Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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July 25, 2003

Killing of Qusay and Uday Saddam Hussein Hastens Coalition Domination of Iraq; Strengthens Iraqi Kurds Relationship With US

Analysis. By GIS Staff, with input from GIS sources in Iraq. The killing on July 22, 2003, Uday Saddam Hussein and Qusay Saddam Hussein, the two principal sons of former Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein engaged in military and national command functions, was expected to substantially aid US and Coalition forces in consolidating control over Iraq in the process of transitioning power to an Iraqi Government. Significantly, the move also strengthened US ties with the Talabani Kurdish tribe, whose members reportedly notified US authorities of the presence of Qusay and Uday in the house in Mosul, where they were killed.

Although not openly discussed, this was likely to also strengthen the hand of the Kurds of northern Iraq who want the US to resist Turkish pressure to allow a 10,000-strong Turkish military force into Iraqi Kurdistan for “peacekeeping”. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in the United States for an official visit, on July 23, 2003, attended a meeting of the Turkish-American Council. Addressing the gathering, Gul said that if the US wanted Turkey to send soldiers to Iraq, then Parliament would have to debate the issue, noting: “Parliament is the institution with the last word.” Minister Gul met on July 24, 2003, with US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Paul Bremer, head of the interim US Administration in Iraq, on July 23, 2003, said that the US would welcome Turkey’s sending soldiers to the country. However, this minuette around the question of Turkish troop deployment was more to do with political maneuver; many key US officials reportedly remained skeptical about Turkish force deployment in Kurdistan.1

US Special Forces of Task Force 20 (Delta), and other forces “associated with” the 101st Airborne Div., along with some US Air Force assets, responded to an informant tip that several suspects, including Qusay and Uday, numbers two and three on the US Central Command most-wanted list, were hiding in a residence in the north-eastern al-Falah district of the northern Iraqi city, Mosul. A six-hour operation began at appr. 10.00hrs local when the division’s Second Brigade Combat Team approached the house and, upon entering, received small-arms fire. The US force gradually escalated the attack, utilizing US Army OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters firing 2.75-inch rockets, Mark-19 grenade launchers, AT-4 rockets, and helicopter- and humvee-mounted .50 caliber machineguns. At noon, troops attempted entry again and again took fire from the second floor and chose to withdraw. At 13.00hrs, forces on the ground fired 10 TOW anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs) into the house, probably killing three of the individuals.

At this point, officials considered using heavier weapons, such as those on AH-64 Apache helicopters and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, which were standing by, but decided against that course of action because of the risk of unintended damage to the surrounding neighborhood. The informants, members of the Talabani tribe, reportedly lived next door to the house containing Uday and Qusay, and Qusay’s 14-year-old son, and a bodyguard, Abdul Samad. The house was owned by a cousin of Saddam Hussein, Marwan Zeidan of the Abu Nasser tribe.

The bodies were brought almost immediately to Bayji, where they underwent identification verification procedures, which were extensive (including medical and dental records for Uday and Qusay, as well as eye-witness identification by close colleagues of the two). On July 24, 2003, the US Government released photographs of the corpses to verify, particularly to Iraqis, that the two had been killed. The US Defense Dept. indicated that, in all probability the posted reward for information leading to the capture or death of Uday and Qusay — $15-million each — would probably be paid out to the Talabanis who reported their presence in al-Falah. Jalal Talabani, head of the Kurdish Patriotic Union, the PUK, is a member of the new 25-man Governing Council of Iraq.

Jalal Talabani was apparently also informed, and he visited the US administration offices in Baghdad, where US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfovitz was visiting. PUK intelligence officers and combatants had monitored the site until the arrival by helicopter of an initial batch of US special forces.

Meanwhile, the day before, July 21, 2003, US Pres. George W. Bush accused Syria and Iran of supporting terrorists who undermine Middle East peace efforts and promised they would be held accountable. He charged Iran with not doing enough against al-Qaida members. Iran countered with “leaks” of information to the effect that it had captured al-Qaida leaders and was discussing extradition of them [see report, above]. 

At the same time, Israel was attempting to exploit the changed situation inside Iraq. Israeli Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu signed a general permit authorizing trade with Iraq. The new agreement normalized commercial and financial ties between the two countries, marking Israel’s recognition of Iraq as a hostile-free nation. This meant that Israeli companies could now trade and invest in Iraq without facing any sanctions from the Israeli Government. A group of Israeli industrial representatives reportedly made a trip to Baghdad in June 2003 to investigate business opportunities related to the reconstruction effort. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that a number of Israeli firms were planning to open commercial offices in Iraq and were looking into the possibility of appointing local agents in the country. 

US Dept. of Commerce officials advised Israeli firms interested in reconstruction deals team up with Jordanian companies. Israeli media reported that Turkish companies had also expressed interest in teaming up with Israeli companies in tenders for reconstruction in Iraq, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, water, construction, and energy. 


1. Speaking on July 23, 2003, at the Washington swearing-in ceremony of Eric Edelman, the new US Ambassador to Turkey, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that despite some setbacks, Turkish-US relations remained strong. Secretary Powell also praised Turkey’s Ambassador to the US Faruk Logoglu for his contributions to bilateral relations. Also present at the swearing-in were US Iraq Administrator Paul Bremer and Vice-President Dick Cheney, under whom Amb. Edelman previously served as national security advisor.