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Hammurabi Division (Armored)

The heroic names of some of the Republican Guard units underscores their elite character.

Hammurabi was the ruler who chiefly established the greatness of Babylon, the world's first metropolis. Hammurabi (ca. 1792 - 1750 BC) united all of Mesopotamia under his forty-three year reign of Babylon. On his accession, the country was divided into several small warring states. He succeeded in uniting them and in creating a large empire which extended northward from the Persian Gulf through the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys and westward to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

By far the most remarkable of the Hammurabi records is his code of laws. Historically one of the first four lawgivers known to civilization, Hammurabi ruled his people justly -- "that the strong shall not oppress the weak" -- and through law gave his people contentment and prosperity. Although Hammurabi's Code is not the first code of laws (the first records date four centuries earlier), it is the best preserved legal document reflecting the social structure of Babylon during Hammurabi's rule. This is earliest-known example of a ruler proclaiming publicly to his people an entire body of laws, arranged in orderly groups, so that all men might read and know what was required of them. The code was carved upon a black stone monument, eight feet high, and clearly intended to be reared in public view.

The 1990 Persian Gulf crisis began on July 16, when a US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst noticed that a brigade of the Hammurabi Division had moved into southern Iraq, opposite its northern border with Kuwait. By July 17, Pentagon analysts had new satellite imagery showing the entire division, with 300 tanks and over 10,000 men, in place along the Iraq-Kuwait border. A second division, the Medina, was arriving along the border, and a third division was marching south. Over the following two days, three divisions, the Hammurabi, Medina, and Tawalkana, were spotted moving into the area. During the next week, Iraq moved an additional five divisions to assembly areas close to the Kuwait border. These troop concentrations were reported in the US press on July 24, when the Washington Post reported that "Iraq has moved nearly 30,000 elite army troops to its border with Kuwait..."

On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Divisions attacked from the north down the Basra highway, while the Medina and Tawakalna Republican Guard Divisions attacked from the west across the Wadi al-Batin. The operation was planned in detail and well organized. The Iraqis had used four Republican Guard divisions to seize Kuwait. By early September 1990 these divisions had returned to their preinvasion locations in southeastern Iraq and less-capable Army divisions had been deployed to replace them.

Iraqi leaders failed to anticipate the "left hook " and apparently did not realize the Coalition would invade into southern Iraq.Once the Iraqi leadership apparently did learn of VII and XVIII Corps ' advance from the west, the Republican Guard Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division was assigned a rear guard action to allow the Republican Guard Medina and Hammurabi Armored divisions to make good their withdrawal toward Basrah.

On 27 February VII Corps conducted a coordinated main attack against the three mechanized Republican Guard Divisions - the Tawakalna, the Al-Madinah, and the Hammurabi. As this operation began, the 1st Infantry Division, in the south of the Corps zone, conducted a night passage through the 2nd ACR, and immediately engaged the Iraqi forces. To the north, the 1st and 3rd Armored divisions attacked to the east and the 1st Cavalry Division attacked on the northern flank to prevent an Iraqi breakout in that direction. With the Iraqis set up, the massed maneuver elements of VII Corps struck one decisive blow after another. In other sectors, Iraqi elements broke and ran. Here, they stood and fought.

Through the afternoon and night of 27 February the tankers, Bradley gunners, and helicopter crews and artillerymen of the American 1st and 4th Battalions, 64th Armor, fired at hundreds of vehicles trying to redeploy to meet the new American attack from the west, or simply to escape. When the 24th Division's staff detected elements of the Hammurabi Division of the Republican Guard moving across the 24th's front, McCaffrey concentrated the fire of nine artillery battalions and an Apache battalion on the once elite enemy force. At dawn the next day, the twenty-eighth, hundreds of vehicles lay crumpled and smoking on Highway 8 and at scattered points across the desert. The 24th Division's valley battles of 25-27 February rendered ineffective all Iraqi units encountered in the division sector and trapped most of the Republican Guard divisions to the south while VII Corps bore into them from the west, either blasting units in place or taking their surrender.

The American VII Corps systematically destroyed Iraqi military power in its sector. To finish destruction of the Republican Guard Forces Command, General Franks conducted a giant envelopment involving the 1st Cavalry Division on the left and the 1st Infantry Division on the right. The trap closed on disorganized bands of Iraqis streaming north in full retreat. With the destruction of the Tawakalna Division, the Iraqi high command ordered the Hammurabi Division to start moving north, across the Euphrates River and away from the American attack in the west.

