May 28, 2016

Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network; A Guide and Analysis


Volume 6, No. 3 – September 2002

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By Ibrahim al-Marashi

Ensuring the survival of President Saddam Hussein are five primary agencies that make up the Iraqi security apparatus: Special Security, General Security, General Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Military Security. In addition to preventing coups and protecting Saddam, these agencies, whose duties largely overlap, maintain internal domestic security and conduct foreign operations. These intelligence agencies along with the Ba?th Party organizations and select units of the military form Saddam?s security network, permeating every aspect of Iraqi life and ensuring his total control over the state.

Iraq?s security apparatus, commonly referred to as the Mukhabarat, is one of the main instruments of state control for Saddam?s regime and has been instrumental in its survival despite two costly wars plus numerous internal insurrections, coup attempts and crippling international sanctions.

Al-Mukhabarat al-?Iraqiyya

(The Iraqi Mukhabarat) rather than a monolithic unit is a vast, complex labyrinth of security organizations with their own intelligence and military units pervading all layers of Iraqi society. The number and size of these agencies have grown dramatically since the Ba?th party takeover of Iraq in 1968. The five main agencies are the al-Amn al-Khas (Special Security), al-Amn al-?Amm (General Security), al-Mukhabarat (General Intelligence), al-Istikhbarat (Military Intelligence) and al-Amn al-?Askari (Military Security). In addition, there is a myriad of Ba?th Party security agencies, civil police forces,aramilitary militias, and special military units which protect the regime.

The agencies? jurisdiction is designed to overlap in order to encourage competition and to ensure that no one service will become strong enough to threaten Saddam. In fact, some agencies were created specifically to monitor the activities of the others. All of them are responsible for protecting the president, countering domestic dissent, block coups or mass insurrections, prevent external threats to the regime and conduct foreign operations. All also play a role in procuring and concealing Iraq?s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. All five intelligence agencies are headquartered in Baghdad, but General Intelligence, Military Intelligence, and General Security maintain field offices in numerous provinces, cities and towns of Iraq. Generally, Military Intelligence and Military Security deal exclusively with military matters, while General Security focuses focus on the civilian domain.

The majority of these forces are staffed by relatives of Saddam, members of his al-Bu Nasser tribe, or come from the towns of Tikrit, Dur, Sharqat, Huwayja, Bayji, Samarra and Ramadi, located in what is known as the Sunni Arab Triangle. Sunni tribes and families that have played a powerful role in the security apparatus include the Dulaym, the Jubur (mixed Shi?a/Sunni) and the ?Ubayd tribe, as well as members of the Duri, and Samarrai families.(1)

As a rule, each agency has an inner security unit that monitors any dissent in that agency. The head of this unit reports directly to the agency chief who reports directly to the president or the Office of the Presidential Palace.(2) While in other countries, intelligence agencies report to their respective ministries, such as defense or interior, in Iraq they report directly to the president. After Saddam, Qusay, his younger son, is perhaps the most powerful person in the apparatus with direct control over Special Security and the Special Republican Guard.

The material on this subject is scant. However events after the Gulf War have provided a wealth of primary material on the activities, operations, structure and organization of Iraq?s security apparatus. Kanan Makiya?s book Republic of Fear gives a detailed background on the background of the apparatus.(3) Sean Boyne wrote a two-part article in Jane?s Intelligence Review providing a detailed breakdown of its structure based on interviews with former members of the Iraqi intelligence.(4)

Documentation also became available after the invasion of Kuwait and the post-Gulf War uprising in the north of Iraq. In March 1991, Kurdish militias stormed Iraqi intelligence headquarters and Ba?th party bureaus in numerous northern Iraqi towns, among them Kirkuk, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyya, and Irbil. The militia of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) seized the confidential files in these buildings looking for information on the Iraqi government spies in their own organization.

After Iraqi Republican Guards brutally suppressed the insurrection, the retreating Kurds took about four million documents totaling about ten million pages with them. Makiya and Peter Galbraith were instrumental in arranging the transfer of most of these Iraqi government documents to the United States for study.(5) Human Rights/Middle East Watch was the first organization to analyze and publish material on the documents.(6) In addition, over 300,000 documents were abandoned in Kuwait by retreating Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War. A sample of these documents can be found in the publications of The Center for Research and Studies on Kuwait.(7) Both sets of documents from northern Iraq and Kuwait are being studied by the Iraq Research and Documentation Project in Washington, DC and some files can be accessed through their website.(8)

All this provides unprecedented insight into the workings of Saddam?s Iraq and the impressive, repressive state security apparatus. The documents give a blueprint of the operations, organizations, chains of command, and divisions of power in this network.



The Iraqi National Security Council, al-Majlis al-Amn al-Qawmi,(9) is an important element of this network.(10) Headed by Saddam, but usually chaired by Qusay, the Council includes representatives from the Office of the Presidential Palace and Iraq?s five major security units. Although Special Security was created to serve as an agency to coordinate Iraq?s competing intelligence and security services, the National Security Council serves as the supervisory body on intelligence matters.

