The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Dear John & List, Thanks for your comments. As an Iraqi who has lived and experienced that period of Iraq's history closely and first hand, I dare say my information is closer to reality (as seen from within) than that of Cockburn or Aburish. They are outsiders; not that their work is not valuable. But sometimes their information is lacking in substance. I will try to explain. John labels the 1963 coup "counter-revolutionary", seemingly because it overthrew the pro-Soviet regime of Qassim. That seems to be an oversimplification of facts and clearly a "special" way of seeing things. Quite a number of parties, including the communists, had by 1963 considered that Qassim has departed from the original path of the 1958 coup and that his regime had itself become "counter-revolutionary". The era between 1958 and 1963 (Qassim's regime) was a very turbulent one in Iraq's history. The majority of Iraqis would agree that Qassim was an "Iraqi nationalist", for whom Iraq came first. But I don't agree that the coup was a "national-democratic revolution". It was a movement of the army, unknown to the political parties, inspired by anger at the Palestinian catastrophe and inspired by the changes in the world, especially the Egyptian revolution of 1952.. The army in Iraq (and for that matter anywhere in the world) was never known to be "democratic"... Geoff Simons is right in his conclusion that everyone was for the revolution of 1958, but the honeymoon did not last long. In ruling Iraq, Qassim made several mistakes: he concentrated all rule in his hands and became "the sole leader" (as he was officially called!); he depended on communists and pro-Soviet elements (in a society where religion is very important and where people saw communists as atheists) shunning others; he did not allow opposition parties; he rejected the constitutional parliamentary system for Iraq (the people were not represented); he antagonized Muslim communities and parties (through new laws); and he did not pay attention to the peoples' aspirations for stronger links to the Arab world. At that time, Nasser of Egypt was the largest figure in Arab politics and a symbol of anti- colonialism and anti- imperialism, having succeeded in repelling the tripartite aggression of 1956. Qassim seemingly hated him and worked strongly to prevent any attempts of union between the two countries. In 1959, two major massacres occurred in Mosul and Kirkuk in northern Iraq, where Ba'thists and Arab nationalists and Turkmen were brutally killed and hanged in the streets by elements considered to be communists or associated with them. Hundreds were killed, including women.. This created bitterness against communists and against Qassim for allowing this to happen. An uprising of officers in the army in Mosul in 1959 was crushed and its leaders tried and executed. These elements and others helped set the ground for the overthrow of the regime. The purging of the army, the arbitrary arrests of Ba'thists and Nationalists,the power given to the "popular resistance" militia, and the oppression and censorship, all added to Qassim's isolation when in April 1960 he turned against his communist allies. In fact, when the coup of 1963 took place, a large number of communists, who were wanted by the Ba'thists and Nationalists, were found in Qassim's prisons! Saddam Hussein was not a "getaway driver" in the failed assassination attempt on Qassim in October 1959. He was one of the assassins, he got wounded in his leg and escaped to Syria and from there to Egypt. He only came back after the coup of 1963. I very much doubt the allegation that SH worked with the CIA or that he was instrumental in drawing up lists of leftists and intellectuals who were to be executed. He was a junior party member, with little importance and little knowledge of things inside Iraq. In addition to that, the CIA did not need him. They already had tens, if not hundreds, of operators inside Iraq, within the military, government and political parties, including the communist party! It is true that the Ba'th Party was small, but Qassim had, by his actions, lost quite a lot of the support among Iraqis. The coup was carried out by first assassinating the Commander of the Air Force, General Jalal al-Awqati, at the doorsteps of his house, after which MIGs bombed Qassim's headquarters at the Ministry of Defense, and 8 tanks attacked it from the roads. The tanks were all destroyed, but the Rashid Camp had already fallen in the hands of the Ba'thists and Qassim could not get any support from the army. He was captured, tried immediately and shot on the spot.. And so it remains unclear what is meant by such statement :"What tipped the balance against him was the involvement of the United States." In retrospect, it is usually