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Iraq - Government and Politics


THE POLITICAL SYSTEM in 1988 was in what was officially characterized as a "transitional" phase. This description meant that the current method of rule by decree, which had been in effect since 1968, would continue until the goal of a socialist, democratic republic with Islam as the state religion was attained. The end of the transition period was to be marked by the formal enactment of a permanent constitution. The timing and the specific circumstances that would terminate the transitional stage had not been specified as of early 1988.

The country remained under the regime of the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party, which had seized power through a coup d'etat in July 1968. The legality of government institutions and actions was based on the Provisional Constitution of July 16, 1970, which embodied the basic principles of the Baath Party-- Arab unity, freedom, and socialism. These principles were in turn rooted in the pan-Arab aspirations of the party, aspirations sanctified through identification with the historic right and destiny of all Arabs to unite under the single leadership of "the Arab Nation."

The most powerful decision-making body in Iraq, the tenmember Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which functioned as the top executive and legislative organ of the state, was for all practical purposes an arm of the Baath Party. All members of the RCC were also members of the party's Regional Command, or state apparatus. President Saddam Husayn was both the chairman of the RCC and the secretary general of the Baath's Regional Command. He was generally recognized as the most powerful political figure in the country.

From its earliest days, the Baath Party was beset by personality clashes and by factional infighting. These problems were a primary cause of the failure of the first Baath attempt to govern Iraq in 1963. After the Baath returned to power in 1968, intraparty fissures were generally held in check, albeit not eliminated, by President Ahmad Hasan al Bakr. When Saddam Husayn succeeded to the presidency in 1979, he also commanded the loyalty of the major elements of the Baath.

Saddam Husayn and other Baath leaders have always regarded the ability to balance endemic intraparty tensions--such as those between military and civilian elements and among personalities across boundaries of specialization--as the key to success in Baghdad. Above all, they perceived harmony in the militarycivilian coalition as pivotal. Although the Baath had begun recruiting within the Iraqi military as early as 1958, and within ten years military members constituted the backbone of the party's power, civilian Baath leaders maintained overall control of the party.

Iraqi politics under the Baath regime were generally geared toward mobilizing support for the regime. Loyal opposition had no place, and it was not recognized as legitimate. The party leaders believed competitive politics ill-suited to Iraq, at least during the indefinite transitional period. They condemned partisan political activity, which they insisted had had damaging consequences on national unity and integration. The Baath also invoked Iraq's unhappy legacy of ethnic and regional cleavages as justification for harsh curbs on political rights.

In 1988, twenty years after the Baath had come to power, it still was not possible to assess popular attitudes toward Saddam Husayn, toward the Baath Party, toward political institutions, or toward political issues because there had been insufficient field research in the country. Even though elections for a National Assembly had been held in 1980 and again in 1984, these had been carefully controlled by the government, and genuinely free elections had not been held for more than thirty years. Politicians or groups opposed to the principles of the 1968 Baath Revolution of July 17 to 30 were not permitted to operate openly. Those who aspired to be politically active had few choices: they could join the highly selective Baath Party, remain dormant, go underground or into exile, or join the Baath-sponsored Progressive National Front (PNF).

The PNF, which came into existence in 1974, was based on a national action charter that called for collaboration between the Baath and each of the other parties considered to be both progressive and nationalist. The PNF served as the only riskfree , non-Baath forum for political participation, although even this channel was denied to those whose loyalties to the regime were suspect. The Baath Party's objectives in establishing the front were to provide the semblance of broad popular support for the government as well as to provide the facade of alliance among the Baath and other parties. The Baath, however, held a dominant position within the front and therefore assumed sole responsibility for carrying out the decisions of the front's executive commission, which was composed of the Baath's most important members and sympathizers.

In early 1988, the war with Iran continued to preoccupy Saddam Husayn and his associates. Approximately 75,000 Iraqis had been killed in the war, and about 250,000 had been wounded; more than 50,000 Iraqis were being held as prisoners of war in Iran. Property damage was estimated in the tens of billions of dollars; destruction was especially severe in the southern part of the country.




The Provisional Constitution of July 16, 1970, upon which Iraq's governmental system was based in 1988, proclaims Iraq to be "a sovereign people's democratic republic" dedicated to the ultimate realization of a single Arab state and to the establishment of a socialist system. Islam is declared to be the state religion, but freedom of religion and of religious practices is guaranteed. Iraq is said to be formed of two principal nationalities, Arab and Kurd. A March 1974 amendment to the Constitution provides for autonomy for the Kurds in the region where they constitute a majority of the population. In this Autonomous Region both Arabic and Kurdish are designated as official languages for administrative and educational purposes. The Constitution also prescribes, however, that the "national rights" of the Kurds as well as the "legitimate rights" of all minorities are to be exercised only within the framework of Iraqi unity, and the document stipulates that no part of Iraq can be relinquished.

The Constitution sets forth two basic aims, the establishment of a socialist system based on "scientific and revolutionary principles," and pan-Arab economic unity. The state is given an active role in "planning, directing, and guiding" the economy. National resources and the principal means of production are defined as "the property of the people" to be exploited by the state "directly in accordance with the requirements of the general planning of the national economy." The Constitution describes public properties and the properties of the public sector as inviolable.

The Constitution classifies the ownership of property as "a social function that shall be exercised within the limits of society's aims and the state's programs in accordance with the provisions of the law"; nevertheless, the Constitution also guarantees private ownership and individual economic freedom "within the limits of the law, provided that individual ownership will not contradict or be detrimental to general economic planning." The Constitution stipulates that private property may not be expropriated except for the public interest and then only with just compensation. The size of private agricultural land holdings is to be defined by law, and the excess is to be regarded as the property of the people. The Constitution also bars foreign ownership of real estate, although individuals may be granted a legal exemption from this prohibition.

Articles 19 through 36 of the Constitution spell out fundamental rights and duties in detail. The right to fair trial through due process, the inviolability of person and of residence, the privacy of correspondence, and the freedom to travel are guaranteed to all citizens. The Constitution also assures citizens of their right to religious freedom; to the freedom of speech, of publication, and of assembly; and to the freedom to form political parties, trade unions, and professional societies. The Constitution directs the state to eliminate illiteracy and to ensure the right of citizens to free education from elementary school through the university level. According to Article 28, the aims of education include instilling opposition to "the doctrines of capitalism, exploitation, reaction, Zionism, and colonialism" in order to ensure the achievement of the Baathist goals of Arab unity, freedom, and socialism. The Constitution also requires the state to provide every citizen with employment and with free medical care.

The Constitution defines the powers and the functions of the different government institutions. These include the RCC, the National Assembly, the presidency, the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, and the judiciary. According to Article 37, the RCC "is the supreme body in the State." Article 43 assigns to the RCC, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, authority to promulgate laws and regulations, to deal with national security, to declare war and conclude peace, and to approve the government's budget. Article 38 stipulates that all newly elected members of the RCC must be members of the Baath Party Regional Command. The Constitution also provides for an appointed Council of Ministers that has responsibility for carrying out the executive decisions of the RCC.

The chief executive of the RCC is the president, who serves as the commander in chief of the armed forces and as the head of both the government and the state. The powers of the president, according to the Constitution, include appointing, promoting, and dismissing personnel of the judiciary, civil service, and military. The president also has responsibility for preparing and approving the budget. The first president, Ahmad Hasan al Bakr, was in office from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned and was succeeded by Saddam Husayn.

Articles 47 through 56 of the Constitution provide for an elected National Assembly, but its powers are to be defined by the RCC. Elections for the Assembly took place for the first time in June 1980. Subsequent National assembly elections were held in October 1984.

