Abd al-Karim Qasim

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Abd al-Karim Qasim
Abd al-Karim Qasim 5.jpg
24th Prime Minister of Iraq
In office
14 July 1958 8 February 1963
President Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i
Preceded by Ahmad Mukhtar Baban
Succeeded by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
Personal details
Born(1914-11-21)21 November 1914 [1]
Baghdad, Ottoman Empire
Died9 February 1963(1963-02-09) (aged 48)
Baghdad, Iraq
Cause of death Execution by firing squad
Nationality Iraqi
Political party Independent [lower-alpha 1]

Abd Al-Karim Qasim Muhammed Bakr Al-Fadhli Al-Zubaidi (Arabic : عبد الكريم قاسم`Abd Al-Karīm QāsimIPA:  [ʕabdulkariːm qaːsɪm] ) (21 November 1914 – 9 February 1963) was an Iraqi Army brigadier and nationalist who ascended into power when the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown during the 14 July Revolution. He ruled the country as the 24th Prime Minister until his downfall and death during the 1963 Ramadan Revolution.

Iraqi Army land warfare branch of Iraqs military

The Iraqi Army, officially the Iraqi Ground Forces, is the ground force component of the Iraqi Armed Forces, having been active in various incarnations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It was known as the Royal Iraqi Army up until the coup of July 1958.

Brigadier is a military rank, the seniority of which depends on the country. In some countries, it is a senior rank above colonel, equivalent to a brigadier general, typically commanding a brigade of several thousand soldiers. In other countries, it is a non-commissioned rank.

Kingdom of Iraq 1921-1958 monarchy in the Middle East

The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was founded on 23 August 1921 under British administration following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I. Although a League of Nations mandate was awarded to the UK in 1920, the 1920 Iraqi revolt resulted in the scrapping of the original mandate plan in favour of a British administered semi-independent kingdom, under the Hashemite allies of Britain, via the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was granted full independence in 1932, following the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930). The independent Iraqi Kingdom under the Hashemite rulers underwent a period of turbulence through its entire existence. Establishment of Sunni religious domination in Iraq was followed by Assyrian, Yazidi and Shi'a unrests, which were all brutally suppressed. In 1936, the first military coup took place in the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq, as Bakr Sidqi succeeded in replacing the acting Prime Minister with his associate. Multiple coups followed in a period of political instability, peaking in 1941.


During his rule, Qasim was popularly known as al-za‘īm (الزعيم) or, "The Leader". [2]

Early life and career

Qasim in 1937. Qasim 1937.jpg
Qasim in 1937.

Abd al-Karim's father, Qasim Muhammed Bakr Al-Fadhli Al-Zubaidi was a farmer from southern Baghdad [3] and an Iraqi Sunni Muslim [4] who died during World War 1, shortly after his son's birth. Qasim's mother, Kayfia Hassan Yakub Al-Sakini [5] was a Shiite Muslim from Baghdad.

Baghdad Capital of Iraq

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, as well as hosting multiethnic and multireligious environment, garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Centre of Learning".

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

When Qasim was six his family moved to Suwayra, a small town near the Tigris, then to Baghdad in 1926. Qasim was an excellent student and entered secondary school on a government scholarship.[ citation needed ] After graduation in 1931, he attended Shamiyya Elementary School from the 22 October until the 3 September 1932, when he was accepted into Military College. In 1934, he graduated as a second lieutenant. Qasim then attended al-Arkan (Iraqi Staff) College and graduated with honors (grade A) in December 1941. In 1951, he completed a senior officers’ course in Devizes, Wiltshire. Qasim was nicknamed "the snake charmer" by his classmates in Devizes because of his gift in convincing them to undertake improbable courses of action during military exercises. [6]

Devizes Town in Wiltshire, England

Devizes is a market town and civil parish in the centre of Wiltshire, England. It developed around Devizes Castle, an 11th-century Norman castle, and received a charter in 1141 permitting regular markets, which are held weekly in an open market place. The castle was besieged during the Anarchy, a 12th-century civil war between Stephen of England and Empress Matilda, and again during the English Civil War when the Cavaliers (Royalists) lifted the siege during the Battle of Roundway Down. Devizes remained under Royalist control until 1645, when Oliver Cromwell attacked and forced the Royalists to surrender. The castle was destroyed in 1648 on the orders of Parliament, and today little remains of it.

Wiltshire County of England

Wiltshire is a county in South West England with an area of 3,485 km2. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The county town was originally Wilton, after which the county is named, but Wiltshire Council is now based in the county town of Trowbridge.

