Friday, March 19, 2010

History of Iraq After the Ottoman Empire

IRAQ under the British Twice in less than a century.


Dear Readers,


Another publication I think might benefit people in their quest to get information about Iraq.


This is about Iraq's history just prior and after the first British invasion. It is a tight collection of few authors. The main source is the Encyclopædia Britannica. I hope you enjoy this and it is helpful in aiding understanding when searching reasons to why Iraq is in the situation we discover it to be today. In order to know something and be able to inflict change one must know its history and foundations first.


Please give me your ideas and comments; will be most appreciated.

Enjoy,

History: Iraq The end of the Ottoman Rule.

In the last decades of Ottoman rule, changes in administrative boundaries once more split Ottoman Iraq into three parts. For most of this period, both Al-Basrah (together with the subprovince [sanjak] of Al-Hasa) and Mosul (and its dependent sanjaks of Karkuk and Al-Sulaymaniyyah) were vilayets independent of the central province of Baghdad.

In spite of the European commercial and consular presence in Iraq, it remained more isolated from European influences than the Arab lands adjacent to the Mediterranean. Iraq had relatively few Christians, and those few had had little exposure to foreign ideas. The prosperous Jewish community usually avoided politics but tended to be favourably disposed toward the Ottoman government. The tribal sheikhs and Shi'ite notables still couched their opposition in traditional terms, and many Turkish and Caucasian families enjoyed official status and other rewards as provincial administrators. Finally, a great majority of the population was illiterate. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Arab nationalism had made little impact on Iraq before World War I. In Syria, Arab nationalist and separatist organizations appeared after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908. In Iraq, however, there was scant nationalist opposition to Ottoman rule, although some Iraqi Arab officers in the Ottoman army joined the secret al-'Ahd (“Covenant”) society, which is reported to have advocated independence for the sultan's Arab provinces.

It was the British, whose interests in the Persian Gulf and the Tigris-Euphrates region had grown steadily since the late 18th century, who ultimately brought an end to the Ottoman presence in Iraq. In the years just before World War I, the close ties between the governments of the kaiser in Berlin and the Young Turks in Istanbul were particularly troublesome to Great Britain. When Germany was awarded a concession to extend its railway line through Anatolia to Baghdad and acquired mineral rights to the land on both sides of the proposed route, heightened fear of German competition in Iraq and the Persian Gulf evoked strong protests from London. Soon afterward, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later the British Petroleum Company PLC) began production on the Iranian side of the gulf, and there were indications that oil might be found elsewhere in the area. In 1912 a group representing British, German, and Dutch interests formed the Turkish Petroleum Company, which, on the eve of the war, was given a concession to explore for oil in the vilayets of Mosul and Baghdad. A convention between Britain and the Ottoman Empire acknowledging British protection of Kuwait was concluded in 1913 but was never ratified. In view of these developments and because they feared that the Germans might persuade the Ottomans to undertake military action against them, the British had already made plans to send an expedition from India to protect their interests in the Persian Gulf before the Ottoman Empire entered the war in early November 1914. After war was declared, a British expeditionary force soon landed at the head of the gulf and on November 22, 1914, entered Al-Basrah. In a campaign aimed at taking Baghdad, the British suffered a defeat at Al-Kut (Kut al-'Amarah) in April 1916, but a reinforced British army marched into Baghdad on March 11, 1917. An administration staffed largely by British and Indian officials replaced the Ottoman provincial government in occupied Iraq, but Mosul remained in Ottoman hands until after the Armistice of Mudros (October 30, 1918), which brought an end to the war in the Middle East. Under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), Turkey (the successor to the Ottoman Empire) gave up all claims to its former Arab provinces, including Iraq.

Richard L. Chambers

History: Iraq until the 1958 revolution -British occupation and the mandatory regime

Merging the three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Al-Basrah into one political entity and creating a nation out of the diverse religious and ethnic elements inhabiting these lands were accomplished after World War I. Action undertaken by the British military authorities during the war and the upsurge of nationalism afterward helped determine the shape of the new Iraqi state and the course of events during the postwar years until Iraq finally emerged as an independent political entity in 1932.

British control of Iraq, however, was short-lived. After the war Britain debated both its general policy in Iraq and the specific type of administration to establish. Two schools of thought influenced policy makers in London. The first, advocated by the Colonial Office, stressed a policy of direct control to protect British interests in the Persian Gulf and India. Assessing British policy from India, this school may be called the Indian school of thought. The other school, hoping to conciliate Arab nationalists, advised indirect control. In Iraq itself British authorities were divided on the issue. Some, under the influence of Sir Arnold Wilson, the acting civil commissioner, advocated direct control; others, alarmed by growing dissatisfaction with the British administration, advised indirect control and suggested the establishment of an indigenous regime under British supervision. Britain was still undecided on which policy it should follow in 1920 when events in other Arab countries radically changed conditions in Iraq.

Early in 1920 the emir Faysal I, son of the sharif Husayn ibn 'Ali (then king of the Hejaz), who had led the Arab Revolt of 1916 against the Ottomans, established an Arab government in Damascus and was proclaimed king of Syria. Meanwhile, a group of Iraqi nationalists met in Damascus to proclaim the emir 'Abd Allah, older brother of Faysal, king of Iraq. Under the influence of nationalist activities in Syria, nationalist agitation followed first in northern Iraq and then in the tribal areas of the middle Euphrates. By the summer of 1920, the revolt had spread to all parts of the country except the big cities of Mosul, Baghdad, and Al-Basrah, where British forces were stationed.

In July 1920 Faysal came into conflict with the French authorities over control of Syria. France had been given the mandate over Syria and Lebanon in April and was determined to obtain Faysal's acceptance of the mandate. Nationalists urged Faysal to reject the French demands, and the conflict that ensued between him and the French resulted in his expulsion from Syria. Faysal went to London to complain about the French action.

Although the revolt in Iraq was suppressed by force, it prompted Iraq and Great Britain to reconcile their differences. In Britain a segment of public opinion wanted to “get out of Mesopotamia” and urged relief from further commitments. In Iraq the nationalists were demanding independence. In 1921 Britain offered the Iraqi throne to Faysal along with the establishment of an Arab government under British mandate. Faysal wanted the throne if it was offered to him by the Iraqi people. He also suggested the replacement of the mandate by a treaty of alliance. These proposals were accepted by the British government, and Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill promised to carry them out. He was advised by T.E. Lawrence, known for his sympathy for the Arabs.

In March 1921 a conference presided over by Churchill was held in Cairo to settle Middle Eastern affairs. Faysal was nominated to the Iraqi throne with the provision that a plebiscite be held to confirm the nomination. Sir Percy Cox, recently appointed a high commissioner for Iraq, was responsible for carrying out the plebiscite. A provisional government set up by Cox shortly before the Cairo Conference passed a resolution in July 1921 declaring Faysal king of Iraq, provided that his “Government shall be constitutional, representative and democratic.” The plebiscite confirmed this proclamation, and Faysal was formally crowned king on August 23.

