The degradation of Iraqi politics and society under the Baathist regime is a story that can now be pieced together from documents that just a few months ago no one would have dreamed having access to. Baghdad’s brutal repression turned the March uprising in Iraq into another tragic episode, but one thing should be recognized: For several tumultuous weeks a terrorized population overcame its fear and attacked the state which it considered responsible for its humiliation and suffering. In the course of these events they captured tens of thousands of invaluable documents from the various Iraqi intelligence organizations. These documents not only recount the fates of thousands of Iraqis; they are also an excellent source to understanding how the Baathist regime exacerbated cleavages in Iraqi society while claiming to create “the new Iraqi.” This risky and unstable equilibrium, which guaranteed the regime’s survival for more than two decades, is now crumbling, with grave consequences for the future of the country.

The Terror Network

During the past two decades the Baathist regime constructed a network of multiple intelligence apparatuses that pervades all aspects of Iraqi society. Besides Saddam Hussein’s Special Protection Apparatus (Jihaz al-Himaya al-Khass), and the Baath Party and its mass organizations, which all function as surveillance systems, the following organizations often compete with each other and overlap in their domains:

• The General Intelligence Apparatus (Jihaz al-Mukhabarat al-‘Amma) is mainly concerned with matters of “foreign enemies,” but an official ideology that considers most of the opposition foreign agents frees the Mukhabarat to pursue virtually all domestic opponents of the regime.
• Military Intelligence (al-Istikhbarat al-‘Askariyya) is responsible for detecting “enemy” infiltration in the armed forces. Since military service is compulsory for all male adults, this agency too is sanctioned to target virtually all of the regime’s domestic opponents. Military Intelligence has almost unlimited authority in Iraqi Kurdistan under the pretext of combating “saboteurs” (mukharribin).
• The General Security Directorate (Mudiriyyat al-Amn al-‘Amma) has wide authority to combat all manner of political and economic “crimes.”
• The Bureau of National Security (Maktab al-Amn al-Qawmi) oversees and coordinates these apparatuses and reports directly to the president.

Corruption, competition for influence and authority, and a rigid hierarchy have rendered this system highly effective in achieving one of its major objectives: promoting a sense of helplessness among the population. Each of these apparatuses engages a vast network of informers. Recruiting agents was institutionalized under the Baathist regime by Law 83 of 1979, instituted one month before the rise of Saddam Hussein to the presidency. “The Law of Securing the Trustworthy (Mu’taman) in Defending the Revolution” regulates such matters as agent function, recruitment, salary and rank. [1]

A mu’taman is not just an informer. And the term “recruitment” fails to convey the mechanism through which mu’tamanin begin their careers, as Kifah’s experience illustrates. Kifah is a barely literate young woman from al-Mishkhab, a town south of Baghdad. As a mu’tamana, she was instructed to pose as a nurse and go to Kurdistan after the defeat of the March uprising. Her assignment was to gain the confidence of those who controlled the region, and then invite other agents to join her under the guise of health workers. Kifah had been told that the US was the only armed presence in Kurdistan. When she found herself amidst a flood of armed Kurds, she panicked and simply surrendered. When I interviewed her last August, she had already spent two months detained by the peshmerga (Kurdish guerrillas).

Kifah told me how she had been “recruited.” In 1988, newly married, she was stopped by four Amn officers in a car who told her to go with them to answer questions about her husband. She was taken instead to an orchard, where she was forced to drink alcohol and was raped by the four men. This was all videotaped. The agents threatened to send the video to her husband, who would most likely kill her. Kifah felt she had no choice but to work for the Security Directorate. She began her career by “recruiting” three friends through the same practice — pretending to take each of them to a house to visit a friend. Instead, Amn officers would be waiting.

