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This document outlines a "Plan of Action" to regain control over the Marsh areas


Summary :

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The above document is one of the "smoking guns" found by Middle East Watch among the 18 tons of documents stored in the United States. Though found in the offices of the Security Directorate of the Kurdish town of Shaqlawa, it does not concern the Kurds but the population of the Marshes in southern Iraq. It outlines a "Plan of Action" to regain control over the Marsh areas, where many army deserters had found refuge during the protracted war with Iran. Among others, the document refers to official approval for policies ranging from imposing an economic blockade to the poisoning of opponents and the burning of homes. The existence of such policies has indeed been confirmed in eyewitness testimonies. The senior authority in the southern governorates is the Southern Bureau of the Ba'ath Party, which plays a role similar to that of the Northern Bureau in the Kurdish areas. In the above translation, MEW has benefited from an earlier version that appeared in the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iraq, Mr. Max van der stoel (Report on the situation of human. rights in Iraq, pp. 94-98) to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, February 19, 1993, E/CH.4/1993/45).


Main Document :

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Ref.: 871
Date: 8/2/1989

To: Security, Erbil / Sh.5
From: Security, Shaqlawa

In reference to your letter ref. 1657 of 30/1/1989:

We have studied and benefited from the information contained in our security plan of action. For your information. With regards.

First Lieutenant of Security
Dep. Director of Security, Shaqlawa


In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

General Security
Directorate of Security, Erbil Governorate

Ref.: Sh.S/1657
Date: 30/ 1/ 1989

Personal and Confidential, For Addressee Only

To: The Director of Security, Shaqlawa
Re: Plan of Action for the Marshes

Having assessed the current security situation in the Marshes and studied the outcome of the large-scale operations that have been carried out against deserters and hostile elements, we have found that these elements are still engaging in sabotage activity, exploiting the Marsh areas as launching pads for these operations. It has also become clear to us that those groups are still operating in accordance with political organizational directives received from Iran through intermediaries who infiltrate for that purpose.

In fact, the criminal Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, the head of the so-called "Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq," considers those elements to be the nucleus of the so-called Islamic Army for the Liberation of Iraq and has increased his support for them in his public statements. Moreover, following the failure of their plans in the northern region, all the hostile movements based in Iran are now concentrating their efforts on the dispatch of a number of their Iranian-trained agents to contact the hostile groups in the Marshes with a view to using them as a new playing card to destabilize our country's security situation, particularly after the changes that have been made in the Iranian regime's policy as a result of its acceptance of the cease-fire agreement, which has affected the activities and operations of the hostile movements inside Iran. Accordingly, we must reassess our actions, study the plan of action that was approved last year, examine the positive action that has been taken with a view to its intensification, and evaluate the negative results so that we can ascertain their causes.

[In handwriting:] We have studied and benefited from the
information contained in the security plan of action [Signature]


// P. 2 //

On 5/12/1988, a conference was held at the headquarters of the Directorate of Security of the Governorate of Basra in the presence of the respected general director. The conference discussed the security situation in the Marsh areas, as well as courses of action to be taken in order to put an end to the hostile presence there, and the duties of the security services in the southern region during the coming phase. The following topics were discussed:

First: The directives which the hostile groups in the Marshes have received from Iran through its agents, namely:

1. Action must be continued in the Governorate, while maintaining operational security and secrecy.

2. The groups must inflict the greatest possible damage on the authorities without themselves suffering any losses.

3. Operations must be conducted outside the Marshes in order to deflect suspicion from the Marsh groups and maintain their operational security, i.e., one operation must be conducted in the Marshes while a number of operations must be carried out in other areas by the same groups so as to deflect suspicions.

4. The groups must be tested by instructing them to carry out an operation and then having it carried out by a different group in order to see whether any of the other groups claim to have carried it out themselves.

5. Details of the operations must be reported accurately, giving special attention to time and place.

6. Information must be gathered on important personalities.

7. Every means must be used to discover the methods employed to expose the freedom fighters.

8. Relationships must be established with military personnel, giving special attention to their rank and units.

9. Information must be transmitted in code.

10. Liaison must be established between the groups dispersed in the Dhi Qar, Misan and Basra Marshes in order to coordinate their activities.

11. The groups must be instructed to obtain confidential telegrams, as well as the codes and transmission frequencies used by military units.


// P. 3 //

12. Persons who collaborate with the authorities may be killed and their property may be seized and used for Islamic action. When they are taken prisoner, they may be tortured in order to obtain information from them. Such prisoners may be killed and their children may be kidnapped in order to further the objectives of the so-called freedom-fighters.

