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New Report Provides Insights into Saddam Hussein Regime

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2006 – Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was so convinced that the United States was unwilling to accept casualties that he never believed the country would invade Iraq, and was far more worried about an internal revolt, a new, unclassified version of a Defense Department report issued today reveals.

The "Iraqi Perspective Project" views military operations in Iraq from March through May 1, 2003, through the eyes of senior Iraqi civilian and military leaders.

It depicts a country ruled by fear, deception and in some cases, delusion, where information was so compartmentalized that neither Saddam nor anyone within his regime had a clear understanding of their true military capabilities or the threats they faced, Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, director of U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Center for Operational Analysis, told Pentagon reporters today.

The two-year research effort, conducted by Cucolo's directorate, provides insights into what the enemy was thinking in the run-up to and early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Through dozens of interviews with senior officials and an extensive review of captured documents, the research team pieced together a study of the mindset of the Saddam regime, Cucolo explained.

Their product - the results of which are already being incorporated into professional military education programs - provides "a substantive examination of Saddam Hussein's leadership and its effects on the Iraqi military decision-making process," Cucolo said.

It also goes a long way toward revealing the inner workings of a closed regime from the insider's point of view, something that will prove highly valuable in developing lessons learned of the Iraqi conflict, he said.

The report reveals that Saddam never believed such a conflict would ever occur, Cucolo said. "Saddam believed that the United States was casualty-averse to an absolutely incredible degree," Cucolo said.

Saddam based that on several factors: the fact that he received only a diplomatic note after Iraqi Mirage fighters fired on the USS Stark in 1987, that the United States left Somalia after losing 19 troops, and its failure to commit ground troops early on in Kosovo, the team's research revealed.

In addition, Saddam believed that Russia and France would protect their own economic interests by blocking any United Nations Security Council authorization of an invasion, the report notes. "He was counting on other members of the international community to assist him in any way that he saw fit," Cucolo said.

In reality, Saddam was far more concerned about an internal revolt than a coalition invasion, Cucolo said. "That was the No. 1 security threat to this regime," he said. "In Saddam's mind, the uprising of 1991 was the closest thing to almost ending his regime. It was much more important to him than the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm and all the sanction periods, ... because according to his own calculations, he lost control of all but one province, Al Anbar."

Meanwhile, Saddam had a distorted view of his military capabilities, the report shows. Following an after-action review of Operation Desert Storm, Saddam corrected his senior military leaders' assessments, declaring Desert Storm a victory, project leader Kevin Woods told reporters. "Standing up to 33 nations, not backing down in the face of the world and the world's superpowers was seen as a great victory," Woods said.

Despite this assessment, the regime experienced serious weaknesses following that war, the report shows. Years of UN sanctions and coalition bombing had reduced the Iraqi military forces' effectiveness and usefulness. Other decisions further eroded this capability, from irrelevant guidance from political leaders to the appointment of Saddam's relatives and cronies into key leadership positions.

Despite these concerns, military and ministry leaders lied to Saddam about the true state of their capabilities, and he and his inner circle began to believe their own propaganda, the report reveals. Even Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam's cousin who became known as Chemical Ali after ordering the 1988 chemical attack on Kurds, was convinced Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction. Yet many of his colleagues never stopped believing in them, the report shows.

Cucolo acknowledged that some of the viewpoints and decisions revealed in the report seem unbelievable. "Some of Saddam Hussein's decisions may seem incredibly absurd to a Western military thinker, but if you take in the context of this closed regime, they make eminent sense to the Iraqis," he said. "And that is the value of this."

The report's findings provide something a standard after-action report from the "blue," or friendly, view simply can't: the "red," or enemy, perspective of the situation, he said.

Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who originated the Iraqi Perspective Project when he served as commander of JFCOM, explained the benefit of that insight to Pentagon reporters during yesterday's news briefing.

"The goal of this effort was to determine how our own coalition operations were viewed and understood by the opposing side, and what insights such analysis offers for future operations," Giambastiani said. "This report provides insights into the nature of Saddam's regime, the regime's strategic calculus, operational planning, military effectiveness and execution of the Iraqi defense."

These insights weren't always what the researchers expected. "We learned things we didn't expect," he said. "There were some surprises there."

Results of the Iraqi Perspective Project are helping DoD develop important lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom that provide what Giambastiani called "a balanced, holistic view of the battlefield cause and effect."

The report represents the most extensive project of its kind to understand the views of an enemy military force since a similar project conducted just after World War II, Giambastiani noted. That effort involved a comprehensive review of recovered German and Japanese documents, along with interviews of key military and civilian leaders during the war.

Contact Author

Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, USN
Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, USA

Related Sites:
Iraqi Perspective Project
U.S. Joint Forces Command

Related Articles:
Report Provides Iraqi Leaders' Perspective of War

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