Iraq During Saddam Hussein

By | December 19, 2021

The Ba’th party and the rise of Saddam Hussein

The July 14, 1958 coup d’état that overthrew the Hashimite monarchy represented a pivotal moment in Iraq’s recent history. Since then, the country, having escaped any foreign protection, has transformed itself into a restless and radical link in the chain of Arab states, strongly opposed to the Western world. Inside, his political life was characterized by a series of military coups, in which personal, current and political group rivalries were intertwined. The Kassim dictatorship was overthrown in February 1963 and replaced by that of General Abdul Rahman Arif, supported by the Ba’th party (Socialist Arab Revival Party), born in Syria from the merger of the Arab Revival Party, founded in 1947 by Michel Aflaq, and the Arab Socialist Party, whose pan-Arab character had favored its spread from Syria to neighboring countries. In November of the same year Arif disposed of the Ba’th, but in July 1968 he took his revenge with an opposite coup, led by General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, which overthrew Arif’s brother and successor (who had been plane crash). The coup d’état that installed al-Bakr as president, at the head of a Council of the Command of the Revolution (CCR), marked the coming to power of the Ba’th and the start of a relative stabilization of the political order. A provisional Constitution, passed in 1968 and amended several times in the following years, gave full powers to the CCR and the President of the Republic, pending the election of a National Assembly, while the ordinary administration was delegated to a presidential nominated Council of Ministers. As regards the age-old question of the different ethnic groups present in the country, the new regime seemed capable of putting an end to the conflict with the Kurds when, in 1970, a peace plan was agreed with the leaders of the guerrillas which provided for the full recognition of national identity of the Kurds, their participation in the government of the country and the constitution of an autonomous region. However, the delay and limits imposed by Baghdad on the application of the agreement led to a resumption of the guerrilla warfare. Relations with Iran, already made difficult by a border dispute over Shatt al-Arab, deteriorated after Khomeini’s Islamic revolution. for fear that Tehran’s fundamentalist propaganda could take root among the Shiite majority of the Iraqi population. Baghdad was induced to change its position in the international arena accordingly. For Iraq 2011, please check

Developments in Iraqi foreign policy were accompanied internally by a change in the direction of the Ba’th party and the state. In July 1979 al-Bakr was replaced by another Ba’th exponent, Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti, who, after participating in the 1968 coup d’état, had become deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. By acquiring the role of President of the Republic, head of government and supreme commander of the armed forces, Hussein initiated a process of institutionalization of the regime, calling the first political elections since 1958 in 1980, and thus adding to the JRC a National Assembly (as well as a Legislative Council of the Kurdish Autonomous Region), renewed in 1984 and 1989. In the international field, Hussein led a policy of rapprochement of the Iraq to moderate and pro-Western Arab countries and tried to build its own leadership in the Arab world, taking on the widespread desire to stem the Islamic revolution. While the elections of June 1980 highlighted Hussein’s extensive control over the country, the relaunch of economic relations with the West and the United States (the official resumption of relations took place in November 1984) represented an important step in guaranteeing Iraq a background. of support in view of the imminent attack on Iran. The war against the Islamic republic of Tehran, started by Hussein in 1980 also to recover full Iraqi sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab, proved to be much longer and more difficult than expected.

From the war on Iran to the Gulf War

The Baghdad offensive across the Iranian border began in mid-September 1980 and quickly led to the occupation of numerous urban centers. However, Tehran not only avoided collapse but, adopted exceptional political-military reorganization measures in 1981, began to weigh its superiority in human potential. A year later Iraqi troops began to retreat from the conquered territories after suffering considerable losses, until they retreated across the border in the Basra area. Iraq was forced to ask for increasing economic and military aid from friendly Arab countries, increasingly assuming the role of a staunch opponent of the Shiite revolution. Starting from the first months of 1984 the clash took on the character of a war of attrition, in which there were, however, violent Iranian offensives, which in November 1985 allowed the forces of Tehran to cross the Shatt al-Arab and conquer the Faw peninsula. To ease Iranian pressure, Iraq mainly resorted to the use of chemical weapons and air strikes on Tehran and the Gulf area, to which Iran responded with the launch of long-range missiles. The conflict situation that arose in a region of vital importance both from a strategic point of view and for oil traffic led the United States and Western countries to garrison the Gulf with air and naval forces. The multiple supports thus allowed Iraq, in the spring of 1988, to resume the initiative and to regain ground around Basra, leading Iran to accept the resolution of the Security Council of ‘

Confirmed in power in the elections of April 1989, Saddam Hussein found himself facing a troubled economy, due to the destruction of the war and the heavy debt situation towards the rich oil countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Squeezed in the grip of the repayments to be made, equipped with a conspicuous war arsenal that solicited its ambitions, Iraq in the summer of 1990 directed its expansionist aims towards Kuwait, a state whose legitimacy had always been contested because it was considered a artificial result of colonialist maneuvers. Trusting that Western support would not turn into hostility and that the Arab world would continue the negotiations, the Iraqi government carried out the occupation of Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The international reactions were instead of harsh and immediate condemnation. The UN Security Council imposed a strict system of economic sanctions against Iraq and in November authorized the use of force to force Iraqis to withdraw from the occupied territories. The action of the United States and its allies, after careful preparation based in particular on the agreement with Saudi Arabia, which made its territory available as a basis for war actions, culminated in a vast military offensive. breath (January-February 1991) which led to the liberation of Kuwait. At the end of hostilities, Iraq had suffered a total defeat, with tens of thousands of deaths and very serious damage to industrial and civil equipment, to which in the following months were added tens of thousands of new victims caused by the disastrous conditions in which the country had fallen and by the rebellion of the Shiite and Kurdish populations. The latter had risen hoping for the presence in the country of the Western allied troops, but when the United States, Great Britain and France intervened by imposing on Baghdad the ban on overflight by the Iraqi aviation of the territories to the north and south of the country inhabited by Kurds and Shiites, the ferocious repression of Saddam Hussein, left in power after the military defeat, had run its course.

Iraq During Saddam Hussein