Saddam Hussein is out for American and Kurdish blood in northern Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report Military Directive 531 signed by the Iraqi leader on June 11 ordered commando units to head to northern Iraq, following intelligence reports indicating that US special forces and CIA personnel had made impressive strides in recruiting and training Kurdish fighters for their anti-Saddam combat units.
(See DEBKAfile‘s exclusive report on June 8 depicting the efforts of CIA Director George Tenet to build a Kurdish assault force against Saddam Hussein, condensed in the HOT POINTS section of DEBKA-Net-Weekly No. 64, June 14.)
The Iraqi commando squads are comprised of elite members of the Republican Guards and special military intelligence combat units.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, the presidential decree directed the commandos “to wage a secret, tenacious and sustained war to destroy enemy forces that have invaded the Iraqi motherland”. No sooner had Saddam signed the order than the Iraqi units were on the move. Some parachuted deep into northern Iraq while a second force was ferried into the area by Republican Guard helicopters. A third group was detached from nearby bases.
Their orders were as follows:
1. Use ambushes and night raids to attack and destroy Kurdish and US camps, communications bases and arms depots. Inflict heavy enemy casualties.
2. Always use the element of surprise in launching attacks.
3. Take into account you will be on your own and cannot expect outside help.
4. For the operations, break open the secret emergency stores located in the field. Commanding officers and their deputies know where they are cached. The stores contain weapons, explosives, ammunition, food, drinking water and medical supplies.
In recent months, Iraq has distributed emergency stores in the following strategic areas: Klar, in the oil province of Kirkuk; the Dahuk region north of Mosul in central northern Iraq; Rawandiz, in the northeast near the Iranian border; Amadiyah, near the Turkish frontier; and Zakho, close to the meeting point of the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
Iraqi military intelligence has moreover established three forward command centers in northern Iraq to supervise and coordinate the special units’ operations. They are located near Siniar in western Iraq, across from the border with Syria; outside Summel, northeast of the Ayn Zalah oil field; and in the Rost area, very close to the Iranian border.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources add that Saddam first gave orders to set up the command centers and commando units back in February, when he found out that US special forces and CIA agents were about to land in northern Iraq (as reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly No. 50 on February 22).
The average Iraqi commando squad is composed of five or six well- trained fighters. Five or six larger units have between 15 and 25 combatants each. Each unit has been issued its operational and attack missions. These include terror strikes against civilians in the Kurdish cities, towns and villages where the population appears willing to cooperate with the Americans.
Saddam held his hand before launching the attack in order to lull his enemies into a false sense of security and the belief they were in full control of a friendly region. The Kurdish trainees and their American special forces instructors will now be called upon to prove their mettle in real combat against crack Iraqi troops.