The following is a general overview of the major maneuver formations of the Iraqi land forces, as of late 2002. It is important to note that this is not intended to be a complete order-of-battle for the Iraqi Army. Conspicuously absent from the tables below are artillery, aviation, air defense, and combat support units, along with independent subunits and special operations forces. I have also omitted paramilitary forces fielded by the dozen or so internal security organs of the Iraqi regime, such as the Special Security Organization's al-Himaya (Presidential Guard) or the Fedayin Saddam. My intent was only to build a rough picture of the conventional Iraqi Army at the corps and division level; those seeking a more detailed study may find the sources cited in the endnotes to be useful. As with all of my inquiries into matters of this nature, I expect there to be errors, which I hope people will bring to my attention over time. This should therefore be viewed as a work in progress. -RJL.
Special Republican Guard
The Special Republican Guard was formed in the late 1980s for the regime protection mission, drawing upon the most reliable personnel from the "regular" Guard units. It serves as Saddam's heavy praetorian guard, and receives first priority for equipment and funding. About 15,000 strong, the SRG is concentrated in and around Baghdad and is the only conventional military force entrusted with the defense of the capital (although there are any number of internal security paramilitary brigades stationed within the city limits). The SRG's four infantry brigades are deployed in key locations around Baghdad (including in various presidential palaces and at the international airport), while its single armored brigade deploys two regiments of T-72s to defend the city approaches.1 It also has its own organic air defense force to protect the city from air attack.
Constituting the elite conventional formations of the Iraqi Army, the Republican Guard came to worldwide prominence during the 1991 Gulf War. Guard units fought viciously against Coalition ground forces during the hundred-hour ground offensive, and several units, such as the Tawalkana Armored Division, fought to the death. Better-trained and better-equipped than the regular army, the Guard currently consists of six divisions organized into two corps, with an estimated strength of 80,000.2 Traditionally, the Republican Guard has been manned by the best officers and soldiers from the regular army, with more emphasis placed on basic military competence than strict political reliability.3 This has led to some difficulty for Saddam in the recent past, when several coup plots were uncovered among Republican Guard officers. A recent news report suggests that because of his continuing doubts about the political reliability of the Guard, Saddam will not permit "regular" Guard units to deploy into Baghdad for fear that they will use their heavy combat power to overthrow the regime.4 In the years since the 1991 Gulf War, the Guard has been primarily employed in repressive operations against opposition elements within Iraq.
The Guard's Northern Corps (sometimes known as the
"Allahu Akhbar Forces") is concentrated in the central and
northern part of the country and is positioned to defend Baghdad and
Tikrit. The Al-Madina Armored Division (which saw heavy action in
1991) is positioned to protect Baghdad, while the Adnan division is said
to be deployed near Mosul.5
Despite its name, the Baghdad Infantry Division is not actually the
capital garrison (a role which is filled by the SRG).6
The precise configuration of the component brigades may differ slightly
from what is stated above (for example, it may be the Adnan's 12th
Brigade rather than the 21st which is the division's armored
brigade). The Al-Madina is unusual in that it has four maneuver
brigades, rather than the traditional three.
The Guard's Southern Corps is deployed southeast of Baghdad, oriented along the Iranian, Kuwaiti, and Saudi strategic axes.7 The Hammurabi and Al Neda Armored Divisions deployed to the Kuwaiti border in October 1994, prompting a massive U.S. reinforcement of Kuwait as part of Operation VIGILANT WARRIOR.8
The regular army, consisting of seventeen divisions organized into five numbered corps, is in very poor shape. Eleven of Iraq's regular divisions are "light" infantry divisions, which are manned by draftees largely drawn from Iraq's oppressed Shi'ite majority.9 Most of the regular army's combat power resides in the six "heavy" mechanized and armored divisions, which are somewhat better off than the infantry divisions. In all cases the regular army is equipped with outdated equipment (most of the armored brigades field T-55s, with a light scattering of T-62s, and the mechanized brigades generally get around in MTLBs). The regular army is estimated to field about 300,000 men.10
The Iraqi 1st Corps is headquartered in Kirkuk, and
its elements are oriented to the north in the Turkish border region,
facing the Kurds.11 Its heaviest
unit is the 5th Mechanized, which saw action against Coalition forces in
the Gulf War and fought enthusiastically, if somewhat poorly.12
In 1998, sources reported that the 5th was equipped with a mix of T-55s,
BTR-60s, BMP-1s, and MTLBs. In March 1995,
the 130th and 847th Infantry Brigades of the 38th Infantry Division
(then described as "easily the worst formation in the Iraqi
Army") were attacked and broken by rebel fighters during the
ill-fated Kurdish revolt of that month.13
This was a somewhat inglorious moment for the Iraqi Army.
The 2nd Corps is deployed in eastern Iraq, facing the
Iranian border.14 Its heavy
component is the 3rd Armored Division, which fields T-62 tanks as part
of the 6th Armored Brigade and the 8th Mechanized Brigade.
The 3rd Corps is deployed near the Kuwaiti border15
and includes two heavy divisions, primarily equipped with T-55s, BMP-1s
(6th Armored Division), and MTLBs (51st Mechanized Division). The
51st Mechanized, along with the Hammurabi Republican Guard Division, was
involved in the bloody suppression of Basra in the months immediately
following the end of the 1991 Gulf War.16
The 4th Corps deploys in southern Iraq, facing the
Iranian border.17 Its heavy
force, the 10th Armored Division, is equipped with a mix of T-55 and
The 5th Corps is deployed in northern Iraq facing the Syrian border.18 The 1st Mechanized is the corps' heavy force, and each of its mechanized brigades consists of three battalions of MTLB-equipped mechanized infantry and one T-55B tank regiment. The 34th Armored Brigade is organized in reverse, with three regiments of tanks and a single mechanized infantry battalion.
General note on sources. Only open sources were used in the preparation of this material. The Iraqi order-of-battle information set forth above was initially based upon information published by the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC) circa 1998, and archived on the web here. The INC material purports to set forth an Iraqi order-of-battle down to the battalion level, and includes fairly granular information on commanders and equipment. However, there are some obvious problems with the INC data. The INC information was cross-confirmed and updated with the more recent data cited in Anthony H. Cordesman, Iraq's Military Capabilities in 2002: A Dynamic Net Assessment (The Center for Strategic and International Studies: September 2002), and in Kenneth M. Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (Random House: 2002). Also helpful was Ty Bomba's well-known article, Back to Iraq: Speculations on Gulf War II, originally published in issue 50 of Command magazine (1998). Where there were inconsistencies between these sources, I did some limited supplementary research, then took an educated guess. Naturally, any errors and inaccuracies that may appear in these tables are mine alone.
2. Some sources add a seventh, the Al' Abed Motorized Division of the Northern Corps. As of late 2002, however, most sources cite only six Republican Guard divisions. The 80,000 figure is from Pollack, p. 159.
4. See Brian Whitaker, "Loyalty of Iraq's Elite in Doubt", The Guardian (Sept. 20, 2002), available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,795592,00.html>.