Republic of Iraq
The present Republic of Iraq (جمهورية العراق) encompasses territory that was home to the Sumerian Civilization, considered the oldest civilization on Earth (5th to 2nd Millenium BCE). The region was overrun by the Mongols in the 13th century CE, and absorbed into the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century.
Following the First World War, Iraq came under the British Mandate as part of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. Establishing a Hashemite Kingdom under Faisal, Iraq was granted independence in 1932 (Kingdom of Iraq), although it was re-occupied by British forces in 1941. The Hashemite monarchy was reinstated in 1947, but overthrown in 1958 by a military coup d'etat, leading to another coup in 1963. In 1968, the government was again overthrown by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, under Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakir. In 1979, control of the country was wrested from Al-Bakir by Saddam Hussein, who remained as president of the country until the US-led invasion in 2003 (Iraq War or 2nd Gulf War).
Iraq was involved in three major military campaigns following the Second World War. The first of these, the Iran-Iraq War, lasted from September 1980 until August 1988 with an estimated 300,000 Iraqis dead (and as many as 1,000,000 Iranians). In 1990, Iraqi military forces invaded neighboring Kuwait, claiming it was a historical part of the country. Following international condemnation of the action, a coalition of nations mounted a military response (Persian Gulf War) which resulted in the liberation of Kuwait and a crippling of Iraqi military forces. Under the dubious claim that the nation was secretly hiding weapons of mass destruction, the United States led an invasion of coalition forces into Iraq in March 2003, resulting in the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime, his eventual trial and execution. Although in the process of being rebuilt, the nation continues to be wracked by factional violence, with a number of insurgent movements (some led by Iraqi nationalists, others sponsored by terrorist organizations) operating against the newly restructured Iraqi Security Forces and coalition members. In the north, Kurdistan is a legally-defined region with its own government and military forces (the Peshmerga), although technically it is stil a part of Iraq.
Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Armed Forces were divided into two primary forces: the conventional armed forces (which included the Iraqi Army, Navy, Air Force and the Republican Guards, and the Popular Army (الجيش الشعبي), a paramilitary organization of Ba'ath Party loyalists whose primary purpose was to prevent a military takeover of the regime from conventional forces. In addition, the Fedayeen Saddam (Men of Sacrifice) were another paramilitary organization of Ba'ath Party loyalists, and were particularly employed to suppress political opponents. Of these, the Republican Guards were the most well-trained and well-equipped of all the armed forces, although special units such as the commandos, paratroops and special forces also received extra pay, better uniforms and equipment, and specialized training. The Iraqi Armed Forces have worn literally dozens of different camouflage patterns since the days of the Iran-Iraq War. Most of these have been sourced from other countries, although in the last days of the Saddam Hussein regime it appears many of the uniforms were locally-made. Historically, camouflage uniforms were only provided to units with "elite" status, such as the commandos and paratroopers of the Army Special Forces, and some units of the Republican Guards. Since the restructuring of the new Iraqi Armed Forces, camouflage uniforms have become standard issue to most military personnel, although some elite units still maintain their esprit de corps by wearing unique or different camouflage designs to those of the more conventional units.
Iraqi Camouflage Patterns of the Saddam Hussein-era (July 1979-April 2003)
- The earliest documented camouflage pattern worn by Iraqi troops was a copy of the British brushstroke design found on the 1950s era Denison smock. These smocks were no doubt issued only to airborne personnel and may have been supplied by the British government as military aid. Extant photos suggest these had fallen into disuse by the 1970s.
- During the Iran-Iraq War, camouflage uniforms were restricted issue and were worn as a sign of elite or favored status. The "ragged leaf" design seen here, one of the oldest documented Iraqi patterns, seems to have been issued only to airborne & commando units of the Iraqi Army. The pattern has some resemblance to the East German flachtarnenmuster design, and may have been influenced by it.