Militarily, he participated in the suppression of the tribal disturbances in the Middle Euphrates region in 1935, during the Anglo-Iraqi War in May 1941 and the Kurdistan War in 1945. Qasim also served during the Iraqi military involvement in the Arab-Israeli War from May 1948 to June 1949. Toward the latter part of the mission, he commanded a battalion of the First Brigade, which was situated in the Kafr Qassem area south of Qilqilya. In 1956–57, he served with his brigade at Mafraq in Jordan in the wake of the Suez Crisis. By 1957 Qasim had assumed leadership of several opposition groups that had formed in the army. [7]

Anglo-Iraqi War war

The Anglo–Iraqi War was a British-led Allied military campaign against Iraq under Rashid Ali, who had seized power during the Second World War with assistance from Germany and Italy. The campaign resulted in the downfall of Ali's government, the re-occupation of Iraq by the British Empire, and the return to power of the Regent of Iraq, Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, an ally to imperial Britain.

The 1943–1945 Barzani revolt was a Kurdish nationalistic insurrection in the Kingdom of Iraq, during World War II. The revolt was led by Mustafa Barzani and was later joined by his older brother Ahmed Barzani, the leader of the previous Kurdish revolt in Iraq. The revolt, initiating in 1943, was eventually put down by the Iraqi assault in late 1945, combined with the defection of a number of Kurdish tribes. As a result, the Barzanis retreated with much of their forces into Iranian Kurdistan, joining the local Kurdish elements in establishing the Republic of Mahabad.

Kafr Qasim Place in Israel

Kafr Qasim, also known as Kafr Qassem, Kufur Kassem, Kfar Kassem and Kafar Kassem, is a hill-top city with an Israeli Arab population. It is located about 20 km (12 mi) east of Tel Aviv, on the Israeli side of the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank, in the southern portion of the "Little Triangle" of Arab-Israeli towns and villages. In 2018 its population was 23,241. The town was the site of the Kafr Qasim massacre, in which the Israel Border Police killed 49 civilians on October 29, 1956. On February 12, 2008, Israeli Minister of the Interior Meir Sheetrit declared Kafr Qasim a city in a ceremony held at the town.

14 July Revolution

Qasim (back row, left of centre) and other leaders of the revolution, including Abdul Salam Arif (back row, second from left) and Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i (back row, fifth from left). Also included is Ba'athist ideologue Michel Aflaq (front row, first from right). Leaders of July 14 1958 Revolution.jpg
Qasim (back row, left of centre) and other leaders of the revolution, including Abdul Salam Arif (back row, second from left) and Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i (back row, fifth from left). Also included is Ba'athist ideologue Michel Aflaq (front row, first from right).

On 14 July 1958, Qasim and his followers used troop movements planned by the government as an opportunity to seize military control of Baghdad and overthrow the monarchy. This resulted in the killing of several members of the royal family and their close associates, including Nuri as-Said.

The coup was discussed and planned by the Free Officers and Civilians Movement, but was executed mainly by Qasim and Col. Abdul Salam Arif. It was triggered when King Hussein of Jordan, fearing that an anti-Western revolt in Lebanon might spread to Jordan, requested Iraqi assistance. Instead of moving towards Jordan, however, Colonel Arif led a battalion into Baghdad and immediately proclaimed a new republic and the end of the old regime. Put in its historical context, the 14 July Revolution was the culmination of a series of uprisings and coup attempts that began with the 1936 Bakr Sidqi coup and included the 1941 Rashid Ali military movement, the 1948 Wathbah Uprising, and the 1952 and 1956 protests. The 14 July Revolution met with virtually no opposition.

Prince Abdul Ilah wanted no resistance to the forces that besieged the Royal Rihab Palace, hoping to gain permission to leave the country. The commander of the Royal Guards battalion on duty, Col. Taha Bamirni, ordered the palace guards to cease fire.[ citation needed ]

On 14 July 1958, the royal family including King Faisal II; the Prince 'Abd al-Ilah; Princess Hiyam, Abdullah's wife; Princess Nafisah, Abdullah's mother, Princess Abadiyah, the king's aunt, and several servants were attacked as they were leaving the palace. When they all arrived in the courtyard they were told to turn towards the palace wall. All were then shot by Captain Abdus Sattar As Sab’, a member of the coup led by Brigadier Abd al-Karim Qasim. [8]

King Faisal II and Princess Hiyam were wounded. The King died later before reaching a hospital. Princess Hiyam was not recognized at the hospital and managed to receive treatment. Later she left for Saudi Arabia where her family lived. She eventually moved to Egypt and lived there until her death.

