Does Iraq Have a Fighting Army?

(Jerusalem Post) Amir Taheri - • The Iraqi army's backbone personnel numbers around 8,000, consisting of some 50 two-star generals and above, some 1,200 other officers, and over 6,000 noncommissioned officers. • Saddam Hussein has taken no measures to put the army on a war footing. This may indicate his distrust of the army, that, if rebuilt to its full strength, might decide to enter Baghdad, remove Saddam from power, and make a deal with the U.S.-led coalition. •During the past 10 years alone, over 40 of his generals have defected. A further 150 generals have been cashiered and live under close surveillance in Baghdad. • Saddam, who did not serve in the army even as a conscript, has never been popular among the Iraqi military. In one battle of the Iran-Iraq war, in Hamiyieh in 1984, the Iranians annihilated two Iraqi divisions virtually within sight of six other Iraqi divisions that could not intervene because they had not received Saddam's orders to attack. The present defense minister, General Sultan Hashem Ahmad, escaped with his life from that battle. • Through eight years of war against Iran, the Iraqis fought textbook battles and lost nearly all, against an enemy that, using Iran's demographic advantage in the most cynical way, dispatched suicide-squads of teenage boys to neutralize the Iraqi armor. It was not until the Iraqis started massively using chemical weapons that they managed to "tame the Iranian teenage beast," as Saddam subsequently boasted. •Will the Iraqi army fight now? The best considered answer is no. What is more likely is that the army may intervene to remove Saddam from power and thus deny the Americans a pretext to occupy Iraq. • The Republican Guard, under the command of his son-in-law, General Kamal Mustafa, has a theoretical strength of some 220,000 men. Saddam's second son, Qusay, heads a smaller force of some 8,000 men and women whose task is to protect the person of the leader. These forces, however, are more experienced in internal repression than in classical warfare. It is not certain how many might fight if they saw Saddam as a lost cause. Saddam is now perceived as a loser, whereas in 1980 and 1990 he was still looked upon as a potential winner. •Talk of urban guerrilla warfare lasting for years is fantasy. Saddam and his gang are not guerrilla leaders.

2003-03-07 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive