Iraq and the War of Sanctions: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

The Threat from Iraq’s Land Forces

In spite of a massive UN Coalition victory in the Gulf War, sanctions, and Desert Fox, Iraq maintains an army of 350,000–400,000 full-time actives. This force has an impressive order of battle and a large inventory of combat equipment. It is effective by regional standards, and it can draw on the experience it has gained from both major successes at the end of the Iran-Iraq War and its massive defeat during the Gulf War. The Coalition’s success in the Gulf War does not mean that Iraq does not retain impressive military capabilities, and it must be remembered that Iraq emerged from nearly a decade of intense war with Iran as the largest most capable military machine in the region.

At the same time, the Iraqi army has scarcely been able to overcome the effects of the Gulf War. It has been cut off from most arms imports. For nearly the last decade, it has not been able to invest even a tenth of the capital that it invested in modernizing and improving its land forces during the five years before the Gulf War. The devastation of the Gulf War, and the five years of turmoil that have followed, have sharply reduced the composition and capabilities of the Iraqi army. 1


THE IMPACT OF THE GULF WAR ON THE IRAQI ARMY

The Iraqi army suffered massive losses during the Gulf War, although experts differ sharply on the number of Iraqis who died, on the amount of equipment and munitions destroyed or lost during the air and ground offensive phases of the war, and on the number and identity of the Iraqi combat units that lost cohesion or combat effectiveness at any given time.

Just after the war, USCENTCOM estimated that Coalition forces had virtually shattered more than 15 Iraqi divisions, and only 5–7 of 43 Iraqi divisions in the

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