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Iraqi Republican Guard
Iraqi Republican Guard Symbol.svg
Republican Guard Forces Command insignia
Active 1980- 2003
Country Iraq
Branch Iraqi military
Colors Red berets
Equipment T-72 tanks, Lion of Babylon tank, AK-47
Engagements *Iran-Iraq War
Disbanded May 23, 2003
Saddam Hussein

Raad Majid al-Hamadani
Majeid Hussein Al-Dulaimi

Aircraft flown
Attack helicopter Mil Mi-24
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein talks with elite Republican Guard officers in Baghdad on March 1, 2003.[1] Iraqi News Agency/AP.

The Iraqi Republican Guard (Arabic: حرس العراقي الجمهوري‎ ""Ḥaris al-‘Irāq al-Jamhūriyy") was a branch of the Iraqi military, which later became the Republican Guard Corps and then the Republican Guard Forces Command. Formed in 1980, it was originally created to be Saddam Hussein's bodyguard but was expanded into a large military force. It was disbanded along with the rest of Iraqi Army after the Second Gulf War by Coalition Provisional Authority. Members were (mainly but not exclusively) highly motivated volunteers rather than conscripts. They received bonuses, new cars and subsidized housing, and received greater training than the regular army. The force's last commander was Qusay Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was so confident about the capability of the guard that he had said: "In history when they write about Napoleon's guard, they will arrange them next to the Republican Guard of Iraq."[2]

The Republican Guard were the elite troops of the Iraqi army under Saddam, unlike the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam and the ordinary Iraqi Army. They were easily recognizable because they had red berets instead of the ordinary black.


Iran-Iraq War

Created in 1980 as an all-volunteer Presidential Guard brigade during the Iran-Iraq War, which participated in its final part, with the primary objective of maintaining stability of the regime and protection against internal and external enemies. Initially, the Guard had limited capabilities; however, it was expanded to five brigades in 1986 with the start of the Iran-Iraq War.

By 1986 the war had exhausted Iraq with both Iran and Iraq suffering heavy casualties. Iran had by then captured Al Faw and generally pushed Iraqi forces back to the prewar borders. This Caused the Iraqi Ba'ath Party to convene the Ba'ath Extraordinary Congress of July 1986. During this Congress the Ba'ath Party decided on a new strategy to overhaul the Iraqi military and utilize Iraq's manpower capability. The government closed all colleges and universities and began a mass mobilization program to force draft dodgers into the Iraqi Popular Army. This decision allowed for the drafting of thousands of university students, who were sent to military summer camps. In addition, the military began accepting Sunni volunteers from throughout Iraq.

With this massive influx of manpower the RG expanded to over 25 brigades which were led by loyal officers drawn from the Iraqi military. This force then conducted the Tawakalna ala Allah operations which recaptured the Al Faw and initially stabilized the front and then pushed the Iranians back.

Invasion of Kuwait

By 1 August 1990, there were eight RGFC divisions (two armored, one mechanized, one special forces and four infantry) between Basrah and the Kuwaiti border. With almost 140,000 troops, 1,500 tanks and infantry vehicles, plus artillery, and supply and support services . On 2 August 1990, the Republican Guard spearheaded Iraqi forces in the Invasion of Kuwait which lasted four days. Iraqi forces outnumbered the Kuwaitis 26 to 1. They conducted the attack so quickly that much of Kuwait's military vehicles never left their motor pool. At 0200 hours, Iraq launched an invasion with four elite Iraqi Republican Guard divisions (1st Hammurabi Armoured Division, 2nd al-Medinah al-Munawera Armoured Division, 3rd Tawalkalna ala-Allah Mechanized Infantry Division and 6th Nebuchadnezzar Motorized Infantry Division) and Iraqi Army special forces units equivalent to a full division. The main thrust was conducted by the commandos deployed by helicopters and boats to attack Kuwait City, while the other divisions seized the airports and two airbases.

Afterwards the RG was withdrawn and redeployed into strategic reserve positions.

