Created: 6/1/1982

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Succession Politics

Ad Intelligence Assessment

Succession Politics



Succession Politico

KeySaddam Husayn's decision to go to war with Iran has been .1

costly mistake. Mis battlefield strategy has placed Iraqi forcesearsiiuanon. and damage lo Iraq's domestic and foreign policy objectives grows daily. Any rallying io the regime in the event of an Iranian invation of Iraq, in our judgment, will be temporary.

The ultimate consequences of Iraq's failures in ihc war will be increased plotting against Saddam. The most serious threat- -barring assassination -is likelyome from civilian and military leaders who have so far suppressed dissatisfaction with Saddam's policies. These leaders may atiempi io replace Saddam if ihc Tikriti-led ruling hierarchy believes he hasiability to iu continued domination of Iraq. Saddam's command of the intelligence apparatus and extensive levers of repressronmost run by trusted family or tribalwell as his record of striking first would seem io preclude drawn-out coup planning.

A successful coup would have to be executed swiftlymall group of senior Ba'lhim who would move on Saddam as soon as the decision lo do so is made. We do not possess hard evidence of plotting and expect Hide warning given ihc secretive nature of the Iraqi system.

A takeover by the military acting alone appears unlikely. The officer corps will be preoccupied with long-icrm border tension or fighting with Iran. The Ba'th Puny is entrenched at all levels in the Army and under Saddam has made considerable progress toward reducing the military's involvcrncni in politics.

A popular uprising against the regime also appears unlikely unless ihc Army disintegrates in the face of an Iranian invasion. Khomeini's appeals to Iraq's majority Shia Muslim community to revolt have been largely ignored. Rebellious Kurds continue lo be more of an irritanthreat to government control.

The lack of an heir apparent io replace Saddam pointseriod of collective rule dominated by key military and security figures from ihe current Tikriti ruling clique. Revolution Command Council (RCC> Vice Chairman Ibrahim and First Deputy Prime Minister Ramadan arc strong candidates io succeed Saddam: ailing former Presidcni Bakr could be

brought out of retirement lo shore up supportewollegia! leadership probably would not make major foreign policywould continue to depend on the Gulf Arabs for financial support, trade heavily with the West for civilian and military goods, and rely on the USSRajor source of arms

Collegial rule will eventually break down as its leading figures,he politics of conspiracy and intrigue, seek prccminance. An unrestrained power struggleeturnattern of rule similar to thehen Ba'ihisi ideologues preoccupied with internal problems dominated Iraqi politics. The breakdown would affect Baghdad's foreign policy outlook, disrupting trends toward alignment with moderate Arabs and closer economic and politscal ties with the West.

Nonetheless, any Sunni governmeni in Baghdad collegia! or dominatedingle figurehave certain constant foreign policy goals, including compciiiion for Arab leadership with Egypt and Syria: rivalry with Iran for domination of the Gulf: and an anti-Israeli outlook.


Two yean ago Iraqucceed Egypt as an Arabhape ihe polio of ihc non-aligned movement (or the neat three years, and to use proceeds from eipandtng oil exports to achieveand polilical irsdepeisdence. Today. Iraq'sand material resources are being wastedar it cannot win, iu Gulf pom arc closed lo trade, its domestic economic plana arc bang cut back, and its international prestige and military reputation are greatly diminished!