The establishment of the monarchy was the first step in setting up a national regime. Two other steps followed immediately: the signing of a treaty of alliance with Great Britain and the drafting of a constitution. It was deemed necessary that a treaty precede the constitution and define relations between Iraq and Britain. The treaty was signed on October 10, 1922. Without direct reference it reproduced most of the provisions of the mandate. Iraq undertook to respect religious freedom and missionary enterprises and the rights of foreigners, to treat all states equally, and to cooperate with the League of Nations. Britain was obligated to offer advice on foreign and domestic affairs, such as military, judicial, and financial matters (defined in separate and subsidiary agreements). Although the terms of the treaty were open to periodic revision, they were to last 20 years. In the meantime, Britain agreed to prepare Iraq for membership in the League of Nations “as soon as possible.”

It soon became apparent that the substance, though not the form, of the mandate was still in existence and that complete independence had not been achieved. Strong opposition to the treaty in the press made it almost certain that it would not be ratified by Iraq's Constituent Assembly. Nor was British public opinion satisfied with the commitments to Iraq. During the general elections of 1922, there was a newspaper campaign against British expenditures in Iraq. In deference to public opinion in both Britain and Iraq, a protocol to the treaty was signed in April 1923, reducing the period of the treaty from 20 to 4 years. Despite the shortening of British tutelage, the Constituent Assembly demanded complete independence when the treaty was put before it for approval. Ratification of the treaty was accomplished in June 1924, after Britain's warning that nonapproval would lead to the referral of the matter to the League of Nations.

The Constituent Assembly then considered a draft constitution drawn up by a constitutional committee. The committee tried to give extensive powers to the king. Discussion on the draft constitution by the Constituent Assembly lasted a month, and after minor modifications it was adopted in July 1924. The Organic Law, as the constitution was called, went into effect right after it was signed by the king in March 1925. It provided for a constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary government, and a bicameral legislature. The latter was composed of an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate. The lower house was to be elected every four years in a free manhood suffrage. The first Parliament met in 1925. Ten general elections were held before the downfall of the monarchy in 1958. The more than 50 cabinets formed during the same period reflected the instability of the system.

From the establishment of a national government, there was keen interest in organizing political parties. Three parties formed in 1921, one by the group in power and two by opposition parties, had similar social and economic views and essentially the same political objective: terminating the mandate and winning independence. They differed, however, on the means of realizing the objective. After the achievement of independence in 1932, these parties dissolved, because their raison d'être had disappeared. It was only when social issues were discussed that new political groupings, even if not formally organized as political parties, began to emerge. The power struggle between these groups became exceedingly intense after World War II (1939–45).

The Iraqi nationalists, though appreciating the free expression of opinion permitted under a parliamentary system, were far from satisfied with the mandate. They demanded independence as a matter of right, as promised in war declarations and treaties, rather than as a matter of capacity for self-government as laid down in the mandate. Various attempts were made to redefine Anglo-Iraqi relations, as embodied in the 1926 and 1927 treaties, without fundamentally altering Britain's responsibility. The British treaties were viewed by the nationalists not only as an impediment to the realization of Iraq's nationalist aspirations but also as inimical to the economic development of the country. The nationalists viewed the situation as a “perplexing predicament” (al-wad' al-shadh)—a term that became popular in Parliament and in the press. It referred to the impossibility of government by the dual authority of the mandate. The nationalists argued that there were two governments in Iraq, one foreign and the other national, and that such a regime was an abnormality that, though feasible in theory, was unworkable in practice.

In 1929 Britain decided to end this stalemate and reconcile its interests with Iraq's national aspirations. It notified Iraq that the mandate would be terminated in 1932, and a new treaty of independence was negotiated. A new government was formed, headed by General Nuri al-Sa'id, who helped in achieving Iraq's independence.

The new treaty was signed in June 1930. It provided for the establishment of a “close alliance” between Britain and Iraq with “full and frank consultation between them in all matters of foreign policy which may affect their common interests.” Iraq would maintain internal order and defend itself against foreign aggression, supported by Britain. Any dispute between Iraq and a third state involving the risk of war was to be discussed with Britain in the hope of a settlement in accordance with the Covenant of the League of Nations. In the event of an imminent threat of war, the two parties would take a common defense position. Iraq recognized that the maintenance and protection of essential British communications was in the interest of both parties. Air-base sites for British troops were therefore granted near Al-Basrah and west of the Euphrates, but these forces “shall not constitute in any manner an occupation, and will in no way prejudice the sovereign rights of Iraq.” This treaty, valid for 25 years, was to go into effect after Iraq joined the League of Nations.

In 1932, when Iraq was still under British control, the boundaries between Iraq and Kuwait were clearly defined in an exchange of letters between the two governments, but they were never ratified by Iraq in accordance with the Iraqi constitution. This set the stage for future Iraqi claims on Kuwaiti territory, particularly on the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah, which had originally been part of the Ottoman province of Al-Basrah but had been ceded to Kuwait in the unratified convention of 1913.

History: Iraq until the 1958 revolution-Independence, 1932–39

On October 3, 1932, Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations as an independent state. Since conflict between Iraq's political leaders centred essentially on how to end the mandate rather than on the right of independence, King Faysal sought the cooperation of opposition leaders after independence. Shortly after Iraq's admission to the League, Nuri al-Sa'id, who had been prime minister since 1930, resigned. After an interim administration, King Faysal invited Rashid 'Ali al-Gaylani, one of the opposition leaders, to form a new government. For a short while it seemed that all the country's leaders would close ranks and devote all their efforts to internal reforms.

But internal dissension soon developed. The first incident was the Assyrian uprising of 1933. The Assyrians, a small Christian community living in Mosul province, were given assurances of security by both Britain and Iraq. When the mandate was ended, the Assyrians began to feel insecure and demanded new assurances. Matters came to a head in the summer of 1933 when King Faysal was in Europe. The opposition, now in power, wanted to impress the public through a high-handed policy toward a minority group. In clashes with the Iraqi troops, several hundred Assyrians were brutally killed. The incident was brought to the attention of the League of Nations less than a year after Iraq had given assurances that it would protect minority rights. Had King Faysal been in the country, he likely would have counseled moderation. Upon his hasty return to Baghdad, he found deep-seated divisions and a situation beyond his control. Suffering from heart trouble, he returned to Switzerland, where he died in September 1933. The Assyrian incident brought about the fall of Rashid 'Ali and his replacement by a moderate government.

Faysal was succeeded by his son, King Ghazi (1933–39), who was young and inexperienced—a situation that gave political leaders an opportunity to compete for power. Without political parties to channel their activities through constitutional processes, politicians resorted to extraconstitutional, or violent, methods. One method was to embarrass those in power by press attacks, palace intrigues, or incidents that would cause cabinet dissension and force the prime minister to resign. The first five governmental changes after independence, from 1932 to 1934, were produced by these methods.

Another tactic was to incite tribal uprisings in areas where there were tribal chiefs unfriendly to the group in power. Tribes, though habitually opposed to authority, had been brought under control and remained relatively quiet after 1932. When opposition leaders began to incite them against the government in 1934, however, they rebelled and caused the fall of three governments from 1934 to 1935.

