A newly-translated document from the archives of Saddam Hussein’s ISI indicates that the regime kept some kind of weapons in Baghdad that made Saddam’s elite Special Republican Guards nervous enough to keep hidden — in a residential area. Document CMPC-2003-000788 contains a memo from Major Sa’ad Ahmed Taha al-Wis, an intelligence officer in the Special Republican Guard to the Special Security Organization dated May 14, 2001, regarding the proximity of weapons caches to residential units at the SRG base. These facilities became the point of contention between UNSCOM and the Saddam regime in 1997 and precipitated the collapse of the weapons inspections, as the UN suspected that Saddam hid his WMD with the SRG. The SRG and SSO existed to handle the most sensitive programs in Iraq, including the protection of Saddam Hussein but also the protection of the regime’s secret programs.
Taha’s memo complains that the fence surrounding the facility is too low and allows local residents to view their weapons storage. Note that his complaint remains even though Taha discovered that the residents all work for the ISI:
Date: May 14, 2001
Dear General Director of the Unit
Greetings and regards
Subject: Adjacent Houses
I would like to inform you that there is an open area from the back and the side of the unit. It starts at the back fence of the compound and goes up to the houses at the Al-‘Amil Block road bordering the north side of the Special Security Institute. This area expands toward the weapons cache belonging to the supply and transportation companies of the Special Republican Guard and to the Artillery Battalion of the Special Republican Guard which is neighboring the compound from the south side up to Al-‘Amiriyah street –Al-Jihad Al-‘Am Neighborhood. This matter previously submitted to you, but now it appears this area is already allocated as a public housing area and the public started building their houses on it. Some of these houses are less than 15 meters from the back compound fence. Some of the houses surrounding the compound are so close to the weapons storage belonging to the supply and the transportation company of the Special Republican Guard, and if they build the buildings higher, they can see whatever is inside the compound from the back side. After further investigations, we found out that most of the residents are employees of the Intelligence Service.
I suggest the following: inform the comptroller to improve the compound and to raise the height of the fence to 4 meters instead of the 2 meter existing height. The total length of the fence is approximately 500 – 600 meters.
The memo included a block drawing by Taha showing the problem.
Click here for a larger view of the drawing. The center shows four cache facilities where the Special Republican Guard kept its ammunition — including the SRG Artillery Battalion.
It looks like the UNSCOM inspectors had the right idea. Saddam would hardly need to stage a conventional artillery battalion within his elite corps, whose mission had less to do with defending Baghdad than it did in protecting Saddam and his favorite toys. The regular Republican Guard had artillery battalions for conventional combat, as did the Army. Taha would hardly be concerned with the ability of civilians to view normal artillery shells, especially since military reviews regularly put such weapons on display in the streets of Baghdad as a morale booster.
So what was Taha afraid the neighbors would see in May 2001, prompting him to request a 12-foot-high fence around the facility?