But this does not mean that the National Security Council actually coordinates the agencies? activities precisely because the system is designed to encourage inter-agency competition and duplication. Information-sharing or cooperation among the agencies is rare. Instead, all intelligence is meant to flow directly to the Presidential palace.(11) But the Council does provide another way for Saddam and his closest advisors to get an overview of the agencies? activities and also to coordinate the actions of the independent, rapid-response military brigades attached to General Security, Military Intelligence, General Intelligence and Military Security, as well as the Special Republican Guard.(12)




Al-Amn al-Khas

(Special Security)(13) was created during the Iran-Iraq War and emerged as the most powerful agency in the security apparatus. It emerged from within General Security in 1982 to provide bodyguards to the president after a failed assassination attempt.(14) Hussein Kamil, Saddam?s cousin, son-in-law, and minister for military industrialization, (as well as minister of defense after the 1991 Gulf War)(15) was instrumental in creating this agency and selecting the most loyal agents from General Security, Military Intelligence and General Intelligence to serve in it. Hussein Kamil?s brother, Saddam Kamil, was also a member of Special Security, before both of them defected to Jordan in 1995 and were later killed by Saddam Hussein upon their return to Baghdad. After graduating from his studies in 1988, Qusay Hussein, the son of Saddam, was made deputy director. During the 1991 Gulf War, Fanar Zibin Hassan al-Tikriti was made head of Special Security,(16) but was replaced in 1992 by Qusay. There are an estimated 5,000 members(17) in this organization mostly from the towns of Tikrit, Huwayja and Samarra.(18) Members of this Bureau enjoy a higher standard of living than the elements of the other agencies.(19)


The responsibilities of Special Security can be roughly classified as follows: 1) providing security for the president, at all times, especially during travel and public meetings; 2) securing all presidential facilities, such as palaces and offices; 3) supervising other security and intelligence services; 4) monitoring government ministries and the leadership of the armed forces; 5) supervising internal security operations against the Kurdish and Shi?a opposition; 6) purchasing foreign arms and technology; 7) securing Iraq?s most critical military industries; and 8) directing efforts to conceal Iraq?s WMD programs.

While its primary duty is protecting the president, it manages the actions of the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard. Special Security is charged with the surveillance of General Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Military Security, and General Security. It is clearly the regime?s most important security agency.(20) According to one source, “It is the eyes and ears of the President, as well as the hand to implement, directly or indirectly, the President?s security directives. This body is in charge of collecting information about the activities of all high ranking officials and even information about members of the President?s immediate family.”(21)


The director-general of Special Security supervises its Special Bureau, Political Bureau and Administration Bureau, the agency?s own military brigade, and the Special Republican Guard.(22) Its own military brigade serves as a rapid response unit independent of the military establishment or Special Republican Guard. In the event of a coup attempt from within the regular military or Republican Guard, Special Security can easily call up the Special Republican Guard for reinforcements(23) as this unit is also under its control.(24)

The Security Bureau: The Security Bureau is divided into a Special Office, which monitors the Special Security agency itself to assure loyalty among its members. If necessary, it conducts operations against suspect members.(25) The Office of Presidential Facilities, another unit of the Security Bureau, guards these places through Jihaz al-Hamaya al-Khas (The Special Protection Apparatus). It is charged with protecting the Presidential Offices, Council of Ministers, National Council, and the Regional and National Command of the Ba?th Party, and is the only unit responsible for providing bodyguards to leaders.(26)

The Political Bureau: The Political Bureau collects and analyses intelligence and prepares operations against “enemies of the state.” This unit keeps an extensive file on all Iraqi dissidents or subversives. Under the Political Bureau, the Operations Office implements operations against these “enemies,” including arrests, interrogations and executions. Another division is the Public Opinion Office, responsible for collecting and disseminating rumors on behalf of the state.(27)


The operations of Special Security are numerous, particularly in suppressing domestic opposition to the regime. After its creation in 1984, Special Security thwarted a plot of disgruntled army officers, who objected to Saddam?s management of the Iran-Iraq War.(28) It preempted other coups such as the January 1990 attempt by members of the Jubur tribe to assassinate him.(29) It played an active role in crushing the March 1991 Shi?a rebellion in the south of Iraq. Along with General Intelligence, Special Security agents infiltrated the Kurdish enclave in the north of Iraq in August 1996, to hunt down operatives of the Iraqi opposition.

Special Security watched over the activities of Military Intelligence and the KGB, Soviet secret police, advisors in Iraq during the 1980s who assisted their Iraqi counterparts in concealing covert weapons production facilities.(30) It serves as the central coordinating body between Military-Industrial Commission, Military Intelligence, General Intelligence, and the military in the covert procurement of the necessary components for Iraq?s weapons of mass destruction.(31) During the 1991 Gulf War it was put in charge of concealing SCUD missiles(32) and afterwards in moving and hiding documents from UNSCOM inspections, relating to Iraq?s weapons programs.

It is also thought that Special Security is responsible for commercial trade conducted covertly tin violation of UN sanctions, especially with Iran.(33)


GENERAL SECURITY SERVICE (AL-AMN AL-?AMM) (General Security),(34) the oldest security agency in the country, dates back to 1921, when it was created during the British Mandate era.(35) In 1973, Nadhim Kazzar, head of General Security attempted a coup against both President Hassan al-Bakr and then Vice-President Saddam Hussein. After this coup attempt, Saddam arranged for the KGB to aid in a reorganization and modernization of General Security.(36) One reform was transferring many of General Security?s responsibilities to his newly formed General Intelligence agency.(37)


Al-Amn al-?Amm

General Security remained under the Ministry of the Interior as a civilian police force until the late 1970s, when it was established as an independent agency reporting directly to the Presidential Palace.(38) In the late 1980s, a number of detectives were transferred to General Security from the investigative section of the civilian police.(39) The size of General Security is estimated to be 8,000 personnel.(40)

As a policy, Saddam staffs General Security with relatives, members of the Tikriti clan, or members of Sunni tribes.  In 1980, Saddam appointed ?Ali Hassan al-Majid, who would later be the architect of the regime?s anti-Kurdish campaign, as its director to instill the ideology of the Ba?th Party into the agency.(41) General Security was given more political intelligence responsibilities during the Iran-Iraq War. When Majid was put in charge of repressing the Kurdish insurrection in 1987, General ?Abdul Rahman al-Duri replaced him until 1991 when Saddam Hussein?s half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Tikriti, (who had served as its deputy director prior to 1991) then became head of this agency.(42) In 1996, General Taha ?Abbas al-Ahbabi was appointed director after Saddam doubted Sabawi?s loyalty.(43)


General Security is essentially a political security police force whose activities are: 1) detecting dissent among the Iraqi general public; 2) reacting to political “criminal behavior”; and 3) preventing economic criminal activity. It monitors the day-to-day lives of the population creating a pervasive local presence.(44) It maintains an extensive filing system of personal files?such as birth certificates and marriages records–of Iraqi citizens. The agency operates an extensive network of informers, under the 1970 “Law of Securing the Trustworthy in Defending the Revolution.” General Security coordinates its operations with the civilian police force and maintains a unit in every police station.(45) However, the agency?s responsibilities have been reduced, as other organizations have assumed many of its former responsibilities.


The headquarters of General Security is located in Baghdad, from which it guides the work of branches in each Iraqi governate. Saddam provided it with a paramilitary wing known as Quwat al-Tawari? (The Emergency Forces)(46) after the 1991 Gulf War to reinforce law and order.(47)

The Investigations Directorate of General Security maintains a large network of informants, while its Technical Directorate monitors daily telephone conversations and radio frequencies.(48) Its intra-intelligence unit, the Security Office, is responsible for surveillance of other members and countering any dissent within the organization.(49)


The majority of the documents in the Northern Iraq Dataset were produced by General Security, since its responsibilities included countering any dissent in the Kurdish areas, as well as Military Intelligence, since the army was responsible for the actual counterinsurgency operations there.(50) After the 1991 Gulf War, al-Quwat al-Tawari? units were responsible for hiding Iraqi ballistic missile components.(51) It also operates the notorious Abu Ghuraib prison outside of Baghdad, where many of Iraq?s political prisoners are held.(52)



While General Security and Military Intelligence were created during the period of Iraq?s monarchy, al-Mukhabarat (The Iraqi Intelligence Service)(53) emerged from within the Iraqi Arab Socialist Ba?th Party. Saddam Hussein participated in an unsuccessful Ba?th Party attempt to assassinate Iraq?s ruler ?Abd al-Karim Qasim in October 1959. After escaping arrest from the failed assassination, a 26-year-old Saddam Husayn assumed a position in the party leadership in 1964, and under his exclusive control, created a small internal, security intelligence organization consisting of some of the party?s younger members. He selected the members personally to protect the Ba?th from external and internal enemies. This unit has been referred to by the codename, Jihaz al-Khas (The Special Apparatus)–not to be confused with Special Security. After 1968, it was known as Jihaz al-Hanin (The Yearning Apparatus).(54) Al-Jihaz was infamous for assassinating members of other political groups as well as fellow Ba?th Party members. Saddam?s experience in controlling this small intelligence unit allowed him gradual control over the party organization, and by manipulating the ruling party, he was able to control the Iraqi state.(55)