- Another early camouflage pattern that can be traced to Iraq appears to be a copy of the old German Army Eichlaubmuster (oakleaf pattern), but having a more arid or desert-type colorway. The origins of this design are very uncertain, and we know only that several examples were pulled out of Iraq during the Gulf War (1990-91). There is even some possibility the uniforms were originally Kuwaiti in origin.
- Some photographic evidence exists showing Iraqi officers during the Iran-Iraq War wearing a copy of the West German sumpfmuster camouflage pattern, similar to that worn in Libya. Surviving examples of this uniform are incredibly rare, leaving researchers to speculate as to precisely what the origins of the uniforms might have been.
- Iraqi forces have worn several variations of the brushstroke camouflage design, and most appear to be based around the Belgian 1950s era drawings. Some items exist which appear to be made from original Belgian fabric (below, left), whilst others were made in Germany for export (below, right). The pattern to the right is often called "blue brushstroke" to differentiate it from the other Iraqi brush patterns.
- Several Iraqi uniforms from the Iran-Iraq War were made in Germany, and most of these were modeled after the M1955 model Bundeswehr combat uniform. The uniform style must have been popular, as it was copied by contractors from other nations as well. This "vertical stripe" design is another such pattern dating to this period.
- The design seen below was first documented by a member of our research team in 2001, when a single example of a German-made uniform came to light. Stamped with the Iraqi Army Jaish symbol, the uniform conforms to the same M1955 Bundeswehr design as seen on certain other Iraqi uniforms of this period, with suitable contract numbers, but with delivery date of 06/1980 and a portion of the contract number crossed out. At the time this uniform emerged, it was theorized based on the three-color theme of the "needles" design (green, black & red) that this may have been intended for wear by Ba'ath party officials or members of the Talia (youth wing). Obviously the design is quite open to debate as to whether it qualifies as camouflage at all. As yet, no confirmation or photographic documentation exists confirming this was ever worn by any Iraqi military, paramilitary or political unit.
- A seldom-seen camouflage design also worn by Iraqi personnel is this thin "vertical stripe" pattern. Featuring amoebic, vertical stripes of black, reddish-brown and olive green on a pale green background, some evidence points to the pattern being worn by paramilitary Ba'ath party members, but it seems also to have been used by elite units of the Army. This camouflage pattern is likely to also have been worn by Palestinian soldiers operating in Lebanon or Israel. Little evidence has emerged showing what specific units wore this pattern, although it appears some of the uniforms were produced in Jordan.
- Also imported from Jordan was a copy of the South Korean Army Special Forces "waves" camouflage pattern. This pattern was seen frequently during the Iran-Iraq War, and was also adopted by the older Talia (youth wing) of the Ba'ath Party.
- Although stretching the definitions of what can be considered "camouflage," the designs seen below were issued in considerable numbers exclusively to members of the Ba'ath Party Youth Wing (Talia). Two variations have been documented, the first with a blue/purple colorway, and another with a tan/khaki colorway.
- Some Iraqi forces were also issued a copies of the French lizard camouflage design in a variety of uniform styles (including a copy of the British 1968 pattern combat uniform). Several variations have been documented among different styles of garment.
- It has been fairly well-documented that the UK sold their original design for a four-color desert DPM camouflage pattern to Iraq in the late 1980s. The original uniforms are of British tropical styling and even have British MOD style labels as they were produced on contract for the Iraqi government (a few examples have labels indicating this fact).
- A variation of the desert DPM pattern has been documented in the hands of some Iraqi forces, possibly even prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Although produced by one of the same companies that manufactured uniforms for Kuwait (L'Berge), the pattern is distinctive (having small "islands" that are separate from the primary disruptive shapes of the design) and is not the same as the Kuwaiti models that were looted during the invasion; this design may have been produced specifically for Iraq.
- Another variation of the brushstroke camouflage pattern appeared slightly later, probably after the Iran-Iraq War was over. This version, featuring overlapping brushstrokes of dark green and brown on a tan background, was made in South Korea, and uses a slightly different set of drawings than the earlier Belgian and German made uniforms. Iraqi Airborne units were still wearing this pattern at the start of the Persian Gulf War.