In the wake of the successful coup, the new Iraqi Republic was headed by a Revolutionary Council. [8] At its head was a three-man sovereignty council, composed of members of Iraq's three main communal/ethnic groups. Muhammad Mahdi Kubbah represented the Shi’a population; Khalid al-Naqshabandi the Kurds; and Najib al Rubay’i the Sunni population. [9] This tripartite was to assume the role of the Presidency. A cabinet was created, composed of a broad spectrum of Iraqi political movements: this included two National Democratic Party representatives, one member of al-Istiqlal, one Ba’ath representative and one Marxist. [8]

After seizing power, Qasim assumed the post of prime minister and defence minister, while Colonel Arif was selected as deputy prime minister and interior minister. They became the highest authority in Iraq with both executive and legislative powers. Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i became chairman of the Sovereignty Council (head of state), but his power was very limited.

On 26 July 1958, the Interim Constitution was adopted, pending a permanent law to be promulgated after a free referendum. According to the document, Iraq was to be a republic and a part of the Arab nation while the official state religion was listed as Islam. Powers of legislation were vested in the Council of Ministers, with the approval of the Sovereignty Council, whilst executive function was also vested in the Council of Ministers. [9] The constitution proclaimed the equality of all Iraqi citizens under the law and granting them freedom without regard to race, nationality, language or religion. The government freed political prisoners and granted amnesty to the Kurds who participated in the 1943 to 1945 Kurdish uprisings. The exiled Kurds returned home and were welcomed by the republican regime.[ citation needed ]

Prime minister

Qasim with future president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani. Massoud Barzani & Abd al-Karim Qasim.jpg
Qasim with future president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani.
The flag of Iraq from 1959 to 1963, whose symbolism was associated with Qasim's government Flag of Iraq 1959-1963.svg
The flag of Iraq from 1959 to 1963, whose symbolism was associated with Qasim's government

Qasim assumed office after being elected as Prime Minister briefly after the coup in July 1958. He held this position until he was overthrown in February 1963.

Despite the encouraging tones of the temporary constitution, the new government descended into autocracy with Qasim at its head. The genesis of his elevation to "Sole Leader" began with a schism between himself and his fellow conspirator Arif. Despite one of the major goals of the revolution was to join the pan-Arabism movement and practice qawmiyah policies, Qasim soon modified his views, once in power. Qasim, reluctant to tie himself too closely to Nasser's Egypt sided with various groups within Iraq (notably the social democrats) that told him such an action would be dangerous. Instead he found himself echoing the views of his predecessor, Said, by adopting a wataniyah policy of "Iraq First". [10] [11]

The Iraqi state emblem under Qasim was mostly based on the sun disk symbol of Shamash, and carefully avoided pan-Arab symbolism by incorporating elements of Socialist heraldry. Emblem of Iraq (1959-1965).svg
The Iraqi state emblem under Qasim was mostly based on the sun disk symbol of Shamash, and carefully avoided pan-Arab symbolism by incorporating elements of Socialist heraldry.

Unlike the bulk of military officers, Qasim did not come from the Arab Sunni north-western towns, nor did he share their enthusiasm for pan-Arabism: he was of mixed Sunni-Shia parentage from south-eastern Iraq. His ability to remain in power depended, therefore, on a skillful balancing of the communists and the pan-Arabists. For most of his tenure, Qasim sought to balance the growing pan-Arab trend in the military.

He lifted a ban on the Iraqi Communist Party, and demanded the annexation of Kuwait.[ citation needed ] He was also involved in the 1958 Agrarian Reform, modeled after the Egyptian experiment of 1952. [12]

Qasim is said by his admirers to have worked to improve the position of ordinary people in Iraq, after the long period of self-interested rule by a small elite under the monarchy which had resulted in widespread social unrest. Qasim passed law No. 80 which seized 99% of Iraqi land from the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company, and distributed farms to more of the population. [13] This increased the size of the middle class. Qasim also oversaw the building of 35,000 residential units to house the poor and lower middle classes. The most notable example, of this, was the new suburb of Baghdad named Madinat al-Thawra (revolution city), renamed Saddam City under the Ba'ath regime and now widely referred to as Sadr City. Qasim rewrote the constitution to encourage women's participation in society. [14]

Qasim tried to maintain the political balance by using the traditional opponents of pan-Arabs, the right wing and nationalists. Up until the war with the Kurdish factions in the north, he was able to maintain the loyalty of the army. [15]

Power struggles

Despite a shared military background, the group of Free Officers that carried out the 14 July Revolution was plagued by internal dissension. Its members lacked both a coherent ideology and an effective organizational structure. Many of the more senior officers resented having to take orders from Arif, their junior in rank. A power struggle developed between Qasim and Arif over joining the Egyptian-Syrian union. Arif's pro-Nasserite sympathies were supported by the Ba'ath Party, while Qasim found support for his anti-unification position in the ranks of the Iraqi Communist Party.

