We will never lower our heads as long as we live, even if we have to destroy everybody. -- Saddam Husayn, January 1991
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
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
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
[Top of page]
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.
‘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.
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.
‘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.
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
- 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)
||Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf [still at large]
||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
||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.”
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.
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
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
- Saddam verbally referred matters for consideration to the
Quartet. He was verbally back-briefed by ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri on the
- 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
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
- 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
- ‘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.
‘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
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- ‘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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- ‘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.
[Top of page]
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
- 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.
‘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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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.
[Top of page]
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.”
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.”
‘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.”
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
- 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.
Hasan Al Majid noted Saddam’s expansion of the university system “ . .
. to the point of [having] a university in every governorate of the
- 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 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
- MI-8 helicopters were used during the Iran-Iraq war to drop chemical munitions, according to an Iraqi helicopter pilot.
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.
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
- 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.
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
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).
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
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
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
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
- 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
- ‘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).
[Top of page]
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
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
particular 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.
The 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
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. He 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
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
Despite Iraq’s heavy burden of debt after the war, Saddam emerged
with an experienced and expanded military force, poised to dominate the
Gulf. Economic 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.
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
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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
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.
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
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
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
- 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
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.
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.
inspections also affected potential WMD programs by guaranteeing the
presence of inspection teams in Iraqi military, and research and
- 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
Senior 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
- 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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
The continual decline led to the economic low point of 1995 and convinced the Regime to adopt different tactics.
Iraq’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. Iraq’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.
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,
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
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).
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
Impact of the “Chicken Farm” Documents
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
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
- 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
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
- 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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
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
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
- 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.
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.
The 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
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. Isolated
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. This
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. Most
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
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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
- ‘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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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.”
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.
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.
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
‘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.
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
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