The Republican Guard Forces Command was divided into two Corps, an independent division, twenty special forces (commando) brigades, and one naval infantry brigade. The

  • 1st RG Corps, deployed in southern Iraq and northern Kuwait, consisted of:
    • two armored units, the Hammurabi and Madina Divisions;
    • one mechanized infantry unit, the Tawakalna Division; and
    • one motorized infantry unit the Al-Faw Division.
  • 2d RG Corps deployed south of Baghdad consisted of
    • two motorized infantry units the Nebuchadnezzar and the Adnan Divisions.
  • The independent mechanized infantry unit was the Baghdad Division, stationed in and around the Iraqi capital. This RGFC mechanized division was stationed in Baghdad throughout the Gulf War.
  • Independent As Saiqa Special Forces Division
    • Marine Brigade deployed on Kuwait's nine islands, all of which with the exception of Failaka Island are uninhabited.[3] The Brigade was headquartered on Bubiyan, with an area of 860 km² is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380 m long bridge.[4]

The First Gulf War

See articles Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm

The RG expanded further into the Republican Guard Forces Command and consisted of the following units during the Gulf War:[citation needed]

  • 1st "Hammurabi" Armoured Division
  • 2nd "al-Medinah al-Munawera" Armoured Division
  • 3rd "Tawakalna ala-Allah" Mechanised Division
  • 4th "Al Faw" Mechanised Division
  • 5th "Baghdad" Mechanised Division - a square division with four brigades based in and around Bagdad. Could form two Half-divisions.
  • 6th "Nebuchadnezzar" Mechanised Division
  • 7th "Adnan" Mechanised Division
  • 8th "As Saiqa" Special Forces Division - contained a Marine Brigade, an parachute brigade, and a Special Forces Brigade.

The RG also included two Corps Headquarters, the Allah Akbar RG Operations Command", composed of infantry and armoured units. And the "Fat'h al-Mubayyin RG Operations Command," and numerous field support units, artillery, supply, etc., and many Commando units of company and battalion size. Between the invasion of Kuwait and the start of the war on January 17, 1991, four more RGFC internal security divisions were formed which remained behind in Iraq. Other sources report this development as 'in January 1991, the formation of five more Republican Guard divisions was announced -- all motorized infantry. The names of only three of them were identified: the Al-Abed, Al-Mustafa ('The Elect'), and Al-Nidala Divisions.' They may have conducted operations against Kurdish forces in the north.

During the First Gulf War, the U.S. VII Corps assembled in full strength and launched an armoured attack into Iraq early Sunday, February 24, just to the west of Kuwait, taking Iraqi forces by surprise. Simultaneously, the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps launched a sweeping “left-hook” attack across the largely undefended desert of southern Iraq, led by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Once the allies had penetrated deep into Iraqi territory, they turned eastward, launching a flank attack against the Republican Guard.

Both sides exchanged fire, but the Republican guard divisions, worn down by weeks of aerial bombardment, proved unable to withstand the Allied advance. Tank battles, including the Battle of Medina Ridge and the Battle of 73 Easting, flared as the Republican Guard attempted to retreat. The Allies won with minimal losses while inflicting heavy losses on the Iraqis.

Between the Iraq Wars

All the eight other division were involved in the fighting and the Tawakalna Division was so battered that it was disbanded. The other formations led the suppression of the 1991 uprisings in northern and southern Iraq - the Kurdish insurgency in the north and the Shi'ite uprising in the east. During these times, there were numerous accusations of the use of poison gas, rape and torture.

Though it was reduced to a strength of seven or eight divisions, the RGFC was reconstituted with what resources were available, stripping equipment from Army heavy divisions.

Second Gulf War

See article: Operation Iraqi Freedom

Iraqi Republican Guard FROG-7 captured by US Marines.

It was subordinate to the "Special Security Apparatus of the State" and not to the Ministry of Defense (Iraq) as was the regular Iraqi army. It was split into two Corps, one for the defense and control of northern Iraq, called "Allah Akbar Operations Command", composed of infantry and armoured units. And the "Fat'h al-Mubayyin Operations Command" composed primarily of mechanized units, which was located in the southern part of the country. In 2002, it was reported that the Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam were both training in urban warfare and in guerrilla warfare. It is believed by some that some of the former Republican Guard forces loyal to Saddam Hussein are still fighting on the ground as guerrilla insurgents after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Republican Guard then consisted of between 50,000 and 60,000 men (although some sources indicate up to 80,000), all volunteers, and some 780 Soviet tanks T-72 and T-62 along with other mechanized vehicles. These forces are intentionally away from the capital to avert a possible rebellion against the regime. The members of this body of the army are better paid, equipped, armed and trained corps that regularly get facilities to buy houses and other privileges to ensure loyalty to the regime and by extension Saddam.

