UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Iraqi Army

President George Bush appeared to blame Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), for disbanding the Iraqi Army (although not for deep de-Ba’athification), suggesting that presidential guidance on one of the most important issues of the occupation was not reflected in CPA decisionmaking. Rather, Bush told journalist Robert Draper, “The policy had been to keep the [Iraqi] army intact. Didn’t happen.” Bremer responded angrily to the President’s statement, saying that he had been ordered to disband the Army by Rumsfeld, and the White House had approved the move.

Supporters of the decision often claim that the Iraqi Army dissolved itself, and that the reality of the post-war situation was simply being recognized. This argument implies that the United States only had only two choices, reconstituting the 600,000-man Iraqi Army in its Saddamist form or bringing the Iraqi Army down to zero. The choice, however, was never that binary. The need to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate (DDR) soldiers back into civil society was not unique to Iraq.

One major difference between post-World War II Germany and Japan and post-Saddam Iraq is that the Allied forces militarily defeated the German and Japanese armies, and both countries surrendered unconditionally. OIF, however, ended with the Iraqi army virtually melting away before it could be militarily defeated or soldiers rounded up and confined to their barracks.

CPA Order 22 issued in August 2003 created the New Iraqi Army. The order forbade the inclusion of senior Ba’ath Party members in the Iraqi Army without the specific permission of the CPA. Additionally, all officers who had held the rank of colonel or above were excluded from being rehired, including those who had not resisted the U.S. invasion and were not members of the Ba’ath Party.

The General Headquarters (GHQ) was the highest military echelon in Saddam's army. Controlled by the Army, it integrated army, air force, navy, and popular army operations. While the GHQ was primarily a staff element, it could deploy a forward command post to the front. GHQ controled both regular army corps and a corps-level strategic reserve designated the Republican Guard Forces Command (RGFC).

The corps were the principal operational headquarters in the Iraqi army. There were no intermediate headquarters between the corps and the general headquarters (GHQ). Thus, the GHQ was required coordinate and control multicorps operations. There were five regular army corps, each with assigned territorial areas of operations. Three of these corps faced Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq, while the other two corps were located in the southeast where they had been engaged in counterinsurgency operations against Shi'a dissidents. However, as occurred during DESERT STORM, the corps could deploy outside their normal territorial operational areas. Subordinate units of an additional ground force command, the RGFC, conducted operations wherever directed. The Iraqi army also included a separate aviation command that provided support to the corps and the RGFC.

Iraqi corps headquarters were responsible for logistics and administration, as well as combat operations. The corps commander was responsible for his corps' performance. He provided and approved guidance for operational plans and orders, and he directed the combat operations of the corps. The corps chief of staff coordinated all staff section activities. The corps general staff officer for operations was responsible for operational planning, including collection and analysis of intelligence. The corps general staff officer for administration and logistics supervised planning in those areas, and also commanded the corps rear administrative area. Special staff officers who either commanded or supervised organic or attached combat, combat support, and combat service support provided technical input for operational plans.

There were no standard corps composition. Corps compositions were tailored to meet perceived mission requirements, and also reflect the availability of forces. The span of corps headquarters' control had often been excessive, with corps commanders operationally controlling as many as 10 divisions. During DESERT STORM, first echelon corps contained variable numbers of infantry divisions and one or two heavy divisions.

Corps could also have varying numbers and types of separate or detached maneuver brigades under their control, including commando and special forces brigades, as well as infantry and independent heavy brigades. Artillery and air defense assets assigned or attached to the corps air defense and air defense artillery commands were also variable, depending on corps missions. Corps were assessed to have an organic, battalion-size reconnaissance unit. Other assessed organic assets included a signal battalion; chemical defense battalion; and battalion-size field engineer, supply and transport, medical, electrical, and mechanical engineer (maintenance and repair) units. Additional units may have been attached or placed under the operational control of the corps as directed by the GHQ. These could include army aviation, antitank, rocket, engineer bridging, and electronic warfare units, as well as additional combat service support assets.

The Iraqi GHQ retained command of some combat, combat support, and combat service support elements, but could place them under the operational control of corps or other headquarters depending on mission requirements. For example, the GHQ could augment corps with rocket artillery, SAMs, and tank transporter units.

The Iraqi regular army had three basic types of divisions: armored, mechanized (mech) infantry, and infantry. The basic organizational structure of each type of division was similar. They consisted of 3 x maneuver brigades, divisional artillery, and various combat support and service support units. Typically a mechanized infantry division had 3 x mechanized infantry brigades and an armored division had 3 armored brigades. The infantry division had 3 x infantry brigades.

The first battalion was established in the Iraqi Army on 21 June 1921, when volunteers started to join the new army. On 28 July 1921 the army took al-Kadhmia as headquarter in khan (al-Kabully) then it was transferred to Hilla to replace the British army, which was being withdrawn according to a plan to reduce the British forces in Iraq. In addition, the first cavalry and royal guards battalion were formed. The second battalion was formed between November, 1921 and April 1922, at which point the Iraqi armed forces reached 4000 volunteers. Three military units of the Iraqi army were stationed in Mosul, Baghdad and Hilla, each of them was joined with a medical unit. For organizing works, it was decided to link the units with Mosa Al-Khadum battalion in 1926. The army continued progressing gradually and reached by the end of 1929, 10,446 persons: 582 officers and 9,864 noncommissioned officers and soldiers.

In 1934 conscription was introduced and by 1941 the armed forces totaled well over 41,000 personnel. A reduction occurred after World War II, and by 1948 the military was further reduced to about 20,000, including an armed gendarmerie.

A series of attempted and successful coups d'etat from 1939 to 1968 resulted in a number of armed forces reorganizations and the transfer of control of the armed forces to various factions of government. Control of the armed forces was solidified under the President of Iraq after the Ba'ath party takeover in 1968.

