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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Saddam’s Effect on the Workings of the Iraqi Government

Suspicion of Structures

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

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

Powerless Structures

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

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

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

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

The Higher Committee

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

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

The Foreign Policy Committees

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

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

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

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

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

Saddam’s Grip on National Security and WMD Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Military Industrialization Commission

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

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

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

Saddam Holding Court

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

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

Saddam and Fiscal Policy

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

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


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