Most mu’tamanin come from members or ex-members of political organizations who fall victim to the combined pressure of threat and persuasion. Before release from prison, political detainees are forced to sign a pledge (ta‘ahhud) not to join any organization other than the Baath Party under penalty of death. An officer is assigned to keep in touch with each detainee after their release. The ones who agree to work for Amn are instructed to continue working inside their original organizations and report to the Security Directorate. Thousands more mu’tamanin are recruited in similar fashion from among people who occupy positions in the state-run trade unions, city councils and even the National Assembly.

Captured memos reveal how the Iraqi regime uses mu‘tamanin. Responding to the Erbil governorate’s request for information about two men seeking approval to run for the National Assembly, a confidential September 6, 1988 telegram from the General Security Directorate says: “Secret investigations have shown that Mr. Mughdid Muhammad is politically independent. As for Mr. Mamend…he was formerly a Communist and at present he is a Baathist [with the rank of] nasir [supporter]. He is a good and loyal element. We recommend that their candidature to the National Assembly be approved.” According to another memo dated July 15, 1979, the “good and loyal” Mr. Mamend was in fact “a mu’taman in the directorate in the field of the Communist Party, with a monthly salary of 50 dinars and under the code number 286.”

Political commitment to the cause is rarely an important criterion. The standard form issued by the General Security Directorate to evaluate al-mu’tamanin consists of 15 questions about the agent’s economic situation and motivation for working as an informer. Many completed forms state explicitly that it is for money. Another question asks bluntly: “Do we have any written proof to frame him in case he reneges on cooperating with us?”

Regular conferences of security officers evaluate the overall accomplishments of al-mu’tamanin through detailed surveys of each political organization, including obscure ones such as the Wahhabi Islamists. The survey includes the number of agents who have infiltrated the group, the number of organizational lines within that party over which the Amn has control, and the ranks of agents in the organization.

In 1977, the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) was in formal alliance with the Baath, with two ministers in the cabinet. “The first congress for the follow-up of the activities of the ICP” was held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate that year. The congress sent a letter to its directorate in Wasit marked “top secret, to be opened personally.” The letter expresses “thanks to Security lieutenant Kamil Musayyar…and presents him with a watch for his good approach in the field of infiltrating the [ICP].”

A similar case occurred when the regime’s relations were warming with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (the PUK, led by Jalal Talabani). A confidential report briefed the Security Directorate on a February 1984 meeting of the “Comrade Directors” of Suleimaniya, Erbil and Dohuk. Point seven of the report: “We explained to the participants that our increased tashbik [literally dovetailing, frequently used to denote infiltration] of the PUK is not aimed against it; rather it is to preserve the safety of its march…. This requires alertness and attention to gain a complete picture.”

Cousins and Comrades

The methods by which the Iraqi regime promotes a sense of duty and solidarity among the staffs of the terror systems include periodic conferences, gifts from senior officials and suggestions on how to improve performance. Directives and reports are normally stuffed with phrases aimed at enhancing an elite consciousness. The 1990 annual plan for the Security Directorate begins by citing Saddam Hussein’s description of agents as “militant, loyal, pure, faithful and glorious.” A special administration of information (idarat al-tablighat) was set up at Baghdad headquarters, whose main function it seems is to inform officers of the 18 branches on the personal and family occasions of their colleagues (marriages, births, deaths) so they can send one another telegrams of congratulations or condolences.

Seniors and juniors in the system are aware of the existence of other, more cynical and arbitrary bases around which solidarities form. On the form that each Security employee must fill out, half of the 36 questions relate to the employee’s family. The key questions: “Have any of your relatives been sentenced in a case that relates to state security?” and “Name any relatives who work in foreign companies or with foreigners.” Finally, the employee must sign under the following ta‘ahhud: “(a) I pledge that none of my relatives has any relation with the traitors and conspirators [involved] in the last conspiracy [or with] the sectarian events, enemy parties, [or is of] Iranian origin…. (b) In case such a relationship with those mentioned in article (a) above does exist, indicate who they are, how do they relate to you and what were their sentences.” In Iraq, where conspiracies are discovered or invented periodically, few families escape having one of their sons involved in one or another plot, in one way or another.

