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Side-by-side satellite images show destruction of Al Masha, a Shia village destroyed by Iraqi forces in September 1999.

Saddam's Iron Grip
Intelligence Reports on Saddam Hussein's Reign

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 167

For more information contact
Jeffrey Richelson - 202/994-7000

Posted - October 18, 2005


"Hussein Goes on Trial Tomorrow, and Iraqis See a First Accounting"
by John Burns
New York Times
October 18, 2005

"Saddam's Day in Court: Fair Trials at Risk"
Human Rights Watch
October 16, 2005

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Washington D.C. October 18, 2005 - The National Security Archive today posted a series of declassified U.S. intelligence documents and other U.S. agency reports on Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses, one of which is the subject of the first trial of Saddam which begins tomorrow in Iraq. The first set of charges concerns Saddam's responsibility, along with seven co-defendants, for the 1982 massacre of 143 Shiites in Dujail, a town 35 miles north of Baghdad, after an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Saddam. Procedures for the trial are the subject of significant controversy, as reported by the New York Times' John Burns today. The Archive's posting gives a preview of the evidence that the U.S. government may be providing to the trial process.

Saddam may face up to a dozen trials for crimes alleged to have been committed by his regime - among them the gassing of Kurds in Halabja and the suppression of a Shiite uprising in the south. However, in September it was reported that the Iraqi government may waive further proceedings if Saddam is convicted in the first trial, a conviction which could bring the death penalty. (Note 1)

During his years in power, the U.S. Intelligence Community produced estimates and studies of Iraq's foreign and defense policies, its military capabilities and activities, and analyses of the regime's domestic policies and actions. Other U.S. agencies, both before and after the termination of Saddam's rule, also produced reports on the regime's internal activities.

The collection below contains a number of documents produced by U.S. agencies over the last thirty years concerning the Iraqi regime's policies and activities directed at maintaining itself in power and eliminating or neutralizing opposition to the regime.

Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Document 1
NIO/Middle East
The Implications of the Iran-Iraq Agreement
May 1, 1975. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This State Department- CIA- Defense Intelligence Agency analysis explores the implications of the March 1975 agreement between Iran and Iraq on border issues. One result of the agreement was Iran halting aid to the Kurdish forces who opposed the Iraqi regime. A key element of the study is an examination of the impact of the agreement on the Kurds' ability to oppose the regime

Document 2
Director of Central Intelligence
NIE 36.2-1-79, Iraq's Role in the Middle East
June 21, 1979. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

While this national intelligence estimate focuses primarily on external affairs it also deals with topics such as the nature of the regime and regime politics. Its principal judgments include the observation that "Iraq's Ba'athist leaders are determined to perpetuate themselves in power, to impose their national, socialist, and secular philosophy on the country" and "The 40-year-old civilian Saddam Husayn is likely to succeed the ailing President Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr …"

Document 3
Director of Central Intelligence
SNIE 34/36.2-82, Implication of Iran's Victory Over Iraq
June 8, 1982. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This special national intelligence estimate explores both the domestic and foreign implications of Iran's apparent (in 1982) victory over Iraq in their then two-year old war. Included in the estimate is an analysis of Iranian and internal challenges to Saddam's role and the likely nature of a successor regime.

Document 4
Director of Central Intelligence
SNIE 36.2-83, Prospects for Iraq
July 19, 1983. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This estimate also explores the domestic and foreign implications of Iraq's continued war with Iran. Two sections deal with the domestic impacts - one focuses on economic issues, the other on the political impact of the war. The political impact section examines regime weaknesses and strengths, possible succession scenarios, and opposition groups. The estimate's key judgments included the belief that "Saddam will remain in power for the two-year period of this Estimate, but in our judgment his regime has become more brittle. It is more … dependent on fear as an instrument of control …"

Document 5
Central Intelligence Agency
Iraq: Foreign Intelligence and Security Services
August 1985. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

A key factor in Saddam's ability to maintain power were the regime's intelligence and security services. This appears to be the only one of the CIA's "Foreign Intelligence and Security Service" studies to be officially released. It focuses on the functions, organization, and administrative practices of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Director of Military Intelligence, and the Directorate General of Security, as well as key personalities.

Document 6
Central Intelligence Agency
Political and Personality Handbook of Iraq
January 1991. Secret
Source: CIA Electronic Reading Room

In the summary to this study, it is noted that Saddam had built a powerful, centralized political machine with only himself and a few trusted family members and lieutenants making virtually all policy decisions. The handbook's main body contains a section on Saddam's Iraq which covers the country's social structure and identity, the structure of the government, the Ba'ath Party and the security services. Other topics examined in the handbook include the men around Saddam, his inner and outer circles, and key military commanders.