After al-Jihaz aided in the Ba?th Party coup on July 17, 1968, Saddam expanded its role, while at the same time he attempted to consolidate his control over the already existing General Security. In 1973 al-Jihaz was transformed officially into the Da?irat al-Mukhabarat al-?Amma (The General Intelligence Department) or General Intelligence, in response to the failed coup attempt by General Security director Nadhim Kazzar.(56) Al-Jihaz formed the nucleus to what would emerge as the all-encompassing agency known today as General Intelligence. Makiya says, “Unlike other policing agencies, the Mukhabarat is a distinctly political body, not merely a professional organ of state charged with safe-guarding national security.”(57)

Afterwards, another of Saddam?s half-brothers, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was given a prominent role in General Intelligence, while Sa?dun Shakir, Saddam?s cousin, served as its head. In 1982 Barzan replaced Sa?dun as director due to the latter?s failure to preempt an assassination attempt on Saddam?s life.(58) Barzan?s appointment did not last long until in 1983 Saddam made him Iraq?s ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Barzan was succeeded by an academic, Fadil Barak al-Tikriti, who held this position until 1989, when he was replaced by Barzan?s brother, Saba?wi Ibrahim al-Tikriti.(59) Saba?wi served as the director of General Intelligence during the 1991 Gulf War.(60) After the Gulf War, Saba?wi was replaced by Sabir ?Abdul ?Aziz al-Duri.(61) Mani ?Abd al-Rashid al-Tikriti thereafter became the director and was replaced by Rafi Dahham al-Tikriti. Rafi Dahham, according to opposition sources, was killed on President Saddam Hussein?s orders.(62) Intelligence director Tahir ?Abd al-Jalil al-Habbush became the director in October 1999.(63)

General Intelligence is estimated to have approximately 8,000 members, but such numbers are difficult to corroborate.(64)


General Intelligence is roughly divided into a department responsible for internal operations, coordinated through provincial offices, and another responsible for international operations, conducted from various Iraqi embassies. Its internal activities include: 1) monitoring the Ba?th Party, as well as other political parties; 2) monitoring other grass roots organizations, including youth, women and union groups; 3) suppressing Shi?a, Kurdish and other opposition; 4) counter-espionage; 5) targeting threatening individuals and groups inside of Iraq; 6) monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq; 6) monitoring foreigners in Iraq; and 7) maintaining an internal network of informants.

Its external activities include: 8) monitoring Iraqi embassies abroad; 9) collecting overseas intelligence; 10) aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes; 11) conducting sabotage, subversion, and terrorist operations against hostile neighboring countries such as Syria and Iran; 12) murder of opposition elements outside of Iraq; 13) infiltrating Iraqi opposition groups abroad; 14) providing disinformation and attempts to exploit or use Arab and other media; and 15) maintaining an international network of informants, using popular organizations as well such as the Union of Iraqi Students.(65)


The Iraqi Intelligence Service is headed by a directors office, and is divided into a Special Bureau, Political Bureau and a bureau that performs routine administrative tasks.(66)

The Special Bureau: The Special Bureau?s responsibilities include interrogation of suspects, training of personnel, and counter-espionage. Its Directorate Five serves as the security unit of General Intelligence, countering any internal dissent within the agency.(67)

Other directorates are responsible for targeting suspects, recruiting prospective members, while others are issued with coordinating operations with the Iranian opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) based in Iraq. A counter-intelligence directorate recruits foreign agents inside of Iraq, particularly in Syrian intelligence.

Political Bureau: The Political Bureau includes a number of Directorates, such as Directorate Four, The Secret Service Office. The Secret Service Directorate Four agents infiltrates agents into Iraqi government departments, the Ba?th Party, in unions and organizations, Iraqi embassies and the Iraqi opposition abroad. The Directorate also includes a number of offices specializing in the collection of information against a specific country or region, including South Asia, Turkey, Iran, the US, Europe, Arab states, Africa and the former Soviet Union.(68) Directorate Nine works outside of Iraq in coordination with other directorates focusing on sabotage and assassination operations.(69)

Other units of this bureau are responsible for the development of materials needed for covert operations, ranging from poisons to explosives. Some are charged with electronic surveillance, such as planting video and audio bugging devices in the other directorates of General Intelligence. A Planning Office collects and analyses information and media from around the world. The Propaganda Office conducts psychological operations, including spreading false stories and rumors, similar to the Public Opinion Office attached to Special Security.(70)

Regional Bureaus: Directorates 21 through 26 are responsible for monitoring various regional districts in Iraq. Directorate 21, the residency located in Baghdad, is in charge of security issues in the capital as well as issuing residence permits to foreigners in Iraq. Directorate 23, the Southern District based in Basra, conducts operations in the south of Iraq, while Directorate 24, the Northern District, does the same in northern Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Based in Mosul, with an office in Kirkuk, it is responsible for infiltrating the opposition in Iraqi Kurdistan. Directorate 25, the Western District, is located in Ramadi and maintains a network of informants in Syria and Jordan. Directorate 26, the Eastern District, operates in the Karbala Governate.(71)