A third method was military intervention. The opposition would try to obtain the loyalty of army officers, plan a coup d'état, and force those in power to resign. This method, often resorted to by the opposition, proved to be the most dangerous because, once the army intervened in politics, it became increasingly difficult to re-establish civilian rule. From 1936 until 1941, when it was defeated in a war with Britain, the army dominated domestic politics. (The army again intervened in 1958 and remained the dominant force in politics until the rise of the Ba'th Party 10 years later.)

Two different sets of opposition leaders produced the first military coup, in 1936. The first group, led by Hikmat Sulayman, was a faction of old politicians who sought power by violent methods. The other was the Ahali group, composed mainly of young men who advocated socialism and democracy and sought to carry out reform programs. It was Hikmat Sulayman, however, who urged General Bakr Sidqi, commander of an army division, to stage a surprise attack on Baghdad in cooperation with another military commander and forced the cabinet to resign. Apparently, King Ghazi was also disenchanted with the group in power and so allowed the government to resign. Hikmat Sulayman became prime minister in October 1936, and Bakr Sidqi was appointed chief of general staff. Neither the Ahali group nor Hikmat Sulayman could improve social conditions, however, because the army gradually dominated the political scene. Supported by opposition leaders, a dissident military faction assassinated Bakr Sidqi, but civilian rule was not reestablished. This first military coup introduced a new factor in politics. Lack of leadership after the assassination of Bakr Sidqi left the army divided, while jealousy among leading army officers induced each faction to support a different set of civilian leaders. The army became virtually the deciding factor in cabinet changes and remained so until 1941.

Despite political instability, material progress continued during King Ghazi's short reign. Oil had been discovered near Karkuk in 1927, and, by the outbreak of World War II, oil revenue had begun to play an important role in domestic spending and added a new facet to Iraq's foreign relations. The Al-Kut irrigation project, begun in 1934, was completed, and other projects, to be financed by oil royalties, were planned. The pipelines from the Karkuk oil fields to the Mediterranean were opened in 1935. The railroads, still under British control, were purchased in 1935, and the Ba'iji-Tal Küçük section, the only missing railway link between the Persian Gulf and Europe, was completed in 1938. There was also a noticeable increase in construction, foreign trade, and educational facilities. Several disputes with neighbouring countries were settled, including one over the boundary with Syria, which was concluded in Iraq's favour; Iraq thereafter possessed the Sinjar Mountains. A nonaggression pact, called the Sa'dabad Pact, between Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq was signed in 1937. In 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, King Ghazi was killed in a car accident, and his son Faysal II ascended the throne. As Faysal was only four years old, his uncle, Emir 'Abd al-Ilah, was appointed regent and served in this capacity for the next 14 years.

History: Iraq until the 1958 revolution -World War II and British intervention, 1939–45

Nuri al-Sa'id, author of the 1930 treaty, was prime minister when war broke out. Believing that the Anglo-Iraqi alliance was the best guarantee for Iraqi security, he wanted to declare war on Germany, but his ministers counseled caution, as British victory was then in doubt. The premier accordingly declared Iraq nonbelligerent and severed diplomatic relations with Germany. When Italy entered the war in 1940, however, Nuri al-Sa'id, then minister of foreign affairs in the cabinet of newly appointed prime minister Rashid 'Ali al-Gaylani, was unable to persuade the cabinet to break off diplomatic relations with Italy. Under the influence of pan-Arab leaders, public opinion in Iraq changed radically after France's fall, becoming especially hostile to Britain because other Arab countries remained under foreign control. Pan-Arabs urged Iraqi leaders to free Syria and Palestine and achieve unity among Arab countries. Extremists advocated alliance with Germany as the country that would foster independence and unity among Arabs.

Rashid 'Ali was at first unwilling to side with the extremists and gave lip service to the Anglo-Iraqi alliance. Dissension among the Iraqi leaders, however, forced him to side with the pan-Arabs. Leading army officers also fell under pan-Arab influences and encouraged Rashid 'Ali to detach Iraq from the British alliance. During 1940 and 1941, Iraqi officers were unwilling to cooperate with Britain, and the pan-Arab leaders began secret negotiations with the Axis Powers. Britain decided to send reinforcements to Iraq. Rashid 'Ali, while allowing a small British force to land in 1940, was forced to resign early in 1941, but he was reinstated by the army in April and refused further British requests for reinforcements.

British contingents entered Iraq from the Persian Gulf and from the Habbaniyyah air base in April and May 1941; armed conflict with Iraqi forces followed. The hostilities lasted only 30 days, during which period a few Iraqi leaders, including the regent and Nuri al-Sa'id, fled the country. By the end of May, the Iraqi army had capitulated. Rashid 'Ali and his pan-Arab supporters left the country.

The return of the regent and moderate leaders through British intervention had far-reaching consequences. Britain was given what it demanded: the use of transportation and communication facilities and a declaration of war on the Axis Powers in January 1942. Rashid 'Ali's supporters were dismissed from the service, and some were interned for the duration of the war. Four officers who were responsible for the British-Iraqi conflict were hanged.

History: Iraq until the 1958 revolution -Postwar reconstruction and social upheavals, 1945–58

During World War II, liberal and moderate Iraqi elements began to play an active political role. The entry of the United States and the Soviet Union into the war and their declarations in favour of democratic freedoms greatly enhanced the position of the Iraqi democratic elements. The people endured shortages and regulations restricting personal liberty and the freedom of the press, trusting that the end of the war would bring the promised better way of life. The government, however, paid no attention to the new spirit, and the wartime regulations and restrictions continued after the war. The regent, 'Abd al-Ilah, called a meeting of the country's leaders in 1945 and made a speech in which he attributed public disaffection to the absence of a truly parliamentary system. He called for the formation of political parties and promised full freedom for their activities and the launching of social and economic reforms.

The immediate reactions to the regent's speech were favourable, but, when political parties were formed in 1946 and certain regulations were abolished, the older politicians and vested interests resisted. The new government formed in January 1946 was overthrown within a few months of its inception. Nuri al-Sa'id then became prime minister and tried to enlist the cooperation of political parties, but the general elections held under his government's supervision were no different from previous controlled elections. The parties boycotted the elections. Nuri al-Sa'id resigned in March 1947, and Salih Jabr formed a new government.

Jabr, the first Shi'ite politician to become a prime minister, included in his cabinet a number of young men, but he himself was unacceptable to some liberal and nationalist elements who had been roughly handled when he was wartime minister of interior. Jabr tried to help the Arabs in Palestine in order to improve his image in nationalist circles, but he mishandled opposition leaders. Most damaging was his attempt to replace the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1930 without consulting with Iraqi leaders. When he was asked to consult with others, he called in only older politicians and excluded the younger leaders.

Jabr entered into negotiations with Britain with the intention of enhancing his own position. When he found that Britain wanted to retain control of its air bases in Iraq, he insisted that Britain accept the principle of Iraqi control of the bases; Iraq would allow Britain to use them in the event of war. He threatened to resign if Britain refused his proposals.