The Iraqi armed forces were originally organized along the lines of the British general staff model. This organization governs land operations ranging from the lowest unit, the squad, up to the largest standing unit, the corps. Soviet influence, combined with experience derived from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, caused modification of the original British model in both organization and doctrine. Expediency and the wide range of equipment, organization, and training levels among units necessitated variations among units.

During the late 1970s and the mid-1980s, the Iraqi armed forces underwent many changes in size, structure, arms supplies, hierarchy, deployment, and political character. Between 1980 and the summer of 1990 Saddam boosted the number of troops in the Iraqi military from 180,000 to 900,000, creating the fourth-largest army in the world. With mobilization, Iraq could have raised this to 2 million men under arms--fully 75% of all Iraqi men between ages 18 and 34. The number of tanks in the Iraqi military rose from 2,700 to 5,700 and artillery pieces went from 2,300 to 3,700.

Headquartered in Baghdad, the army -- of an estimated 1.7 million or more Iraqis, including reserves and paramilitary -- in 1987 had seven corps, five armored divisions (each with one armored brigade and one mechanized brigade), and three mechanized divisions (each with one armored brigade and two or more mechanized brigades). An expanded Presidential Guard Force was composed of three armored brigades, one infantry brigade, and one commando brigade. There were also thirty infantry divisions, composed of the People's Army (Al Jaysh ash Shaabi--also cited as the Popular Army or People's Militia) brigades and the reserve brigades, as well as six Special Forces brigades.

Conditions of service in the Iraqi army historically have been poor. In addition to receiving low and irregular pay, during much of the country's modern history Iraqi soldiers were involved in a costly and unpopular war with Kurdish rebels. Having to fight the Kurds caused morale problems and desertions, particularly among the army's Kurdish recruits, and on at least two occasions between 1975 and 1979 the government offered amnesties to all soldiers and security personnel who had deserted during Kurdish conflicts.

This growth in the manpower and equipment inventories of the Iraqi armed forces was facilitated by Iraq's capacity to pay for a large standing army and was occasioned by Iraq's need to fight a war with Iran, a determined and much larger neighbor. Whereas in 1978 active-duty military personnel numbered less than 200,000, and the military was equipped with some of the most sophisticated weaponry of the Soviet military arsenal, by 1987 the quality of offensive weapons had improved dramatically, and the number of men under arms had increased almost fourfold.

This mammoth arsenal gave Iraq a clear-cut advantage over Iran in 1987. Iraq had an advantage of more than four to one in tanks (4,500 to 1,000); four to one in armored vehicles (4,000 to 1,000); and two to one in artillery and antiaircraft pieces (7,330 to 3,000). Despite this quantitative and qualitative superiority, the Iraqi army by the end of 1987 had not risked its strength in a final and decisive battle to win the war. Iraq's military failures were primarily the result of poor leadership and an overly rigid command structure. Defective leadership was evident in the lack of clear orders and in the poor responses by the army in the occupation of Susangerd. In October 1980, armored units twice advanced and withdrew from the city, and later in the same operation, the army abandoned strategic positions near Dezful. Rigid control of junior officers and of noncommissioned officers (NCOs) frustrated their initiative and may have been the reason for the high casualty figures in the infantry, where initiative and spontaneity in decision making can be of paramount importance. The command structure reportedly was even more inflexible and slow in the People's Army detachments, where political commanders routinely made military decisions.

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

As a result of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was obliged to extend its search for arms in 1981. By the time the war entered its eighth year in September 1987, Iraq had become the world's biggest single arms market. In addition to its purchases from the Soviet Union and France, Iraq sought to buy armaments from China, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy, Brazil, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Egypt, among others. The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency estimated in 1987 that Iraq had imported about US$24 billion worth of military equipment during the period from 1981 to 1985.

The regular Army in mid-1990 consisted of more than 50 divisions, additional special forces brigades, and specialized forces commands composed of maneuver and artillery units. Although most divisions were infantry, the Army had several armored and mechanized divisions. Some armored units had a small amount of modern Western and Soviet equipment, but most of the Army had 1960s-vintage Soviet and Chinese equipment. Training and equipment readiness of Army units varied greatly, ranging from good in the divisions that existed before the Iran-Iraq war, to poor in the largely conscript infantry formations.

In August 1990 the Iraqi Army seized and occupied Kuwait. Iraqi ground forces in the KTO included elements of up to 43 divisions, 25 of which are assessed as committed, 10 the operational reserve, and eight the strategic reserve. Some independent brigades were operating under corps control. The Iraqi defensive strategy, however, was not prepared for the Coalition's offensive strategy. The Iraqi assumption that the tactics used in the Iran-Iraq War would be applicable against the Coalition proved faulty, as did their assumption that the attack would be terrain-oriented in support of the Coalition's political goal of liberating Kuwait. Further, once the air war began, Iraqi tactical intelligence became virtually blind. Most importantly, Iraqi defensive planning was rendered ineffective due to the speed, maneuver, firepower, and technological advantages of the Coalition offensive, which surprised and overwhelmed the Iraqis, although some Iraqi regular and heavy units put up a fight. At the end of more than a mouth of bombardment, Iraqi forces remained in Kuwait; many particularly in the front line units, were in poor condition, with their ability to coordinate an effective defense along the border severely reduced.

After the War, the army reduced the numbers of units and personnel, and focused on reconstituting armor and mechanised units with remaining equipment. The number of regular army divisions was cut from seven armored/mechanised and 20 infantry divisions to two or three armor divisions, three mechanised divisions and 11 infantry divisions.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 22-08-2016 18:33:27 ZULU