Qasim's change of policy aggravated his relationship with Arif who, despite being the subordinate of Qasim, had gained great prestige as the perpetrator of the coup itself. Arif capitalized upon his newfound position by partaking in a series of widely publicized public orations, during which he strongly advocated union with the UAR, making numerous positive references to Nasser, while remaining noticeably less full of praise for Qasim. Arif's criticism of Qasim became gradually more pronounced. This led Qasim to take steps to counter his potential rival. He began to foster relations with the Iraqi Communist Party, which attempted to mobilize support in favor of his policies. He also moved to counter Arif's power base by removing him from his position as deputy commander of the armed forces.

On 30 September Qasim removed Arif's status as deputy prime minister and as minister of the interior. [16] Qasim attempted to remove Arif's disruptive influence by offering him a role as Iraqi ambassador to West Germany in Bonn. Arif refused, and in a confrontation with Qasim on 11 October he is reported to have drawn his pistol in the Qasim's presence; although whether it was to assassinate Qasim or commit suicide is a source of debate. [16] [17] No blood was shed, and Arif agreed to depart for Bonn. However, his time in Germany was brief, as he attempted to return to Baghdad on 4 November amid rumors of an attempted coup against Qasim. He was promptly arrested, and charged on 5 November with the attempted assassination of Qasim and attempts to overthrow the regime. [16] He was brought to trial for treason and condemned to death in January 1959. He was subsequently pardoned in December 1962 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.[ citation needed ]

Although the threat of Arif had been negated, another soon arose in the form of Rashid Ali, the exiled former prime minister who had fled Iraq in 1941. He attempted to foster support among officers who were unhappy with Qasim's policy reversals. A coup was planned for 9 December, but Qasim was prepared, and instead had the conspirators arrested on the same date. Ali was imprisoned and sentenced to death, although the execution was never carried out.[ citation needed ]

Relations with Iran

Relations with Iran and the West deteriorated significantly under Qasim's leadership, he actively opposed foreign troop presence in Iraq and spoke out against it. Relations with Iran were strained due to his call for Arab territory within Iran to be annexed to Iraq, and Iran continued to actively fund and facilitate Kurdish rebels in the North. Relations with the Pan-Arab Nasserist factions such as the Arab Struggle Party caused tensions with the UAR, and as a result the UAR began to aid rebellions in Iraqi Kurdistan against the government. [18]

Kurdish revolts

Qasim with Mustafa Barzani. Barzani & Qasim.jpg
Qasim with Mustafa Barzani.

The new Government declared Kurdistan "one of the two nations of Iraq".[ citation needed ] During his rule, the Kurdish groups selected Mustafa Barzani to negotiate with the government, seeking an opportunity to declare independence.

After a period of relative calm, the issue of Kurdish autonomy (self-rule or independence) went unfulfilled, sparking discontent and eventual rebellion among the Kurds in 1961. Kurdish separatists under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani chose to wage war against the Iraqi establishment. Although relations between Qasim and the Kurds had proved successful initially, by 1961 relations had had deteriorated and they had become openly critical of Qasim's regime. Barzani had delivered an ultimatum to Qasim in August 1961 demanding an end to authoritarian rule, recognition of Kurdish autonomy, and restoration of democratic liberties. [19] Qasim's response was to negotiate with the Kurds. He successfully restored relations between the Arabs and the Kurds.

The Mosul uprising and subsequent unrest

Tumultuous military parade in Baghdad, 14 July 1959

During Qasim's term, there was much debate over whether Iraq should join the United Arab Republic, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. Having dissolved the Arab Union with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qasim refused allow Iraq to enter the federation, although his government recognized the republic and considered joining it later.[ citation needed ]

Qasim's growing ties with the communists served to provoke rebellion in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul led by Arab nationalists in charge of military units. In an attempt to mitigate against a potential coup, Qasim had encouraged a communist backed Peace Partisans rally to be held in Mosul on 6 March 1959. Some 250,000 Peace Partisans and communists thronged through Mosul's streets that day, [20] and although the rally passed peacefully, on 7 March, skirmishes broke out between communists and nationalists. This degenerated into a major civil disturbance over the following days. Although the rebellion was crushed by the military, it had a number of adverse effects that impacted Qasim's position. First, it increased the power of the communists. Second, it encouraged the ideas of the Ba’ath Party, which had been growing steadily since the 14 July coup. They believed that the only way of halting the engulfing tide of communism was to assassinate Qasim.