13. Foreigners working for foreign companies may be kidnapped and killed, particularly those from non-Islamic countries, since they are working to strengthen the regime.

14. Persons who surrender to the authorities and inform on the believers may be killed.

15. Army deserters who are killed during the campaigns are to be regarded as martyrs whose bodies do not need to be washed and shrouded before burial.

Second: Emphasis was placed on the plan of action for the Marshes, which was adopted in 1987 and approved by the President and Commander-in-Chief (May God Protect Him), and which included the following:

1. Strategic security operations (such as poisoning, explosions and the burning of their houses) must be conducted against the saboteurs in the Marsh areas through friends and trusted persons in order to show them that the Marsh areas are not safe havens.

2. A number of competent and trustworthy deserters living in the Marshes must be selected and assigned to assassinate hostile elements and carry out missions to further our security activities in return for the granting of a pardon in respect of their desertion and evasion of military services and all the legal consequences thereof, provided that they carry out the assignments.

3. Carefully planned operations must be conducted in areas in which hostile groups are concentrated, provided that we can guarantee the secrecy and effectiveness of those operations, and provided that their results are commensurate with the size of the military units participating therein.

4. The Popular Army duties of persons living in or on the periphery of the Marshes shall be confined to the maintenance of security in those areas, parrticularly in the governorates of Basra, Misan and Dhi Qar.


// P. 4 //

5. Vehicle traffic between the town centers and the Marsh areas must be controlled by the Security Committees in the governorate.

6. Punitive and deterrent operations, such as the burning and demolition of houses, must be conducted from time to time against residents of the Marshes who are found to have collaborated with the saboteurs so as to deter others.

7. The joint committees that have been formed to track down deserters and draft dodgers must intensify their activities.

8. The principle of economic blockade must be applied to the villages and areas in which saboteurs are operating. This will be achieved in the following manner: - [through] the withdrawal of all food supply agencies; - [through] a ban on the sale of fish; - by taking the most severe measures against persons who smuggle foodstuffs to deserters, outlaws and hostile groups; - by prohibiting goods trafc from entering those villages and areas. At the same time, the tribal chiefs and prominent personalities in those areas must be summoned and given to understand that these measures will not be lifted unless they cooperate effectively in ending the presence of the deserters.

9. Consideration must be given to the possibility of regrouping the Marsh villages on dry land, which is easy to control, and opening roads and points of access deep inside the Marshes.

10. Launches and motorized barges operating in the Marshes and nearby areas must be confiscated and totally banned.

11. Helicopters, supported by military aircraft, must be made available, if requested by the Security Directorates concerned, in order to help them discharge their duties in this regard.

-More -

// 5 //

12. The Committee chaired by our Comrade, the Secretary of the Southern Bureau, shall be responsible for the full supervision of dealings with the inhabitants of the Marshes and for the formulation of clearly defined guidelines to which everyone must adhere.

13. Emphasis must be placed on the role of the Party and mass organizations in educating the inhabitants of the Marshes and strengthening their nationalist spirit.

Third: The above-mentioned conference stressed that the action taken during the coming stage must be in accordance with the following guidelines:

1. Action taken against the hostile groups in the Marshes must be commensurate with the threat that they pose, since they are disrupting security and stability in the southern region.

2. Continued efforts must be made to infiltrate those groups by sending undercover agents to join their ranks.

3. Sophisticated security operations must be undertaken against subversive elements in the Marsh areas.

4. The locations of deserters and hostile groups must be accurately determined through air reconnaissance in conjunction with information received from confidential sources.

5. The economic blockade must be maintained in a more effective manner in view of its positive role in suppressing the activities of the criminal elements in the Marshes by restricting their access to the vital requirements of everyday life.

6. Various security methods must be used to lure the hostile elements so that we can capture them and track down their supporters inside and outside the Marshes.

7. There must be continued coordination with the Air Force so that maximum use can be made of helicopters in operations to hunt down deserters.

8. A search must be made for new sources [of information] located in the depths of the Marshes.


// P. 6 //

9. The Security Directorates in the southern governorates must schedule interviews with agents after gathering full information on them, particularly in regard to the following aspects:

- the tribe to which the agent belongs;

- his previous political background and affiliations;

- whether he is a native of the Marshes or a deserter who took refuge there;

- an evaluation of the security performance and usefulness of each source.

For your information and benefit. Please acknowledge.
[Signature] Lt.-Colonel of Security
Dep. Director of Security in Erbil Governorate

[In handwriting:] 30/1/1989

Taken from Bureaucracy of Repression, The Iraqi Government in Its Own Words,
Human Rights Watch / Middle East