In January ihe regime curtailed in ambmous develop-meni program: unly priority imports associated wiih the nonaligned summit meeting, military equipment, and food have been exempted Consumers arc being hurt by spending cutbacks. Imports for siate-owaed retail outlets, for example, have been suspended throughespite moreillion in aid from the Gulf Arabs, new Iraqi austeritywill be necessary and ara likelynclude more contract cancellation* Baghdad wants to limitof itsillion in foreign exchange reserves so thai ii can finance postwar reconstruction.

dream of supplanting ligypi as Arab leader has been shattered. Iraq today is more supplicant than leader, and its dependencemoderate Arabespecially Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, and Jordan, for financial. logisiK. and political support grows daily. The goal of independence from the USSR abo is now more distant because Iraq must maintain deliveries of Deeded Soviet arms. Pis as to bold the nonallgrtcd summit meeting in Baghdad inkicking off Iraq's leadership of ihe tnevemem for ihe next three years, ire threatened

Syria. Iraq's enemy on its western flank, hasore dangerous adversary a* the Damascus-Tehran alliance has strengthened. Wiih quiet Soviet approval. Damascus has increased its arms aid to Iran, it has also closed its land border wiih Iraq and cut Iraq's oil pipeline across Syriahe Mediterranean, depriving Baghdad of about So billion annually in oil revenues. The staled Iranian-Syrian goal is Saddam's

The domestic costs also are substantial Thecan no longer insulate the public from the economic consequences of the war. Reduction of oil revenues by more thanhas slowed the steady growth in ihe slandird of living ibai was an important factor in regime stability during. Oil sales, which account for almost all export earnings, are projected5illionhe import bill2 is estimatedillion.| ^

Responsibility for this remarkable iranifonnaiion clearly rests with President Saddam llusayn and hi) decision to invade Iran. It would be surprising if the Iraqi people or elements within ihc clue did not at some point lain him out of officc|

Principal Threats

The ultimate consequences of Saddam's failures will be serious attempts to oust himave scams evidence of coup plotting and expect little wanting given ihc secrclive nature of Ihc Iraqi

Coup Peril

The mosi seriousassassmaiion -is likely to come from key civilian and militaryraq's fading prospects in the war against Iran,wiih suppressed grievances over Saddam'scull, his refusal lo share power, and his

deemphuils ol ihe bVth Party, would be ihe principal stimulialace coup. Poteniial opponent*fear that continued public disgruntlever having to bear the burdens of "Saddam's warjLowld grow and engulf the entire current leadership]

Saddam Husayn's poiiiical system is highl>heavily repressive, and narrowly based on family and clanmall geographic section of the country -ihe cn> of Tiknt in north-central Iraq. To oppose or even question the Iraqi leader, in public or private, can have dire consequences, lev- challenge* to Saddam'srv Ihf nonce of theservices

"Saddam's war" is probably stirring additionalresentment of the Iraqi President's leadership Political interference by Saddam and his cronies and the presence of political appointees masquerading as generals in key command positions have contributedhe Army's poor showingj

Tbe military has reason to hate Saddam. Heivilianowes his positionhe Ba'ib Party and the security apparatus8 Saddam has worked hard toradition entate where military coup* have been commonplace. He has used forced retirements,transfers, and politically directed promotions to placeey commands and lo denyofficers the opportunityuild personalGenerous salaries and benefits as well as high levels of defense spending have pro&ably helped buy only shallow loyalty from the armed forcesf"

A successful military takeover bid would face mayor obstacles:

The officer corps is preoccupied with the war with Iran.

Key military commands arc in the hands of Saddam loyalists.

Theiddled with Saddam's spies, making it dangerous to even talk about tbc leadership

We know little of political attiiudes withir. theary and can eipect little or no warningoup attempt Such an attempt, if it occurs. would most likely come from,an as yet unknown group of middle-level

Prospects are slimoup in which the Ba'thlays no role The party organization is looto be ignored, and the military probably would have to make an aciaaounodatton with civilian leader* lo ran the country

rising Unlikely

Popular revolt against Saddam seems ihe lean Heel) ncar-ierm causehange of governmeni Saddam has made effective usearrot-and-tiick policv to buy off and intimidaie potential opposition.police powers have been used to cow opponents. The regime has used its oil revenues to acne ;obs.

it i

subsidise prices, and improve education, housing, medical care, and transportation. Saddam undcubt-edlv aj't ihai fin regime cannotoss of public faith in its ability to continue improving livingevere decline seems unlikely, but the regime may have difficulty insulating the public from the effects of economic austerity measures

