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Oppression, brutality and anarchy. How did Iraq become like this? Well, let's try and find out. Today I will talk about Iraq. This new episode will be split in four parts, which will be all published in the next following days.
You see it on the news every week, civil war in Iraq? What is it about? Why did it happen and who's to blame?. I'm going to attempt to take a step back from any kind of finger pointing here and just get into the plain old facts of how Iraq became like it is today. That means no Bush did it or any kind of larger conspiracy. I'm sure just about anyone old enough to process the words I'm saying remembers Saddam Hussein, the presidential dictator of Iraq. But who was he really? What did he actually do and why he was the public enemy number one? These are the questions I'm going to attempt to answer, so strap in guys, it's going to be a long one.
Let's take a step back all the way to 1918. The Ottoman Empire is defeated in the First World War and the British and French get to work doing what they do best: empire.
The Ottoman territory has partitioned vaguely into what we have today and the state of Iraq is born under British control. The British took it upon itself to select Sunni Arabs for the position of power and government and ministry, despite the majority of the population being Shia. They also decided the government would be a monarchy with Faisal I of Iraq at its head.
It wasn't until 1932 that the Kingdom of Iraq became an independent state at the request of Faisal. The people of Iraq though were not pleased with serving under the Syrian Hashemite dynasty and several high-ranking officers known as the Golden Square staged a coup in 1941.
The British were able to beat back the disgruntled officers in the Anglo-Iraqi war and keep the king and his dynasty in power. Despite this initial coup being a failure, it set a trend and it became clear to onlookers that Iraq was not a stable country in these turbulent times. In fact, Iraq would face much government instability in the Arab Cold War to follow, which would span from 1952 to 1970.
Saddam Hussein Abd Al-Majid Al-Tikriti was born on the 28th of April, 1937, to a poor family near the town of Tikrit. He fell in line with the popular anti-British Arab nationalist sentiments and dropped out of secondary school to join the Ba'ath Party in Baghdad.
The Ba'ath party preached ideas of Arab unity and dismantling foreign imperialism within the region. When Saddam joined the party, they had been conspiring to assassinate the Iraqi prime-minister, Abd Al-Karim Qasim, who had overthrown the monarchy in the 1958 July revolution. Not to be confused with the 1830 July revolution of the same name.
Plan successfully failed horribly and Saddam fled to Egypt in the most classical ways, on a donkey in the desert. He didn't return home until the 1963 coup that saw members of the Ba'ath party and Abdul Salam Arif take power.
Tensions grew between president Arif and the Ba'athist leader of choice Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr for who truly held more power. Despite the unease within the new Iraqi government, discussion began between Syria, which had recently seen its own Ba'athist revolution, in Egypt for unification. Al-Bakr decided at the same time he would not allow himself to be second fiddled to Arif and the Ba'athist members of the government threw Arif and all of the non-Ba'athist members out of the cabinet to secure a fully Ba'athist regime.
Saddam began his own push for power within the government attempting to work his way up the chain of power, but negotiations of unity broke down and the Ba'athist party in Syria and Iraq has split. Arif saw weakness in the Ba'ath party in Iraq and led a counter coup against them putting Saddam's plans to a halt and he, like many other Ba'athists were imprisoned.
Arif continued to reign as president until a plane crash saw his demise. When his brother succeeded him, the Ba'athists were able to trigger a bloodless coup and put in place Al-Bakr as president in 1968. Releasing Saddam from prison in the process. Saddam being a distant relative of Al-Bakr, soon became his vice-president and took it upon himself to purify the government, clearing all those dissidents through either imprisonment, torture or execution.
A decade later, in 1979, Saddam was able to apply pressure and persuade Al-Bakr to retire, having Saddam sworn in as the new leader of the Republic.
I think this is the time to stop. I basically presented a very short historical introduction about Iraq and how Saddam managed to hold on to power in Iraq. The next post will continue from this moment.