The Constitution can be amended only by a two-thirds majority vote of the RCC. Although the 1970 Constitution is officially designated as provisional, it is to remain in force until a permanent constitution is promulgated.




The Constitution provides for a governmental system that, in appearance, is divided into three mutually checking branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. In practice, neither the legislature nor the judiciary has been independent of the executive.

The Revolutionary Command Council

In 1988 the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) continued to be the top decision-making body of the state. The RCC was first formed in July 1968, and since then it has exercised both executive and legislative powers. The chairman of the RCC is the president of the republic. The number of RCC members has varied over time; in 1988 there were ten members.

According to the Constitution, the RCC is the supreme organ of the state, charged with the mission of carrying out the popular will by removing from power the reactionary, the dictatorial, and the corrupt elements of society and by returning power to the people. The RCC elects its chairman, who serves concurrently as president of the republic, by a two-thirds majority vote. In case of the chairman's official absence or incapacitation, his constitutional powers are to be exercised by the vice chairman, who also is elected by the RCC from among its members. Thus the vice chairman (in 1988 Izzat Ibrahim, who had served since 1979) is first in line of succession.

The members of the RCC, including both the chairman and the vice chairman, are answerable only to the RCC itself, which may dismiss any of its members by a two-thirds majority vote and may also charge and send to trial for wrongdoing any member of the council, any deputy to the president, or any cabinet minister. Since 1977 the Baath Party has regarded all members of the Baath Party Regional Command as members of the RCC. The interlocking leadership structure of the RCC and the Regional Command has served to emphasize the party's dominance in governmental affairs.

The RCC's constitutional powers are wide ranging. It may perform legislative functions, both in collaboration with, and independently of, the National Assembly; approve government recommendations concerning national defense and internal security; declare war, order general mobilization, conclude peace, and ratify treaties and international agreements; approve the state's general budget; lay down the rules for impeachment of its members and set up the special court to try those impeached; authorize the chairman or the vice chairman to exercise some of the council's powers except for legislative ones; and provide the internal regulations and working procedures of the council. The chairman is specifically empowered to preside over the council's closed sessions, to sign all laws and decrees issued by the council, and to supervise the work of cabinet ministers and the operation of the institutions of the state.


Iraq - The National Assembly


Although the 1970 Constitution provides for a parliament called the National Assembly, this body was not instituted until 1980. The RCC first circulated a draft law creating the assembly in December 1979; after some changes this was promulgated as law the following March. According to the law, the National Assembly consists of 250 members elected by secret ballot every four years. All Iraqi citizens over eighteen are eligible to vote for assembly candidates. The country is divided into 250 electoral districts, each with an approximate population of 250,000. One representative is elected to the assembly from each of these constituencies. The National Assembly law also stipulates, however, that there is to be a single electoral list. Furthermore, the qualifications of all candidates for the assembly must be reviewed and be approved by a governmentappointed election commission. In practice, these provisions have enabled the Baath Party to control the National Assembly.

To qualify as a candidate for National Assembly elections, individuals need to meet certain conditions. For example, prospective candidates must be at least twenty-five years of age, must be Iraqi by birth, must not be married to foreigners, and must have Iraqi fathers. Having a non-Iraqi mother is grounds for disqualification except in those cases where the mother is of Arab origins and from another Arab country. In addition, persons who were subject to property expropriation under the land reform or nationalization laws are not eligible candidates. Furthermore, all aspiring candidates are required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the election commission that they believe in the principles of the 1968 Baath Revolution, that is, in the Baath Party's objectives.

The first parliamentary elections since Iraq became a republic in 1958 were held in June 1980, and the First National Assembly convened at the end of that month. Baath Party candidates won 75 percent, or 187, of the 250 seats. The remaining 25 percent were won by parties allied with the Baath and by independent parties. Elections for the Second National Assembly were held in October 1984. Approximately 7,171,000 votes were cast in that election, and the Baath won 73 percent (183) of the seats. Thirty-three women were elected to the assembly. Saadun Hammadi was elected chairman of the assembly, and two years later he was made a member of the RCC.

