Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction – The assessment of British Government (2002)
Saddam Hussein’s rise to power
Saddam Hussein was born in 1937 in the Tikrit district, north of Baghdad. In 1957 he joined the Ba’ath Party. After taking part in a failed attempt to assassinate the Iraqi President, Abdul Karim Qasim, Saddam escaped, first to Syria and then to Egypt. In his absence he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Saddam returned to Baghdad in 1963 when the Ba’ath Party came to power. He went into hiding after the Ba’ath fell from power later that year. He was captured and imprisoned, but in 1967 escaped and took over responsibility for Ba’ath security. Saddam set about imposing his will on the Party and establishing himself at the centre of power.
The Ba’ath Party returned to power in 1968. In 1969 Saddam became Vice- Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Deputy to the President, and Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Command of the Ba’ath. In 1970 he joined the Party’s National Command and in 1977 was elected Assistant Secretary General. In July 1979, he took over the Presidency of Iraq. Within days, five fellow members of the Revolutionary Command Council were accused of involvement in a coup attempt. They and 17 others were summarily executed.
Saddam Hussein’s security apparatus
Saddam relies on a long list of security organisations with overlapping responsibilities. The main ones are:
- The Special Security Organisation oversees Saddam’s security and monitors the loyalty of other security services. Its recruits are predominantly from Tikrit.
- The Special Republican Guard is equipped with the best available military equipment. Its members are selected on the basis of loyalty to the regime.
- The Directorate of General Security is primarily responsible for countering threats from the civilian population.
- The Directorate of General Intelligence monitors and suppresses dissident activities at home and abroad.
- The Directorate of Military Intelligence’s role includes the investigation of military personnel.
- The Saddam Fidayeen, under the control of Saddam’s so
IRAQ UNDER SADDAM HUSSEIN
1-The Republic of Iraq is bounded by Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the Persian Gulf. Its population of around 23 million is ethnically and religiously diverse. Approximately 77% are Arabs. Sunni Muslims form around 17% of the Arab population and dominate the government. About 60% of Iraqis are Shias and 20% are Kurds. The remaining 3% of the population consists of Assyrians, Turkomans, Armenians, Christians and Yazidis.
2-Public life in Iraq is nominally dominated by the Ba’ath Party (see box on p44). But all real authority rests with Saddam and his immediate circle. Saddam’s family, tribe and a small number of associates remain his most loyal supporters. He uses them to convey his orders, including to members of the government.
3-Saddam uses patronage and violence to motivate his supporters and to control or eliminate opposition. Potential rewards include social status, money and better access to goods. Saddam’s extensive security apparatus and Ba’ath Party network provides oversight of Iraqi society, with informants in social, government and military organisations. Saddam practises torture, execution and other forms of coercion against his enemies, real or suspected. His targets are not only those who have offended him, but also their families, friends or colleagues.
The Iraqi Ba’ath Party
The Ba’ath Party is the only legal political party in Iraq. It pervades all aspects of Iraqi life. Membership, around 700,000, is necessary for self- advancement and confers benefits from the regime.
4-Saddam acts to ensure that there are no other centres of power in Iraq. He has crushed parties and ethnic groups, such as the communists and the Kurds, which might try to assert themselves. Members of the opposition abroad have been the targets of assassination attempts conducted by Iraqi security services.
5-Army officers are an important part of the Iraqi government’s network of informers. Suspicion that officers have ambitions other than the service of the President leads to immediate execution. It is routine for Saddam to take preemptive action against those who he believes might conspire against him.
Internal Repression – the Kurds and the Shias
6-Saddam has pursued a long-term programme of persecution of the Iraqi Kurds, including through the use of chemical weapons. During the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam appointed his cousin, Ali Hasan al-Majid, as his deputy in the north. In 1987-88, al-Majid led the “Anfal” campaign of attacks on Kurdish villages. Amnesty International estimates that more than 100,000 Kurds were killed or disappeared during this period.