Although ihe government's preoccupation with the war has given Iraqi opposition forces greater pponu-nities to work agairs: the regime, their actions so far have been limned to isolated sabotage andAntigovcrnment activists have been unable to provoke sustained or widespread protests among Iraq's majority Shia Muslim community, despite its iraditional aversionunni-dominated central governmeni. Many Shias are unwilling to riskto the regime for fear of puni*hmen||

sychology of fear is probably crucial lo regime sarsival. Concessions to oppressed groups would probably be seen as weakness and would stimulate more active opposition Withdrawal of the Army from Iran relatively intact, therefore, is vital to Saddam's prospects for maintaining internal control and preserving minority Sunni dominance of the country-.^

Other Sbias have been co-opted by the Ba'the party has been willing to allow Shta participation in government and party activities including iheRevolutionary Command Councilhich has ai Icasl three Shia members Still others, in our judgment, do not want touruptivc Islamic revolution jeopard ire then their standard of living under the Ba'th Partyj

Moreover. Iraqi Shias are not so well organized as their Iranian coreligionists and seem less influenced by iheir religious leaders Saddam removed aralller in ihe spring0 when he executed Ayatollah Baqr Sadr. the only Arab among Iraq's Shiaother prominent Shia leaders in Iraq are of Persian origin Tbe regime'* expulsion0 of0 Shias of Iranian origin hasangerous fifth cotamn threat j j

The Ba'ih alto has skillfully exploited ancient but stillanimosities io counterappeal. The Ba'th propaganda machine has made sure that Tehran's mistreatment of its Shia Arab miaofiiy has not escaped the notice of Iraci Shias,

Kurdish guerrilla leaders have been unable io lake advantage of increased aid from Tehran and areduction of government forces in the north since the beginning of the war with Iran. Kurdish strength jiso i. disputed by ihe :ont iu;ng the Bar/ani* andalabani. ihe leaders of the

main antigovcrnment groups, and by apathy among ihe Kurdish populace. The Barranis. inhave been discredited by their connections to

Ayatollah Khomeini^

The Kurds and Shias. as well as Iraqi Communist and renegadeby personal, religious, ethnic, and politicalunlikely toforces againsi Saddam. Moreover, they have failed lo secure enough financial and military backing toilitary threat J

Succession Dynamics

Saddam's systematic purge of rivals has left Iraq bereft of figures of nationalikely toingle strong 'cader initially and too.icgirl leadership: neutral figure serving asf Saddam were suddenly killed or removed from poweralace coup, the leadership would seek to ensure that the attendant disruption did not jeopardize continued Sunni mk-Q

The Tikrii clan would continue to play jr. important role in any Sunni-dominated regime The Tlkrilts arc scattered in important positions throughout theand security services Among the moil importun: Tiknti clansmen who wouldole is Interior Minister Su'dun Shakir. He controls an ubiquitous

1 Ihe Iraqi Conifituuon calls lor ioresidentinnacancy iLi

. and Tikriiii

ho compriseert em alpopulation haie dominated Iraqi politics sinceTheir astendency resultedrte pan from traditional Shia retotiance to become involved wilh ihe secular slate The Susans, for their panasperated with colonialreeminence in Ihe military andthat has persisted intoh century.

Sunms also control ihe Ba 'th Party. Underprivileged Shia Arabs dominated ihe party inndul before the end of the decade the party had been translormedunniShia control declined because

fnscnminatory police practices allowed Sumu Ba'lhlsis to escape with light punishment while Shia colleagues -ere treated severely

The leadership of the party was captured hi army officeri from Tlkrii led by Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr and his kinsman Saddam Husayn.