It was with this understanding that Jabr proceeded to London early in 1948 to negotiate a new treaty. He and Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, quickly came to an agreement and signed a 20-year treaty at Portsmouth on January 15, 1948. It provided for a new alliance between Iraq and Britain on the basis of equality and complete independence and required that “each of the high contracting parties undertake not to adopt in foreign countries an attitude which is inconsistent with the alliance or which might create difficulties for the other party.” An improvement of the 1930 treaty, this document sought an alliance on the basis of mutual interests. The two air bases, which were often the subject of criticism, were returned to Iraq. British forces were to be evacuated, and Iraq would be supplied with arms and military training. The annex to the treaty stressed the importance of the air bases as “an essential element in the defence of Iraq.” Britain's use of the bases in the event of war, or threat of war, would depend on Iraq's invitation. The treaty also provided for the establishment of a joint defence board for common defence and consultation. Both parties agreed to grant each other necessary facilities for defence purposes.

Despite these advances, the treaty was repudiated immediately in a popular uprising. Street demonstrations had occurred before the treaty was signed, in defense of Arab rights in Palestine, but, when the news of the signing of the new treaty was broadcast in London, rioting and demonstrations in Baghdad followed. Within a week of the signing, the regent called a meeting at the royal household that was attended by both older and younger leaders. After deliberations, they decided to repudiate the treaty. Jabr returned to Baghdad to defend his position but to no avail. Rioting and demonstrations increased, and Jabr was forced to resign.

The new treaty was not the root cause of the uprising. It was the culmination of a struggle between the young, liberal leaders who wanted to participate in political activities and the older leaders who insisted on excluding them. This conflict continued after the treaty was rejected. The older politicians returned to power under Nuri al-Sa'id's leadership.

In 1952 another popular uprising flared, stirred by opposition leaders and carried out by students and extremists. The police were unable to control the mob, and the regent called on the army to maintain public order. The chief of the general staff governed the country under martial law for more than two months. Civilian rule was restored at the beginning of 1953, but there was no sign that the country's older leaders were prepared to share authority with their opponents.

Meanwhile, King Faysal II, who had come of age, began to exercise his formal powers, and the period of regency came to an end. It was hoped that 'Abd al-Ilah would withdraw from active politics and allow the political forces of the country to create a new order. The former regent, who became the crown prince, continued to control political events from behind the scenes, however, and the struggle for power among the leaders continued with increasing intensity until the downfall of the monarchy in 1958.

Despite political instability, Iraq achieved material progress during the 1950s, thanks to a new oil agreement that increased royalties and to the establishment of the Development Board. The original oil agreement between the Iraqi government and the IPC had heretofore yielded relatively modest royalties, owing to certain technical limitations (such as the need for pipelines) and to war conditions. It was not until 1952 that construction of pipelines to Baniyas was completed.

Some points of dispute between the government and the IPC were not entirely resolved. The nationalization of the oil industry in Iran and the announcement of the 1950 agreement between Saudi Arabia and Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company, later Saudi Aramco), on a half-and-half basis of payment, induced the Iraqi government and the IPC to negotiate a new agreement on the division of profits. Some opposition leaders demanded that the oil industry be nationalized, but the Iraqi government and the IPC, forestalling any serious move for nationalization, agreed to negotiate on the basis of the fifty-fifty formula, to the mutual advantage of Iraq and the company. The new agreement was signed in 1952; it allowed Iraq to take part of its share of the profits in kind and to receive an increasing amount of royalties specifically agreed upon between the two parties. It was stated that Iraq would receive a set minimum amount of the proceeds in 1953 and all subsequent years.

In 1950 the government had created an independent Development Board, an agency immune from political pressures and responsible directly to the prime minister. The board had six executive members, three of whom had to be experts in some branch of the development program. The prime minister, as chairman, and the minister of finance were ex officio members. An amendment to the law increased membership by two and provided for a minister of development responsible directly to the head of the cabinet. These members were appointed by the cabinet, had equal voting rights, and were not permitted to hold any other official position. Two foreign members held positions as experts, and the Iraqi members were selected on merit and past experience. The board was composed of a council and ministry. Its staff was divided into technical sections and the ministry into a number of departments. The technical sections were for irrigation, flood control, water storage, drainage, transportation, and industrial and agricultural development. The board was financed from 70 percent of oil royalties and from loans and revenues from the board's own projects.

In 1950 the World Bank provided a loan for the Wadi Al-Tharthar flood-control project, and other flood-control plans were constructed. Extensive work on bridges and public buildings—including schools, hospitals, a new Parliament building, and a royal house—was started. This work, especially the work on dams and irrigation projects, was a long-term investment, and many short-term projects of more direct benefit to the population were neglected. Opposition leaders attacked the Development Board for the stress on long-term projects that they claimed benefited only the vested interests—landowners and tribal chiefs. Despite criticism, the board maintained an independent status rarely enjoyed by any other government department. Nevertheless, the public remained unaware of the far-reaching effects of the projects undertaken, while the opposition attacked the board for squandering funds on contracts given to wealthy landlords and influential politicians.

History: The Republic of Iraq - The 1958 revolution and its aftermath

Despite the country's material progress, the monarchy failed to win public support and, in particular, the confidence of the younger generation. Before the revolution, Iraq lacked an enlightened leadership capable of achieving progress and inspiring public confidence. The new generation offered such leadership, but the older leaders resisted and embarked on an unpopular foreign policy, including an alliance with Britain through participation in the Baghdad Pact and opposition to the establishment of the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.) by Egypt and Syria.

The failure of younger civilians to obtain power aroused the concern of some young military officers who, required by military discipline to take no part in politics, called themselves the Free Officers and began to organize in small groups and to lay down revolutionary plans. The number of Free Officers was relatively small, but there was a considerably larger group of sympathizers. The officers worked in cells, and the identities of the participants were kept secret. Only the Central Organization, which supplied the movement's leadership, was known to all the Free Officers. The Central Organization was composed of 14 officers, headed by 'Abd al-Karim Qasim, the group's highest-ranking member.

Of the several plots proposed, that laid down by Qasim and his close collaborator 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif proved the most appropriate. The general staff issued an order to the brigade in which 'Arif served to proceed to Jordan in July 1958 to reinforce Jordanian forces against alleged threats by Israel. Brigadier Qasim, in command of another brigade, was to protect the troops going to Jordan. He and 'Arif agreed that, as the brigade proceeding to Jordan passed through Baghdad, it would capture the city.

On July 14 the revolutionary forces captured the capital, declared the downfall of the monarchy, and proclaimed a republic. The leading members of the royal house, including the king and the crown prince, were executed, and Nuri al-Sa'id was killed. Qasim, head of the revolutionary force, formed a cabinet, over which he presided, and appointed himself commander of the national forces. He also assumed the portfolio of defense minister and appointed 'Arif minister of the interior and deputy commander of the national forces. A Council of Sovereignty, composed of three persons, was to act as head of state.