Since 1980 the National Assembly generally has held two sessions per year in accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution. The first session is held in April and May, and the second session in November and December. During the few weeks each year that the National Assembly is in session, it carries out its legislative duties in tandem with the RCC. The assembly's primary function is to ratify or reject draft legislation proposed by the RCC. In addition, it has limited authority to enact laws proposed by a minimum of one-fourth of its membership, to ratify the government's budget and international treaties, and to debate domestic and international policy. It also has authority to supervise state agencies and to question cabinet ministers. Although the assembly has served as a forum for limited public discussion of issues, its actual powers were restricted and ultimate decision-making authority pertaining to legislation continued to reside with the RCC in 1988.


Iraq - The President and the Council of Ministers


The president is the chief executive authority of the country. He may exercise authority directly or through the Council of Ministers, the cabinet. He must be a native-born Iraqi. The Constitution does not stipulate the president's term of office, nor does it provide for his successor. President Bakr served for eleven years before retiring for health reasons in 1979. He was succeeded by Saddam Husayn, the former vice chairman of the RCC, who continued to hold the office of president in early 1988.

The position of vice-chairman, rather than the office of vice-president, appeared to be the second most powerful political one. The vice-presidency appeared to be a largely ceremonial post, and the vice-president seemed to be appointed or dismissed solely at the discretion of the president. In 1988 the vicepresident was Taha Muhy ad Din Maruf, who was first appointed by Bakr in 1974, and was subsequently kept in office by Saddam Husayn. The vice-chairman of the RCC, who would presumably succeed Saddam Husayn, was Izzat Ibrahim.

The Council of Ministers is the presidential executive arm. Presidential policies are discussed and translated into specific programs through the council. The council's activities are closely monitored by the diwan, or secretariat of the presidency. The head of the diwan is a cabinet-rank official, and his assistants and support staff are special appointees. The members of the diwan are not subject to the regulations of the Public Service Council, the body which supervises all civil service matters.

Cabinet sessions are convened and presided over by the president. Some senior members of the RCC are represented on the cabinet. By convention, about one-third of the cabinet positions may be reserved for members of the Baath Party. In early 1988, the cabinet consisted of forty-one members including president Saddam Husayn and vice-president Maruf. Ministerial portfolios included those for agriculture and agrarian reform, communications, culture and arts, defense, education, finance, foreign affairs, health, higher education and scientific research, industry and minerals, information, interior, irrigation, justice, labor and social affairs, oil, planning, public works and housing, religious trusts, trade, and transport. Additionally, there were seven ministers of state and seven presidential advisers with ministerial status. Of the cabinet members, the president and the minister of defense, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of interior, and the minister of trade were also members of the powerful RCC.


Iraq - The Judiciary


Although the Constitution guarantees an independent judiciary, it contains no provisions for the organization of courts. Consequently, the legal system has been formed on the basis of laws promulgated by the RCC. In early 1988 the judicial system consisted of courts that had jurisdiction over civil, criminal, administrative, religious and other matters. The courts were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, and all judges were appointed by the president. The secular courts continued to function partly on the basis of the French model, first introduced prior to 1918 when Iraq was under Ottoman rule and subsequently modified, and partly on Islamic law. The three dominant schools of Islamic jurisprudence were the Hanafi among the Sunni Arabs, the Shafii among the Sunni Kurds, and the Jafari among Shia Arabs. The Christian and Jewish minorities had their own religious courts for the adjudication of personal status issues, such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

For judicial administration, the country was divided into five appellate districts centered, respectively, in Baghdad, Basra, Al Hillah (Babylon), Kirkuk, and Mosul. Major civil and commercial cases were referred to the courts of first instance, which were of two kinds: 18 courts of first instance with unlimited powers, and 150 courts of first instance with limited powers. The former were established in the capitals of the eighteen governorates (provinces); the latter, all of which were single-judge courts, were located in the district and subdistrict centers, and in the governorate capitals. Six peace courts, two in Baghdad and one in each of the other five judicial district centers, handled minor litigation. Decisions of these courts could be appealed to the relevant district court of appeals.

