Gulf war body count drops to 1,500 Iraqis

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AS FEW AS 1,500 Iraqi soldiers may have been killed by allied forces in the Gulf war - a tenth of the previous lowest estimate - according to a former analyst in the US Defense Intelligence Agency, John Heidenrich.

The most conservative estimate of Iraqi battlefield casualties from Allied air and ground action had been 15,000 but most range from 25,000 to 100,000. Fewer casualties could help to explain the astonishing speed of Iraq's military recovery after the war.

According to a former Chief of Defence Staff, Marshal of the RAF Sir David Craig, the Allies stopped their advance before achieving their objective of destroying President Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard partly because they feared accusations of 'butchery'.

It has always been a mystery what happened to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers thought to have been in the Kuwait theatre of operations south of the Euphrates. A senior British officer said after the war that he assumed thousands of dead lay 'in collapsed trenches'.

Based on interception of signals from more than 40 divisions, Allied intelligence had to assume that there were more than 600,000 Iraqi troops when the air bombardment began on 17 January 1991. It is now widely accepted that those divisions were at between 50 and 75 per cent strength, at most. After the war the estimate of Iraqi troop strength was revised to under 400,000.

In an article in the spring issue of the quarterly journal Foreign Policy, previewed in the latest Jane's Defence Weekly, Mr Heidenrich suggests that once the air campaign started, desertions reduced Iraqi strength to 200,000 or 300,000.

The Allied bombardment aimed to destroy equipment - particularly armour and artillery - not to kill men.

Mr Heidenrich's figures for combat deaths are based on interviews with prisoners of war and the traditional three-to-one ratio of wounded to killed in action.

Out of the 71,000 Iraqi soldiers taken prisoner in the swift Allied advance only about 2,000 were wounded. US forces, in their rapid advance, found and buried only 577 Iraqi corpses.

Mr Heidenrich calculates an absolute maximum of 6,500 dead and 19,500 wounded, but only if all Iraqi vehicles struck had full crews. In fact they did not, and the number of Iraqi dead is estimated at 0.5 per cent of those in theatre, or 1,500.

The allied coalition deployed about 700,000 people, including naval and air forces.