Iraq Survey Group Final Report
Iraq’s Chemical Warfare Program
Chemical Warfare and the Defense of Baghdad
ISG investigated reporting that Iraq used a defensive doctrine during OIF that included the employment of a “red line,” beyond which the Iraqis would have used available WMD against Coalition forces.Since OIF, we have conducted numerous interviews of senior regime officials and military officers in an effort to confirm whether Iraq had weaponized CW ready to use or whether there was a “red line” concept that would have triggered a CW attack.
We believe that there was indeed a “red line” defense for Baghdad, but it was a simple multi-ring conventional defense that quickly broke down under Coalition assault, and not the coordinated, prepared plan depicted in prewar intelligence reporting.
- Evidence of strategic planning at the Diwan and flag-officer levels is lacking in any mention of CW.
- Many Iraqi Generals believed there was a secret plan to use CW, but we have found no evidence that the SSO—which was involved in past CW uses—was part of any planning for CW use.
Prior to OIF, historical reports describe Iraqi plans for defensive use of CW to disrupt or halt the advance of enemy troops and to disrupt enemy staging areas before their attack.
- As early as 1991, prior to Desert Storm, Saddam decided to use CW if Coalition forces crossed a parallel extending west from Al Amarah or if Iranian troops crossed the border into Iraq, according to reporting.
During the run-up to OIF, the Intelligence Community received additional information pointing to a “red line” around Baghdad that, if crossed by Coalition forces, would trigger an Iraqi CW attack.
- According to a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) member, Saddam in October 2002 authorized the use of prohibited weapons at the discretion of four field commanders if US forces closed on Baghdad. One of the four field commanders was Kamal Mustafa, the Republican Guard Secretary. The “red line” was described as a box around Baghdad encompassing the cities of Tuz Khurmatu, Bayji, Ar-Ramadi, Karbala, Al-Hillah, Al-Hillah, Al-Kut, and Al-Miqdadiyah (see Figure 1).
- According to a senior Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, in early February 2003, Saddam had decided to use CW against US troops in the event of war.
- Reportedly in a mid-February 2003 meeting, senior members of the Iraqi armed forces and Ba’ath party members discussed plans to release unknown chemical agents by remote detonation in six populated areas near the Saudi-Jordanian frontier and in western Iraq.
- According to a foreign government service, as of 16 March 2003, the 108th artillery battalion of the Baghdad Republican Guard Division in Al-Kut was under orders to use CW on Coalition forces if they approached Al-Kut. The battalion was reportedly equipped with CW shells, including mustard and unidentified binary agents, and was commanded by Col. Muhammad Ibrahim Sulayman.
Origin of the Red Line—The Sandhurst Approach
Information acquired from various military sources and documents indicates that Iraq developed a defense doctrine that included a directive to defend to the last by all means necessary once Coalition forces approached a red line. Sources report that Saddam’s Leadership Defense Plan was based upon a tactical doctrine taught to all Iraqi Officers, but we have not found evidence that the plan explicitly included a trigger for CW use.
- The defensive tactical doctrine was originally taught to Iraqi Officers at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom, in the 1950s, and later similar doctrines were taught to Iraqi officers at British-style training courses in Pakistan. The fundamental principles are based upon concentric defensive perimeters or layered defensive lines.
- The defenses usually consisted of four lines:
- 4th line (yellow)—line along which reconnaissance units usually deploy;
- 3rd line (green) —first line of defense against advancing units;
- 2nd line (blue)—first major fallback positions for the units stationed at the blue line—additional troops, supplies, and ammo stationed here;
- 1st line (red)—innermost defense line or last line of defense and final fallback position for troops. Advancing forces would meet the heaviest resistance here, and it was the final staging area.
- 4th line (yellow)—line along which reconnaissance units usually deploy;
Reporting indicates that the multiline defense was attempted by some Iraqi forces defending against Coalition advances during OIF, with poor results:
- The 34th Infantry Division used the method in defending the Khanaquin Border Crossing—however, Coalition forces moved so rapidly and so many Iraqi soldiers deserted that the situation quickly became chaotic, and the notion of falling back to a stabilized line or lines was impossible.
- In addition, the 5th Mechanized Division used this doctrine in its defense of Kirkuk, but its lines successively collapsed under Coalition air assault.