The Erbil staff does not comprise the Amn elite; they have to report either to Kirkuk or to Baghdad. Additionally, a staff of Arabs serving in a Kurdish region develops the sense of an isolated occupation force. Reports from Erbil Security show that many staff members consider an appointment there to be a sign of official displeasure.

On the eve of the March 1991 intifada, the Erbil staff consisted of 68 employees: 19 officers and 49 non-commissioned officers and lower ranks. The 19 officers had 13 brothers and three uncles, cousins or brothers-in-law who were officers in General Security, Military Intelligence, the Mukhabarat, the Republican Guard or Jihaz al-Himaya al-Khass. The 49 others had 10 brothers and 26 other relatives similarly affiliated. Of the 19 officers, six did not report having relatives in such distinguished posts. Four of these are Shi‘a from governorates south of Baghdad, while a fifth is the only Kurdish officer — he joined the Amn four years before the Baath Party came to power.

While the intelligence organizations are not closed to men from non-privileged regions and families if they prove their loyalty to Party and Revolution, such posts are nevertheless concentrated in the hands of particular families. Eleven of the 19 officers and 18 of the 48 lower-ranked men come from the “Sunni triangle” — the area extending from Baghdad north to Mosul and west to the Syrian border. People from this region have much higher chances of securing jobs in the intelligence agencies, but they generally come from the lower classes. Those from towns, tribes or families that are better off, or have access to higher education, tend to shy away from such occupations. Many of the Erbil staff come from the poorest towns north of Tikrit and south of Mosul, such as al-Sharqat and Baiji. At least 16 of the 19 officers joined as NCOs and later they enrolled in the police or national security college.

Those from the “Sunni triangle” formed less than 40 percent of the lower-ranking employees in Erbil. Fifteen others came from Arab enclaves within Kurdistan, a fact which provided a good basis for nurturing a sense of serving a common cause against “separatist Kurds.”

Employees with few job opportunities and much to lose tend to develop a sense of loyalty to the agency and solidarity with colleagues. This is especially true during a crisis such as the intifada. The absolute authority of these agents might have aroused envy in some during ordinary times, but this envy gave way to hatred during the intifada, when it became too late to distance oneself from the notorious apparatus. This might account for the ferocious resistance the rebels faced when they stormed the various intelligence headquarters during the intifada.

A leader of the revolt in Hilla explained the motives of those who remained loyal to the regime. An army captain and a full member of the Baath Party at the time of the intifada, he nevertheless played a leading role in launching the revolt in his town in the name of the “oppressed majority of Iraq” — that is, the Shi‘a. He admitted that no less than 70 percent of the Amn staff in Hilla were Shi‘a, though not in command positions. In semi-class terminology, he proceeded to explain that these were paupers who owed their subsequent affluence to corruption rather than their talents or personal qualities. Thus no single set of relations can account for the ways in which various sections of the state apparatuses perceived their identities. Shi‘a and Sunnis alike had linked their fates to the regime’s survival.

Uncle Saddam

The least known but most notorious of all the Baathist repression machines, the Jihaz al-Himaya al-Khass, illustrates how bribery, kinship and regional solidarities intersect to produce a cohesive organization. The Jihaz comprises Saddam’s real praetorian guard. No records or documents have surfaced here. The following description has been compiled from the minutes of interrogations and testimonies from nine Jihaz NCOs arrested by the peshmergas after the intifada, and from personal interviews with two of them.

The Jihaz is composed of 13 battalions, each with 1,300-1,500 men from Tikrit, Baiji, al-Sharqat and small towns south and west of Mosul and around Baghdad. None of the nine NCOs had finished high school when they were recruited. Yet their monthly salary at the beginning of their career was 400 Iraqi dinars, equivalent to that of a university professor.