A provisional constitution declared that Iraq formed an integral part “of the Arab nation” and that “Arabs and Kurds are considered partners in this homeland.” Iraq was declared a republic and Islam the religion of the state; all executive and legislative powers were entrusted to the Sovereignty Council and the cabinet. It soon became clear, however, that power rested in Qasim's hands, supported by the army.

Conflicts among the officers developed, first between Qasim and 'Arif and then between Qasim and his supporters. 'Arif championed the pan-Arab cause and advocated Iraq's union with the U.A.R. Qasim rallied the forces against Arab unity—Kurds, communists, and others—and stressed Iraq's own identity and internal unity. 'Arif was dropped from power in October, but in 1959 Qasim's power was threatened by other factions. He tried to divert public attention to foreign affairs by advancing Iraq's claim to Kuwait's sovereignty in June 1961. This brought him into conflict not only with Britain and Kuwait but also with the other Arab countries. He opened negotiations with the Iraq Petroleum Company to increase Iraq's share of the royalties, but his extreme demands caused negotiations to break down in 1961. Public Law 80 was enacted to prohibit the granting of concessions to any foreign company and to transfer control over all matters connected with oil to the Iraq National Oil Company (INOC).

By 1963 Qasim had become isolated internally as well as externally; he had survived several assassination attempts (a participant in one such attack was young Saddam Hussein), and the only great power with which he remained friendly was the Soviet Union. When one faction of the army, in cooperation with one Arab nationalist group—the Iraqi regional branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'th (“Revivalist” or “Renaissance”) Party—started a rebellion in February 1963, the regime suddenly collapsed, and Qasim was executed.

History: The Republic of Iraq- The 1958 revolution and its aftermath - Recurrence of military coups, 1963–68

The military faction that brought about the collapse of the Qasim regime preferred to remain behind the scenes rather than assume direct responsibility. The Ba'th Party, a group of young activists who advocated Arab nationalism and socialism, was entrusted with power. Ba'th leaders invited 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif to assume the presidency. A National Council for Revolutionary Command (NCRC), composed of civilian and military leaders, was established to assume legislative and executive powers. The premiership was entrusted to Colonel Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, a Ba'thist officer.

Some of the Ba'th leaders wanted to carry out Ba'th socialist ideas; others advised more caution. A compromise was finally reached in which the party's goals—Arab unity, freedom, and socialism—were reaffirmed in principle, but it was decided to adopt a transitional program. Industrialization and economic development were stressed, and the role of the middle class was recognized. The dissension among Ba'th leaders, however, soon led to the collapse of the regime. President 'Arif, whose powers initially had been restricted by the Ba'th leaders, rallied the military forces to his side. In November 1963 he placed the leaders of the Ba'th Party under arrest and took control, becoming, in both fact and name, the real ruler of the country. In May 1964 a new provisional constitution was promulgated in which the principles of Arab unity and socialism were adopted, and in July the banks and a number of the country's industries were nationalized.

The idea of Arab socialism attracted only a small group in Iraq, and 'Arif began to discover its unfavourable effects on the country. 'Arif himself had never been a believer in socialism, but he had adopted it under the influence of Egypt. The adverse influence of nationalization gave him an excuse to replace the group that supported socialism with others who would pay attention to the reality of Iraq's economic conditions. Nor had 'Arif been happy with the group of officers who had elevated him to power. He began to prepare the way to entrusting power to civilian hands willing to be guided by him as chief executive.

In September 1965 'Arif invited 'Abd al-Rahman al-Bazzaz, a distinguished lawyer, diplomat, and writer on Arab nationalism, to form a new government. Al-Bazzaz did not feel that he should abolish Arab socialism, but he offered to increase production and create a balance between the public and private sectors.

Arif died suddenly in a helicopter crash in April 1966. Even before his death, Premier al-Bazzaz, known for his opposition to military interference in politics, had begun to talk about the need to hold elections for a representative assembly. Military officers pressured the new president, 'Abd al-Rahman 'Arif, elder brother of the late president, to remove al-Bazzaz, and the cabinet resigned in August 1966. Power remained in military hands, but factionalism in the army was accentuated and leadership frequently changed. The Arab defeat in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, in which Iraq took only a nominal role, led to intense unrest within the country and within the party. The Ba'th, joined by other opposition leaders, called for the formation of a coalition government and general elections for a National Assembly. President 'Arif paid no attention to their demands.

History: The Republic of Iraq - The 1958 revolution and its aftermath - Iraqi foreign policy, 1958–68

Following the 1958 revolution, President Qasim steered his country's foreign policy gradually away from the sphere of Western influence—and close ties with the United Kingdom—toward closer relations with the Soviet Union. In 1959 Iraq officially left the pro-Western Baghdad Pact, but, though the Qasim government came to depend on Soviet weapons and received some economic aid, it retained lively commercial ties with the West. Further, because Qasim recruited among the Iraqi Communist Party for support and because he moved far closer to the Soviet Union diplomatically, the United States grew to see in him a would-be communist. However, despite a growing dispute with the Western oil companies over their investments in Iraq (stemming from Qasim's demand of a greater share of the proceeds) and steps by the government that limited oil company activities in Iraq, Qasim carefully refrained from nationalizing Iraq's oil industry. Also, fearing Egyptian domination, as had happened in the Syrian province of the U.A.R., Qasim rejected the courtship of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and refused a merger with Egypt. This led the two Free Officers' regimes—as the Egyptian regime was also termed—into a conflict that greatly embarrassed the Soviet Union and occasionally forced it to take sides.

This also strongly influenced Qasim's approach to Israel. While he paid lip service to anti-Zionist sentiments in Iraq, there was no way that he and Nasser could collaborate against Israel, and tension with the Hashimite monarchy of Jordan made it impossible for him to send an expeditionary force to Jordan, even had he wanted to do so. On the Israeli side this fact was fully appreciated at the time. Relations with pro-Western Iran were tense also, but the two countries avoided a direct military confrontation.

Qasim's relations with most of the Arab world worsened after Iraq left the Arab League in 1961 in protest against the organization's support for Kuwait's independence. Iraq had continued to press its claims to Kuwaiti territory in the 1940s and '50s (largely over the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah), but not until the Qasim regime did it forward a serious claim of overall sovereignty. In 1963, after Qasim's demise, Kuwait came to an agreement with Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr—who was then Iraq's prime minister—confirming Kuwait's independence and resolving all border issues; however, once again the agreement failed to be ratified, this time by Iraq's president, 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif.

The Ba'th-'Arif regime (February–November 1963) had little time for foreign policy formulation, as the various party factions were far too busy fighting one another. Having killed thousands of communists and their supporters, however, the Ba'th regime completely alienated the Soviet Union, and Soviet weapons shipments stopped. The regime also alienated Egypt by rejecting the U.A.R. merger. Of all the Arab countries, only relations with Syria, again independent and now also under Ba'th rule, remained cordial.

