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Re:[casi] Memorable quotes: 'the white hope'




US role in the counter-revolutionary coup which brought the Ba'ath Party to
power
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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 [1963], 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 Sad 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....



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