Of the 16 members of Qasim's cabinet, 12 were Ba'ath Party members. However, the party turned against Qasim because of his refusal to join Gamel Abdel Nasser's United Arab Republic. [21] To strengthen his own position within the government, Qasim created an alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which was opposed to any notion of pan-Arabism. [22] Later that year, the Ba'ath Party leadership put in place plans to assassinate Qasim. Saddam Hussein was a leading member of the operation. At the time, the Ba'ath Party was more of an ideological experiment than a strong anti-government fighting machine. The majority of its members were either educated professionals or students, and Saddam fitted in well with this group. [23]

The choice of Saddam was, according to journalist Con Coughlin, "hardly surprising". The idea of assassinating Qasim may have been Nasser's, and there is speculation that some of those who participated in the operation received training in Damascus, which was then part of the UAR. However, "no evidence has ever been produced to implicate Nasser directly in the plot". [24]

The assassins planned to ambush Qasim at Al-Rashid Street on 7 October 1959: one man was to kill those sitting at the back of the car, the rest killing those in front. During the ambush it was claimed that Saddam began shooting prematurely, which disrupted the whole operation. Qasim's chauffeur was killed, and Qasim was hit in the arm and shoulder. The assassins believed they had killed him and quickly retreated to their headquarters, but Qasim survived. [25]

The growing influence of communism was felt throughout 1959. A communist-sponsored purge of the armed forces was carried out in the wake of the Mosul revolt. The Iraqi cabinet began to shift towards the radical-left as several communist sympathizers gained posts in the cabinet. Iraq's foreign policy began to reflect this communist influence, as Qasim removed Iraq from the Baghdad Pact on 24 March, and later fostered closer ties with the Soviet Union, including extensive economic agreements. [26] However, communist successes encouraged attempts to expand on their position. The communists attempted to replicate their success at Mosul in Kirkuk. A rally was called for 14 July which was intended to intimidate conservative elements. Instead it resulted in widespread bloodshed between ethnic Kurds (who were associated with the ICP at the time) and Iraqi Turkmen, leaving between 31 and 79 people dead. [27] Despite being largely the result of pre-existing ethnic tensions, the Kirkuk "massacre" was exploited by Iraqi anti-communists and Qasim subsequently purged communists and refused to license the ICP as a legitimate political party in early 1960, leading to a major reduction of communist influence in the Iraqi government. In retrospect, communist influence in Iraq peaked in 1959 and the ICP squandered its best chance of taking power by remaining loyal to Qasim, while his attempts to appease Iraqi nationalists backfired and contributed to his eventual overthrow. For example, Qasim released Salih Mahdi Ammash from custody and reinstated him in the Iraqi army, allowing Ammash to act as the military liaison to the Ba'athist coup plotters. [27] [28] Furthermore, notwithstanding his outwardly friendly posture towards the Kurds, Qasim was unable to grant Kurdistan autonomous status within Iraq, leading to the 1961 outbreak of the First Iraqi–Kurdish War and secret contacts between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Qasim's Ba'athist opponents in 1962 and 1963. The KDP promised not to aid Qasim in the event of a Ba'athist coup, ignoring longstanding Kurdish antipathy towards pan-Arab ideology. Disagreements between Qasim, the ICP, and the Kurds thus created a power vacuum that was exploited by a "tiny" group of Iraqi Ba'athists in 1963. [29]

Foreign policy

Qasim soon withdrew Iraq from the pro-Western Baghdad Pact and established friendly relations with the Soviet Union. Iraq also abolished its treaty of mutual security and bilateral relations with the UK. Iraq also withdrew from the agreement with the United States that was signed by the monarchy during 1954 and 1955 regarding military, arms, and equipment. On 30 May 1959, the last of the British soldiers and military officers departed the al-Habbāniyya base in Iraq.[ citation needed ]

Qasim supported the Algerian and Palestinian struggles against France and Israel.[ citation needed ]

However, he further undermined his rapidly deteriorating position with a series of foreign policy blunders. In 1959 Qasim antagonized Iran with a series of territory disputes, most notably over the Khuzestan region of Iran, which was home to an Arabic-speaking minority, [26] and the division of the Shatt al-Arab waterway between south eastern Iraq and western Iran. [30] On 18 December 1959, Abd al-Karim Qasim declared:

"We do not wish to refer to the history of Arab tribes residing in Al-Ahwaz and Mohammareh (Khurramshahr). The Ottomans handed over Muhammareh, which was part of Iraqi territory, to Iran." [31]

After this, Iraq started supporting secessionist movements in Khuzestan, and even raised the issue of its territorial claims at a subsequent meeting of the Arab League, without success. [32]

In June 1961, Qasim re-ignited the Iraqi claim over the state of Kuwait. On 19 June, he announced in a press conference that Kuwait was a part of Iraq, and claimed its territory. Kuwait, however, had signed a recent defence treaty with the British, who came to her assistance with troops to stave off any attack on 1 July. These were subsequently replaced by an Arab force (assembled by the Arab League) in September, where they remained until 1962. [33] [34]

The result of Qasim's foreign policy blunders was to further weaken his position. Iraq was isolated from the Arab world for its part in the Kuwait incident, whilst Iraq had antagonised its powerful neighbour, Iran. Western attitudes towards Qasim had also cooled, due to these incidents and his implied communist sympathies. Iraq was isolated internationally, and Qasim became increasingly isolated domestically, to his considerable detriment.