Document 7
Central Intelligence Agency
Iraq: Domestic Impact of the War
January 25, 1991. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This report, by the CIA's Office of Near Eastern and Asian Analysis, was written soon after the initiation on operation Desert Storm in January 1991. Among the domestic impacts it considers are the economic consequences as well as the political climate.

Document 8

Central Intelligence Agency
Iraq: Implications for Insurrection and Prospects for Saddam's Survival
March 1991. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act

This analysis, also produced by the agency's Near Eastern analysis office, focuses solely on the prospect that Saddam would survive the aftermath of Iraq's defeat in the Persian Gulf War. It begins by noting that Saddam "faces his most serious political challenge in more than twenty years of power." It examines possible outcomes to the insurrection as well as scenarios for a coup.

Document 9

Director of Central Intelligence
SNIE 36-2-91, Iraq: Saddam Husayn's Prospects for Survival Over the Next Year
September 1991. Secret
Source: CIA Electronic Reading Room

Six months after the CIA's Near Eastern analysis office completed its assessment of Saddam's prospects for survival the entire Intelligence Community produced a Special National Intelligence Estimate on the same topic. In a memorandum included as a preface to the main body of the estimate, acting director of central intelligence Richard Kerr informed readers that "the key value of this paper is its appraisal of the intense internal and external pressures on the regime in Iraq."

Document 10
Director of Central Intelligence
NIE 92-7, Saddam Husayn: Likely to Hang On
June 1992. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act

The title to this 1992 national intelligence estimate provided the Intelligence Community's conclusion as to Saddam's immediate prospects. The body of this estimate discussed how Saddam was 'tightening his grip' and 'extending his reach in the South' and putting 'pressure on the Kurds.' It concludes with a discussion of why Saddam's survival over the near term was judged likely.

Document 11
Central Intelligence Agency, Special Intelligence Memorandum
Humanitarian Situation in the Marshes, August 20, 1993
August 20, 1993. Top Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This special intelligence report notes that deteriorating living conditions in Iraq's southern marshlands had prompted some Iraqi Shiites to flee to Iran or to locations elsewhere in Iraq and that "Baghdad continues to deny the UN and international relief organizations access to the marshes."

Document 12
Director of Central Intelligence
NIE 93-42, Prospects for Iraq: Saddam and Beyond
December 1993. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

Among the key questions examined in this late 1993 national intelligence estimate were the prospects for the survival of Saddam's regime, the impact of sanctions and diplomatic isolation on Saddam's survival, the most likely means of regime change, the characteristics and policies of likely successors, and the prospects of political stability after Saddam. It includes the observation that the Intelligence Community did not "anticipate receiving significant intelligence indications that a successful coup is imminent," since "any group of anti-Saddam conspirators that cannot keep their plot secret from US intelligence is not likely to keep it secret from Saddam's security services."

Document 13
Department of State
Saddam Hussein's Iraq
September 1999. Unclassified
Source: Department of State

This heavily illustrated Department of State publication was aimed at the American public and international audiences. It explores the impact of sanctions, Iraqi obstruction of the oil-for-food program, regime misuse of resources, repression of the Iraqi people, and war crimes committed by the regime.

Document 14
Director of Central Intelligence
Putting Noncombatants at Risk: Saddam's Use of "Human Shields"
January 2003. Unclassified
Source: Central Intelligence Agency

This unclassified Intelligence Community study examines Saddam's use of both foreigners and Iraqis as human shields. Specific topics include the manipulation of Iraqi and foreign volunteers, and placing Iraqi civilians and civilian facilities at risk.

Document 15
U.S. Agency for International Development
Iraq's Legacy of Terror: MASS GRAVES
January 2004. Unclassified
Source: Agency for International Development

In the aftermath of the end of Saddam's regime mass graves were uncovered at numerous sites in Iraq. This Agency for International Development publication shows the location of the graves, which British Prime Minister Tony Blair estimated contained the bodies of as many as 400,000 Iraqis, and discusses the history involved as well as including stories of the survivors.


1. Ellen Knickmeyer, "Iraq May Forgo Multiple Trials is Hussein Is Convicted in First," Washington Post, September 5, 2005, p. A25; Sebastian Allison, "Saddam to be tried in 1982 massacre," Washington Times, September 5, 2005, p. A15.

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