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Iraqi Republican Guard
Iraqi Republican Guard Symbol.svg
Republican Guard Forces Command insignia
Active 1969–2003
Disbanded May 23, 2003
Country Flag of Iraq (1991–2004).svg Ba'athist Iraq
Allegiance Flag of Iraq (1991–2004).svg Ba'athist Iraq
Branch Ba'athist Iraqi military
Type Armoured Corps
Size ~70,000 - 75,000 ( as of 2002)
Colors Red berets
Equipment T-72 tanks
Lion of Babylon tank

Iran-Iraq War

Gulf War

1991 uprisings in Iraq
2003 Invasion of Iraq

Honorable Supervisor of the Republican Guard Qusay Hussein
Ceremonial chief Kamal Mustafa Abdullah
Chief of Staff Sayf al-Din al-Rawi
Corps Commanders

Lt. Gen. Majid al-Dulaymi (I Corps Commander)

Lt. Gen. Ra'ad al-Hamdani
(II Corps Commander)

Saddam Hussein

Qusay Hussein
Hussein Kamel al-Majid
Saddam Kamel
Aircraft flown

The Ba'athist Iraqi Republican Guard (Arabic language: حرس العراقي الجمهوري‎ ""Ḥaris al-‘Irāq al-Jamhūriyy") was a branch of the Ba'athist Iraqi military from 1969 to 2003, primarily during the presidency of Saddam Hussein. It later became the Republican Guard Corps, and then the Republican Guard Forces Command (RGFC) with its expansion into two corps. The Republican Guard was disbanded in 2003, after the invasion of Iraq by a U.S.-led international coalition.

The Republican Guard were the elite troops of the Iraqi army directly reporting to Saddam Hussein, unlike the paramilitary force Fedayeen Saddam, and the ordinary Iraqi Army. They were easily recognizable by their red or Maroon berets, rather than the ordinary black of the Iraqi Army. Guard members were mainly, but not exclusively, Sunni Arabs rather than Shi'a Arabs, or Sunni Kurds. They were better trained, disciplined, equipped, and paid than ordinary Iraqi soldiers, receiving bonuses, new cars, and subsidized housing.[2]


Formed in 1969, it was originally created to be a Presidential Guard. Its primary objective was to maintain the stability of the regime and provide protection against internal and external enemies. During the Iran-Iraq War, it was expanded into a large military force. It was disbanded along with the rest of Iraqi military after the U.S.-U.K. invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the Coalition Provisional Authority of the occupying U.S. and U.K. forces.

The force's last commander was Qusay Hussein, the younger 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."[3]

Iran-Iraq WarEdit

Initially, the Guard had limited capabilities; however, during the Iran-Iraq War, it was expanded to five brigades. 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 Republican Guard expanded to over 25 brigades which were led by loyal officers drawn from the Iraqi military. This force then conducted the Ramadan Mubarak operation which recaptured the Al Faw and stabilized the front and later pushed the Iranians back. (Note: "Ramadan Mubarak" means "Blessed Ramadan"; the operation was so named because it began on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.)

Gulf WarEdit

See articles Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm


Type 69-QM2 tank captured during the Gulf War at the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum, Puckapunyal, Australia

Between the invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War, the number of Republican Guard formations was expanded and the Guard was reorganized. The Republican Guard Forces Command was also created during this period. At the beginning of the Gulf War, it consisted of the following units:[4]

  • Republican Guard, CO Lieutenant General Iyad Futayyih Khalifah al-Rawi[5]
    • 1st Republican Guard Corps, deployed in southern Iraq and northern Kuwait, consisted of:
      • 1st Hammurabi Armoured Division, CO Major General Qais Abd al-Razaq.[6]
      • 2nd al-Medinah al-Munawera Armoured Division[a 1]
      • 3rd Tawakalna ala-Allah Mechanised Division[a 2]
      • 4th Al Faw Infantry Division
    • 2d Republican Guard Corps deployed south of Baghdad consisted of:

Deployed outside of the corps structure were various other units including:

The Republican Guard also included two Corps Headquarters, the Allah Akbar Republican Guard Operations Command, and the Fat'h al-Mubayyin Republican Guard Operations Command, separate artillery detachments and numerous field support units.

Between the invasion of Kuwait and the start of the war on January 17, 1991, four more RGFC internal security divisions had been formed which remained behind in Iraq. All of these units were motorized infantry. The names of only three of them were identified: the Al-Abed, Al-Mustafa ('The Elect') and Al-Nida Divisions ('The Call'). They may have conducted operations against Kurdish forces in the north.