During the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Republican Guard was responsible for carrying out the invasion and occupation, made without opposition by the Kuwaiti army. Once the international coalition it was decided to participate in the conflict, five divisions were withdrawn from Kuwait to the Iraqi border to serve as reserve forces, being replaced by regular army troops. The Nebuchadnezzar divisions, Tawakalna, Adnan Al-Nida and were punished harshly during Operation Desert Storm and still between 70% of men and 50% of the armored division escaped the siege of the coalition. In the second Gulf War, before U.S. troops had entered Baghdad and according to information, the CIA agents infiltrated through the initiative of volunteers. They came into contact with members of the first and second ladder of command of the Republican Guard to ensure an influx of American troops in Baghdad without problems. In that pact, allegedly signed by Donald Rumsfeld, included transportation insurance for themselves and their families outside Iraq, large sums of money, the promise of official positions in Iraq post-invasion for those who had not committed war crimes, including U.S. residency and citizenship for some key leaders. Of course, the soldiers were unaware that their superiors had agreed the surrender of Baghdad and even less the Fedayeen, which were abandoned to their fate once the armed conflict officially ended.[5]

Order of battle

  • 1st Republican Guard (Northern) Corps
    • 2nd Al Medina Armored Division
    • 5th Baghdad Mechanized Division; a square division of four brigades, was able to be split into two small half-divisions.
    • 7th Adnan Infantry Division
  • 2nd Republican Guard (Southern) Corps
    • Al Nida Armored Division
    • 6th Nebuchadnezzer Mechanized Division
    • 1st Hammurabi Armored Division
  • Special Republican Guard
    • 1st Brigade (Security)
    • 2nd Brigade (Combat)
    • 3rd Brigade (Combat)
    • 4th Brigade (Armored)
    • Air Defense Command (Two Regiments, Three Batteries)
    • Tank Command (Two Regiments)

On April 2, 2003, U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks stated that the Baghdad division of the Iraqi Republican Guard had been "destroyed". Iraq information minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf responded that this was another American "lie".[6][7]

The RG was officially dissolved on May 23, 2003 per Order Number 2 of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer.[8]

It is believed that some if not many members of the RG joined several of the insurgent groups currently operating in Iraq such as the Return.

In popular culture

In the hit TV series Lost, Sayid Jarrah, a main character, served in the Republican Guard during the Persian Gulf War. During his service in the first Persian Gulf War he was a soldier, a communications officer and torturer. Most of his background story revolves around the guilt he has felt towards people he's tortured in the past.

The Conflict: Desert Storm video game series feature soldiers of the Iraqi Republican Guard as the main enemies.

The video game BlackSite: Area 51 features the Iraqi Republican Guard as the main enemies in the first episode, Iraq.

Legendary Texas comedian Bill Hicks referred to the "Elite Republican Guard" in some of his routines. He mentioned the media downplaying the US's success in Iraq during the First Persian Gulf War because "We still have not faced the Elite Republican Guard". He went on to say that after the ineffectiveness of the Iraqi response to US bombing campaigns, the media no longer used the term "Elite".


  1. ^ - Republican Guard gets last chance against U.S. forces
  2. ^ Woods, Kevin; Michael R. Pease, Mark E. Stout, Williamson Murray, James G. Lacey (2006). The Iraqi Perspective Report. Naval Institute Press. p. 39. ISBN 1-59114-457-4. 
  3. ^ Bubiyan (island, Kuwait) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Structurae [en]: Bubiyan Bridge (1983)
  5. ^ More information on the case of the surrender of Baghdad text published by Walid Rabbah in English and in Spanish papers.
  6. ^ - U.S.: Baghdad division of Republican Guard destroyed
  7. ^ - Sahaf: U.S. troops will be burned
  8. ^ Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 2: Dissoulution of Entities

Further reading

  • Watson, Bruce, Military Lessons of the Gulf War, Greenhill Books, London, 1993.(paperback)
  • Jane's Intelligence Review: January 2002 (IAF/IAAC), February 1999(regional commands), January 1999 (SRG), September 1997 (Army/RG), February 1995, and March 1993

See also

External links

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