7-After the Gulf War in 1991 Kurds in the north of Iraq rose up against Baghdad’s rule. In response the Iraqi regime killed or imprisoned thousands, prompting a humanitarian crisis. Over a million Kurds fled into the mountains and tried to escape Iraq.
8-Persecution of Iraq’s Kurds continues, although the protection provided by the northern No-Fly Zone has helped to curb the worst excesses. But outside this zone the Baghdad regime has continued a policy of persecution and intimidation.
9-The regime has used chemical weapons against the Kurds, most notably in an attack on the town of Halabja in 1988 (see Part 1 Chapter 2 paragraph 9). The implicit threat of the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds and others is an important part of Saddam’s attempt to keep the civilian population under control.
10-The regime has tried to displace the traditional Kurdish and Turkoman populations of the areas under its control, primarily in order to weaken Kurdish claims to the oil-rich area around the northern city of Kirkuk. Kurds and other non-Arabs are forcibly ejected to the three northern Iraqi governorates, Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaimaniyah, which are under de facto Kurdish control. According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) Special Rapporteur for Iraq, 94,000 individuals have been expelled since 1991. Agricultural land owned by Kurds has been confiscated and redistributed to Iraqi Arabs. Arabs from southern Iraq have been offered incentives to move into the Kirkuk area.
11-After the 1979 revolution that ousted the Shah in Iran, Saddam intensified a campaign against the Shia Muslim majority of Iraq, fearing that they might be encouraged by the new Shia regime in Iran.
12-On 1 March 1991, in the wake of the Gulf War, riots broke out in the southern city of Basra, spreading quickly to other cities in Shia-dominated southern Iraq. The regime responded by killing thousands. Many Shia tried to escape to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
13-Some of the Shia hostile to the regime sought refuge in the marshland of southern Iraq. In order to subjugate the area, Saddam embarked on a large-scale programme to drain the marshes to allow Iraqi ground forces to eliminate all opposition there. The rural population of the area fled or were forced to move to southern cities or across the border into Iran.
Human Rights –individual testimony
In December 1996, a Kurdish businessman from Baghdad was arrested outside his house by plainclothes security men. Initially his family did not know his whereabouts and went from one police station to another inquiring about him. Then they found out that he was being held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad. The family was not allowed to visit him. Eleven months later the family was told by the authorities that he had been executed and that they should go and collect his body. His body bore evident signs of torture. His eyes were gouged out and the empty eye sockets filled with paper. His right wrist and left leg were broken. The family was not given any reason for his arrest and subsequent execution. However, they suspected that he was executed because of his friendship with a retired army general who had links with the Iraqi opposition outside the country and who was arrested just before his arrest and also executed. (Source: Amnesty International)
Human Rights – individual testimony
“…I saw a friend of mine, al-Shaikh Nasser Taresh al-Sa’idi, naked. He was handcuffed and a piece of wood was placed between his elbows and his knees. Two ends of the wood were placed on two high chairs and al-Shaikh Nasser was being suspended like a chicken. This method of torture is known as al-Khaygania (a reference to a former security director known as al- Khaygani). An electric wire was attached to al-Shaikh Nasser’s penis and another one attached to one of his toes. He was asked if he could identify me and he said “this is al-Shaikh Yahya”. They took me to another room and then after about 10 minutes they stripped me of my clothes and a security officer said “the person you saw has confessed against you”. He said to me “You followers of [Ayatollah] al-Sadr have carried out acts harmful to the security of the country and have been distributing anti-government statements coming from abroad”. He asked if I have any contact with an Iraqi religious scholar based in Iran who has been signing these statements. I said “I do not have any contacts with him”… I was then left suspended in the same manner as al- Shaikh al-Sa’idi. My face was looking upward. They attached an electric wire on my penis and the other end of the wire is attached to an electric motor. One security man was hitting my feet with a cable. Electric shocks were applied every few minutes and were increased. I must have been suspended for more than an hour. I lost consciousness. They took me to another room and made me walk even though my feet were swollen from beating… They repeated this method a few times.” (Source: Amnesty International, testimony from an Iraqi theology student from Saddam City)
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