A typical Jihaz member is a young man in his mid-twenties, recruited from a poor town. After undergoing six months of harsh physical training, he spends two more months intensively studying the structures of the various opposition movements, assassination techniques, electronic inspection devises, use of explosives, protection of strategic sites (especially Saddam’s numerous palaces) and recruiting collaborators. He is then assigned to one of the bureau’s five departments. In early 1991, four of these departments were headed by Tikritis, the fifth by an officer from Baiji. Apart from the handsome salaries, members are provided with elegant apartments in the heavily guarded complex of Karradat Maryam in the vicinity of the presidential palace, or in the al-Radwaniyya complex in the outskirts of Baghdad, close to Iraq’s worst prisons.

The “technical” department in the Jihaz is responsible for what Saddam considers important dissident cases. One Jihazi told me that he was in al-Radwaniyya last April, one month after the intifada. He said that there were 62,000 prisoners then awaiting interrogation, being carried out under the direct supervision of Saddam’s younger son, Qusayy, and his brother-in-law, Saddam Kamil Hasan.

The Jubur tribe has been one of the main pools for recruiting intelligence personnel, including the Jihaz. A Juburi NCO in the Jihaz told me how he, like many of his fellow tribesmen, had spent his childhood in al-Sharqat dreaming of visiting Baghdad. He recalled his first time there in 1987, how he felt when he saw a shower for the first time in his life, the thrill of touching the “soft flesh” of women in the Baghdad Sheraton. No brainwashing was needed to turn their envy of the lavish life of the “soft” city dwellers, especially Baghdadis, into a sense of gratitude toward those who enabled them to conquer that alien city. And conquer it they did.

The creation of Saddam’s praetorian guard owes much of its success to the fact that it does not rely on ideological indoctrination. Rather, it follows the path that Saddam and most of the other influential personalities in the regime have traversed since they emerged from their destitute home towns looking for an influential person to find them humble jobs in Baghdad. They thus developed a reliance on kinship and town solidarity. The feeling of unbounded loyalty to Saddam Hussein by the Jihaz members is best expressed by the fact that they never use formal titles for him. Instead, he is “‘ammi,” a word that means paternal uncle but is also used by servants to refer to their masters.

Incorporation and Coercion

Within the overall context of Iraq’s social structure, this set of practices casts serious doubt on an analysis that emphasizes the secular, modernizing and integrating drive of the Iraqi regime, a popular approach among many American “experts” during the Iran-Iraq war. [2] The present leadership did not invent the ethnic, religious, sectarian, regional and tribal cleavages in Iraqi society. But it has perpetuated and exacerbated these cleavages rather than worked to overcome them. The supporting actors (or victims) in Iraqi politics have not been individuals or citizens as such. They have rather been treated as members of this sect or that tribe, as sons of certain towns and regions. This applies to the way some are incorporated within the state system, and to the way others are excluded from it, or assigned subordinate roles.

Until recently, the official discourse tried to conceal the reinforcement of stratification along these lines. The “revolution” was building the “new Iraqi man.” Episodes such as the deportation of tens of thousands of Shi‘a in the early 1980s were explained not as acts of discrimination toward Iraqis: The victims were dismissed as non-Iraqis. [3] For those whom the regime considered “authentic” Iraqis — Sunni Arabs — the basis for privilege was “their closeness to the principles of the revolution and its leading party,” principles that could change according to circumstances.

In the mid-1970s, a decree by the Revolutionary Command Council prohibited the use of family names that referred to the tribal or regional origin of its bearer. Official propaganda portrayed this as a step toward civic equality. Critics argued correctly that the aim was to submerge the identity of kin and townspeople of the top leaders, who were systematically appointed to key positions in the state apparatus. In late 1979, four months after Saddam Hussein became president, his press secretary wrote an article in al-Thawra, the Baath Party organ, titled “Kinship in the Revolutionary Society.” “If the relative is the son of the Party and Revolution,” he asked cynically, “then would it harm the revolutionary march when he is promoted?” [4] A few years later, a front-page obituary in all Iraqi papers carried the news of the death of “the mother of the militants,” with the names and positions of a handful of sons. Foremost was Saddam Hussein.

Just as positions of power are reserved for loyal families, the regime holds families of dissidents responsible for their “crimes.” The form prepared by the Security Directorate on “the elements of the hostile parties” states the tribe of the “element” and the names of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins and friends.

Divide and Rule in Kurdistan

Jahsh (donkey) is the name used by Kurds for the National Defense Battalions established under the supervision of Military Intelligence or the Security Directorate. With the regime’s destruction of the economic base of Kurdish society, many clans, particularly those involved in disputes with neighboring clans over territory or water supplies, had no place to turn but to the state. The chiefs became mercenaries to secure the means of preserving and enhancing their authority. Thus many Zibaris, Hirkis, Surchis and Doskis were turned into jahsh by their chiefs.

At the height of their strength, there were some 250 such battalions incorporating more than 100,000 men. The aim was to split and neutralize the Kurds, turning some into informers against their brothers. The chiefs would habitually report fictional military operations or otherwise inflate their “achievements” in order to keep their power base and funds. Reports by Military Intelligence focus more on personal character, and how interested the chief is in money, alcohol, sex and gambling, than on military performance. Does he cooperate with the security apparatuses? Does he or his clan have hostilities with other chiefs or clans? Does he have any relatives in senior positions in the state, or opposition parties?

In a confidential letter dated August 19, 1989, the officer responsible for al-Mafariz al-Khassa (special jahsh patrols organized by Military Intelligence for counter-guerilla operations) counts “12 negative aspects” in the functioning of these patrols. One is that commanders are “not committed to their work…. A commander is occupied with his private business, including trading in cars and running farms.” Another is that a “very large number of fighters are engaged in private occupations and have never reported to their units. Their commanders know about them.”

Legacy of Despotism

More than three decades after the 1958 revolution that overthrew the monarchy and the domination of tribal land owners in Iraqi politics, Iraq has relapsed into family rule under a republican guise. The most traumatizing aspect is that Iraqis have come to take it for granted that a social hierarchy runs along regional, tribal, sectarian and ethnic lines. Official discourse no longer tries to conceal it. This does not mean that Iraqis are content with the allotment of privilege within the regime, nor that they acquiesce in the rule of Saddam’s family, but people have regressed to expressing themselves in terms of such identities.

The intifada demonstrated this. Not only did many of the key individuals come from within the ruling establishment, but those individuals tended to view the cause they were fighting for in terms and norms dictated by the regime itself. The Hilla officer who identified his cause as that of the oppressed Shi‘i majority is typical. Though he denounced the fundamentalist Shi‘i organizations and the Iranians bitterly, he took his instructions during the intifada from the Shi‘i spiritual leader in Najaf. In Kurdistan, many jahsh chiefs sided with the intifada, some out of a change of heart, others out of sheer opportunism. In Dohuk, it was the jahsh units that sparked the intifada. Then jahsh chiefs of clans decided they should form a political party of their own. “Clans will have a word to say on the future of Kurdistan,” claimed Hussein al-Surchi, a multimillionaire whose lavish banquet in his palace near Shaqlawa in April 1991 was attended by all the officers of the allied forces in the region. He told his guests that he had been working as a “little soldier” under Saddam, but from then on would be a faithful ally to the West.

Perhaps the position of the paramount sheikh of Shammar is the best illustration of adopting the regime’s perspective while trying to overthrow it. The Shammar, one of the largest Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq, was until recently a major power base for the regime. I met its sheikh in January 1991, shortly after he left Iraq to live in exile. Reflecting on the various alternatives to succeed the present regime, he concluded that “our brothers, the Samarra’i officers, are the only brave men who can take power.” His solution was a coup d’etat that would elevate a new Sunni clique, this time from Samarra’, a rival Sunni Arab town to Tikrit.

Iraqi politics after the intifada is a manifestation of the bitter harvest of more than two decades of the present regime’s strategy. A regime that has just survived a humiliating defeat by foreign adversaries and a huge popular revolt might be expected to relax its brutal practices, at least for tactical reasons. Many observers expected that Saddam Hussein would be forced to introduce some new Shi‘a, Kurds and Christians into the regime’s echelons — as a facade, if nothing else. Instead, power was more tightly consolidated.

Two months after the intifada, in the spring, the Iraqi press began publicizing preparations for a new Baath Party congress, whose aim was to “draw plans for the coming stage.” For the first time there was talk of local conferences to elect delegates to the congress. Then, on September 15, newspapers reported the happy results of the congress which had taken place a few days before. The congress “decided to adopt the speech of the Comrade Leader as its main document.”

The regional command did experience a decisive shift in its composition, in the direction of greater regional and sectarian imbalance. The process of institutionalizing regional and tribal stratification has come to its logical conclusion. In place of the old rhetoric of the “party of all Iraqis, even of those who have not joined it,” “Iraq” has joined Nation, Party, Revolution and other abstract Baathist jargon. Words like “majority” and “minority” are irrelevant when it comes to describing how Iraq is run. Al-Thawra published three editorials in April 1991 to “explain” the intifada, an episode known officially as “the page of treachery and betrayal.” The march of the Revolution, we are told, has been a voluminous record of confrontation with foreign enemies of the Nation. The “Iranian aggression” and the “aggression of the 30” — the US-led attack — were mere chapters. When all these conspiracies failed, “the enemy” mobilized its local agents for the most dangerous of all “conspiracies.” Why was the conspiracy rooted in the south? In the words of the al-Thawra editorialist turned sociologist, probably Tariq ‘Aziz, “a certain sect [the Shi‘a] has been historically under the influence of the Persians…. They have been taught to hate the Arab Nation.” As for the Iraqis in Nasiriyya and Samawa, known for their secularism, al-Thawra dismisses them as “the marsh people,” so accustomed to breeding buffaloes that they have become “indistinguishable from them.” When they migrated to big cities like Baghdad, they made their living through begging, prostitution and robbery, not out of poverty but because of their intrinsic degraded nature. A true Arab, of course, cannot be so degraded. “These are not Arabs. They were brought with their buffaloes from India by Muhammad al-Qasim” (the Abbasid leader who conquered India in the ninth century). [5]

Emboldened by such racist discourse, the Iraqi press found it quite plausible to announce the names and positions of members of Saddam’s family on the occasion of handing them medals for their “heroic deeds during the mother of battles.” These included ‘Ali Hasan al-Majid, Saddam’s paternal cousin and minister of defense; Wathban Ibrahim, a half-brother and minister of interior; Sab‘awi Ibrahim, Wathban’s brother and general director of Amn; Qusayy Saddam Hussein, Saddam’s younger son and head of the Special Security Apparatus; and ‘Abid Hasan al-Majid, his paternal cousin and assistant to the head of the Mukhabarat. [6] Others in the family also awarded medals included: Saddam’s elder son Uday; Saddam Kamil Hasan, his son-in-law; and Arshad Yasin Rashid, his brother-in-law and aide-de-camp.

Iraqis living outside the “Sunni triangle” have been given a new chance to prove their loyalty to the Revolution. During the past year, Babil, a new daily run by Uday Saddam Hussein, has been publishing full page statements of loyalty by chiefs. Addressing citizens through their chiefs had been unthinkable by Iraqis since the last days of the monarchy. Such is the degradation of politics that Minister of Interior Wathban Ibrahim hailed the chiefs on the new year as “the real, undepletable asset for the protection of Iraq.” [7]

Life After Saddam?

