Iraqi Soldiers Preparing To Surrender

by Bill Gertz

Washington Times

February 28, 2003

Morale is low in the Iraqi army and many soldiers are preparing white flags of surrender, we are told by someone in northern Iraq who recently interviewed two defectors from Saddam Hussein's army. One was a captain who defected from the 5th Mechanized Division of the 1st Corps, based near the northern city of Kirkuk. The captain told our informant that the heavy division was only 35 percent combat-effective. The captain said morale was so low that younger soldiers are speaking openly about surrendering — before the first shot has been fired.

A second soldier, a senior noncommissioned officer, defected from the same division's 34th Brigade, based south of the northern city of Mosul.
This soldier said that of the 28 tanks in his care, only six were working. The others were broken down or otherwise in need of repair.
"He said the whole division was at about 25 percent effectiveness and most soldiers were hiding their white flags," said our source, who spoke recently to both defectors.

Intelligence sources in northern Iraq, where both CIA Special Operations Group officers and Army Special Forces are active, said there have been dozens of defectors in the past several weeks. There also are reports that Saddam's henchmen have issued orders to commanders to shoot any deserters they can catch.

The poor state of Saddam's regular army recalls that of some units in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when Iraqi soldiers were so eager to surrender that some gave up to an Italian film crew that was covering the war.