Abdul Karim Qassim

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Abdul Karim Qassim
Image:300px-Abdul Karim Qassim.jpg


In office
July 1958 – February 1963
Preceded by Ahmad Mukhtar Baban (overthrown)
Succeeded by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr

Born 1914
Baghdad, Iraq
Died February 9, 1963
Baghdad, Iraq

Abdul Karim Qassim (Arabic: عبد الكريم قاسم‎; also various other spellings; including Kassem, Quasim; popularly known as "az-Za‘īm" (Arabic: الزعيم) "the leader") (1914February 9, 1963), was an Iraqi military officer involved in the 1958 military coup d'état. Named Prime Minister of Iraq, Qassim associated himself with the ordinary Iraqi people. He was seen as a dictator and control freak[citation needed].


[edit] Early life and career

Abdul-Karim Qassim's father was of Sunni Arab descent who lost his life shortly after his son's birth during World War I as a soldier for the Ottoman Khalifah and his mother was the daughter of a Kurdish farmer from Baghdad.

When he was six years of age his family moved to Suwayra, a small town near the Tigris, then to Baghdad in 1926. Qassim was an excellent student; he entered secondary school on a government scholarship. After his graduation in 1931, he taught at the Shamiyya Elementary School. He began his teaching on October 22, 1931 and resigned on September 3, 1932. His resignation was due to the fact that he was accepted into the Military College. In 1934, he graduated as a second lieutenant. Then, he attended al-Arkan (Iraqi Staff) College and graduated with honor (grade A) in December 1941. In 1951, he completed a senior officers’ course in Britain.

Militarily, he participated in the suppression of the tribal disturbances in the Middle Euphrates region in 1935, during the Anglo-Iraqi War in May 1941 and in the Kurdistan War in 1945. Qassim also served during the Iraqi military involvement in Palestine from May 1948 to June 1949. Toward the latter part of the Palestinian mission, he commanded a battalion of the First Brigade, which was situated in the Kafr Qasem area south of Qilqilya. He left Kafr Qasem with the reputation of a disciplinarian, meticulous and honest. In 1956-57, he served with his brigade at Mafraq in Jordan in the wake of the Suez Crisis. By 1957 Qassim had assumed leadership of several opposition groups that had formed in the army.

On 14 July 1958, Qassim and his followers used troop movements planned by the government as an opportunity to seize military control of Baghdad and overthrew the monarchy. This resulted in the executions of several members of the royal family and their close associates, including the reviled[citation needed] Nuri as-Said.

[edit] The Revolution '14 Tammuz'

Prince Abdul Ilah objected to any resistance to the forces that besieged the Royal Rihab Palace, hoping to gain permission to leave the country. Therefore, the commander of the Royal Guards battalion on duty, Col. Taha Bamirni, ordered the palace guards to cease fire.

On July 14, 1958, as the royal family descended: King Faisal II; the Prince 'Abd al-Ilah; Princess Hiyam, Abdul Ilah's wife; Princess Nafeesa, Abdul Ilah’s mother, Princess Abadiya, the king’s aunt; and several servants. When all of them arrived in the courtyard they were told to turn towards the palace wall, and were all shot down by Captain Abdus Sattar As Sab’ a member of the coup led by Colonel Abdul Karim Qassim.

King Faisal II and Princess Hiyam were injured. The King died later before reaching the hospital. Princess Hiyam was not recognized at the hospital and managed to receive treatment. Later she left for Saudi Arabia where her family lived and then moved to Egypt until her death.

The coup was discussed and planned by the Free Officers, but was mainly executed by Qassim and Col. Abdes Salam Aref. By 1956, the committee of Free Officers included; Qassim, Naji Talib, Abdul Wahab Ameen, Muhiddeen Abdel Hameed, Abdes~Salam Aref, Abdul Wahab Ash Shawwaf, Abdul Kareem Farhan, Rifat al-Hajj Sirri, Col. Tahir Yihya, Rijab Abdul Majeed, Wasfi Tahir, Col. Sabeeh Ali Ghalib and Mohammed As Sab’.

The killing of the entire royal family was a gloomy start in Qassim’s era. His enemies accused him of giving orders to kill the royal family. It is speculated that this was untrue, but since he was the leader of the coup he had to take responsibility of the actions of his agents.

[edit] Prime Minister of the Republic (July 1958 – February 1963)

After the Military Uprising, Qassim assumed the post of Prime Minister and Defense Minister, while Colonel Abdul Salam Arif was selected Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. They became the highest authority in Iraq with both executive and legislative powers.

Qassim soon withdrew Iraq from the pro-Western Baghdad Pact and established friendly relations with the Soviet Union. Iraq also abolished its Treaty of mutual security and bilateral relations with Britain. Also, Iraq withdrew from the agreement with the United States that was signed by the monarchy from 1954 to 1955 regarding military, arms, and equipment. On May 30, 1959, the last of the British soldiers and military officers departed the al-Habbāniyya base in Iraq.

On July 26, 1958, the Interim Constitution was adopted, proclaiming the equality of all Iraqi citizens under the law and granting them freedom without regard to race, nationality, language or religion. The government freed political prisoners and granted amnesty to the Kurds who participated in the 1943 to 1945 Kurdish uprisings. The exiled Kurds returned home and were welcomed by the republican regime.

He lifted a ban on the Iraqi Communist Party, and demanded the annexation of Kuwait. He was also involved in the 1958 Agrarian Reform, modeled after the Egyptian experiment of 1952.

The Iraqi Communist Party championed Qassim throughout his rule, despite the steps he took against it, he tried to make a national government without any political influence from any party. It later appeared that Qassim's move against the Communist Party was his biggest mistake, since he was left with no means to mobilise ordinary people to defend his regime when the Ba’ath Party launched a coup in 1963.