Wherever there were civil courts, criminal cases were judged by magistrates. Six sessions courts reviewed cases appealed from the lower magistrates' courts. The personal status of both Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims and disputes arising from administration of waqfs (religious trusts or endowments) were decided in sharia (Islamic law) courts. Sharia courts were located wherever there were civil courts. In some places sharia courts consisted of specially appointed qadis (religious judges), and in other places of civil court judges. Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities had their own separate communal councils to administer personal status laws.

Civil litigation against government bodies and the "socialist sector" and between government organizations were brought before the Administrative Court, set up under a law promulgated in November 1977. Jurisdictional conflicts between this court and other courts were adjudicated by the Court of Cassation, which on appeal could also review decisions of the Administrative Court. Offenses against the internal or external security of the state-- whether economic, financial, or political offenses--were tried before the Revolutionary Court. Unlike the other courts described above, the Revolutionary Court was not under the jurisdiction of the appellate court system. In addition, the RCC periodically established special security courts, under the jurisdiction of the secret security police, to handle cases of espionage, of treason, and of "antistate" activities. The proceedings of the Revolutionary Court and of the special security courts, in contrast to the practice of all other courts, are generally closed.

The court of last resort for all except security cases was the Court of Cassation. It consisted of a president; vicepresidents ; no fewer than fifteen permanent members; and a number of deputized judges, reporting judges, and religious judges. It was divided into general, civil, criminal, administrative affairs, and personal status benches. In addition to its appellate function, the Court of Cassation assumed original jurisdiction over crimes committed by high government officials, including judges. The Court of Cassation also adjudicated jurisdictional conflicts between lower courts.


Iraq - Local Government


In 1988 there were eighteen governorates (alwiya, sing., liwa), each administered by a governor appointed by the president. Each governorate was divided into districts (aqdhiya, sing., qadha) headed by district officers (qaimaqamun; sing., qaimaqam); each district was divided into subdistricts (nawahy; sing., nahiyah) under the responsibility of subdistrict officers (mudara; sing., mudir). Mayors headed cities and towns. Municipalities were divided into several categories depending upon the size of local revenues. Baghdad, the national capital, had special administrative status. The mayor of Baghdad and the mayors of other cities were presidential appointees.

In 1971 President Bakr promulgated the National Action Charter, a broad statement of Baath Party political, economic, social, and foreign policy objectives. This document called for the formation of popular councils in all administrative subdivisions. These councils were to be given the right to supervise, to inspect, and to criticize the work of the government. The first councils were appointed in 1973 in accordance with a law promulgated by the RCC. As late as 1988, however, there was insufficient empirical research available to determine whether the popular councils were autonomous forums for the channeling of grievances or were merely Baath Party-dominated institutions used to encourage active popular support of, and involvement in, government-initiated activities.


Iraq - Kurdish Autonomy


Three governorates in the north--Dahuk, Irbil, and As Sulaymaniyah--constitute Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that historically has had a majority population of Kurds. Ever since Iraq became independent in 1932, the Kurds have demanded some form of self-rule in the Kurdish areas. There were clashes between Kurdish antigovernment guerrillas and army units throughout most of the 1960s. When the Baath Party came to power in July 1968, the principal Kurdish leaders distrusted its intentions and soon launched a major revolt. In March 1970, the government and the Kurds reached an agreement, to be implemented within four years, for the creation of an Autonomous Region consisting of the three Kurdish governorates and other adjacent districts that haf been determined by census to have a Kurdish majority. Although the RCC issued decrees in 1974 and in 1975 that provided for the administration of the Autonomous Region, these were not acceptable to all Kurdish leaders and a major war ensued. The Kurds were eventually crushed, but guerrilla activities continued in parts of Kurdistan. In early 1988, antigovernment Kurds controlled several hundred square kilometers of Irbil and As Sulaymaniyah governorates adjacent to the Iranian frontier.