Overthrow and execution

In September 1960, Qasim demanded that the Anglo American-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) share 20% of the ownership and 55% of the profits with the Iraqi government. Then, in response to the IPC's rejection of this proposal, Qasim issued Public Law 80, which would have taken away 99.5% of the IPC's ownership and established an Iraqi national oil company to oversee the export of Iraqi oil. British and US officials and multinationals demanded that the Kennedy administration place pressure on the Qasim regime. [35] The Government of Iraq, under Qasim, along with five petroleum-exporting nations met at a conference held 10–14 September 1960 in Baghdad, thereby creating OPEC. [36]

Qasim's position was fatally weakened by 1962. His overthrow took place the following year. The perpetrators were the Ba’ath Party. By 1962, it was on the rise as a new group of leaders under the tutelage of Ali Salih al-Sa’di began to re-invigorate the party. The Ba’ath Party was now able to plot Qasim's removal.

Qasim after execution Abd al-Karim death.jpg
Qasim after execution

Qasim was overthrown by the Ba'athist coup of 8 February 1963. While there have been persistent rumours that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) orchestrated the coup, declassified documents and the testimony of former CIA officers indicate there was no direct American involvement, although the CIA was actively seeking to find a suitable replacement for Qasim within the Iraqi military and had been informed of an earlier Ba'athist coup plot by a high-ranking informant within the Party. Despite evidence that the CIA had been closely tracking the Ba'ath Party's coup planning since "at least 1961", the CIA official working with Archie Roosevelt, Jr. on a separate plan to instigate a military coup against Qasim, and who later became the head of the CIA's operations in Iraq and Syria, has "denied any involvement in the Ba'ath Party's actions", stating instead that the CIA's efforts against Qasim were still in the planning stages at the time. [37]

Qasim was given a short trial and he was shot soon after. Later, footage of his execution was broadcast to prove he was dead. [38] Between 1,500 and 5,000 Iraqis were killed in the fighting during 8–10 February 1963, and in the house-to-house hunt for "communists" that immediately followed. [39]

In July 2004, Qasim's body was discovered by a news team associated with Radio Dijlah in Baghdad. [40]


Statue honouring Abd al-Karim Qasim, by Khaled al-Rahal, now in Al-Rasheed Street, Baghdad Abd al-Karim Qasim's statue.jpg
Statue honouring Abd al-Karim Qasim, by Khaled al-Rahal, now in Al-Rasheed Street, Baghdad

The 1958 Revolution can be considered a watershed in Iraqi politics, not just because of its obvious political implications (e.g. the abolition of monarchy, republicanism, and paving the way for Ba'athist rule) but also because of its domestic reforms. Despite its shortcomings, Qasim's rule helped to implement a number of positive domestic changes that benefited Iraqi society and were widely popular, especially the provision of low-cost housing to the inhabitants of Baghdad's urban slums. [41] While criticizing Qasim's "irrational and capricious behavior" and "extraordinarily quixotic attempt to annex Kuwait in the summer of 1961"—actions that raised "serious doubts about his sanity"—Marion Farouk–Sluglett and Peter Sluglett conclude that, "Qasim's failings, serious as they were, can scarcely be discussed in the same terms as the venality, savagery and wanton brutality characteristic of the regimes which followed his own." Despite upholding death sentences against those involved in the 1959 Mosul uprising, Qasim also demonstrated "considerable magnanimity towards those who had sought at various times to overthrow him", including through large amnesties "in October and November 1961." Furthermore, not even Qasim's harshest critics could paint him as corrupt. [42]

Land reform

The revolution brought about sweeping changes in the Iraqi agrarian sector. Reformers dismantled the old feudal structure of rural Iraq. For example, the 1933 Law of Rights and Duties of Cultivators and the Tribal Disputes Code were replaced, benefiting Iraq's peasant population and ensuring a fairer process of law. The Agrarian Reform Law (30 September 1958 [40] ) attempted a large-scale redistribution of landholdings and placed ceilings on ground rents; the land was more evenly distributed among peasants who, due to the new rent laws, received around 55% to 70% of their crop. [40] While "inadequate" and allowing for "fairly generous" large holdings, the land reform was successful at reducing the political influence of powerful landowners. [41]

Women's rights

Qasim attempted to bring about greater equality for women in Iraq. In December 1959 he promulgated a significant revision of the personal status code, particularly that regulating family relations. [40] Polygamy was outlawed, and minimum ages for marriage were also set out, with 18 being the minimum age (except for special dispensation when it could be lowered by the court to 16). [40] Women were also protected from arbitrary divorce. The most revolutionary reform was a provision in Article 74 giving women equal rights in matters of inheritance. [40] The laws applied to Sunni and Shi’a alike. The laws encountered much opposition and did not survive Qasim's government.