A year after the intifada, Iraqis look more apprehensively at the future than at any time before. Last year, restrictions on foreign travel were lifted for the first time in more than a decade, but people found no air flights between Iraq and the outside world. The vast majority of countries have imposed formidable barriers to prevent Iraqis from entering. Jordan, the only neighboring country with open borders with Iraq, has been flooded with tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of whom had sold what they had to migrate to any country that might accept them. In the north, on the Iraqi side of the Tigris River, hundreds of Kurds and Christian Assyrians assemble every week in the hope that a Syrian boat might bring them to a refugee camp near al-Hasaka, from which they would hope to find a safe haven in Europe or North America.

Most of those deserting Iraq belong to the silent, unorganized majority of urban professionals, technocrats and university students “fed up with ideologies” and wishing to live in peace. Most of them have been counting days in hopes the dictatorship will end. The intifada aroused fears in many that post-Saddam Iraq might not be the place where their modest dreams could be fulfilled.

Iraqi opposition parties adopted such principles as pluralism, the rule of law and respect for the will of the people. But such principles are far from democracy, even if one were sure the various parties are committed to them. Such principles are closely related to secular politics, which in Iraq have been associated in one way or another with the left. With the left at a low ebb, it is hardly surprising that secularists in the opposition find themselves, more than ever, as misfits within its ranks. In February 1992, when opposition representatives held intensive meetings to prepare for a second congress of the Iraqi opposition, the draft of a legal paper was repealed because it began by stating the equality of all Iraqis irrespective of their sex, religion or race: According to the shari‘a, males are superior to females. A chief of an Arab tribe challenged the Kurds on their demand for autonomy: “My territory is comparable to yours: So should I demand autonomy for my tribe?”

A council of Iraqi tribes boasts that it has the backing of the US and Saudi Arabia. Whether the claims are true or not, it remains a fact that a democratic outcome would not be welcomed by most of the regional superpowers that can influence Iraqi politics. Many in the West argue that it is this atomization of Iraq society that makes democracy a risky alternative to the present regime. They tend to forget that this atomization is, to a large extent, the direct consequence of the Baathist regime itself.

Thus the Iraqi nightmare continues. More than 20 years of uninterrupted brutal dictatorship have left the political culture of the people more impoverished than ever. This makes it less likely that Iraqis are in any position to develop radically different state structures to replace the existing regime in the near term.

Author’s Note: I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those brave and honest individuals, whose names I cannot mention for obvious reasons, who enabled me to review thousands of files belonging to the various intelligence organizations in Kurdistan. I would also like to thank those who helped me conduct dozens of interviews with participants in the intifada, prisoners and military deserters. Special thanks go to members of the Interrogation Committee of the Kurdistan Front who allowed me to interview detained Iraqi intelligence agents.


[1] Law 83 of 1979, ratified by Resolution 797 of the Revolutionary Command Council, June 20, 1979, published in al-Waqa’i‘ al-‘Iraqiyya (The Official Gazette), July 9, 1979, p. 2.
[2] See, among others, Phebe Marr, The Modern History of Iraq (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985), p. 281. For a recent, more radical but similar approach, see Peter Gowan, “The Gulf War, Iraq and Western Liberalism,” New Left Review 187 (May-June 1991). Basing himself on some simply inaccurate facts or reading them superficially, Gowan adopts such subtitles as “Baathism in the 1970s: State Building and Reform.” p. 61.
[3] Not even officials took that claim seriously. See, e.g., Fadhil al-Barrak’s interview with the weekly Alif Ba’, June 17, 1980. The then-director general of Amn confessed that any family who did not prove loyal to the revolution would be deported, even if it provides proof of its Iraqi identity.
[4] Al-Thawra, November 13, 1979.
[5] Al-Thawra, April 1-3, 1991.
[6] All Iraqi papers, January 12, 1992.
[7] All Iraqi papers, January 1, 1992.

How to cite this article:

Isam al-Khafaji "State Terror and the Degradation of Politics in Iraq," Middle East Report 176 (May/June 1992).

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