Invasion of KuwaitEdit

By 1 August 1990, there were more than 100,000 Iraqi troops with up to 700 tanks on the Kuwaiti border.[8]

On 2 August 1990, the Republican Guard units commenced the invasion of Kuwait, which lasted two days.[9] The Kuwait army strength was 16,000,[10] so on paper Iraqi forces outnumbered the Kuwaitis 7 to 1. However, the actual ratio was far worse; the initial attack was so quick,[11] and the Kuwaiti units so unprepared, that many of Kuwait's armed forces were on leave and unable to report in time.[12]

The attack was conducted by eight RGFC divisions (two armoured, two mechanized, three motorised infantry and one special forces). The main thrust was conducted from the north down the main Iraq-Kuwait road, later famous as the Highway of Death, by the Hammurabi Armoured Division, with the Nebuchadnezzar Infantry division following; the Tawakalna Mechanised and Al Faw Infantry Divisions advanced on the flanks. The supporting attack from the west was led by the Medina Armoured Division, followed by the Adnan Infantry Division and the Baghdad Mechanised Division. Commandos deployed by helicopters joined the attack on Kuwait City.[13]

After the invasion, the Republican Guard was withdrawn and redeployed into strategic reserve positions in northern Kuwait and southern and central Iraq.[14]

Desert StormEdit

During the 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 Iraqi Army.

Between the Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq WarEdit

All the eight Republican Guard divisions were involved in fighting during the Gulf War and the "Tawakalna" Division was disbanded due to losses. The remaining 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. The Hammurabi and Medina divisions surrounded Karbala with Tanks and artillery and shelled the city for one week killing thousands and destroying entire neighborhoods.

Though it was reduced to a strength of seven or eight divisions, the RGFC was reconstituted, taking equipment from Army heavy divisions.

2003 Invasion of IraqEdit

See article: Iraq War


An Iraqi Republican Guard FROG-7 captured by U.S. 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 750 Soviet T-72 and Asad Babil tanks and scores of T-55 and T-62 tanks, along with other mechanized vehicles. A further 90-100 T-72 tanks were operated by the Special Republican Guard. These forces were intentionally away from the capital to avert a possible rebellion against the regime. The members of this body of the army were better paid, equipped, armed and trained. They formed a special corps that were given the ability to buy houses and given other privileges to ensure loyalty to the regime.

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.[15]

2003 Order of BattleEdit

  • 1st Republican Guard (Southern) 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 (Northern) 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. Army 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".[16][17]

The RG was officially dissolved on May 23, 2003 per Order Number 2 of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer.[18]

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

In popular cultureEdit

  • In the television show Lost, Sayid Jarrah, one of the main characters, served in the Republican Guard during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During his service in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he was a soldier, a communications officer and an interrogator. The majority of his background story revolves around the guilt he has felt towards people he's tortured in the past.
  • The video game, Conflict: Desert Storm series feature soldiers of the Ba'athist 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.
  • Texas comedian Bill Hicks referred to the "Elite Republican Guard" in some of his routines. He mentioned the media downplaying the U.S.'s success in Iraq during the 1991 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 U.S. bombing campaigns, the media no longer used the term "Elite".
  • The Republican Guard appeared in an episode of Deadliest Warrior as Saddam Hussein's personal bodyguards and elite troops as they fought against Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. At the end of the episode, the Republican Guard won,with their better training and tactics.

See alsoEdit


  1. Medina the Luminous
  2. "In God we Trust"
  3. Named after a cousin of Saddam Hussein


  1. - Republican Guard gets last chance against U.S. forces
  2. "US Marines and the Republican Guard: Pay". BBC News. 
  3. 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. 
  4. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. p. 272. 
  5. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. p. 405. 
  6. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. p. 406. 
  7. "Lucrative targets". USAF. 2001. 
  8. "1990: Iraq invades Kuwait". BBC News. 
  9. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. p. 123. 
  10. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. p. 118. 
  11. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. pp. 90–95. 
  12. "The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait: An Eyewitness Account". pp. 3–4. 
  13. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. pp. 92–95. 
  14. "Iraqi Perspectives Project Phase II Um Al-Ma’arik (The Mother of All Battles): Operational and Strategic Insights from an Iraqi Perspective". Institute for Defense Analyses. May 2008. p. 169. 
  15. More information on the case of the surrender of Baghdad text published by Walid Rabbah in English and in Spanish papers.
  16. - U.S.: Baghdad division of Republican Guard destroyed
  17. - Sahaf: U.S. troops will be burned
  18. Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 2: Dissolution of Entities

Further readingEdit

  • 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

External linksEdit

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