On 27 February to the west of Al-Basrah city, elements of the RGFC Hammurabi Armored Division with scattered elements of RGFC infantry divisions continued to defend under heavy pressure from advancing Coalition forces. Some parts of these units succeeded in escaping across the Euphrates River. The Hammurabi was spared destruction when President Bush ordered an end to the ground war after only 100 hours. DIA estimated that upwards of 70,000 to 80,000 troops from defeated divisions in Kuwait may have fled into the city of Al-Basrah.

As of 1 March 1991, some 840 tanks (at least 365 of which were Republican Guard T-72s), 1,412 other armored vehicles (mostly armored personnel carriers), and 279 pieces of artillery of various types were still in the hands of surviving Iraqi forces and outside of Coalition control. Of the totals cited, at least 39 tanks and 52 other armored vehicles belonging to the Republican Guard's Hammurabi Division were destroyed in the early morning hours of 2 March 1991 by the American 24th (Mechanized) Infantry Division as the Iraqis attempted to reach the Hawr al Hammar causeway and escape northward. The battle occurred March 2 after soldiers from the 7,000-man Iraqi force fired at a patrol of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. After the 6:30 AM Iraqi attack, Maj. Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey assembled attack helicopters, tanks, fighting vehicles and artillery for the assault, which began at 8:15 AM. Artillery, armor, mechanized infantry, and Apache units worked together to halt and obliterate a long column of Iraqi vehicles. The 24th Division continued pounding the Iraqi column throughout the morning, until every vehicle moving toward the causeway -- tank, truck, or automobile -- was destroyed. This provoked a debate over whether McCaffrey was justified in destroying remnants of the Hammurabi Division. Analysts in Washington and at General Schwarzkopf's headquarters were skeptical of McCaffrey's claim that the Iraqis fired first. Other officers did not dispute McCaffrey's claim that the Iraqis had fired first, but asked why the 24th Division had moved during the ceasefire into the path of the retreating Iraqis.

The CIA After Action Evaluation showed that half of the Republican Guard Armor escaped the Gulf War, including the Hammurabi Division, which came back to menace Kuwait in October 1994.

Between 3 and 9 October 1994, the Iraqis massed as many as 70,000 troops, including two Republican Guard divisions and over 1,000 tanks, on Kuwait's northern border. In early October 1994, elements of the Hammurabi Division of the elite Iraqi Republican Guard were detected relocating to positions at Shaihah airfield in southern Iraq. This was the southern most deployment of Republican Guard forces since the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Officials said that unit has about 350 tanks. By October 8, the 15th Mechanized Brigade of the Hammurabi Division had deployed to approximately 20 kilometers from the Kuwait border. Its artillery assets were oriented south toward Kuwait. All these units were fully equipped with ammunition, food, and fuel, leading the United States to conclude that this was no mere exercise. By October 8, these troop movements, combined with forces already in southern Iraq, brought Iraqi troop strength in southern Iraq to 64,000, organized into 8 divisions. By October 9, indications were present that logistic sites were being established in the vicinity of these deployments. Iraqi movements to the south continued, and by October 11, it was assessed that Iraq would be capable of launching an attack by October 13.

As of early 1997 the Republican Guard Hammurabi Division was reported to have deployed in and to the South of Nassiriya, facing the Marshes and their extensions up to the Iranian border. By early March 1997 the Al-Abed and Hammurabi Divisions of the Republican Guard, as well as the 2nd Division and the 10th Armored Brigade had concentrated along various axes towards Sulaimaniya. The Republican Guard's Hammurabi Forces Command, attached to the Southern Corps (the Republican Guard's Al-Fath Al-Mubeen Forces Command), left its positions in Nassiriya Governorate and arrived 02 March 1997 in Kirkuk. It then made its way to the north of the city towards Chamchamal. Its armor was transported by train from Nassiriya to Kirkuk.

As of early 1999 the "Hammurabi" Forces Command (Quwat Hammurabi Hares Jimhouri), under the command of Al-Fathul Mubeen Forces-Southern Corps, had two headquarters at Suweira and Al-Kut.

Opposition sources claimed in January 1999 that the losses inflicted on Saddam's regime during Operation "Desert Fox" included 88 killed among officers and other ranks, 146 wounded including 3 officers. 36 artillery canons of varying ranges were destroyed. The Al-'Amer armory belonging to the "Hammurabi" Forces was destroyed including 560 assault rifles, 600 chemical weapons masks, 7000 hand grenades, 105 cases of Valmara land mines, a number of anti-aircraft guns and 31 batches of ammunition.

