(Part 1) How did we get into this pesky war with Iraq, anyhow?
Several years prior to 1958, there were a couple of guys in charge of Iraq; Prime Minister Nuri-al Said and King Faisal II. While they were in charge, Egypt was pushing for a pan-Arab movement while also building a friendship with the Soviet Union (keep this in mind). Said and Faisal II had no interest in this, however, Iraqi Officers and the Iraqi rich believed otherwise.
So, in February of 1958, Egypt and Syria got together and formed the United Arab Republic. But Iraq and Jordan decided they wanted their own multi-Arab state and formed the Arab Federation. Then, Yemen decided to join Egypt and Syria. Confused yet? Think of it as your neighbors on your street. You’re all kind of the same, but have different views, so you go talk to the neighbors who you like, then talk bad about the neighbors you don’t like.
So, since proverbial (and probably literal) lines in the sand had been drawn, Said decided to reinforce the Jordanian Army and send two brigades from Iraq. Unfortunately for PM Said, one of the brigades was led by General Qasim who supported the Egyptian-Syrian relationship. So Qasim and a friend of his, Colonel Arif, decided it would be a good idea, on the way to Jordan, to stop by Baghdad and throw a coup d’état. By noon on July 14th 1958 General Qasim was in charge. In the end, Faisal II, his family and Said were all executed. (Oops!)
Coup completed it was time to set up a new government. It had three groups, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish. Qasim named himself Prime Minister and Minister of Defense (because you can do that when you lead a coup and succeed) and named his buddy Arif as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. Then he formed a cabinet. Two men represented the National Democratic Party (because this surely sounds like a democracy being installed), one Ba’athist (remember Saddam Hussein was a Ba’athist) and one Marxist (remember, the Soviet Union had its fingers in the Arab punch bowl).
Soon greed and power went to Qasim’s head. Qasim deemed himself the “Sole Leader” of the Iraqi State. Naturally, his old buddy Arif didn’t like this because the whole reason for the coup was to join the Egyptian, Syrian, Yemeni pan Arab state, but Qasim changed his mind.
Qasim wanted to build relations with the Soviet Union, argue with Iran and Kuwait of borders, and generally go against the idea of a pan-Arab state. Over the next several years, backed by the US, the Ba’athist were encouraged to rid Iraq of Qasim by assassination and coups. Who was witness to this? A very young Saddam Hussein, a member of the Ba’ath Party.
On February 8, 1963 fighting between the Ba’athists and Qasim’s supporters broke out and on February 9th, Qasim’s troops were defeated. Qasim surrendered requesting safe passage out of the country. The Ba’athist denied the request and killed him. Involved in this overthrow was none other than Saddam Hussein.
After the coup, Arif became president. In 1964 he decided that all the Ba’athist leaders should be arrested, including Saddam Hussein, who was the Ba’ath Party Secretary. In 1967 Hussein escaped from prison and in 1968 participated in a successful coup to overthrow Arif which was led by guy named al-Bakr.
The United States, seeing Hussein as anti-communist, quietly supported him in his endeavors. Over the years he rose to General in the Iraqi Army, he was the moving force in the modernization of Iraq, and as al-Bakr’s deputy, was able to influence most of the political decisions of Iraq.
In 1979, al-Baker was elderly and could not successfully lead Iraq, so, Hussein seized power. On the 22nd of July, he convened a meeting of Ba’ath Party members and identified 68 people as disloyal and had them executed.
Before we knew it, he led the country into the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88, on credit of 40 billion dollars from the US), invaded Kuwait (1990, not supported by the US), and was pushed back by the US in 1991. Amidst the controversy of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the simple fact that he was a tyrant that threatened the stability of the region, in 2003, the US invaded Iraq and captured Hussein. Subsequently he was tried and executed.
How Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is connected to all of this tomorrow.