Late 2002–Early 2003: Struggling To Generate a High-Level Defense Strategy
Available evidence indicates that the Iraqi Pre-OIF defense strategy evolved over a rather short time, from mid-2002 through the end of that year, and transitioned to the level of detailed tactical planning only shortly before OIF (see Chapter 1, Regime Strategic Intent).
- Even as Coalition forces built up around Iraq, Saddam continued to believe that they would not invade or attack Iraq; this belief was dispelled only by the beginning of OIF itself;
- Saddam perceived his armed forces to be stronger than they were and thought a Coalition invasion, if it did occur, would never penetrate as far as Baghdad;
- In fact, Saddam believed that a popular uprising would occur as the Coalition invasion progressed;
- Saddam’s inner circle reinforced his faulty perceptions out of fear of Saddam’s reaction.
High-Level Discussions Began in Earnest Only in Mid-2002 on a Regime Defense Plan. Starting in mid-2002 through OIF, the Intelligence Community received reporting that the Iraqi regime intended to use CW if Coalition forces invaded Iraq or threatened Baghdad. Iraq’s layered defense plan reportedly included the use of chemical weapons once Coalition forces crossed the defensive “red line.” Discussions about the deployment of WMD reportedly took place at various military levels, according to multiple reports.
- In August 2002, reporting indicated Saddam Husayn had selected a pool of approximately 100 experts and scientists to “solve Iraq’s problems” pertaining to the advancement, protection, and concealment of WMD programs. Rewards were reportedly provided to those scientists who came up with ideas for using WMD to thwart any potential US attack on Iraq.
- Reporting at various levels indicates WMD use was discussed; however, no source has been able to provide detailed plans how Iraq was going to use WMD against a Coalition invasion.
Reportedly both before and after OIF, planning an Iraqi defense strategy against Coalition forces underwent several stages. An initial plan appears to have been delivered by December 2002 and most likely underwent revisions until OIF.
- A senior Iraqi officer with direct knowledge of Iraqi war planning stated during OIF that at a meeting in December 2002, high-level Republican Guard Commanders and staff officers received the final orders on how Baghdad was to be defended from LTG Al-Rawi.
- Reporting prior to OIF from a senior active-duty Iraqi military officer indicated in early February 2003 the RG leadership was preoccupied with tactical defense planning against a possible Coalition attack. Defense plans were posited on three defensive lines, with the third and final line including Baghdad and its suburbs. Conventional training had been intensified by senior command, but there had been no increase in CBW training programs. Typical defensive chemical protection clothing and related materiel were provided, as were defensive chemical-warfare-related procedures.
Interrogations with several Iraqi division-level officers after OIF confirm that Saddam’s Defense Plan was based upon a layered defense doctrine. The innermost circle of defense was referred to as the “red line.” Once Iraqi troops retreated to the red line position, they were to “hold to the last” without further retreat, presumably ready to employ all available weaponry (see Figure 2).
- Interrogation of a senior Iraqi officer with direct knowledge of Iraqi war planning during OIF revealed that on 18 December 2002 the former RG High Level Commanders and Staff Officers met with former RG Chief of Staff LTG Sayf Al-Din Al- Rawi, Qusay Husayn, Former RG Commander, and Saddam Husayn to receive orders for the final Defense of Baghdad.
- According to the same source, Baghdad’s defenses would be based upon three defensive lines—units would fall back from one line to the next on orders from Saddam Husayn. The last line of this defensive plan was considered the red line, but, according to the officer, CW was not part of the defensive strategy because Saddam had indicated in a meeting that he had none. LTG Al-Rawi has eluded capture, and we have not been able to corroborate this information or confirm this meeting.
- Interrogations with Former Staff Maj. Gen. Salih Ibrahim Hammadi Al-Salmani—head of the Baghdad division of the Republican Guard during OIF—indicated that all Iraqi forces were given a preestablished red line to defend. Consistent with Sandhurst teachings, the red lines were established by HQ and were the final defensive fallback position where troops were to fight with the strongest resistance.