easy to make judgements and reach conclusions. It is also easy to claim credit for what one has not done. It is perhaps true that the coup was regarded by the CIA as serving their goal, that of getting rid of communists, and getting their men to rule Iraq, directly or by proxy... Ali Saleh al-Sa'di's statement "We came to power on a CIA train," is usually invoked to try to prove that the 1963 coup was CIA orchestrated. That statement is always taken out of context. When did al-Sa'di say that? He said it after the overthrow of the Ba'th regime in November 1963, when the Ba'th leadership realized that the CIA had gone through them to eliminate Qassim and communists, and later get rid of them. I knew al-Sa'di, and can say with certainty that he was not working for the CIA. But we should also remember that the CIA had important agents inside the military branch of the Party, like Saleh Mahdi Ammash and Hardan al-Tikriti; and among the Party leadership, like Taleb Shabib and Adnan al-Qassab. But to assume that the whole Ba'th Party leadership was conscious of being part of a CIA plot, or that the CIA had plotted the coup, is an exaggeration if not fabrication by the CIA to take credit for the 1963 coup. And so the claim that the CIA coordinated for the coup from the agency's station inside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad is an unsubstantiated claim bordering on fantasy.. Quoting Saïd Aburish has become common, as if the gentleman is the absolute authority on Iraq... His work, valuable as it may be, remains based on hearsay and second hand information and contains mistakes that should not be there.. It goes without saying that the CIA saw Iraq as "the most dangerous spot on earth." That is because of Iraq's wealth (OIL!!) and the educated population, and because of its traditional political activism. Iraqis are also known throughout their modern history for opposing colonialism imperialism and for their preparedness to assist those countries in need... And so it is natural that the CIA saw the new regime of Qassim as "endangering the balance of power in the Middle East." Their main man in the coup leadership, Abdul-Salam Arif, had been arrested before succeeding in assassinating Qassim. Qassim had purged the army and brought communists into control of most of the sensitive positions in Iraq. And he had problems with all of Iraq's neighbors, especially those under the protection of the US and Britain. But it is not true to state that Qassim's coup "was the [only] one [during several decades in the Middle East] in which Western intelligence services played no part..." First of all, it was NOT Qassim's coup: it was a coup planned by a group of army officers, the free officers' movement, formed along the same lines as that of Egypt. Qassim was their leader, being the most senior. And second, Western Intelligence services had several of their men inside the coup's leadership, as I tried to point out. The analysis for the reasons of the coup of 1963 is deficient, if not ridiculous. I am sorry that Aburish has fallen victim to such allegations. Qassim had done his best to prevent any union with Nasser's Egypt. The Ba'thists and Arab Nationalists, on the other hand, were strong advocates of such union. And so overthrowing Qassim through the Ba'thists would ensure renewing calls for a union with Egypt, at least even in name.. How would the overthrow of Qassim "ensure that Nasser had ceased his efforts towards a union with Iraq" ?? The demise of the Iraqi Communist Party was also due, in part, to the wrong policies carried out by the leadership of the party, its absolute support of Qassim's era of oppression, and its complete subjugation to the will of the Soviet Union. The Communists were strongly against any Arab Unity, and dealt with the Palestinian issue from the viewpoint of the Soviet Leadership. That did not register well with the majority of Iraqis, who considered the Palestinian issue the most important of that time. In fact, the Communist Party of Iraq had in 1948 supported the "struggle of the Israeli Proletariat" against British rule, thus supporting the usurping of Palestinian land and the establishing of Israel.. That could be attributed to the fact that quite a number of the members of the Central Committe of the Communist Party were Jews.. I am not saying that the elimination of communists was correct (lots of my relatives were communists!), but the issue is not as simple as it may seem or as it is sometimes presented. The happenings after 1991 have led many Iraqis to assume that the Communist Party had elements working for "Western intelligence services" whose role was exactly to assist in the demise of the Communist Party. Some of those Communists now openly work with the CIA.. Aburish makes another serious mistake by alleging that the arrest of Colonel Saleh Mahdi Ammash led to the anti- Qassim coup to be moved forward. Qassim was seemingly tipped off about the coup. He arrested Ali Saleh al-Sa'di in late January 1963, and tried to make him reveal the names of his co-conspirators within the army. I know those details, because I even know in what car Al-Sa'di was arrested!! There are differing stories: some think al-Sa'di confessed under torture, some say he didn't. What is definite was that he was going to be executed that day. That was the reason for moving the coup forward, not Ammash.. Party members had been prepared for the coup since 1960. Thousands of arm bands were prepared, carrying two letters in Arabic (Ha'. Qaf), abbreviation for (National Guard) and were given to those civilian members who were to participate in the coup. The coup attempts were moved a few times, but the February 8th was because Al-Sa'di would have been executed and the coup foiled.. Ammash was probably one of the CIA men within the Ba'th party.. He was seemingly recruited while working in the Military Attaché of Iraq in Washington in the late 1950s. But he was not the only one. The CIA had others, perhaps more senior. When Qassim executed rebellious officers in 1959, the CIA must have lost some important agents. And therefore those elements within the new regime did their best to serve US interests. But it soon became clear that the differences within the new regime were too big to be contained from within, and thus the main CIA man, Abdul-Salam Arif, who was brought from Qassim's prison and made President, turned against the Ba'thists and exiled their leadership and took control of the country, until his "mysterious" death in 1966. The issue of oil is of great importance, but Aburish again makes mistakes. I will quote the following from: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/oil/5873nation.htm "Kassem closed the futile negotiations in October 1961 by announcing that the companies could continue to exploit existing wells as they wished, but went on to say: “I am sorry to tell you that we will take the other areas according to legislation that we have prepared, so that our action will not be a surprise to you. Thank you for your presence here.” Two months later, the government issued Law 80, under which the companies were permitted an area of exploitation limited to little more than their existing facilities, or 0.5 percent of the original concessions. All previous rights in 99.5 percent of the concession area were withdrawn and assumed by the government. The lengthy explanatory statement that accompanied the promulgation of this law showed the extent to which abiding historical resentment of the colonial system that fostered the original concessions was as important as the immediate controversy in leading to expropriation. The companies rejected the new law and demanded that the dispute be arbitrated. They retaliated by holding down production even though the investment and expansion program initiated in 1959 was largely completed. Iraq’s production for 1962 increased by only 0.5 percent. By contrast, production in Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where each of the companies held concessions, increased by 11.5 percent, 12 percent, and 9.2 percent respectively. Furthermore, the government failed to get any bids from other companies on the expropriated area or offshore. By February 1963, there were indications that the regime was considering the arbitration the companies demanded, but in that month Kassem was killed by a new coup. The new Ba’ath regime moved towards negotiation, but made it clear that Law 80 was irrevocable. In February 1964, the Iraq National Oil Company was established to facilitate state exploitation of the expropriated areas. The companies interpreted this as a further violation of their concession rights, but entered into negotiations with the Aref regime (which had replaced the Ba’ath in November 1963) that resulted in a draft agreement in June 1965." This in my opinion shows that Qassim was prepared to agree to the arbitration, having been forced by the actions of the oil companies. This had nothing to do with any CIA connection.. The new regime of the Ba'th remained faithful to Law 80 even through its negotiations with the oil companies. It was after the overthrow of the Ba'th in November 1963 that the oil companies were given new concessions by the Arif regime, which goes to prove my point that he was the CIA's man, who helped the CIA get rid of the Ba'thists. I hope this would further help understanding an important era of Iraq's history. HZ __________________________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Platinum - Watch CBS' NCAA March Madness, live on your desktop! http://platinum.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk