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Iraq: Internal Security in the 1980s
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security > Internal Security in the 1980s


In addition to the regular armed forces, Iraq's state security system consisted of at least six organizations charged with a wide variety of security functions. Little was publicly known about these paramilitary and police organizations, but their importance was undisputed. In addition to the People's Army, discussed above, internal security organizations consisted of the Security Troops (or Presidential Guard), the Border Guard, the Frontier Force, the regular civil police, and the Mukhabarat (or Department of General Intelligence).

The Security Troops formed an elite group of 4,800 whose primary task was to protect the Baath leadership in Iraq. Their ranks were filled with the most loyal troops serving in the Iraqi armed forces, whose dedication to Baathism and to Saddam Husayn personally had been tested on numerous occasions. These troops faced considerable danger because the frequent assassination attempts on the president and on his close associates usually meant loss of life among bodyguards. Survivors were generously rewarded, however.

The Frontier Guard and the Mobile Force accounted for an estimated 50,000 additional men within the security system. Unlike the People's Army, these forces consisted of full-time, professional men-at-arms. Frontier Guard personnel were stationed principally in northern Iraq along the borders with Iran, Turkey, and Syria to guard against smuggling and infiltrations. Before 1974 the Frontier Guard was under the control of local Kurds, but, after the defeat of the Kurdish revolt in 1975, it was administered by the central government. The Mobile Force was a strike force used to support the regular police in the event of major internal disorders. It was armed with infantry weapons, with artillery, and with armored vehicles, and it contained commando units trained to deal with guerrilla activities.

The regular civil police handled state security in addition to its routine duties of fighting crime, controlling traffic, and the like. After 1982, many of these routine functions were taken over by People's Army "volunteers" to free more able-bodied men for duty on the war front. The regular police were under the Ministry of Interior, and they were commanded by the director of police in Baghdad. There were thought to be several specialized components of the police, including forces assigned exclusively to traffic, to narcotics investigation, and to railroad security. The police operated at least two schools: the Police College for those with secondary degrees and the Police Preparatory School for those without secondary education. Police officers held military ranks identical to those of the regular armed forces, and many were called to serve in the war with Iran.

The Department of General Intelligence was the most notorious and possibly the most important arm of the state security system. It was created in 1973 after the failed coup attempt by Director of Internal Security Nazim Kazzar. In 1982 the Department of General Intelligence underwent a personnel shake-up. At that time, it was headed by Saadun Shakir, who was an RCC member and, like Saddam Husayn, a Tikriti, and who was assisted by Saddam Husayn's younger half-brother, Barazan Husayn. Foreign observers believed that the president was dissatisfied because the agency had not anticipated the assassination attempt at Ad Dujayl. It was also believed that several separate intelligence networks were incorporated within the department, and that Iraqi intelligence agents operated both at home and abroad in their mission to seek out and eliminate opponents of the Baghdad regime.

Data as of May 1988

Last Updated: May 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iraq was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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