The Iraqi National Congress reported that tanks from the Hammurabi Republican Guard division attacked the towns of Rumaitha and Khudur in June 1999 after residents protested the systematic misdistribution of food and medicine to the detriment of the Shi'a. Fourteen villagers were killed, over 100 persons were arrested, and 40 homes were destroyed. Saddam Hussein ordered the 'Al-Fateh Al-Mubeen" Republican Guard Command Center, in the town of Suwayra (90 km south east of Baghdad) to put down these demonstrations. Tanks form the Hammurabi Division were loaded on "Faun" tank transporters and driven to both cities in southern Iraq, where they arrived on the morning of 26th June 99. The Republican Guard tanks commenced their bombardment of both cities on the afternoon of the same day, concentrating on the Beni Zureij tribe in the cities of Rumaitha and its surroundings and the Albu Hassaan branch of bani Hechaim tribe in the cities of Khudur and its surroundings. Clashes between the national resistance forces and Saddam's troops continued until the early morning of the 27th of June, when the republican guard forces supported by tanks and artillery, were able to enter both cities.

On 12 October 2000 the Republican Guard's Hammurabi Division began moving westward from its base in Baghdad. The movements was in the general direction of Jordan, but that there was no indication that it was anything other than maneuvers or a public flexing of Iraqi military muscle. At the time, the Hammurabi Division was said to be composed of about 15,000 troops.

As of late October 2000 Iraq had between four and five armored divisions near Jordan. One of these was also situated within 100 kilometers of the Syrian border. The main purpose of the deployment was a "symbolic" show of support for the Palestinians. The moves were viewed as Iraq's way of showing that it is doing more than other Arab states that are "just talking" about solidarity with the Palestinians.

As of 24 October 2000 there was a sizeable collection of Iraqi units west of Baghdad. US intelligence had continued to watch these over the previous three weeks. According to the US Defense Department, this was part of the annual training cycle for the Iraqi armed forces. The best assessment of the US was that it was indeed training activity, and that the Iraqi forces had not postured themselves to be in a threatening posture from which they would do some threatening act towards any of their neighbors. The forces did not have with them the essential elements of logistic support that would be required in order to use them in an offensive or a threatening manner. There was still a lot of Iraq to the west of where the forces were located. The movements seem to be local and training and administrative in nature. In the Middle East this was being interpreted as a massing of Iraqi troops on their western border in support of Palestinians. But the US Defense Department did not agree with that characterization.

By the end of October 2000 the armored units that had been stationed in western Iraq for the previous month in a show of force against Israel were in the process of being dismantled and moved to other, more distant locations. The Iraqi force, led by the Republican Guard's Hammurabi Division, was never intended to be deployed against Israel. Its appearance was merely an expression of Iraq's willingness to participate in a general Arab Israeli war should one be declared.

In an early November 2000 interview, Condoleezza Rice [the top foreign affairs advisor to Governor George W. Bush] complained "We right now have troops peacekeeping in the Balkans that if the Hammurabi division of Saddam Hussein were actually to decide to cross into Jordan, as opposed to just be at the border, and we had to reinforce our own troops, we have troops in the Balkans who are out of commission, and we could not use them because they are not combat-ready."

By 07 November 2000 the fall military exercise cycle was apparently over in Iraq. Things were back to where they normally were. Some troops, including the Hammurabi Division, had moved southwest of Baghdad, and they had largely returned to their garrisons.

In December 2000 it was reported that Iraq had begun to form a special corps called "Al-Maqdis," to be stationed near the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Reportedly, the new corps would consist of elements from the 2nd mechanized infantry division, in addition to two divisions from "Saddam Fedayeen," and a brigade from the Republican Guard's Hammurabi Division. According to other reports, in December 2000 Saddam Hussein's youngest son, Qusay, was said to have visited Syria to discuss contingency plans for Syrian-Iraqi military cooperation in the event of an Israeli attack. Qusay reportedly agreed to establish a joint command and control center and place two Iraqi armored divisions (the 10th Armored Division and an unspecified Republican Guard division) on a state of heightened readiness for deployment to Syria.

In August 2001 the Jerusalem-based Israeli Web site published an unconfirmed report that over 1,000 Iraqi forces had infiltrated Jordan since 10 July 2001, with ten times that number poised across the border in western Iraq in preparation for further incursions. The Iraqi troops supposedly included the Republican Guard's Hammurabi Division and four mechanized infantry brigades.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:21 ZULU