During the regimes of the 'Arif brothers (1963–68), Iraq remained essentially within the Soviet sphere of influence, but in early 1967 there were signs of a limited rapprochement with the West. Iraq's Arab relations improved greatly, albeit at the expense of Iraqi independence. 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif reversed the country's policy toward Nasser's government in Egypt, in effect turning Iraq into an Egyptian satellite. Although it was Nasser who now rejected Iraq's request for unification, relations between the two countries became extremely close. 'Abd al-Salam's policy toward Israel mimicked that of Egypt, and, when tensions along the Israeli-Egyptian border grew to the dangerous proportions that led to the Six-Day War of June 1967, the Iraqi leader dispatched an armoured brigade to Jordan. Events moved too fast, however, and most of the brigade was destroyed by the Israeli air force before it could reach the front line.

History: The Republic of Iraq - The revolution of 1968 - The second Ba'th government

After 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif took control in 1963, the Ba'th Party was forced underground and began to make sweeping changes in its leadership and strategy in order to recapture power. Al-Bakr became secretary of the Regional Leadership (RL) of the Ba'th Party in 1964. He was assisted in reorganizing the party by Saddam Hussein, who proved to be instrumental in rallying civilian Ba'thist support for al-Bakr. A premature attempt to seize power in September 1964 led to the imprisonment of the principal Ba'th leaders, including al-Bakr and Saddam. In 1965 al-Bakr was released because of illness, and in 1966 Saddam escaped.

History: The Republic of Iraq - The revolution of 1968 - The revolution of 1968

In July 1968 the government was overthrown by the army, with some assistance from civilian party activists. The reasons given were the corruption of the 'Arif regime, Kurdish disturbances in the north, the government's failure to adequately support other Arab countries in the Six-Day War of 1967, and 'Arif's subservience to Nasser's Egypt. Except for the charge of corruption ('Arif had no bank accounts abroad and had little property inside Iraq), the charges were valid but were only circumstantial. The root causes went much deeper. The 'Arif regime, because it had not held popular elections, had failed to attain legitimacy. Barring that, it failed even to attempt to build a party structure or mobilize mass support. Instead, it depended completely on military support, which since 1936 had been inconsistent and capricious. Finally, 'Abd al-Rahman 'Arif was anything but an inspiring leader. When the Ba'th Party persuaded a few officers in key positions to abandon the regime, the fate of the 'Arif government was sealed.

Four officers agreed to cooperate with the Ba'th Party. These were Colonel 'Abd al-Razzaq al-Nayif, head of military intelligence, Colonel Ibrahim 'Abd al-Rahman al-Da'ud, chief of the Republican Guard, Colonel Sa'dun Ghaydan, and Colonel Hammad Shihab. The first two agreed to cooperate on condition that al-Nayif be the new premier and al-Da'ud the minister of defense. Shihab agreed to help on the condition that 'Arif not be harmed. The Ba'th Party accepted this arrangement as a means to achieve power but intended to bridle the officers at the earliest-possible moment, having little confidence in their loyalty.

On the morning of July 17, President 'Arif's palace was stormed by Ba'thist officers led by al-Bakr. 'Arif immediately surrendered and agreed to leave the country. He went to London and then to Istanbul, where he lived in modest obscurity, before returning to Iraq some 20 years later.

The first act of the new regime was to establish the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which assumed supreme authority. The RCC elected al-Bakr president of the republic, and he invited al-Nayif to form a cabinet. Al-Bakr was not interested in administrative details, and, as he grew older and his health deteriorated, he began to depend more heavily on Saddam to carry out the business of government.

Almost immediately a struggle for power arose between the Ba'th and the Nayif-Da'ud group, ostensibly over socialism and foreign policy but in fact over which of the two groups was to control the regime. On July 30 al-Nayif was arrested by Saddam and a group of armed party activists and officers. It was agreed that al-Nayif's life would be spared if he left the country, and he was sent to Morocco as ambassador; al-Da'ud, who was then on a mission to Jordan, was instructed to remain there.

This second bloodless coup, which did not cause any disturbances in Iraq, cleared the way for the Ba'th Party to control the regime. Al-Bakr assumed the premiership in addition to the presidency and the chairmanship of the RCC. Most cabinet posts were given to Ba'th leaders. Sympathizers of the Nayif-Da'ud group were removed, and a number of civil servants considered unfriendly to the regime were retired or relieved of duty. Most important, over the next few weeks some 2,000 to 3,000 army and air force officers were forced to retire, being regarded as a security risk by the ruling party. Most were supporters of Nasser, who, despite the best efforts of the regime, maintained a following within the military until his death in 1970.

The Interim Constitution was issued in September 1968. It provided for an essentially presidential system composed of the RCC, the cabinet, and the National Assembly. Until the National Assembly was called, the RCC exercised both executive and legislative powers and, occasionally, judicial powers as well. After November 1969, with few exceptions, RCC members were elected or nominated out of the RL. In this way the civilian party—now in reality led by Vice President Saddam Hussein—was able to eventually remove all army officers from power and maintain control. In the state as a whole, the Ba'th Party, already highly organized, began to infiltrate and influence almost all national organizations.

Disturbances in the Kurdish area and several attempts to overthrow the regime kept the Ba'th leaders preoccupied and prevented them from launching planned social and economic programs. The attempts to overthrow the regime were suppressed without difficulty, but the Kurdish problem proved more complicated.

Even before the Ba'th Party achieved power, the Kurdish question had been discussed in several meetings of the Ba'th Party leadership. However, in late 1968 fighting between the Kurds and the Iraqi army began once again and escalated to full-scale warfare. With military aid provided by Iran, the Kurds were able to pose a serious threat to the Ba'th regime. By early 1970 negotiations between the Ba'th leaders, with Saddam as chief government negotiator, the Kurdish leader Mustafa al-Barzani, and other leaders of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) were under way. The government agreed to officially recognize the Kurds as a “national” group entitled to a form of autonomous status called self-rule. This would eventually lead to the establishment of a provincial administrative council and an assembly to deal with Kurdish affairs. The agreement was proclaimed in the Manifesto of March 1970, to go into effect in March 1974, following a census to determine the frontiers of the area in which the Kurds formed the majority of the population.

In April 1972 Iraq and the Soviet Union signed a treaty in which the two countries agreed to cooperate in political, economic, and military affairs. The Soviet Union also agreed to supply Iraq with arms.

To strengthen the Ba'th regime, two important steps were taken. First, the conflict with the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which had arisen after the revolution of 1958 and had led to the death of thousands of communists under Ba'th rule, was reconciled. Second, the National Progressive Front was established to provide legitimacy to the regime by enlisting the support of other political parties. Since the March Manifesto had established a basis for settling the Kurdish problem, Kurdish political parties were willing to participate in the National Progressive Front (NPF). The ICP had also shown interest. A Charter for National Action, prepared by the Ba'th Party, was published in the press for public discussion and became the basis for cooperation with the ICP and other parties.

In March 1972 Ba'thist and ICP leaders met to discuss the content of the charter and express their views about basic principles such as socialism, democracy, and economic development. A statute was drawn up expressing the principles agreed on as the basis for cooperation among the parties of the NPF. It also provided for a 16-member central executive committee, called the High Committee, and a secretariat. The NPF officially came into existence in 1973.

