in place for handling WMD.

  • The 2nd RG Corps had chemical defense battalions, according to the former Al Quds Forces Chief-of-Staff, but these battalions left their equipment in their barracks during Operation Iraqi Freedom because the corps commander was confident the Coalition would not use CBW against Iraq. They probably would have retained this equipment had the commanders envisioned using CBW munitions in the 2nd RG Corps.
  • The RG did not use its special ammunition distribution system before either the Gulf war or Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a former senior Iraqi artillery officer. This system—specialized chemical battalions; replacement of company drivers with chemical battalion drivers and ammunition handlers; and use of special MIC depots—had served it well during the Iran-Iraq war. The source commented that all systems broke down and there was no chemical ammunition distribution system during OIF. Even if units had received chemical ammunition, they would have buried it, not fired it.


Tariq ‘Aziz on Saddam’s Overconfidence

Debrief, 23 June 2004

Debriefer: You appeared confident. Your public statements were exactly what you said—that Iraq was prepared to defeat any American invasion.

‘Aziz: Of course I said these things: How could I say “I think we are making a mistake; we are not prepared for an attack?” That would be impossible. I had to say these things because this was my government’s position, but it was true. A few weeks before the attacks Saddam thought that the US would not use ground forces; he thought that you would only use your air force.

Debriefer: Wasn’t he aware of the buildup of forces in the region?

‘Aziz: Of course he was aware, it was all over the television screen. He thought they would not fight a ground war because it would be too costly to the Americans. He was overconfident. He was clever, but his calculations were poor. It wasn’t that he wasn’t receiving the information. It was right there on television, but he didn’t understand international relations perfectly.


  • General ‘Amir Husayn Al Samarra’i, commander of the Iraqi chemical corps, said the Iraqi army had no plans to use chemical weapons during OIF, according to reporting. If there had been a strategy for regular army forces to use chemical weapons, he would have known about it.
  • The Commander of 2nd RG Corps stated it was his firm belief that Iraq did not have chemical weapons.

If WMD existed, Saddam may have opted not to use it for larger strategic or political reasons, because he did not think Coalition military action would unseat him.If he used WMD, Saddam would have shown that he had been lying all along to the international community and would lose whatever residual political support he might have retained in the UNSC. From the standpoint of Regime survival, once he used WMD against Coalition forces, he would foreclose the chance to outlast an occupation. Based on his experience with past coalition attacks, Saddam actually had more options by not using WMD, and if those failed, WMD always remained as the final alternative. Although the Iraqi Government might be threatened by a Coalition attack, Saddam—the ultimate survivor—believed if he could hold out long enough, he could create political and strategic opportunities for international sympathy and regional support to blunt an invasion.

  • Asked by a US interviewer in 2004, why he had not used WMD against the Coalition during Desert Storm, Saddam replied, “Do you think we are mad? What would the world have thought of us? We would have completely discredited those who had supported us.”
  • Iraqi use of WMD would deeply embarrass France and Russia, whom has cultivated Iraq.
  • Use of WMD during Operation Iraqi Freedom would serve to justify US and UK prewar claims about Iraq’s illegal weapons capabilities. Such a justification would also serve to add resolve to those managing the occupation


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Posted: Apr 22, 2007 04:30 PM
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2007 06:41 AM