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Saddam Hussein's Nuclear Vision

An Atomic Shield and Sword for Conquest

Norman Cigar

This study examines why Saddam Hussein pursued nuclear weapons and, as a basic aspect of that question, how he might have employed that capability had he acquired it, whether for deterrence, warfighting, or something else. As the key decision maker in Iraq, Saddam's own thinking was central. His perception of regional threats, primarily from Iran and Israel, were a prime motivator. In addition, Saddam viewed acquiring nuclear weapons as a potent vehicle to help legitimize his regime and burnish his personal image as leader both at home and in the Arab World, as a modernizer and defender of national interests. A better understanding of the Iraqi case can also clarify the enduring issues related to how regional leaders may view nuclear weapons in this world of looming proliferation.

Norman Cigar is director of regional studies and a Minerva Research Chair holder at the Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia. Before retiring, he was on the staff of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting, where he taught military theory, strategy and policy, military history, and regional studies. Previously, he was a senior political-military analyst in the Pentagon, where he was responsible for the Middle East in the Office of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and supported the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and Congress with intelligence. He also represented the Army on national-level intelligence issues with the interagency intelligence community. During the Gulf War, he was the Army’s senior political-military intelligence staff officer on the Desert Shield/Desert Storm Task Force.


Saddam Hussein’s Nuclear Vision



7 x 10 paperback
104 pages
PDF download

Marine Corps University