The Tikrlit dominance of the Ba th Parti goes far In explaining Irani political dynamics. Insutuiions such as the Bath Parii and the million.touch all levels uf Iraai society, play important rates inthe exercise af power, but tndmdual and groupbased on common famili. tribal and religious ties Is silll the key to undemanding politics in Iran

Institutional debate or competition has little impact on decisionmaking in Iraq because ihe process is dominatedmall group ofand their loyalhold important party, gmemment. and military posts. The hey institution is the Revolutionary Command Councilhere supreme legislative and executive power resides.for example, is chairman of the RCC. President of the Republic, head of the Ba th Party, andin Chief of the Armed Forces. Saddam's colleagues on the RCC likewise have overlapping functions: every Council member holds al least one other mafor position in the cabinet, the party, or the National Assembly.

Since comingowerath leaders have made skillful use of mass organizational technique* and the media to secure public acquiescenceovernment policies. The government has stressed parly ideology with Its emphasis on Arabsecularism, and social justice io overcome ihe countryserious sectarian and ethnic differences. Ba'th officiali take party doctrine senomsly.ecent years the leaderships strict adherence lohas weakened. Narrower stale Interests now assume greater weight in defining domestic andpolicies.

security jprninilus involving tens ofol* police, spies, anilhakir ha* ruthlessly served Saddam's interests since the Bath revolutionncluding serviceember of thea*sjnation squad and head ofinfamous "Palace of Ihe Ind" prison. Bar/an Ibrahim. Saddam's half brother, is the chief of (he Vlukhabjrat. ihetrong arm for Intimidating and eliminating anurcgime clemeni* Although he

owes his position to family connections.s had several years to put his own imprint on ihe assassin removed Saddam. Barman's long-term position wouldn immediate post-Saddam period he might play an importanl role)

Senior Tiknti officers and iheir supporter* from other impoclunl Sunm clans permeate the militaryGen. 'Adrian Khayrallah. who has family lies io both Saddam and former President Dakr, is Defense Minister and Deputy Commander in Chief of the Armed forces, as well as Deputy Prime Ministerember of the RevoluuOtury CommandKhayrallah reportedlyompetent professional soldier, out He is disliked because of hit rapid,influenced advancement Top militaryand police functions as well as the commands of the Baghdad garrisons, which play essential anticoup roles, arc in the hands of trusted offlcersT"

Shia RCC member* such as National Assembly leader Nairn Haddad would probably play aroleollective regime as symbols of the Ba'tb's commitment to Shia participation inIraq

brahim, the current Vice Chairman of ihe RCC. in our judgment seems the most likelyto assume the presidency. His apparent lack of ambition and poor health hypertension makesandidalctroke or heartmake him a

nonthrcutening interim figure attractive to behind-the-scenes power brokers with leadership aspirations of iheir ownon-Tikriti,ongtime Ba'thist who has served ihc regime loyallyumber of sensitive posts over the past decade Unlike his more secular-minded Baihist colleagues. Ibrahimevoul Sunm Muslim. He has had little contact with Westerners throughout his

asin Ramadan. RCC member and FirstPrime Minister, alsoikely contender to succeed Saddam.s an intelligent, crafty politician who has held many responsible parts and stale posts involving both domesitc and foreign policy functions His polilical skills makeontenderost-Saddam period His polilical power is strengthened by his command of the Prop:*'. Army, theBath Party paramililar) force Ramadan not only survived the leadership purge thai followed the alleged coup plot against Saddam in9 bui was elevated to first Deputy Prime Minister, making him de facto prime minister and number-two man in the

Leadership figures who are wary of Ramadan'* power and ambition would probably iry to block him from moving io the presidency, and he may not be strong enoughvercome concerted resistance Distrust of Ramadan may be particularly strong among da mush Tikntis because he comes from Mosul. Nor does Ramadan seem well positioned tothe top iub The People's Army by itself would be no match for Die regular forces, and Ramadan's apparent lack of important allies in the security forces and military wouldtrong-arm bid for the presidency