General Intelligence?s activities after the Gulf War were prioritized to concentrate on internal security. However it began to shift to foreign operations soon afterwards. According to Lebanese security forces, three agents of General Intelligence were responsible for the assassination of an Iraqi exile, Shaykh Talib al-Suhayl in 1994 in Lebanon.(72) Similar operations are focused in Amman, Jordan, which became a hub of Iraqi exiles and anti-Saddam opposition groups after 1991. Its main task is the infiltration of anti-regime organizations, such the Iraqi National Accord, an opposition group based in Jordan. By infiltrating the INA in 1996, the regime was able to arrest and execute military officers connected to the organization.(73) When relations improved between Saddam and the Mas?ud Barzani?s Kurdish Democratic Party in 1996, General Intelligence agents were able to infiltrate areas in Northern Iraq to eliminate agents of the CIA or Iraqi opposition.(74)

It also undertook operations against Iraqi expatriates in Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.(75) Reports say that General Intelligence opened offices in a number of countries, such as Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan.(76) It is said to monitor the activities of Iraqi journalists abroad, with the purpose of inducing them to write sympathetic works for the Iraqi regime or silencing them if they refuse. Dissident Ba?th journalists, who are either in Jordan or Europe, receive warnings against involvement in press and media activities that oppose the regime.(77) Other sources indicate that General Intelligence even conducts drugs smuggling operations to neighboring Arab countries, including an illicit cigarette trade.(78)

Its role in assassinations abroad is most likely why General Intelligence headquarters was targeted in June 1993 by US cruise missiles. The attack was launched in retaliation for a planned attempt on former President George Bush?s life during a visit to Kuwait in April 1993.

AL-ISTIKHBARAT AL-?ASKARIYYA] (The General Military Intelligence Directorate) was created in 1932, at the time of Iraq?s independence.(79) Although initially under the Ministry of Defense, in the early 1980s it was reorganized to report directly to the Presidential Palace.


Mudiriyyat al-Istikhabarat al-?Askariyya al-?Amma

The head of Military intelligence, generally, did not have to be a relative of Saddam?s immediate family, nor a Tikriti for that matter. Saddam appointed, Sabir ?Abd al-?Aziz al-Duri(80) as head of Military Intelligence during the 1991 Gulf War.(81) After the Gulf War he was replaced by Wafiq Jasim al-Samarrai.(82) After Samarrai, Muhammad Nimah al-Tikriti(83) headed Military Intelligence in early 1992(84) then in late 1992 Fanar Zibin Hassan al-Tikriti was appointed to this post.(85) While Fanar is from Tikrit, both Sabir al-Duri and Samarrai are non-Tikriti Sunni Muslims, as their last names suggest. Another source indicates that Samarrai was replaced by Khalid Salih al-Juburi,(86) demonstrating how another non-Tikriti, but from the tribal alliance that traditionally support the regime holds top security positions in Iraq.(87)

These shifting appointments are part of Saddam?s policy of balancing security positions between Tikritis and non-Tikritis, in the belief that the two factions would not unite to overthrow him. Not only that, but by constantly shifting the directors of these agencies, no one can establish a base in a security organization for a substantial period of time, that would challenge the President.(88)

Al-Isitkhbarat has approximately 4,000 to 6,000 members.(89)


Responsibilities of Military Intelligence include: 1) tactical and strategic reconnaissance of regimes hostile to Iraq; 2) assessing threats of a military nature to Iraq; 3) monitoring the Iraqi military and ensuring the loyalty of the officer corps; 4) maintaining a network of informants in Iraq and abroad, including foreign personnel, and military human intelligence; and 5) protection of military and military-industrial facilities.

The primary functions of Military Intelligence are ensuring the loyalty of the military and gathering military intelligence, but it is also involved in foreign operations, including assassinations of opponents to the regime.(90) Military Intelligence is responsible for maintaining a network of informants including operatives in Jordan, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen, as well as a large intelligence network in Iran.


Like the other agencies, Military Intelligence is divided into a Special, Political and Administrative Bureau.

The Special Bureau: The Special Bureau is primarily responsible for investigations and clandestine operations. MThe Military Intelligence Security Unit is responsible for countering dissent throughout the military. This unit would later evolve in 1992 into a separate agency, Military Security. Military Intelligence still retained its own intra-intelligence security unit to monitor personnel.(91)

The Political Bureau: The Special Bureau is responsible for carrying out military operations, while the Political Bureau focuses on the collection of intelligence and information. The Political Bureau collects intelligence from defense attach�©�³� in Iraqi diplomatic missions. It also collects intelligence through other agents, such as the extensive networks of informants in Syria, Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.(92)

Regional Bureaus: Military Intelligence maintains regional headquarters throughout the country, in administrative areas known as manthumat. Al-Istikhbarat al-?Askariyya is divided into four manthumat and their areas of jurisdiction for collecting intelligence include: 1) Kirkuk (responsible for the northern Iran border region and the Kurdish region of northern Iraq); 2) Mosul (Turkey and Syria); 3) Basra (the Gulf states and the southern Iranian border region); and 4) a special section in Baghdad that monitors Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the central Iranian border region and Iraqi opposition groups.(93)


