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Republican Guard (Iraq)

Iraqi Republican Guard
Republican Guard Forces Command insignia
Active 1969–2003
Country Iraq
Allegiance Saddam Hussein
Branch Iraqi military
Type Armored corps
Size ~70,000 - 75,000 ( as of 2002)
Colors Red berets
Equipment T-72 tanks
Lion of Babylon tank

Iran-Iraq War

Persian Gulf War

1991 uprisings in Iraq
2003 Invasion of Iraq

Disbanded May 23, 2003
Honorable Supervisor of the Republican Guard Qusay Hussein
Secretariat 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
Attack helicopter Mil Mi-24
Then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein talks with Republican Guard officers in Baghdad on March 1, 2003.[1] Iraqi News Agency/AP.

The Iraqi Republican Guard (Arabic: حرس العراق الجمهوري‎ ""Ḥaris al-‘Irāq al-Jamhūriyy") was a branch of the 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]


  • History 1
  • Iran-Iraq War 2
  • Persian Gulf War 3
    • Invasion of Kuwait 3.1
    • Desert Storm 3.2
  • Between the Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War 4
  • 2003 Iraq War 5
    • 2003 Order of Battle 5.1
  • In popular culture 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


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 War

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.)

Persian Gulf War

See articles Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm

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

Between the

  • Key Components of the Iraqi Ground Forces
  • The Republican Guard: outgunned and outnumbered, but they never surrender
  • CNS article
  • Global Security article
  • FAS article
  • Republican Guard gets last chance against U.S. forces (USA Today)

External links

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

Further reading

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  16. ^ "On February 15, when the Republican Guard shot down two A-1Os and damaged another, Horner pulled the Warthogs off the Republican Guard." Airpower advantage: planning the Gulf War air campaign, 1989-1991, Diane Therese Putney, p. 253, Air Force History and Museums Program, U.S. Air Force, 2004
  17. ^ "At 73 Easting, for example, 2nd ACR crews reported large volumes of small arms fire rattling off their vehicles during the assault, which means that Iraqi troops stayed at their weapons, returning fire, even as U.S. tanks passed within a few hundred meters of their positions (i.e., within small-arms range). In fact, some Republican Guard infantry are known to have remained at their posts, concealed, until U.S. attackers had actually driven through their positions, only then emerging to fire short range antitank rockets at the vehicles from behind. Heavy weapons fire was also received. Although large-caliber hits were rare, multiple Iraqi tank gun rounds were observed falling near U.S. vehicles." Victory Misunderstood
  18. ^ "Perhaps most important, the Tawakalna division not only defended itself when attacked, but also counterattacked the 2nd ACR after being driven from its positions. After nightfall the Iraqis struck the northernmost of the three U.S. cavalry troops engaged, attacking in multiple, reinforced company-strength waves, and supported by dismounted infantry." Victory Misunderstood
  19. ^
  20. ^ "The Iraqis had skillfully dug in and camouflaged their firing line and placed a formidable protective ring of antiaircraft guns around it. One ZSU-23-4 managed to shoot down an American A-10 aircraft." Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War, Robert H. Scales, p. 298, Potomac Books, Inc, 1998
  21. ^ "The Allied air campaign suffered its most disastrous day of the war. Lieutenant Olson was killed when his A-10 was shot down over Medina Ridge. Marine Captain Reginald Underwood also lost his life when his Harrier was shot down; and Air Force Captain William Andrews was also shot down over Republican Guard positions." The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq, Richard Lowry, p. 199, iUniverse, 2008
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  23. ^ More information on the case of the surrender of Baghdad text published by Walid Rabbah in English and in Spanish papers.
  24. ^ "On 23 March 2003, three days after the onset of the Iraq war, 31 Apache helicopters of the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment (some organic, some attached) set out to deplete the armour and air defenses of the Iraqi Medina Division near Karbala. As was doctrine, they flew low in packs toward their objective. However, en route they became ensnared in 'flak traps' - storms of small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and man-portable missiles, originating from rooftops. This ad hoc air defense effort, which was remniscent of Somali tactis ten years earlier, had probably been triggered by Iraqi pickets equipped with either cell phones or low-power radios. The fire brought down one of the Apaches and damaged all the others sufficiently to compel their return to base. The experience dampened command interest in attempting helicopter deep attack thereafter." Military Intervention and Common Sense: Focus on Land Forces, Lutz Unterseher, Carl Conetta, pp. 94-95, Commonwealth Institute, 2009
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  27. ^ "With visibility down to zero, the heavily damaged machines made their finals on instruments, some crash-landing and being written off, others undergoing weeks of repair." Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, p. 124, Asia-Pacific Defence Publications, 2004
  28. ^
  29. ^ "On April 2, 2003, a U.S. Army Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down near Karbala, killing seven soldiers and wounding four others. This event appeared to indicate a significant enemy presence in the city. The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars: The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Conflicts, Spencer C. Tucker, p. 672, ABC-CLIO, 2010
  30. ^ "On April 2 a navy FA-18 was shot down west of Karbala, Iraq." Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue, George Galdorisi, Thomas Phillips, p. 519, Zenith Imprint, 2008
  31. ^ "The plane from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Persian Gulf went down just before midnight Wednesday while on a bombing mission near Karbala, a city 50 miles south of Baghdad where fighting raged between U.S. forces and the Republican Guard. A search team was immediately launched. Other aircraft reported seeing surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire in the area where the plane disappeared, said Lt. Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for the Kitty Hawk ... Iraqi television broadcast pictures Thursday of what it said was the wreckage and Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf claimed the aircraft was shot down by the Saddam Fedayeen, Iraq's paramilitary force." Two Aircraft Down Over Iraq
  32. ^
  33. ^ "...about 500 Iraq forces took part in the counterattack. They were a combination of special Republican Guard, Fedayeen and Baath Party loyalists..." Iraqis Launch Counterattack In Baghdad; 50 Reported Killed
  34. ^
  35. ^ "A-10 aircraft strafed both sides of the main road leading to the bridge and one aircraft was lost to a shoulder-launched missile." Cradle of Conflict: Iraq and the Birth of Modern U.S. Military Power, Michael Knights, p.326, Naval Institute Press, 2005
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  39. ^ Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 2: Dissolution of Entities
  40. ^ Mission Accomplished, Sean Langan, BBC, 2007
  41. ^ "A Pentagon intelligence report has concluded that many bombings against Americans and their allies in Iraq, and the more sophisticated of the guerrilla attacks in Fallujah, are organized and often carried out by members of Saddam Hussein's secret service ... in Fallujah, which is currently encircled by U.S. Marines, an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 hard-core insurgents, including members of the Iraqi Special Republican Guard who melted away under the U.S.-led offensive, are receiving tactical guidance and inspiration from these former intelligence operatives." Saddam agents blamed for plots
  42. ^ Uneasy Alliance Gives Insurgents an Edge in Iraq


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


See also

  • 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", and that eventually the Republican Guard "became 'The Republicans Made This {Expletive} Up About There Being Guards Out There'."
  • The video game BlackSite: Area 51 features the Iraqi Republican Guard as the main enemies in the first episode, Iraq.
  • The video game, Conflict: Desert Storm series feature soldiers of the Ba'athist Iraqi Republican Guard as the main enemies.
  • 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.

In popular culture

Many members of the Republican Guard joined several of the insurgent groups currently operating in Iraq such as the Return and ISIS.[42]

In late April 2004, a Pentagon report claimed that members of the Special Republican Guard had regrouped in the guerrilla stronghold of Fallujah.[41]

In early 2004, British journalist Sean Langan confirmed that one of the local commanders of the guerrilla stronghold of Ramadi was a former Republican Guard officer.[40]

The RG was officially dissolved on May 23, 2003 per Order Number 2 of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer.[39]

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".[37][38]

  • 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)
  • 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