In early 1988, the Autonomous Region was governed according to the stipulations of the 1970 Autonomy Agreement. It had a twelve-member Executive Council that wielded both legislative and executive powers and a Legislative Assembly that advised the council. The chairman of the Executive Council was appointed by President Saddam Husayn and held cabinet rank; the other members of the council were chosen from among the deputies to the popularly elected Legislative Assembly.

The Legislative Assembly consisted of fifty members elected for three-year terms from among candidates approved by the central government. The Legislative Assembly chose its own officers, including its cabinet-rank chairman, a deputy chairman, and a secretary. It had authority to ratify laws proposed by the Executive Council and limited powers to enact legislation relating to the development of "culture and nationalist customs of the Kurds" as well as other matters of strictly local scope. The Legislative Assembly could question the members of the Executive Council concerning the latter's administrative, economic, educational, social, and other varied responsibilities; it could also withhold a vote of confidence from one or more of the Executive Council members. Both the assembly and the council were located in the city of Irbil, the administrative center of Irbil Governorate. Officials of these two bodies were either Kurds or "persons well-versed in the Kurdish language," and Kurdish was used for all official communications at the local level. The first Legislative Assembly elections were held in September 1980, and the second elections took place in August 1986.

Despite the Autonomous Region's governmental institutions, genuine self-rule did not exist in Kurdistan in 1988. The central government in Baghdad continued to exercise tight control by reserving to itself the power to make all decisions in matters pertaining to justice, to police, to internal security, and the administration of the frontier areas. The Baath Party, through the minister of state for regional autonomy and other ministerial representatives operating in the region, continued to supervise activities of all governing bodies in the region. The minister of justice and a special oversight body set up by the Court of Cassation reviewed all local enactments and administrative decisions, and they countermanded any local decrees that were deemed contrary to the "constitution, laws, or regulations" of the central government. The central government's superior authority has been most dramatically evident in the frontier areas, where government security units have forcibly evacuated Kurdish villagers to distant lowlands.




The Baath Party

In early 1988, the Baath Party continued to stress parallelism focused on "regional" (qutri) and "national" (qawmi) goals, following the Baath doctrine that the territorially and politically divided Arab countries were merely "regions" of a collective entity called "The Arab Nation." Hence the Baath movement in one country was considered merely an aspect of, or a phase leading to, "a unified democratic socialist Arab nation." That nation, when it materialized, would be under a single, unified Arab national leadership. Theoretically, therefore, success or failure at the regional level would have a corresponding effect on the movement toward that Arab nation. Moreover, the critical test of legitimacy for any Baath regime would necessarily be whether or not the regime's policies and actions were compatible with the basic aims of the revolution-- aims epitomized in the principles of "unity, freedom, and socialism."

The Baath Party in Iraq, like its counterparts in other Arab regions (states), derived from the official founding congress in Damascus in 1947. This conclave of pan-Arab intellectuals was inspired by the ideas of two Syrians, Michel Aflaq and Salah ad Din al Bitar, who are generally regarded as the fathers of the Baath movement. Several Iraqis, including Abd ar Rahman ad Damin and Abd al Khaliq al Khudayri, attended this congress and became members of the party. Upon their return to Baghdad, they formed the Iraqi branch of the Baath. Damin became the first secretary general of the Iraqi Baath.

From its early years, the Iraqi Baath recruited converts from a small number of college and high school students, intellectuals, and professionals--virtually all of whom were urban Sunni Arabs. A number of Baath high school members entered the Military College, where they influenced several classmates to join the party. Important military officers who became Baath members in the early 1950s included Ahmad Hasan al Bakr, Salih Mahdi Ammash, and Abd Allah Sultan, all of whom figured prominently in Iraqi political affairs in later years.