In 1973–74 negotiations with al-Barzani and the KDP to implement the March Manifesto failed. The census promised in the March Manifesto had not been taken, and al-Barzani and the KDP refused to accept the Ba'thist determination of the borders of the Kurdish area, which excluded the oil-rich Karkuk province. Nevertheless, in March 1974 the Ba'th regime proceeded to implement its own plan for self-rule, establishing a provincial council and an assembly in cooperation with Kurdish leaders who were opposed to al-Barzani's militant approach. Iraq also set up the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the three predominantly Kurdish governorates of Arbil, Dahuk, and Al-Sulaymaniyyah.

The Kurdish war started in March 1974. Al-Barzani's decision to go to war with the Ba'th government seems to have been made with the support of the shah of Iran, who sought to pressure Iraq to alter the water frontier in the Shatt al-'Arab to the thalweg, or the deepest point of the river. (Under the terms of the 1937 treaty, the boundary was set at the low-water mark on the Iranian side, giving Iraq control of the shipping channel.) Soon after the conflict broke out, however, an agreement between Iran and Iraq caused Iran to suspend support for the Kurds and ended the Kurdish war. Al-Barzani's forces and political supporters were given a few days to withdraw into Iran, and the Iraqi government took full control of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Relations between the Ba'th regime and the ICP deteriorated after 1975. Ba'th policies were openly criticized in the communist press. Many communists were arrested, and by 1979 most of the principal ICP leaders were either in prison or had left Iraq. The absence of communist representation deprived the NPF of an opposition party that was willing to voice dissent on fundamental issues.

- Majid khadduri

History: The Republic of Iraq - The revolution of 1968 - Foreign policy 1968–80

The Ba'th Party came to power, to a large extent, on the waves of deep popular frustration that followed the Arab defeat by Israel in the Six-Day War. The party soon became, rhetorically, the most extreme anti-Israeli regime in the Arab world, promising to quickly conduct a successful war to wrest Palestine from Israeli control. The Ba'th retained, and even reinforced, a large and expensive expeditionary force in Jordan, yet it vitiated its own agenda by alienating virtually every regime in the Arab world. The party was extremely unpopular inside Iraq because of its disastrous experience in 1963, and both the public and the military were still to a large extent under the influence of Nasser. The party believed that, by besmirching the Egyptian leader, it could gain public support. It called on Nasser to resign for having failed the Arab world in the war and for having rejected Iraq's demand to launch another, immediate attack. Relations with Ba'thist Syria also became tense. The oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf were wary of Ba'th social, national, and anti-Western radicalism, fearing Iraq might inspire revolutionary activities in their countries, and, indeed, the Ba'th regime called for Ba'th-style revolutions throughout the Arab world.

Beginning in the spring of 1969, relations with the Iranian monarchy also deteriorated over control of the Shatt al-'Arab and over Iranian support for Iraq's Kurdish rebels. Relations remained cordial, though reserved, only with Jordan, because Iraq needed Jordanian cooperation in order to keep Iraqi forces in that country. During a clash between the Jordanian government and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September 1970, the Iraqi government decided to avoid a confrontation with Jordanian troops (despite earlier promises to aid the Palestinians) and withdrew its forces east, into the Jordanian desert. This won them harsh criticism from the Palestinians and from Arab radicals in general. However, it could not save their relations with Jordan, which during the next few years reached a nadir.

Beginning in 1974–75, under the direction of Saddam, Iraq's relations with its neighbours started to improve. The young vice president realized that the country's near total isolation was threatening the regime's hold on power. The crucial turnaround took place in 1975 when Iraq and Iran signed the Algiers Agreement, in which Iraq agreed to move the maritime boundary between the two countries to the thalweg—conditioned on Iran's withdrawal of support for the Iraqi Kurds. This was followed by improved relations with most gulf states, and in 1975 Egypt's new president, Anwar el-Sadat, and The Sudan's president, Gaafar Mohamed el-Nimeiri, each visited Baghdad. In the years that followed, relations with Jordan and Turkey also improved dramatically.

Besides Israel, the only close neighbour with which Iraq did not experience improved relations was Syria. Tension between the two Ba'thist regimes increased throughout the 1970s, and both sought to undermine the other. In 1976, as part of a dispute over oil-transfer revenues, Iraq stopped shipping oil through Syrian pipelines, opting rather to use a newer pipeline across Turkey. That this ongoing dispute conflicted with the Ba'thist's pan-Arab rhetoric apparently was of little importance: the main task for Saddam was to keep the Ba'th Party in power in Baghdad, and the destabilizing influence of the Syrian branch of the party was something he could not afford. Only by denigrating the Syrian regime—as Saddam frequently did—by accusing it of betraying the party's ideals and of colluding with Israel could he clearly signal members of his own branch of the party that involvement with Syria would lead to charges of treason.

Throughout the 1970s, while Iraq's anti-Israeli rhetoric reached a crescendo, the Ba'th regime in Baghdad also began to play down its commitment to any immediate war against Israel. As Saddam explained it to his domestic audience, the Arabs were not ready for such a war, because there was a need to first achieve strategic superiority over the Jewish state. Saddam's vision was that Iraq first would concentrate exclusively on economic, technological, and military growth, turning itself into a “fortress.” Only when Iraq was ready would it turn outside, “radiating” its influence to the Arab world. Only then, under Iraq's leadership, would the Arabs be ready to confront Israel. In fact, there was a notable leap in almost every sector of Iraq's economy and in military expansion during the late 1970s. This military development also included Iraq's first meaningful investment in nuclear and biological weapons research.

History: The Republic of Iraq - The revolution of 1968 - Economic development to 1980

Perhaps the greatest assets of the Ba'th regime were the ambitious plans for reconstruction and development laid down by its leaders. The struggle for power during 1958–68 had left little time for constructive work, and the Ba'th Party sought not only to transform the economic system from free enterprise to collectivism but also to assert the country's economic independence. The immediate objectives were to increase production and to raise the standard of living, but the ultimate objective was to establish a socialist society in which all citizens would enjoy the benefits of progress and prosperity. On the other hand, the regime's socioeconomic program was an effective way of controlling the population. Critics of the regime have defined this system as combining “intimidation and enticement” (al-tarhib wa al-targhib): along with building a huge and extremely brutal internal-security apparatus, the regime expended the country's vast oil revenues to create an extensive welfare system and to extend roads, electric grids, and water-purification systems to much of the countryside.

The five-year economic plans of 1965–70 and 1971–75 concentrated on raising the level of production in both agriculture and industry and aimed at reducing dependence on oil revenues as the primary source for development. But agriculture lagged far behind target goals, and industrial development was slow. The five-year plan of 1976–80, formulated in the years after Iraq's oil revenues had suddenly quadrupled, was far more ambitious. Development goals in virtually every category were intended to increase, reaching two and even three times the levels of previous plans. Altogether the allocation for development compared with previous plans increased more than 10-fold, eventually reaching some one-third of the general budget. Ideologically, the regime now sought to legitimize itself through economic development rather than through extremist revolutionary rhetoric, as it had done previously. In practice, however, the funds may have been available to meet these goals, but the country's inadequate infrastructure made implementation unachievable. Also, though many large industrial plants were constructed, production was inefficient, and Iraqi state products could compete on the world markets only in situations where Iraq had a meaningful advantage, such as in products that directly exploited the country's petroleum surplus.