Foreign Pahcy implications

A collegial regime in which the Sunnis were strongly motivated io maintain group unity to ensure iheir continued domination would be unlikely to produce dramatic foreign policy changes Foreign policyaho could be achievedtrongman emerged swiftlyolkciive

The first priorityunni-dominated regime,ihc war with Iran was Mill in tram, would be in end the war. Iraq might initially aitempi torelations wiih the radical Arabs in hopes lhal these 'talcs could persuade Iranuppress us desire for revenge against Iraq. Irannotuuujcconciliaiionecular Ba'lh

Al ihc same lime, genuine improvcmcm in Baghdad's relations with Moscow would be unlikely. The USSR is seen as an unreliable ally. Baihisl leaders aie saspinous of Moscow's support for rebellious Iraqi Communist* and would not easily forget ihc Soviet arms embargo, Moscow's arms sales to Iran, and Soviet support for Iraq's enemy. Syria. Baghdad, however, would try toreak with Moscow uniil ll secured significant alternative arms sources.

Close contacts with Ihc West would beacilitate rebuilding of Ihe economy and ihe military. The pace of modernization would be slowed byausterity as wellolitical need to reempha-sizc Islamic values and traditions. France would be

especially well placedenefit from Iraq'sand reconstruction needs because of itsof military supply commitments despiter with Iran Baghdad's dissatisfaction wiih the qaalny of Soviet and Easi European goods has led in adecline in recent yearaia the Soviet share of Iraq's noo tn Hilary imports!

US help in reconsiruction alio would be sought, especially in ibe oil sector Some Iraqis would ever push for arms purchases from the United Stales Recent moves by Washington to upgrade bilaterjlof civilian aircraft sales and the removal of Iraq from the list of states ihat support international terrorism- have been welcomed in Baghdad,ajot improvement probablyepend on changes by the United Stales in lis pen gfj ihe Arab-Israeli dispute. Iraq's perception of the threat from Iran, and its dissatisfaction wiih the itaie of Soviei-Iranian relations

Iraq's friendly ties wiih moderate Arab neighbors probably would continueollegial regime drawn from the current leadership in Baghdad. Kwn if ihe war wiih Iran werend. tension bclwcrr Baghdad and Tehran would continue, leaving Irj. with Ibe need for financial assistance, secure iraoe routes across Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, and Jordan, -nd Arab polilical support. Moreover, so longegime remained in Damascus and ii coopcraied rttlh Iran. Iraq prooablvwould continuemprove red. lion* wiih Egypt

Breakdown of Collegial Rule

Collegial rate, however, would be under great ambitions would net stay restrainedespecially in the absence ofto

arbitrate disputes. We cannol make confidentabout who would ultimatelyower, qui given ihc conspiraiorial backgrounds of ihe current leadership- Ihe struggle almost certainly would bt violent J

An unrestrained internal power struggle *ot>.dthe central government and accentuate tnc >er: oa sectarian and elhnicraqi society .iir>'nc

MusUrnsecli. Chrisiians, Arabs, Kurds. Turkomans. Assyrians, andatlle al the lop could ushereriod of instability similar to the turbulent era between the fall of the monarchy8 and the consolidation of the Ba'lh regime's power in ihe early

The breakdown of collegial rule would affectforeign policy outlook, disrupting trends toward alignment wiih moderate Arabs and closer economic and political ties with the West. The length and duration of the disruption would depend on who comes out on top from among the various Balthist. miliiary, and opposition group contenders

Nevertheless, any Sunni-dominated government inone preoccupied with consolidating controlhave certain constantpolicy goals These include:

Competition for Arab leadership with Egypt and Syria, which will frequently see two of the Kates allied against the third

Rivalry with Iran for domination of the Persian Gulf.

- An ami-Israeli outlook as long as the Palestinian issue remains unsettled.

willingness to use oil leverage to securefor lraq.|

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