Iraq's military was once among the world's largest, with nearly 1 million soldiers at the start of the Gulf War. Years of war and international sanctions have taken their toll. A glance at Iraqi forces on the eve of a possible US strike:
Estimated at 350,000 soldiers, including about 50,000 members of the elite Republican Guard, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a U.S.-based think tank that compiles data on military forces around the world.
Another 12,000-15,000 members of the Special Republican Guard are primarily responsible for protecting President Saddam Hussein _ who is commander in chief with the rank of field marshal. The People's Army, the militia of Saddam's Baath Party, has hundreds of thousands of members who have received light-arms training and can act as a sort of national guard. The militia's role is mainly to indoctrinate Iraqis on Saddam's vision of the country and counterbalance the regular army.
Saddam's son Qusai supervises the Republican Guard, which was once open only to young men from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit but began to expand its recruiting during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. Most members of the Special Republican Guard are still drawn from Saddam's tribe or tribes closely allied with it.
Weapons include an estimated 1,300 tanks, 1,200 artillery pieces and 1,500 armored personnel carriers, according to GlobalSecurity. The military research company Periscope has concluded that though trade sanctions imposed to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990 have made it difficult to get spare parts or make advanced weapons, "Iraqi domestic conventional weapons manufacturing capabilities remains essentially intact."
Indigenous weapons include an unknown number of Al Samoud, Ababil-100 and other missiles developed to meet U.N. demands that Iraq have no missiles with a range of more than about 95 miles. A recent CIA report on Iraq says U.S. officials believe those missiles can fly farther than the U.N. limit. Iraq also is believed to have hidden up to two dozen Scuds, bought from the former Soviet Union and modified to extend its range to 400 miles.
About 300 combat aircraft, only half of which are believed to be serviceable, according to Periscope. At the start of the Gulf War, Iraq had an estimated 500-750 combat aircraft, including Soviet and French fighters.
The United States claims to have destroyed 30 percent of Iraq's air defences. Since the Gulf War ended, U.S. and British planes have been patrolling southern and northern enclaves to protect Shiite Muslims and Kurds. Last year, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed he had ordered that pilots attack command and communications links in Iraq's air defense network rather than the guns and radars used to target U.S. and British pilots. ___
Iraq's has little access to the sea. Its small navy was virtually destroyed in the Gulf War.
Iraq pursued biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs starting in the 1970s. The United Nations says Iraq has failed to provide enough details to answer U.S. charges that it is lying about having abandoned those programs. UN inspectors in the 1990s, for example, said that they believe Iraq produced three times the amount of anthrax and 16 times more gas gangrene than it declared. Saddam used only conventional weapons in the Gulf War, but used poison gas against Iran and his own people in the 1980s.
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