- A copy of the US Army's m1948 ERDL camouflage pattern was introduced to Iraq at some point, probably in the mid- to late-1980s. Although commonly associated with the Popular Army, the pattern was also worn by Republican Guard units, as well as by attendees of the Iraqi Military College in the late 1990s. This pattern is very similar to that worn by Jordanian airborne units during the 1980s.
- Several copies of British DPM were worn by Iraqi forces throughout the 1980s. The styles of uniform ranged from copies of the British 1968 pattern combat uniform & paratrooper smocks to a more tailored and typical Iraqi style. The wide number of manufacturers and contracts have produced quite a number of variant patterns.
- During the 1990 occupation of Kuwait, Iraqi forces pillaged considerable quantities of equipiment from military storehouses, including equipment and uniforms. The standard Kuwaiti Army uniform of that time was a yellowish color variant of the desert DPM pattern design. Large quantities of these uniforms were removed from Kuwait and ended up in the hands of Iraqi troops. The number of uniforms were so signficant, in fact, that many collectors have been led to believe the uniforms were in fact part of the legitimate Iraqi MOD supply system. The patterns seen below are all Kuwaiti in origin, but have also been captured in the hands of Iraqi soldiers.
- Following the Persian Gulf War (1st Gulf War), the Iraqi armed forces were severely crippled. The quality of Iraqi uniforms dropped sharply during this time period, with cheaply made local and imported goods replacing the relatively high quality materials of the 1980s. By the time of the Iraq War (2nd Gulf War), many of the older camouflage designs had completely disappeared, being replaced by crudely printed copies of the earlier designs. One frequently encountered pattern (produced in a number of colorways) was a three-color brushstroke design, employing elements of the DPM design. These uniforms were encountered among Republican Guard and airborne units during the initial phases of the invasion.
- One of the last patterns introduced to Iraqi military forces was a desert "blotch" pattern, having irregular spots of black, reddish-brown and olive green on a tan background. Crudely printed and manufactured, the colors of the pattern remained relatively constant, although some variations have been documented. Large quantities of uniforms in this pattern survived the 2003 invasion by coalition forces and would end up supplying some units of the newly formed Iraqi security forces, including the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) and the Iraqi National Guard (ING).
- Another locally-produced design appearing very late in Saddam Hussein's regime was this copy of US woodland pattern, printed using very inferior screens (with some mistakes to the original drawings). The fabric was a very cheap, synthetic cloth and the quality of the uniforms reflected the poor condition of the Iraqi Armed Forces at this point. These uniforms were distributed primarily to units with "elite" status, such as the Republican Guards, Special Forces, and the like.
- During the initial stages of the US-led invasion, the Free Iraqi Forces (FIF) wore US-supplied six-color "chocolate chip" desert camouflage uniforms.
Iraqi Camouflage Patterns 2003 to Present
- Although they first appeared during the late Saddam Hussein-era, the leaf pattern variants seen here are more properly considered a part of the modern era Iraqi armed forces. Procured from a variety of manufacturing sources, the uniforms are printed in a pattern that resembles both the leaf and woodland styles. This pattern gradually fell into disuse, being replaced by true woodland copies, desert patterns, and the more recently introduced digital designs.
- Other types of woodland camouflage are also worn by some Iraqi forces, including units in and around Baghdad and in the Kurdish region. Fabrics and uniforms come from a variety of sources, including what appears to be a copy of Iranian woodland camouflage and original uniforms of the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF).
- The first general issue camouflage design introduced for the newly reformed Iraqi Army was a copy of the US six-colour "chocolate chip" desert pattern. Variations of the pattern first appeared within units of the ICDC, and later the Iraqi National Guard. Several different versions of the pattern have been worn since originally issued in 2004, some locally produced and others imported from Asia or received as military aid from countries like Jordan. NB: Although there is some photographic evidence supporting the limited use of this pattern by some Iraqi soldiers prior to 2003, the extent of its issue appears very limited and may have only amounted to a handful of men.