2003 Order of Battle

Nevertheless, the Medina Republican Guard Division and Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Division tasked with defending the Karbala Gap fought well, beating off on 23 March 2003, a strong attack mounted by the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment, damaging thirty Apaches and shooting down one[24] and capturing the crew, David Williams and Ronald Young, both chief warrant officers.[25] It was an important Iraqi success for the Apache unit was taken out of the frontline for a month while undergoing repairs.[26] At least 2 Apaches of the helicopter regiment were damaged beyond repair.[27][28] On 2 April 2003, the Iraqi units positioned around Karbala shot down a U.S. Army Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk helicopter, killing seven soldiers and wounding four others.[29] Iraqi forces also shot down an FA-18 Hornet near Karbala around 8.45 AM local time.[30][31] On April 7, 2003, an Iraqi Special Republican Guard FROG-7 rocket or an Ababil-100 SSM missile exploded among the parked vehicles of the headquarters of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, killing two soldiers (Private 1st Class Anthony Miller and Staff Sergeant Lincoln Hollinsaid and two embedded journalists (Julio Parrado and Christian Liebig), wounding 15 others and destroying 17 military vehicles.[32] On 8 April 2003, some 500 Iraqis (including Special Republican Guard[33]) mounted a fierce counterattack across the Jumhuriya Bridge in Baghdad, forcing part of the U.S. forces on the western side of Baghdad to initially abandon their positions, but the Iraqis reportedly lost 50 killed in the fighting that included the use of A-10 Warthogs on the part of the US forces.[34] An A-10 attack plane was shot down in combating the counterattack by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile.[35][36]

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.[23]

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.

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.

An Iraqi Republican Guard FROG-7 captured by U.S. Marines.

See article: Iraq War

2003 Iraq War

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

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.

Between the Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War

In early April 1991, Colonel Montgomery Meigs, the commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division, paid his respects to his former enemy's Medina Division reporting that, "These guys stayed and fought."[19] The Medina Division shot down an A-10 Thunderbolt II in the fighting for Medina Ridge on February 27, 2003, and other Republican Guard units were responsible for the destruction of a US Marine Corps Harrier, a USAF F-16 and a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk that day.[20][21][22]

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. During the latter battle, US veterans admit coming under heavy small-arms fire with bullets bouncing off their vehicles, which proves that several dismounted detachments of the Tawakalna Division had stayed and fought.[17] Several rifle companies of the Tawakalna Division counterattacked under the cover of darkness, in an attempt to recover lost positions.[18] The Allies won with minimal losses while inflicting heavy losses on the Iraqi Army, but elements of the Republican Guard divisions were able to withdraw back into Iraq, shooting down three US warplanes and a rescue helicopter in the process.

During the Persian 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. Prior to the ground offensive, the Iraqi Republican Guard had been attacked relentlessly by US warplanes but managed to shoot down and damage a number of the attackers. On 15 February, the Iraqi Republican Guard shot down 2 A-10 Warthogs and damaged another and this alarmed USAF General Charles Albert Horner, who was forced to call off further A-10 attacks on these divisions.[16] 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.

Desert Storm

After the invasion, the Republican Guard was withdrawn and redeployed into strategic reserve positions in northern Kuwait and southern and central Iraq.[15]

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] The tanks of the Republican guard during the invasion were ordered not to use Anti-tank ammunition, but only High-explosive anti-personnel munitions so as to minimize Kuwaiti casualties in tank engagements by scaring their crews into abandoning their tanks, this proved to be an unfortunate mistake for the republican guard when they faced stubborn armoured resistance by the Kuwaitis near Al-Jahra in the Battle of the Bridges.[14]

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]

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

Invasion of Kuwait

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.

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.

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

  • Republican Guard, CO Lieutenant General Iyad Futayyih Khalifah al-Rawi[5]
    • 1st Republican Guard Corps, deployed in southern Iraq and northern Kuwait, consisted of:
    • 2d Republican Guard Corps deployed south of Baghdad consisted of:
      • 5th Baghdad Mechanised Division, a square division of four brigades, was able to be split into two small half-divisions
      • 6th Nebuchadnezzar Motorized Infantry Division
      • 7th Adnan Motorized Infantry Division[a 3][7]


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