By April, the regime was nearing its end, and the discussions it had were no longer useful:
- Latif Nusayyif Al-Jasim Al-Duri—former member of the RCC and Deputy Secretary of the Ba’ath Military Bureau—indicated that at the last meeting he attended with Saddam and leading military and political figures in April 2003, Saddam was still asking “what kind of weapons preparations were accomplished and if any more were needed.”
- Al-Duri claimed that preparations for missiles and CW were not discussed but noted that the meetings were brief, which was unusual for revision and fine-tuning of a last-ditch defense plan. Other attendees regarded this as the farewell meetings rather than a planning meeting. Tariq Aziz also substantiated the fact that the last meeting with Saddam still did not include in-depth tactical discussion or presentation. This lends credence to the fact that the defense plan never came together at the tactical level (see Figure 3).
Figure 3 denotes Former Staff General Salih al-Salmani’s impression of the red-line doctrine for the defense of Baghdad (the graphic provides an approximation of the layered defense structure). This graphic is a similar to Figure 2 on the previous page in denoting the layered defense and red line.
Flag-Level Opinion—No Knowledge of CW Plans, but Conventional Wisdom Expects It
At the same time as policymakers at the Presidential level were trying to generate a plan for defense against the Coalition, generals and high level defense officials believed that a plan for CW use existed, even though they themselves knew nothing about the details.
Several high-ranking Iraqi military officials claimed CW was not part of an organized Iraqi Defense Plan but kept open the possibility that discussions took place in closed venues at higher levels. This suggests that Iraqi conventional wisdom agreed that CW was part of a secret plan, even in the absence of direct evidence:
- A major contributor to the Iraqi Defense Plan, former Defense Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmad Al-Tai, was captured by Coalition forces in September 2003. The Minister asserts that at no time was WMD discussed in strategy meetings to lay out an Iraq Defense Plan but does not rule out the possibility that discussions ensued at higher levels.
- Sultan Hashem was never directly asked if the red-line doctrine included the use of CW; however he firmly asserts that WMD use was not a topic of the defense plan and would have been a topic for a different, compartmentalized forum. Hashem also noted the large number of people who were shocked when Saddam announced in December 2002 in an open forum that Iraq did not possess WMD.
- After OIF, the commander of the Iraqi military’s chemical corps, Gen. Amar Husayn al-Samarrai informed the US that Iraqi leaders had intended to concentrate their forces around the critical cities of Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul and Tikrit, with each city surrounded by several defensive layers. Samarrai was not aware of any offensive strategy to use CW against Coalition forces but indicated his job was to make sure the Iraqi military was fully equipped to handle a coalition chemical attack.
- At the onset of OIF (late March), according to a foreign government service, an Iraqi security official indicated that Iraq’s chemical weapons munitions had been removed from Baghdad as a result of the coalition air attack. He contends the bombing in late March 2003 resulted in the inability to prepare chemical weapons immediately against Coalition forces.
- Preliminary searches of the recovered documentation do not reveal written or recorded official documents regarding an Iraqi defense doctrine and execution orders for CW.
Investigation Into Nontraditional CW Use—The Fedayeen Saddam
Traditional tactics in the deployment of CW would have been under the control of Saddam and Qusay Husayn with the SSO and RG delivering and deploying the munitions either by missile (with heavy MIC assistance), mortar, or artillery. However, ISG also investigated whether there was any evidence of CW use planned by the two most skilled groups in unconventional/nontraditional tactics and methods, the Saddam Fedayeen and the IIS, specifically the special operations elements of M14 cooperating with M16 technical experts.
There are no indications from the limited intelligence available that Fedayeen doctrine included the use of CW if a red line was breached. There is some evidence to indicate that ‘Uday wanted to deploy CW, but was unable to obtain them.
- According to reporting prior to OIF, in mid-March 2003, ‘Uday Saddam Husayn sought CW agents from OMI and tasked Muhammad Khudayr Al-Halbusi Al-Dulaymi—then director of IIS M-14—who asked Imad Hussayn ‘Abdallah ‘Al-‘Ani (the father of Iraq’s VX program), to provide an unspecified CW agent. Dulaymi dispatched a courier who communicated the message to Al-Ani. Al-Ani asked for two weeks to study feasibility as a delaying tactic and replied after two weeks that OMI facilities were not capable of producing CW agents and the required chemical precursors were not available in Iraq. However, after OIF Muhammad Al-Dulaymi was interrogated on 17 July 2004, he asserted that ‘Uday Husayn never contacted him requesting chemical weapons.