Qassim worked to improve the position of ordinary people in Iraq, after the long period of self-interested rule by a small elite under the monarchy which had resulted in widespread social unrest. Among his accomplishments was the large-scale construction of housing for the urban working classes. The most notable example, and indeed symbol, of this was the new suburb of Baghdad named Madinat al-Thawra (revolution city), renamed Saddam City under the Baath regime and now widely referred to as Sadr City.

He tried to maintain the political balance by using the traditional opponents of pan-Arabs, the right wing and nationalists. He was able to maintain the loyality of the army however that had changed after the war with the Kurdish factions in the north broke out.

[edit] Iran and the Kurdish revolts

During his term in office, he is also blamed to have paved the ground for the Iran-Iraq war. On December 18, 1959, Abdul Karim Qassim declared:

"We do not wish to refer to the history of Arab tribes residing in Al-Ahwaz and Mohammareh [Khorramshahr]. The Ottomans handed over Mohammareh, which was part of Iraqi territory, to Iran."

After this, Iraq started supporting secessionist movements in Khuzestan, and even raised the issue of its territorial claims in the next meeting of the Arab League, without any success.

It was also during his rule as Prime Minister that confrontation with the Kurdish minority started. The new Government declared Kurdistan “one of the two nations of Iraq.” During his rule, the Kurdish groups selected Mustafa Barzani to negotiate with the government, seeking a opportunity to declare independence.

After a period of relative calm, the issue of Kurdish autonomy (self-rule or independece) went unfulfilled, sparking discontent and eventual rebellion among the Kurds in 1961.

[edit] Pan-Arab revolts and overthrow

He had the very difficult mission of steering Iraq through that era when pro-Arab nationalism was at its peak of power in the Arab world, especially after the formation of U.A.R between Egypt and Syria under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt.

A neutralist as well as a patriot, there was much debate during his tenure over whether Iraq should join the United Arab Republic, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. Having dissolved the Arab Union with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qassim refused entry into the federation, although his government recognized the republic and considered joining it later.

A major pan-Arabist concern was the repression of the Iraqi branch of the Baath Party.

An assassination attempt in 1959 by dedicated pan-Arabists (including Saddam Hussein) led to a harsh crackdown on domestic opposition and the development of a personality cult. Qassim was a strong opponent of British military intervention in the Middle East, and repeatedly called for the removal of foreign troops.

Rebellions in Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan, allegedly assisted by Nasser and the UAR, also complicated political matters. Another assassination attempt, motivated by suspected pan-Arabist influence and state control over the petroleum sector, was carried out with the backing of the British government and the American CIA in on February 9, 1963.

[edit] Death

He was killed after a phony trial[citation needed] by those who led the bloody coup of February 8, 1963. Qassim was executed at the age of 49, his execution receiving support from pan-Arabist elements who had received support from Egypt, Britain and USA[citation needed].

The only ones who were loyal to him in the end was the Communists[citation needed]; no fewer than 5,000 "citizens" were killed in the fighting from 8 to 10 February, and in the relentless house-to-house hunt for Communists that immediately followed. Ba'athists put the losses of their own party at around 80. A source in the First Branch of Iraq’s Directorate of Security told this writer in 1967 that some 340 Communists died at the time. A well-placed foreign diplomatic observer, who does not wish to be identified[citation needed], set the total death toll in the neighborhood of 1,500. The figure includes the more than one hundred soldiers who fell inside the Ministry of Defense and “a good lot of Communists.”

[edit] After Death

He is still praised for his unselfishness by the Iraqi people[citation needed]: It is said that he died without owning anything[citation needed], that he slept in his office in the Ministry of Defense{{fact}] and he used to give half his salary to his sister to cook lunches for him.[citation needed] During his rule he started many very serious attempts to develop the country and to improve its infrastructure.{fact}}

In July 2004, Qassim's body was discovered by a news team associated with Radio Dijla in Baghdad.

[edit] Accomplishments

Qassim’s accomplishments are too many to include here in memory of his death. His accomplishments did not only include those in relation to politics and economy, but they covered a large range of improvements with regard to social services, legal system, agriculture, health and education, construction and the arts. Considering the short term of his leadership (four and a half years) and the youngest experience in the life of the Iraqi Republic, Qassim’s era brought the highest number of accomplishments and positive changes to Iraq compared with eras that preceded and followed him.

Some of these achievements were the passing of law No. 80 which took back the right of owning 98% of Iraqi land from the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company, distributing fairly the farms owned by the few amongst the farmers, and, as a result of the two achievements, increasing in middle class percentage and privileges, the building of 35,000 residential units to house the poor and low middle class, rewriting the constitution for the benefit of all Iraq’s minorities and women, effectively encouraging and implementing laws with regard to women’s participation in the society, and giving birth to many other improvements, laws and projects pertaining literacy, education and the arts.

His accomplishments and successes in the Arab world’s scene can be summarized by his continuous moral and financial support to Algerians and Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination. In addition, Qassim succeded in the struggle against Egypt's Nasser. “No doubt the fact that he had incurred my displeasure weighed against his position. But in the direct contest I was thwarted; I grudgingly acknowledged my defeat, just as I have since acknowledged defeat against other opponents in the Middle East arena.” -Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Preceded by:
Ahmad Mukhtar Baban
Prime Minister of Iraq
July 1958 – February 1963
Succeeded by:
Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr


[edit] External link

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af:Abdul Karim Kassem ar:عبد الكريم قاسم de:Abd al-Karim Qasim es:Abdul Karim Qasim fr:Abdul Karim Qasim it:Abd al-Karim Qasim nl:Abdul Karim Kassem pt:Abdul Karim Kassem fi:Abdul Karim Qassim sv:Abd al-Karim Qasim

Abdul Karim Qassim

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