Social reform

Education was greatly expanded under the Qasim regime. The education budget was raised from approximately 13 million Dinars in 1958 to 24 million Dinars in 1960 and school enrollments increased.[ citation needed ] Attempts were also made in 1959 and 1961 to introduce economic planning to benefit social welfare; investing in housing, healthcare and education, whilst reforming the agrarian Iraqi economy along an industrial model. However, these changes were not truly implemented before Qasim's removal.[ citation needed ]

Public Law 80 intended to take over 99.5% of the IPC's concession territory in Iraq and place it in the hands of the newly formed Iraq National Oil Company taking many of Iraq's oilfields out of foreign hands. [40]


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Abdul Salam Arif 20th-century Iraqi politician

‘Abd ul-Salam Mohammed ‘Arif Aljumaily was the 2nd President of Iraq from 1963 until his death in 1966. He played a leading role in the 14 July Revolution, in which the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958.

Human rights in pre-Saddam Iraq were often lacking to various degrees among the various regimes that ruled the country. Human rights abuses in the country predated the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Mustafa Barzani 20th-century Kurdish nationalist

Mustafa Barzani also known as Mala Mustafa, was a Kurdish nationalist leader, and one of the most prominent political figures in modern Kurdish politics. In 1946, he was chosen as the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to lead the Kurdish revolution against Iraqi regimes, although at times he also allied himself to the Iranian government. Barzani was the primary political and military leader of the Kurdish revolution until his death in March 1979. He led campaigns of armed struggle against both the Iraqi and Iranian governments.

Abd al-Rahman al-Bazzaz Iraqi politician

Abd al-Rahman al-Bazzaz was a politician, reformist, and writer. He was a pan-Arab nationalist and served as the Dean of Baghdad Law College and later as Prime Minister of Iraq. Al-Bazzaz main political project was the professionalization of the government through increasing access to civilian expertise. That civic agenda came at the expense of the military. Al-Bazzaz was charged by the Ba'athist-dominated government of participation in activities against the government and he was tortured and imprisoned. Al-Bazzaz was finally released because of illness in 1970 and moved to London for treatment where he later died in Baghdad, 28 June 1973.

Hardan al-Tikriti Iraqi air marshal

Hardan ’Abdul Ghaffar al-Tikriti was a senior Iraqi Air Force commander, Iraqi politician and ambassador who was assassinated on the orders of Saddam Hussein. Additionally he held the titles of vice chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and Vice President of Iraq.

14 July Revolution Coup detat in Iraq

The 14 July Revolution, also known as the 1958 Iraqi coup d'état, took place on 14 July 1958 in Iraq, and resulted in the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq that had been established by King Faisal I in 1921 under the auspices of the British. King Faisal II, Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said were killed during the uprising.

Ramadan Revolution revolution

The Ramadan Revolution, also referred to as the 8 February Revolution and the February 1963 coup d'état in Iraq, was a military coup by the Ba'ath Party's Iraqi-wing which overthrew the Prime Minister of Iraq, Abd al-Karim Qasim in 1963. It took place between 8 and 10 February 1963. Qasim's former deputy, Abdul Salam Arif, who was not a Ba'athist, was given the largely ceremonial title of President, while prominent Ba'athist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr was named Prime Minister. The most powerful leader of the new government was the secretary general of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party, Ali Salih al-Sa'di, who controlled the National Guard militia and organized a massacre of hundreds—if not thousands—of suspected communists and other dissidents following the coup.

Kurdistan Democratic Party political party

The Kurdistan Democratic Party, usually abbreviated as KDP or PDK, is one of the main Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan and Kurdistan Region. It was founded in 1946 in Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan. The party claims it exists to combine "democratic values and social justice to form a system whereby everyone in Kurdistan can live on an equal basis with great emphasis given to rights of individuals and freedom of expression."

Iraqi Republic (1958–68)

The Iraqi Republic was a state forged in 1958 under the rule of President Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i and Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim. ar-Ruba'i and Qasim first came to power through the 14 July Revolution in which the Kingdom of Iraq's Hashemite monarchy was overthrown. As a result, the Kingdom and the Arab Federation were dissolved and the Iraqi republic established. The era ended with the Ba'athist rise to power in 1968.