Post-OIF Reporting on Red Line
Interrogations, interviews, and documents obtained after OIF have confirmed that the “red line” was indeed part of regime planning, but they have not revealed a plan by Iraq to use CW at a pre-positioned red line. Information from numerous military officials indicates that Iraq was not able to use chemical weapons at the time of OIF, although ISG has not been able to locate and debrief some of the key Iraqi military commanders. Exploitation of military sites within the identified “red line” revealed no large cache of chemical weapons or indications that large amounts of chemical weapons were present (for further information, see Annex C).
- Reporting prior to OIF that Saddam in early October 2002 authorized the use of prohibited weapons at the discretion of four field commanders was contradicted by one of the field commanders who surrendered to Coalition Forces in May 2003. Former Staff Gen. Kamal Mustafa claims he did not have WMD at the time of war and indicates that the ‘red line’ plan did, in fact, exist but was simplistic in nature.
- According to the reporting, “special weapons” could have been employed dependent on certain conditions, such as climate and troop disposition, once Coalition forces breached this red-line perimeter. There were no indications of chemical weapon use when Coalition forces breached this zone, although sand storms and high winds, or dispersed troop formations, might have prevented the use of CW.
- During OIF, reporting from a former senior Iraqi Special Security Organization Officer with direct access indicated in early March 2003 the Iraqi Regime planned to defend Baghdad by establishing seven rings of defense. The source believed that “extreme defense measures” would be employed, and these measures would include WMD under the control of Qusay Husayn. The former officer also believed the defense plan was impenetrable and never executed because of a breakdown of the Iraqi military.
No Evidence of Red Line Defense Plan With CW Use at the Unit or SSO Level
Traditionally, the RG Deployed Chemical Weapons Under Ad Hoc Control of the SSO. Past doctrine would have the SSO deliver unmarked chemical weapons to the RG, who would fire the weapon at a location dictated by an SSO officer. We assess RG Commanders were not aware of SSO intentions prior to the chemical weapons use. This notion supports a CW use concept that would have been compartmentalized and therefore not discussed at most defense planning meetings.
Available evidence is not consistent, however, with a compartmented CW use program involving SSO assets:
- Pre-OIF reporting from the Kuwait government service from a source with good access indicates that, as of 16 March 2003, the 108th artillery battalion of the Baghdad Republican Guard (RG) division in Al-Kut was under orders to use CW on coalition forces if they approached Al-Kut. The battalion, commanded by Col. Muhammad Ibrahim Sulayman, was reportedly equipped with CW shells, including mustard and unidentified binary agents. However, this source was contradicted during OIF by a senior RG artillery officer with direct and indirect knowledge of information on the use of chemical weapons use for the 108th artillery battalion, who asserted that the 108th did not receive any chemical weapons.
- Another source claimed that, unlike the Iran-Iraq war, SSO personnel did not deliver ammunition during OIF, and the SSO officer attached to the 108th, CPT Jamal Al-Tikriti, did not bring chemical weapons with him.
Post-1991 to OIF, a senior scientific advisor to Saddam through interviews conducted after OIF shed light on the launch procedures for modern Iraqi missiles. He asserted that, because of the complexity and prototype nature of the new systems, technicians from the Military Industrial Commission (MIC) would be heavily involved in missile preparations, aiming, and launching. RG and SSO involvement would be unlike pre-1991 doctrine. The military would only provide the target by direction from “a single location.”
- A senior scientific advisor to Saddam through interviews conducted after OIF provided insight into the missile launching procedures. MIC technicians reportedly launched all available Al Samoud and Al Fat’h missiles. However, missiles experienced enough faults, due to their prototype status, that they required technicians to be on hand continuously to fix problems as they were detected. The MIC technicians then aligned-aimed the missiles and conducted the launch operations. The Iraqi military was responsible only for relaying the targets to the MIC-OMI technicians.
- All targeting information came from on location and field commanders had no say in the matter. Regarding WMD warheads and who would have control of the warheads (MIC, SSO or RG) the source states there were no WMD warheads.
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