Military Intelligence was reportedly responsible for the assassination operations against Saddam?s opponents in Beirut, Detroit, London, and Paris. Among the victims was ?Abdul Razzaq al-Nayef, a former senior Ba?th official who was murdered in London in 1978.(94) It also provided logistical support for the takeover of the Iranian Embassy in London in May 1980.(95)

After the 1981 Israeli raid on Iraq?s Osiraq nuclear research facility, Military Intelligence turned to the Soviet KGB for assistance. From 1982 to 1985, the KGB aided Military Intelligence in concealment and protection techniques of its military program and facilities, as well as strategic reconnaissance deception methods.

During the 1991 Gulf War, it was in charge of protecting combat airplanes. After the Gulf War, along with Special Security and General Intelligence, Military Intelligence was charged with infiltrating Kurdish and Shi?a opposition.(96)




Initially constituted as part of the Special Bureau of Military Intelligence in 1992 Saddam established al-Amn al-?Askari as an independent entity reporting directly to the Presidential Palace rather than military command or the Ministry of Defense. This unit was created after Saddam detected disturbances in the military. Thus, Military Security, General Intelligence and Special Security were created in response to specific threatening events, whether they were coup or assassination attempts against Saddam. At the time of its creation, it was headed by Muhammad Nimah al-Tikriti.(97)


Military Security is responsible for 1) detecting and countering dissent in the Iraqi armed forces; 2) investigating corruption and embezzlement within the armed services; and 3) monitoring all formations and units in the armed forces. Its task of internal security and detecting dissention in the armed forces was designed to overlap with some of the functions of Military Intelligence. Part of this strategy included infiltrating loyal officers into every military unit.(98)


The Security Unit of this agency monitors al-Amn al-?Askari as an internal surveillance body. Like other agencies, it has its own military brigade.(99)



The Socialist Arab Resurrection Party (Hizb al-Ba?th al-?Arab al-Ishtiraki)

While not an official state security agency, the Ba?th party is a crucial element in maintaining state security. The Ba?th Party is officially independent from the state, with its structure separate from that of government institutions. However, the Ba?th Party has ruled Iraq since 1968, and Saddam Hussein acts as its secretary-general.

The party has a wide membership throughout public institutions, the armed forces, work places, educational institutions and the local community as a whole. Such community-based organs serve as surveillance units as well. The Ba?th Party promotes its ideology in Iraq through its regional bureaus. The Ba?th Party Northern Bureau under the leadership of ?Ali Hassan al-Majid was given sweeping government sanction to suppress rebellious Kurdish activity from 1987 to 1988. It has its own internal security agency known as Amn al-Hizb (Party Security), which monitors party members and ensures their loyalty.(100)

The Special Protection Apparatus (Jihaz al-Himaya al-Khasa)

Another unit in Saddam?s security apparatus is known as Jihaz al-Himaya al-Khasa (The Special Protection Apparatus.)(101) This unit is always headed by Saddam?s immediate family, and is the only unit which has armed men in the direct proximity of the President, serving as bodyguards.(102) Special Security exercises operational control over this apparatus.(103)

The Special Republican Guard, (al-Haris al-Jamhuri al-Khas) (The Special Republican Guard) is also referred to as the Republican Guard Special Protection Forces. As the Republican Guard expanded rapidly during the Iran-Iraq War, the Special Republican Guard was created to serve as a praetorian guard. Qusay heads this unit, which provides protection for all presidential sites, including offices and personal residences, as well as escorting Saddam when he is traveling within Iraq. The Special Republican Guard usually has around 15,000 men, but some estimates state that it has up to 13 battalions with 26,000 men.(104) The Special Republican Guard is organized into four brigades, with three brigades guarding the northern, southern and western routes into Baghdad. Additionally, it has an artillery and air defense command. Special Security exercises operational control over the Special Republican Guard.(105)

Al-Haris al-Jamhuri al-Khas

The Ministry of Information

The Ministry also has close links to intelligence services so it can control or spy on foreign visitors and journalists and manipulate crowds and media events in Iraq.(106)



The security apparatus that emerged as a small unit under the guidance of Saddam Hussein during the 1960s has emerged as a vast and complex network that has kept him in power by swiftly dealing with threats to his regime, both real or imagined. The system was created, expanded, controlled and managed by Saddam. Iraq?s intelligence and security network permeates every aspect of Iraqi life, ensuring his total control over the state. No organization, agency or military unit, nor even opposition groups outside of Iraq are ever secure from Saddam?s surveillance or free of penetration from his intelligence agencies.

While agencies rival and overlap each other for intelligence in the field of foreign and domestic operations, Saddam still has managed to develop a security network closely adopted to his needs and centralized only through his personal control. Given Saddam?s personal role in structuring and molding this security network, it remains to be seen whether it will survive in its current form in case of his departure from the Iraqi political scene. At the same time, of course, its effectiveness makes it less likely that Saddam would be ousted.



1. Amazia Baram, “Between Impediment and Advantage: Saddam?s Iraq,” United States Institute of Peace Special Report and “Saddam Husayn Between His Power Base and the International Community,” MERIA Journal, Vol. 4, No. 4 (December 2000), p. 11-12. <>.
2. Boyne, July 1997, p. 312.
3. Kanan Makiya, Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998).
4. See Sean Boyne, “Inside Iraq?s Security Network, Part One,” Jane?s Intelligence Review, Vol. 9, No. 7 (July 1997), and No. 8 (August 1997). The Federation of American Scientists supplement the information provided in his article is on their website under the section “Iraq?s Intelligence Agencies” <>.
5. See Saddam?s Documents: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, May 1992. Also see Peter W. Galbraith, “Genocide and the Kurdish Documents Report,” Kurdistan Times, No. 3 (December 1993).
6. Human Rights Watch/Middle East Watch, Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), and Bureaucracy of Repression: The Iraqi Government in its Own Words (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994).
7. Ali Abdul-Lateef Khalifouh and Youssef Abdul-Moa?ti, Kuwait Resistance As Revealed by Iraqi Documents (Kuwait: Center for Research and Studies on Kuwait, 1994). This volume is also available in Arabic from the same center under the title, al-Maqawama al-Kuwaitiyya Min Khilal al-Watha?iq al-Iraqiyya.
8. Both sets of documents can be viewed on the Iraq Research and Documentation website <>.
9. Also referred to as al-Maktab al-Amn al-Qawmi (The National Security Bureau).
10. Dilip Hiro, Neighbors, Not Friends, Iraq and Iran After the Gulf Wars (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 54.
11. Boyne, July 1997, p. 313.
12. Ibid.
13. Al-Amn al-Khas (Special Security) is also known as Mudiriyyat al-Amn al-Khas (The Special Security Directorate) or Jihaz al-Amn al-Khas (The Special Security Apparatus, The Special Security Organization or The Special Security Service). It is also referred to as Jihaz Mukhabarat al-Ra?isa (The Presidential Intelligence Apparatus, The Presidential Affairs Department or The Presidential Intelligence Bureau). In some publications it is abbreviated by the acronym, SS, SSS or SSO.
14. Dilip Hiro, Neighbors, Not Friends, Iraq and Iran After the Gulf Wars (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 55.
15. Charles Tripp, A History of Iraq (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), p. 254.
16. Michael Eisenstadt, Like A Phoenix From the Ashes: The Future of Iraqi Mlilitary Power (Washington DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1993), p. 11.
17. Hiro, p. 56. This figure is also claimed by Federation of American Scientists, see “Iraq?s Intelligence Agencies” <>.
18. Anthony Cordesman, Iraq and the War on Sanctions (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), p. 152.
19. Unattributed article, “The Secret War Between the CIA and Iraqi Intelligence,” in al-Hawadith (London, in Arabic), February 2, 2001, p. 21. Translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).
20. Unattributed article, “The Secret War Between the CIA and Iraqi Intelligence,” in al-Hawadith (London, in Arabic), February 2, 2001, p. 21. Translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).
21. Mustafa Alani, “Saddam?s Support Structure” in Sean McKnight, Neil Patrick and Francis Toase (eds.), Gulf Security: Opportunities and Challenges for the New Generation (London: The Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, 2000), p. 43.
22. Boyne, July 1997, p. 314.
23. Boyne, August 1997, p. 367.
24. Scott Ritter, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem Once and For All (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), p. 125.
25. Sean, July 1997, p. 314, and see “Iraq?s Intelligence Agencies” <>.
26. Gregory R. Copley, Defense and Foreign Affairs Handbook, 1999 (Alexandria, Virginia: International Strategic Studies Association, 1998), p. 714.
27. Boyne, July 1997, p. 314.
28. Ritter, p. 77
29. Ritter, p. 97.
30. Ritter, p. 75.
31. Boyne, July 1997, p. 314.
32. Ritter, p. 102.
33. Unattributed article, “Fifteen Years Jail Sentence for Iraqi Intelligence Deputy Chief,”al-Zaman June 26, 2000, translated in FBIS.
34. It is also known as Mudiriyyat al-Amn al-?Amm (General Security Directorate or General Security Service) and also referred to as “The Secret Police,” and is sometimes written with the acronym GS or GSS.