- An interesting camouflage pattern copied from the US six-color desert pattern was introduced during the formative months of the new Iraqi Army. Based on documentation, this pattern appears to only have been worn by the Iraqi Training Brigade and students between 2004 and 2005. This was one of the first BDU-style uniforms worn by Iraqi troops. There is some evidence suggesting this pattern was also worn by the Coastal Defence Unit circa 2008
- Ironically, some units of the newly formed Iraqi Army and Police forces began wearing Kuwaiti issue camouflage uniforms. Some elements of the early Iraqi Civil Defence Corps and Police units have worn the Kuwaiti National Guard pattern camouflage.
- Special elements of the Iraqi Police also wear the same blue DPM pattern camouflage of the Kuwaiti National Police, as well as variations.
- Various woodland and leaf camouflage patterns with "urban" colorways are also worn by elements of the Iraqi National Police. Of these, blue, purple and grey-dominant schemes seem to be the most common.
- Around the year 2006, some Iraqi military units began deploying in US tricolor desert pattern uniforms. Although many ex-US surplus uniforms were donated to the new Iraqi Army, in later years Asian-made copies were also worn.
- A special desert pattern was introduced in 2005-2006 for use by the Iraqi Army 36th Commando and Counter-Terrorist forces. Featuring larger brown and beige woodland shapes on a sandy background, the original uniforms were made in Lithuania, although subsequent contracts have been produced elsewhere, including the United States. This pattern remains in service with Iraqi special operations forces, and does not appear to be circulating among conventional units.
- Some Iraqi military units have also worn a copy of the British S95 desert camouflage pattern.
- Special commando units of the Iraqi Army have worn the US-designed desert tiger stripe pattern.
- Beginning in 2006, digital camouflage patterns began to appear among some Iraqi units. The Iraqi National Police pattern is a pixelated design of midnight blue, blue-grey and grey on a light grey background with dark imprint of Iraqi flag. At least two versions of this pattern have been documented, as well as a couple of different uniform styles.
- In limited use with some Iraqi Army units was a copy of the Jordanian Army's KA2 desert digital camouflage pattern. This appears to have fallen into disuse.
- A copy of the USMC MARPAT temperate camouflage pattern are being worn by several units of the Iraqi Army, including some special forces elements. Some versions incorporate a copy of the EGA, while others have none and in fact vary considerably in the color elements of the pattern.
- Some Iraqi units have also worn a copy of the USMC desert MARPAT design seen here, complete with bogus EGA symbol also. Later variations of the pattern have had the EGA removed and replaced with a small image of the outline of Iraq with the words "Great Iraq" beneath incorporated into the design.
- There is a limited amount of photographic evidence showing Iraqi personnel wearing US ACU-style uniforms made from Chinese PLA Type 07 "arid" pattern camouflage fabric.
- The desert pattern seen here, of Chinese origin, has been documented in use by regular Iraqi military personnel as well as Shi'ite militia such as the Jihad Brigade.
- A two-color urban pattern incorporating black shapes on a grey background is now being worn by SWAT teams of the Ministry of Interior.
- As of 2013, elements of the Iraqi Armed Forces are also wearing Multicam.
- Certain "elite" units of the Iraqi Armed Forces have also been documented wearing the ATACS Arid pattern.
- A Police unit specifically tasked with the protection of oil facilities has been documented wearing a previously undocumented camouflage pattern seen here. Although there appears to have been some influence from Multicam the pattern does not appear to be a direct copy.
- The same pattern, with a brown colorway, is also worn by undisclosed units of the Iraqi Armed Forces.
- Also based on the same drawings as the two colorways seen above, this design has thus far only been observed in use by a Shi'ite Militia in Iraq.
- Yet another variation, similar to the one above, is seen below.
- Comparision of the two versions of the Iraqi Police digital pattern - the newest is to the left