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US role in the counter-revolutionary coup which brought the Ba'ath Party to power ******************************************************************* Hassan Zeni makes some very interesting comments on the complexities of Iraq in 1958. He obviously knows infinitely more than I do, but I wonder whether he fails to see the wood for the trees. I would like to find out much more about this fascinating and extremely important period in Iraqi history; hopefully this exchange will provoke CASI subscribers to add what they know... Hassan said <I don't think it is fair to state that "the powers in Washington .. were the patron saints of the Ba'ath Party." The 1963 coup that overthrew Qassim and brought the Ba'thists and Arab Nationalists is a very complicated issue that needs understanding of Iraq's affairs to comprehend. Well, now. I think that the first step towards understanding the 1958 "coup" (or "national-democratic revolution", if you agree with my interpretation)which brought Kassem to power was the regional and world context, one of raging anti-colonial struggles, the Algerian and Cuban revolutions.... why should we imagine that the "wind of change" was not also blowing through Iraq? First, an excerpt from a historical survey of my own: The US and UK were alarmed that the overthrow of one pro-western dictatorship could lead to the downfall of others. The US despatched 14,000 marines armed with atomic howitzers to the Lebanon to help crush the struggle by the Muslim majority against a French-imposed constitution which concentrated power in the hands of the Maronite Christian minority. This imperialist intervention condemned Lebanon to decades of civil war and hundreds of thousands of dead. The US considered sending its Marines on into Iraq "to aid loyal troops to counter-attack" but it was soon admitted that "no-one could be found in Iraq to collaborate with. Everyone was for the revolution" [quoted in Geoff Simons, From Sumer to Saddam]. The US was forced into a containment strategy, threatening Iraq with nuclear weapons to deter its army from entering Lebanon on the side of the people.... Saddam Hussein made his first appearance on the world stage as a getaway driver in a failed assassination attempt on Kassem in October 1959. He fled to Egypt, where he worked with the CIA, drawing up long lists of leftists and intellectuals who were to be executed once the Kassem regime was overthrown, in what became known as the "elimination campaign". Now, excerpts from two books which help us see the bigger picture... >From Out of the Ashes - the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein (excerpt) Patrick & Andrew Cockburn (HarperPerennial, 1999) (pp 74-5) On February 8 , a military coup in Baghdad, in which the Ba'ath Party played a leading role, overthrew Qassim. Support for the conspirators was limited. In the first hours of fighting, they had only nine tanks under their control. The Ba'ath Party had just 850 active members. But Qassim ignored warnings about the impending coup. What tipped the balance against him was the involvement of the United States. He had taken Iraq out of the anti-Soviet Baghdad Pact. In 1961, he threatened to occupy Kuwait and nationalized part of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), the foreign oil consortium that exploited Iraq's oil. In retrospect, it was the ClA's favourite coup. "We really had the ts crossed on what was happening," James Critchfield, then head of the CIA in the Middle East, told us. "We regarded it as a great victory." Iraqi participants later confirmed American involvement. "We came to power on a CIA train," admitted Ali Saleh Saadi, the Ba'ath Party secretary general who was about to institute an unprecedented reign of terror. CIA assistance reportedly included coordination of the coup plotters from the agency's station inside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as well as a clandestine radio station in Kuwait and solicitation of advice from around the Middle East on who on the left should be eliminated once the coup was successful. Excerpts from Saïd Aburish, "The Brutal Handshake - the West and the Arab Elite" (from pp 134-143) James Critchfield, the senior CIA officer and expert in communist Infiltration, [was] appointed in 1960 to run the agency's operations in the Middle East and South Asia ... From the early 1960s, the sim-plicity of the original CIA operations and resulting coups was replaced by highly complex planning and manipulations to confront communist penetra-tion of the Middle East. Critchfield was sent to the Middle East by CIA Director Allen Dulles) mainly to deal with one country, Iraq. . Before appointing Critchfield, Dulles had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 2S April 1959 "Iraq is today the most dangerous spot on earth.'' To the CIA, republican Iraq under General Abdel Karim Kassem, the leader of the successful anti-monarchist coup of 1958, was endangering the balance of power in the Middle East. As already mentioned, Kassem's coup was the [only] one [during several decades in the Middle East] in which Western intelligence services played no part... In developing the plans to overthrow Kassem the CIA wanted two things in place. The first was a confirmation that Nasser had ceased his efforts towards a union with Iraq .The second aim was a more sinister one which coupled the overthrow of Kassem with a detailed plan to eliminate the Iraqi Communist Party as a force in Iraqi politics. This did not mean neutralizing the party or countering its appeal; it meant the physical extermination of its members. ....Ali Saleh Sa'adi, the Minister of the Interior of the regime which replaced Kassem, who offered the unequivocal 'We came to power on a CIA train.' . [this] included the elaborate setting up of a radio station in Kuwait, not only to supply lists of people to be eliminated, but one initially used to issue instructions to the rebels.... The intelligence, political and economic moves which followed the coup reveal far-reaching cooperation between the CIA and the Ba'ath. Colonel Saleh Mahdi Ammash, the man whose imprison-ment led to the anti- Kassem coup being moved forward, was released and made Minister of Defence. One of the first requests made to him by his American mentor and friend, William Lakeland, was to exchange much-needed American arms for Russian-made MiG-21s, T54 tanks and Sam missiles. The Americans.. [got] what they wanted forty-eight hours after the coup and the Americans reciprocated by supplying them with military hardware and by building an air-bridge between Turkey and Iran and Kirkuk in northern Iraq within a day. The arms supplied by America to the Iraqi army were used to fight the Kurds." Until Kassem's overthrow, both the British and Americans had supported the Kurds and provided them with arms. In the commercial field. Shell, BP, Bechtel, Parsons, Mobil and other British and American companies were allowed to re-enter Iraq to develop its oil-fields. . American companies began negotiations lo build the Basra dry-dock facilities. The CIA-Iraqi connection was yielding economic benefits.... --- Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free. Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com). Version: 6.0.461 / Virus Database: 260 - Release Date: 11/03/2003 _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk