An All-Consuming Web, Key to Iraq’s WMD

Anyone familiar with the structure of the old Soviet KGB and Spetsnaz Special Forces will recognize some of their features in the elaborate web of Iraq’s security, intelligence, undercover and special forces units. Most of these organs of Saddam Hussein’s single-party (Baath), one-man regime, are answerable only to the Presidential Palace in Baghdad; some are even headquartered there. Their number and diversity are legion. Nonetheless, Saddam keeps adding to them. The latest three additions, revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources,  are: The Nuclear Sword, Men of Sacrifice, Al Hussein Missile Brigade/AKS Special Unit 223.


Special Security Service – Al Amn al-Khas

This is the most secretive and feared of all Iraq’s many undercover services. As elite guard unit to the president, its members must be prepared to lay down their lives in the frequent attempts to assassinate him. Their loyalty must also stand the test of spying on fellow officers in intelligence, security and other sensitive services.

In the 1980s, the Special Security Service acted also as Baghdad’s primary procurement arm for the supplies and equipment acquisitions required to advance its illicit nuclear, chemical, biological weapons and missiles programs. The procurement program was run by Hussein Kamil. To muddy the trail, Al Amn al-Khas set up a network of front companies in the US and Europe. The service’s records, files and plans are duplicated and hidden in secret installations, most probably underground in the network of emergency bunkers that Saddam Hussein has provided for his top level government officials. Similarly concealed back-up facilities have also been set up for their command and communications centers.

Some of the front companies set up for illegal procurement were also useful in the 1990s for busting UN sanctions. Among the Special Security Services’ undercover tasks is the payment of bribes to secret overseas helpers. Abu Nidal was paid for aiding in the smuggling operations of weapons and technology into Iraq as well as to Palestine.

Amn al-Khas runs an arms and military equipment smuggling network in Syria and Lebanon through Syrian military intelligence, Hizballah and Hamas, using Al Qaim in western Iraq and Rumashid near H-3 on the Jordanian border as interim depots; it also organizes the training of Palestinian terrorists in new weapons in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon under cover of Syrian bases.


Department for General Intelligence (GDI) – Da’irat al Mukhabarat al Amah

This body was instrumental in Saddam Hussein seizure of power in 1979. Its forerunner fell under his control in 1964. When his Baath party took power in 1968, Saddam expanded the service. In 1973, he elevated it under the new name of Da’irat al Mukhabarat. He relied heavily on this service’s support during his takeover of the presidency, as he still does today to keep him in power.

By now, a large, sprawling organization, the GDI is made up of ten sub-departments:

The Special Bureau (1st Directorate). This most violent and sinister unit of Saddam’s secret army carries out assassinations of suspected enemies, also conducts their interrogation under torture.

Surveillance (3rd Directorate) keeps an eye on suspects and also potential recruits.

Counterintelligence (5th Directorate) works against foreign agents, concentrating its attention on the undercover activities of American, British, Israeli, Iranian, Syrian and Turkish espionage services.

Mukhabarat Security (6th Directorate) is the internal policeman of the organization. Its members are planted in all the departments. The 6th Directorate not only issues security passes, it also manufactures false identities for undercover agents and provides them with the identification papers and other necessary gear and gadgets for carrying out “black operations”.

Al Haakimiya Prison (7th Directorate). This facility has become a landmark as well known as the old Lubiyanka in Moscow. It is therefore no longer used for lengthy high-profile interrogations, which are relegated to hidden safe houses, but mostly as a holding center.

Secret Operations (9th Directorate) – so secret that it is controlled from a command center outside Baghdad.

Personnel Supervision (19th Directorate) – Another in-house policing body that keeps all Mukhabarat personnel under scrutiny by opening their mail, bugging their homes, tapping their phones and shadowing their movements.

Protection (22nd Directorate) provides personal security details on demand for high officials and high-ranking visitors.

Office of Special Operations (14th Directorate) manages the training of agents for clandestine operations and killer squads for assassinations, mainly at a facility in Salman Pak southeast of Baghdad. This directorate is responsible for super-secret operations like, for instance, the botched assassination attempt against the first president George Bush in 1993 during his visit to Kuwait.

Deep Penetration (Unit 999) deals with clandestine operations at home and abroad from its headquarters in an army base at Salman Pak. One of the unit’s commanders is a kinsman of Saddam Hussein, Capt. Muhammad Abdallah al-Tikriti. This headquarters contains also a facility for training terrorists in the tactics of multi-casualty strikes, sabotage, hi-jacking, abductions and assassinations, as well as the use of chemical, biological and crude nuclear devices. They are also taught how to get weapons aboard a civilian flight, overcome a flight crew and cow the passengers, and carry out suicide attacks. Saudis, Egyptians and Chechens are reported to have passed through this facility, some trained by instructors from targeted countries. The Arab volunteers are programmed as human bombs aimed specifically against US targets.

Under the direct control of Iraq’s al Mukhabarat Intelligence Service Special Operations Unit, the foreign fighters are mostly kept separate from Iraqi military personnel. Unit 999 originally had five battalions – 1st Persian, 2nd Saudi Arabian, 3rd Palestinian, 4th Turkish, 5th Marine (seaborne). The sixth battalion, “Opposition”, was added recently, its two sections dealing with dissident Kurds in the north and rebellious Shiites in the south. Undercover agents have infiltrated both regions.

This unit was responsible for the sabotage bombing attacks on Iran’s oil installations in the 1990s.

Brigade of Mukhabarat whips senior officers and high officials to safe locations in times of external danger.


Military Intelligence Service (Al-Istikhbarat al-Askariyya)

Another of the clandestine services deferring directly to the president. Centered in Baghdad, it is built around a prison and interrogation unit, but also maintains regional headquarters at Kirkuk – covering Iran and the Kurdish tribes of the north; Mosul – covering Turkey and Syria; Basra – covering the Gulf Emirates and Iran; and Baghdad – covering Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and opposition groups.


Military Security Services (Al Amn al-Askariyya)

Yet another covert service that answers directly to the president on case of dissidence in the armed forces and the political reliability of its members.


General Security Service (Mudiriat al-Amn al-Amma)

This arm employs an extensive web of informers to uncover such crimes as smuggling, but also focuses on manifestations of dissidence in the population. The agency operates independently of the other services but reports like them directly to the presidential palace.



After their poor showing in the 1991 Gulf War, these units were thoroughly overhauled with the help of Russian ex-Spetsnaz Special Force instructors. Greater emphasis was placed on intelligence and motivation. Some of the most reliable units have been charged with guarding Saddam Hussein. They include the “Green Berets” (33 Special Forces Brigade), the Special Republican Guard Motorized Infantry Division – both rapid reaction forces – and contingents assigned to Counter-terrorist and Hostage Rescue operations.

Special Force Battalions with the Republican Guards and a Special Forces Brigade are assigned with clandestine penetration of Kurdish areas in the north. Their jobs are assassination, sabotage, intelligence-gathering, psychological warfare and a close watch on the Turkish and Iranian border districts.

The three latest additions to Saddam’s secret army are:


The Nuclear Sword

A super-secret team of some 50 men who are moved around from one group to another in special operations, trained in secret and, since September 11, extensively compartmentalized. Among its members are Palestinians from Lebanon who come to Iraq for training, as well as agents sent undercover to the US. Among them too are Iraqi scientists believed to have manufactured at least three 12-kiloton atomic bombs weighing almost two tons, that are small enough for transportation by a heavy-duty truck, or hiding in the vicinity of advancing enemy troops. These scientists are also thought to have built three working models of a radiological weapon as well as a special ground vehicle to deliver it, to be driven by a suicide volunteer. These devices are quickly assembled on the spot and deployed for activation against enemy troops.


Saddam’s Martyrs (Men of Sacrifice)

This organization of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops was established by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday. Many of their tasks overlap those of other military and intelligence units so that they are able to move in and salvage a mission after other units have failed. These Men of Sacrifice are described as a pre-emptive suicide strike force consisting of many units: a motorized infantry force made up of teenage recruits from the president’s Tikrit clan, an armored force, an artillery unit equipped with towed and self-propelled pieces, a small number of fixed wing and rotary craft, as well as a special chemical platoon, a commando company, a communications section and a transportation section. Deployed too are scuba divers and airborne commandos.

The ‘martyrs” are trained in tactics of assassination, explosives, kidnapping and chemical and biological warfare. Their crack troops are fluent in English, Persian and Hebrew. They have been known to carry out cross-border assignments in Syria, Iran and Jordan, with strong indications that they are currently active in Lebanon and the West Bank.


Al Hussein Missile Brigade/AKS Special Unit 223

This force is made up of three Al Hussein Missile battalions under tight presidential control. At least one maintains a fully operational launcher; the rest are on standby with disassembled launchers. Two additional brigades are believed to be armed with cruise missiles, drones and special 50-ton flatbed transport vehicles named Al Nida.

The Al Hussein missile, after undergoing modifications, has a separable warhead capable of delivering a 1-ton payload with a range of 650 km. A research program known as “Meteo 1” created a detachable parachute with retarded missile warhead. UN sanctions restricted Iraq to testing missiles with ranges of no more than 150 km. Nonetheless, Iraq went ahead clandestinely with computer simulations, wind tunnel trials and production engineering tests to upgrade its warheads for weapons of mass destruction.

Testing improved bombs using simulated agents and spray systems for germ warfare is almost impossible to detect – particularly since 1998, when the UN arms inspectors left Iraq. Iraq is thought to have spent the last decade greatly improving its shells, bombs and warheads and weapons of mass destruction, producing weapons that are 5-10 times more effective than its original crude designs.

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