35. Dilip Hiro, Neighbors, Not Friends, Iraq and Iran After the Gulf Wars, p. 54.
36. Makiya, p. 12.
37. Ritter, p. 62.
38. Human Rights Watch, 1993, p. 3
39. Human Rights Watch, 1994, p. 3.
40. Boyne, August 1997, p. 367.
41. Dilip Hiro, p. 55.
42. During the 1991 Gulf War, Sabawi was the chief of the Mukhabarat.
43. Hiro, p. 55.
44. Makiya, p. 12.
45. Sean Boyne, July 1997, p. 312
46. According to the Human Rights Watch publications, there also existed “Emergency Forces” prior to the 1991 Gulf War, under the control of the Ba?th Party.
47. Ritter, p. 122.
48. Ritter, p. 122.
49. Boyne, August 1997, p. 367.
50. Human Rights Watch, 1993, p. xvii.
51. Ritter, p. 122.
52. Ritter, p. 88.
53. It is also known as al-Mukhabarat al-Amma (General Intelligence), and is also referred to as Da?irat al-Mukhbarat al-?Amma (The General Intelligence Directorate, The General Intelligence Department, The General Intelligence Service or The Iraqi Intelligence Service). It is sometimes written with the acronym, IIS, GID or GIS.
54. Makiya, p. 15.
55. Mustafa Alani, p. 42.
56. Eberhard Kienle, Ba?th v Ba?th: The Conflict Between Syria and Iraq, 1968-1989 (New York: St. Martin?s Press, 1990), p. 85.
57. Makiya, p. 15.
58. Helm Chapin Metz, Iraq: A Country Study (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1988), p. 245. The 1982 assassination attempt was the primary force behind the creation of al-Amn al-Khas from within al-Amn al-?Amm
59. Fadil al-Barak was arrested in 1989 on espionage charges and later executed. See Cordesman, p. 153.
60. Eisenstadt, p. 11.
61. Sabir al-Duri was the former head of the military al-Istikhbarat.
62. Ali Abd al-Amir, “Plan to ?Track Down? Iraqi Oppositionists Put into Effect,” al-Hayat, March 12, 2000. Translated in FBIS.
63. Unattributed article, “The Secret War Between the CIA and Iraqi Intelligence.”
64. Boyne, p. 367.
65. Hiro, p. 56.
66. See Federation of American Scientists, “Iraq?s Intelligence Agencies” <>.
67. Boyne, August 1997, p. 365.
68. Ibid.
69. Boyne, August 1997, p. 365.
70. Boyne, August 1997, p.365-6.
71. See Federation of American Scientists, “Iraq?s Intelligence Agencies” <>.
72. Boyne, p. 65.
73. Ritter, p. 116.
74. Hiro, p. 56.
75. Ali Abd al-Amir, “Plan to ?Track Down? Iraqi Oppositionists Put into Effect.”
76. “Anti-regime secret cells in the Republican Guard units; Iraqi intelligence expands activities abroad,” Iraqi Communist Party, August 26, 2000. Transcribed in FBIS.
77. Muhammad al-Salih, “Saddam Husayn is Trying to Revive his Media Empire Abroad,” al-Ra?y al-Amm (Kuwait in Arabic), November 12, 2000. Transcribed in FBIS.
78. Unattributed article, “Fifteen Years Jail Sentence for Iraqi Intelligence Deputy Chief.”
79. Hiro, p. 56.
80. Sabir Abd al-Aziz al-Duri was then placed as head of al-Mukhabarat after the 1991 Gulf War.
81. Eisenstadt, p. 11.
82. Sammarai would later defect to the north of Iraq and then to Syria.
83. Muhammad Nimah al-Tikriti was made the head of another unit called al-Amn al-Askariyya (or Military Security) after 1992.
84. Hiro, p. 57.
85. Eisenstadt, p. 11. Fanar al-Tikriti served as the head of al-Amn al-Khas during the 1991 Gulf War.
86. Cordesman, p. 154.
87. Amazia Baram, “Saddam Husayn Between His Power Base and the International Community,” MERIA Journal, Vol. 4, No. 4 (December 2000), p. 12. <>.
88. Exceptions to this rule include Ali Hassan al-Majid, who directed al-Amn al-Amm for seven years and Qusay, Saddam?s son who has headed al-Amn al-Khas since 1992.
89. Boyne, August 1997, p. 366.
90. Makiya, p. 14.
91. Copley, p. 714.
92. Ibid.
93. Human Rights Watch, 1994, p. 4.
94. Cordesman, p. 155
95. Makiya, p. 13.
96. Boyne, August 1997, p. 367.
97. Hiro, p. 57.
98. Ibid.
99. Cordesman, p. 155.
100. Hiro, p. 57.
101. It is also referred to as “The President?s Personal Protection Unit” with the acronym PPPU or referred to as “The Presidential Palaces Security Unit” or as Himayat al-Ra?isa (The Presidential Guard).
102. Alani, p. 43.
103. Eisenstadt, p. 10.
104. Boyne, July 1997, p. 313.
105. Eisenstadt, p. 10.
106. Cordesman, p. 156-7.

Ibrahim al-Marashi is a research associate at the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies in Monterey, California as well as a lecturer at the US Naval Postgraduate School. He is currently working on a project on Iraqi intelligence operations in northern Iraq and Kuwait.

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