The First Iraqi–Kurdish War also known as Aylul revolts was a major event of the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict, lasting from 1961 until 1970. The struggle was led by Mustafa Barzani, in an attempt to establish an autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq. Throughout the 1960s, the uprising escalated into a long war, which failed to resolve despite internal power changes in Iraq. During the war, 80% of the Iraqi army was engaged in combat with the Kurds. The war ended with a stalemate in 1970, resulting in between 75,000 to 105,000 casualties. A series of Iraqi–Kurdish negotiations followed the war in an attempt to resolve the conflict. The negotiations led to the Iraqi–Kurdish Autonomy Agreement of 1970.

Arab Socialist Baath Party – Iraq Region Baathist regional organisation (Iraq)

The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region, officially the Iraqi Regional Branch, is an Iraqi Ba'athist political party founded in 1951 by Fuad al-Rikabi. It was the Iraqi regional branch of the original Ba'ath Party before changing its allegiance to the Iraqi-dominated Ba'ath movement following the 1966 split within the original party. The party was officially banned following the American invasion of Iraq, but despite this it still continues to function.

November 1963 Iraqi coup détat coup détat

The November 1963 Iraqi coup d'état took place between November 13 and November 18, 1963 when, following internal party divisions, pro-Nasserist Iraqi officers led a military coup within the Ba'ath Party. Although the coup itself was bloodless, 250 people were killed in related actions.

Fuad al-Rikabi Baathist politician

Fuad al-Rikabi was an Iraqi politician and a founder of the Iraqi Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. Al-Rikabi became the Secretary of Iraqi Regional Command of the Ba'ath Party in 1954 and held the post until 1959. Throughout his term of leadership, the Iraqi Regional Branch expanded its membership and became a leading party in Iraq's political landscape. Following the 14 July Revolution of 1958 which toppled the monarchy, al-Rikabi was appointed Minister of Development in Abd al-Karim Qasim's unity government.

17 July Revolution

The 17 July Revolution was a bloodless coup in Iraq in 1968, led by General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, which brought the Iraqi Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party to power. Both Saddam Hussein, later President of Iraq, and Salah Omar al-Ali, later a Ba'athist dissident, were major participants in the coup. The Ba'ath Party ruled from the 17 July Revolution until 2003, when it was removed from power by an invasion led by U.S. and British forces.

Abdullah Sallum al-Samarra'i (1932–1996) was an Iraqi Ba'athist politician and leading member of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party in Iraq. He was a member of the Regional Command from 1964 to 1970, when he was expelled.

Abd al-Wahab al-Shawaf

Abd al-Wahab al-Shawaf was a colonel in the Iraqi Army and played a part in the 14 July Revolution in 1958 as a member of the Free Officers Movement of Iraq.

1959 Mosul uprising

The 1959 Mosul Uprising was an attempted coup by Arab nationalists in Mosul who wished to depose the then Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim, and install an Arab nationalist government which would then join the Republic of Iraq with the United Arab Republic. Following the failure of the coup, law and order broke down in Mosul, which witnessed several days of violent street battles between various groups attempting to use the chaos to settle political and personal scores.

Khaleel Jassim Iraqi military officer

Major-general Khaleel Jassim Al-Dabbagh was an Iraqi senior officer from the first era of the old Iraqi Army, the Commander of the Mosul zone, the Commander of the Light regiments Jash, the commander of the Iraqi commando units in the Iraqi army between 1963–1968, the commander of the fourth division 1966–1967. He was well known for his role in the 1948 Arab–Israeli war, for his letters and negotiations with the Israeli army officers, defending 'Ara, Ar'ara and other territories, and also setting up the Palestinian regiments. Additionally, he commanded couple of campaigns and battles in northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels between 1943-1969, starting with The second Barzani movement, The third Barzani movement, The fourth Barzani movement, The Iraqi Campaign on Alquosh 1963 against communist elements and Kurd rebels allies known as Alansar army in Alqosh, during the First Iraqi–Kurdish War in the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict. Furthermore, driving other Campaigns against Kurdish insurgents under the command of Mustafa Barzani the most well known 1961campaigns, 1963 campaigns, The campaign on Amadiya in 9 September, 1965. Also, he played a major role in foiling the coup of Arif Abd ar-Razzaq in the Arif Abd ar-Razzaq second coup against the former president of Iraq Abdul Rahman Arif in 12 June 1966 which resulted in arresting Arif Abd ar-Razzaq as well as other officers at Mosul Airport.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/ .

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Political offices
Preceded by
Ahmad Mukhtar Baban
Prime Minister of Iraq
Succeeded by
Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr