How motivated is the Iraqi Army...

Opinions please…

You’ve got this army in Iraq that seems to be made up of two parts: the “Elite Guard”, or whatever it’s called, and the much larger rank-and-file army.

The relatively small Elite Guard looks like they might be pretty fanatical and devoted to Saddam, although this may not be completely true.

I’m guessing that the rank-and-file army has some dissention, doubt and fear within its ranks.

Question: If the U.S. comes barrelling in with guns and rockets a-blazing, and it looks pretty clear that we’re gonna hammer them, AND that as a result, Saddam is gonna either be killed or captured or sent into exile, can we expect a large number of Iraqi military to just toss their guns down and not fight?

This goes to the larger issue of living under the threat of death or imprisonment in Iraq if one goes against Saddam’s decrees. If Saddam isn’t there anymore, will his army just say “good, we don’t want to fight anyway”? Or have they lived for so long under his iron fist, in fear and ignorance, that they will just fight the good fight no matter what?

This is a very good question.

I keep thinking about the last gulf war and all that hype about the ‘2nd largest standing army in the world’, that was all over CNN as it was happening.

Of course, a day later you couldn’t turn on CNN without seeing live coverage of Iraqi soldiers surrending to Italian camera men.

I’m really glad you asked this, I can’t wait to hear the straight dope on this topic!

The UK’s Guardian thinks we’ll have a tougher fight this go around; the conflict could be long and bloody. For one thing, this time they’re not defending Kuwait, they’re defending the regime they’ve spent their whole lives serving. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but they think so.

Iraq’s ground forces as of November incule 375,000 troops and2,200 tanks. Of these, 50,000 to 70,000 make up the Republican guard, who are better paid and better trained than the regular army and more likely to remain loyal. 26,000 make up the Elite Republican Guard, whose loyalty is unquestionable. Finally are the 50 or so that oversee the whole operation in Saddam’s “cabinet” that are also unquestioningly loyal and would fight to the last. Sanctions have hurt them and equipment is old and inneffective, making for about 50% efficiency from the army. Still, the loyal Guard that he’s keeping close in Baghdad will make him not as vulnerable as we’d like. The regular troops may well behave much like they did in 1991, but the elite troops may likely fight tooth and nail to protect the regime in Baghdad.

During the Iran-Iraq War Iraqi morale did stiffen up appreciably once they were on the defensive and fighting on Irai territory. But the mass Iraqi infantry was still pretty piss-poor and prone to collapse ( most Iraqi prisoners-of-war taken in that struggle were from from these poorly led and trained infantry formations imploding ). They did make some significant improvements by 1987-1989 when the war entered its final phase, though. Further the reduction of the army after the Gulf War to a more barebones structure has cleared several hundred-thousand deadweight “cannon-fodder” from its ranks. It is likely the remaining units are a bit better on average than those that fought in the Gulf War for this reason, if nothing else.

However there are a lot of unknowns here. Like what psychological picture most Iraqi soldiers have of the Americans they’ll be fighting. Propaganda can be important in determining just how soldietrs will react.

My best guess is that Pravnik probably has it right. The avaerage rank-and-file might fight a little better than they did in the Gulf War and would be perfectly fine against your standard third-world opponent ( like Iran ), but probably will be just as prone to collapse once they are cut-up by modern forces ( especially if they make the mistake of engaging in open country ). However the Republican Guards, especially if they back into urban or semi-urban areas, might be rather more nasty ( it is worth noting that Iraq was pretty dismal at urban warfare in the Iran-Iraq War, but they may have made significant improvements here as well - lord knows they’ve had time to prepare ).

  • Tamerlane