Iraq in the 1950’s

By | December 19, 2021

After the popular uprising caused by the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, January 15, 1948 (it modified the Anglo-Iraqi alliance treaty of 1930 by placing the British air bases of al Ḥabbāniyyah and Shaiba under Iraqi control, but still recognizing the Great Brittany the right to send troops to Iraq in case of danger of war), which led the Regent to refuse ratification, the country has no longer regained internal stability. Since the political parties were dissolved (1952), they have practically never resumed their activity. From the same date to 1958, thirteen ministries have followed one another. In the last elections of May 1958, 117 out of 145 deputies were proclaimed elected without a vote due to lack of competitors.

Under the direction of King Faiṣal II, who came of age in May 1953, the various heads of the government have maintained a fairly constant line of foreign policy, that of Nūrīl Āl Sa‛id and the Constitutional Party, in favor of the West.

On April 21, 1954, the Iraqi government concluded an agreement for military assistance with the USA, and on February 24, 1955, with Turkey, a pact of political and military cooperation, which was later extended into the Baghdād Pact, with the accession of Great Britain, Pakistan and Irān.

However, opposition to Nūrīl Āl Sa‛id’s political directive grew, especially in the army, after the establishment of the Jordanian-Iraqi Arab Federation, announced on February 14, 1958 as an immediate reaction to the establishment of the United Arab Republic.

According to the constitution promulgated on March 19, 1958, the Federation remained open to any other Arab state. Each of the two states retained its international personality. The king of Iraq assumed the presidency. Legislative power was entrusted to the Assembly of the Federation, made up of representatives of the two states in equal numbers, partly elected by the respective Chambers and partly appointed by the two sovereigns, for a four-year term. Executive power was entrusted to the President and to the Council of Ministers residing alternately for six months in Bagdhād and for six months in ‘Ammān. The federal government was reserved for foreign affairs and all matters relating to the armed forces, defense, financial, economic and cultural policy.

The bloody military coup of July 14, 1958, led by Colonel Abd el-Kerim Qāsim, which cost the lives of King Faisal, Nūrī Āl Sa‛id and Crown Prince Abd el-Ilah, was the last episode of the ongoing internal instability.

The group of insurgents proclaimed the republic and the immediate withdrawal of Iraq from the Arab Federation, which King Husein of Jordan sanctioned the end with a decree of 2 August 1958. Relations between the two countries remained very tense. The new Iraqi government, on the other hand, seemed at first to move towards cooperation with the United Arab Republic (generic agreement of July 19, 1958); but the relations between Qāsim and en-Nāsir soon became one of mutual distrust due to the pro-communist attitude of the former and the hegemonic ambitions of the latter. On March 24, 1959, the Iraqi government, which had no longer participated in the meetings of the Baghdād Pact since July 1958, announced its withdrawal from the Pact itself. For Iraq 2015, please check

According to the provisional Constitution promulgated on 27 July 1958, the presidency of the Republic is exercised by a Sovereignty Council composed of a president (Abd el-Kerim Qāsim) and two members. The Council of Ministers exercises legislative and executive powers with the ratification of the Sovereign Council.

The situation remained, after the last coup, more troubled and precarious than ever. To the disturbing factor constituted by military interference in political life – which was always a characteristic of Iraqi public life – and to the discontent of the provinces, was added the struggle between the communist tendency and the Arab unionist ideology. Political parties, dissolved by law, nevertheless carry out a tolerated activity. The Communist Party is very active, with four newspapers, which is however divided between two tendencies, one gradualist and the other radical revolutionary. On March 8, 1959 there was the armed revolt of col. Abd el-Wahab esh-Shawwaf, in Mossul, attributed by the Iraqi government to Egyptian instigations. As a result, relations with the RAU were seriously worsened. following the serious turmoil in Kirkuk, which remained obscure in their origin and their purposes (it is uncertain whether they were anti-government or a conflict between Turkish-Iraqis and Kurds) a thousand communists were arrested. However, the Iraqi dictator’s position towards communism remains an unknown. Followed, on October 7, the attack, with serious injury, of the gen. Qāsim, in Baghdād. After an agreement with the USSR for technical assistance was signed on December 27, 1959, an important element for the return to a regular political life was the promulgation of a law on January 6, 1960 that allows the various parties to officially resume. of their activities, subject to the approval of the program by the Ministry of the Interior. After the measures of November 1954, which prohibited parties from any political activity, in the new, more liberal climate, the national-democratic party, with a socialist approach, was immediately formed; the democratic party of Kurdistan; two communist formations, one “Orthodox” and one “Titoist” based.

On the international level, while the long-standing controversy with Irān over the Shatt el Arab resumed between December and January 1960, the intentions of Arab “revenge” against Israel then had a notable accentuation in Iraq, with the creation of a “Palestine Liberation Army” (March 27, 1960) formed with Arab refugees and with the intention of leading guerrillas in the desert and other offensive activities.

Iraq in the 1950's