Ba'th leaders considered nationalizing the oil industry their greatest achievement. Between 1969 and 1972 several agreements with foreign powers—the Soviet Union and others—were concluded to provide the Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) with the capital and technical skills to exploit the oil fields. In 1972 operation started at the highly productive North Rumaylah field, and an Iraqi Oil Tankers Company was established to deliver oil to several foreign countries. Also in 1972 the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) was nationalized (with compensation), and a national company, the Iraqi Company for Oil Operations, was established to operate the fields. In 1973, when the Yom Kippur War broke out, Iraq nationalized American and Dutch companies, and in 1975 it nationalized the remaining foreign interests in the Basra Petroleum Company.

The initial step in agrarian reform had been taken with the Agrarian Reform Law of 1958, which provided for distributing to peasants lands in excess of a certain maximum ownership. A decade later less than half of the land had been distributed. In 1969 a revised Agrarian Reform Law relieved the peasants from payments for their land by abolishing compensation to landowners, and a year later a new Agrarian Reform Law was designed to improve the conditions of the peasantry, increase agricultural production, and correlate development in rural and urban areas. The results were disappointing, however, because of the difficulty officials had in persuading the peasants to stay on their farms and because of their inability to improve the quality of agricultural production. The Ba'th regime also completed work on irrigation projects that had already been under way and began new projects in areas where water was likely to be scarce in the summer. In the five-year plan of 1976–80, funds were allocated for completion of dams on the Euphrates, Tigris, Diyala, and upper Zab rivers and Lake al-Tharthar.

Recognizing that a rapid transition to full socialism was neither possible nor in the country's best interest, the Ba'th provided for a sector (albeit a small one) for private investors, and a third, mixed sector was created in which private and public enterprises could cooperate. This three-tier economy, however, provided fertile ground for official corruption, and senior government officials received illicit commissions for approving deals between the public and private sectors.

History: The Republic of Iraq - Iraq under Saddam Hussein

From the early 1970s Saddam was widely recognized as the power behind President al-Bakr, who after 1977 was little more than a figurehead. Saddam reached this position through his leadership of the internal security apparatus, a post that most senior Ba'thist figures had been too squeamish to fill. Saddam, however, had drawn hard lessons from the party's failure in 1963 and resolved that no dissent should be allowed in party ranks, no opposition outside the party should be tolerated, and ideological commitment to party ideals alone was insufficient to guarantee the loyalty of internal security officers. Kinship bonds were, to him, much more promising. President al-Bakr concurred on that issue, and soon after the Ba'th takeover al-Bakr appointed his young relative (both al-Bakr and Saddam belonged to the tribe of Al Bu Nasir) to the powerful posts of deputy chairman of the RCC, deputy secretary-general of the RL, and vice president. Al-Bakr also allowed Saddam to form the Presidential Guard, mostly from members of the Al Bu Nasir and allied Sunni tribes. Between 1968 and the mid-1970s Saddam became the unchallenged leader of internal security. After he jailed, executed, or assassinated the regime's opponents, he turned against his own opponents inside the ruling party, using the same tools and methods: a plethora of ubiquitous and ruthless internal security organs loyal to him personally.

It was virtually taken for granted that when al-Bakr relinquished the presidency, Saddam would succeed him. Nevertheless, his succession was not carried out without complications. Perhaps the two most important complicating factors were Egyptian President Sadat's decision to make peace with Israel and Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad's bid for economic and political union with Iraq. These two events were not unrelated. Despite ongoing tensions between the two branches of the Ba'th Party, Arab unity had been a long-standing party goal in both Syria and Iraq. Assad, however, was prompted to call for union with Iraq only after Egypt's rapprochement with Israel in 1977. While President al-Bakr hesitated, Saddam strongly resisted this move. After Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords in 1978, however, there was no way he could avoid the issue.

The initial negotiations showed great promise. Talks in October 1978 led to the signing of a “charter for joint national action,” which declared the two countries' intent to establish military unity. By 1979 it was clear that the eventual aim was full political union. Iraq and Syria also cooperated with other Arab leaders in taking a firm stand against Sadat. By March 1979, however, when Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel, negotiations for a Syro-Iraqi union had slowed. The main stumbling block was the question of whether the leadership of the unified state would be primarily Syrian or Iraqi.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated, and by that time Saddam had an additional reason for avoiding ties with Damascus: Iran's Islamic revolution had installed a regime that was clearly anti-Iraqi and had close ties with Syria. The Iraqi regime also saw a vague religious threat, inasmuch as many among Syria's ruling elite adhered to a branch of Shi'ism (the 'Alawi sect) that was faintly related to that practiced in revolutionary Iran. Given Iraq's large—and for the most part disfranchised—Shi'ite population, Baghdad perceived relations between Syria and Iran as an unprecedented threat.

On July 16, 1979, the eve of the anniversary of the revolution of 1968, al-Bakr officially announced his resignation. There is little doubt that Saddam forced him to resign. Al-Bakr was placed under de facto house arrest and died in 1982. Saddam immediately succeeded him as president, chairman of the RCC, secretary-general of the RL, and commander in chief of the armed forces.

Less than two weeks after Saddam claimed leadership, it was announced that a plot to overthrow the government had been uncovered. This announcement had been preceded some days earlier by the arrest of Muhyi 'Abd al-Husayn al-Mashhadi, the secretary of the RCC (and, uncoincidentally, a Shi'ite). Mashhadi made a public confession that was, in all likelihood, coerced. He stated that he and other Ba'th leaders, including four other members of the RCC, in collaboration with the Syrian government, had conspired to overthrow the regime. It is doubtful such a conspiracy existed, and it is unclear why those individuals were eliminated—all had been, at one time or another, protégés of Saddam. However, they had opposed al-Bakr's resignation and Saddam's ascendancy to the presidency. Thus, Saddam had finally managed to abort rapprochement between Iraq and Syria and, at the same time, send a message to all party members that the new president would not tolerate even the slightest dissent. A special court was set up, and 22 other senior officials were tried and executed; a number of others were sentenced to prison terms.

Syria denied complicity in any plot, but Saddam accused it of planning acts of sabotage and murder, and the Syrian ambassador and his staff were expelled. The Syrians reciprocated. With the de facto termination of diplomatic ties, economic relations between the two Ba'thist regimes started to deteriorate. In April 1982, at the height of its war with Iran, Iraq needed additional maritime outlets. Syria responded by closing its border with Iraq—ostensibly to prevent Iraqi arms smuggling—and shutting down the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline. A few days later Damascus officially severed diplomatic relations with Baghdad.

MORE to come just don’t go away.
Reference:
"Iraq" Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 2010. Web 19 March 2010. Http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-232267

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