During the 1950s, the Baath was a clandestine party, and its members were subject to arrest if their identities were discovered. The Baath Party joined with other opposition parties to form the underground United National Front and participated in the activities that led to the 1958 revolution. The Baathists hoped that the new, republican government would favor pan-Arab causes, especially a union with Egypt, but instead the regime was dominated by non-Baathist military officers who did not support Arab unity or other Baath principles. Some younger members of the party, including Saddam Husayn, became convinced that Iraqi leader Abd al Karim Qasim had to be removed, and they plotted his assassination. The October 1959 attempt on Qasim's life, however, was bungled; Saddam Husayn fled Iraq, while other party members were arrested and tried for treason. The Baath was forced underground again, and it experienced a period of internal dissension as members debated over which tactics were appropriate to achieve their political objectives. The party's second attempt to overthrow Qasim, in February 1963, was successful, and it resulted in the formation of the country's first Baath government. The party, however, was more divided than ever between ideologues and more pragmatic members. Because of this lack of unity, the Baath's coup partners were able to outmaneuver it and, within nine months, to expel all Baathists from the government. It was not until 1965 that the Baath overcame the debilitating effects of ideological and of personal rivalries. The party then reorganized under the direction of General Bakr as secretary general with Saddam Husayn as his deputy. Both men were determined to return the Baath to power. In July 1968, the Baath finally staged a successful coup.

After the Baath takeover, Bakr became president of the regime, and he initiated programs aimed at the establishment of a "socialist, unionist, and democratic" Iraq. This was done, according to the National Action Charter, with scrupulous care for balancing the revolutionary requirements of Iraq on the one hand and the needs of the "Arab nation" on the other. According to a Baath Party pronouncement in January 1974, "Putting the regional above the national may lead to statism, and placing the national over the regional may lead to rash and childish action." This protestation notwithstanding, the government's primary concerns since 1968 have been domestic issues rather than pan- Arab ones.

In 1968 the Baath regime confronted a wide range of problems, such as ethnic and sectarian tensions, the stagnant condition of agriculture, commerce, and industry, the inefficiency and the corruption of government, and the lack of political consensus among the three main sociopolitical groups--the Shia Arabs, the Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds. The difficulties of consensus building were compounded by the pervasive apathy and mistrust at the grass-roots levels of all sects, by the shortage of qualified party cadres to serve as the standard-bearers of the Baath regime, and by the Kurdish armed insurgency. Rivalry with Syria and with Egypt for influence within the Arab world and the frontier dispute with Iran also complicated the regime's efforts to build the nation.

Since 1968 the Baath has attempted to create a strong and unified Iraq, through formal government channels and through political campaigns designed to eradicate what it called "harmful prerevolutionary values and practices," such as exploitation, social inequities, sectarian loyalties, apathy, and lack of civil spirit. Official statements called for abandonment of traditional ways in favor of a new life-style fashioned on the principles of patriotism, national loyalty, collectivism, participation, selflessness, love of labor, and civic responsibility. These "socialist principles and practices" would be instilled by the party's own example, through the state educational system, and through youth and other popular organizations. The Baath particularly emphasized "military training" for youth; such training was considered essential for creating "new men in the new society" and for defending the republic from the hostile forces of Zionism, imperialism, anti-Arab chauvinism (e.g., from Iran), rightists, opportunists, and reactionaries.

The Baath's major goal since 1968 has been to socialize the economy. By the late 1980s, the party had succeeded in socializing a significant part of the national economy, including agriculture, commerce, industry, and oil. Programs to collectivize agriculture were reversed in 1981, but government investment in industrial production remained important in the late 1980s. Large-scale industries such as iron, steel, and petrochemicals were fully owned and managed by the government, as were many medium-sized factories that manufactured textiles, processed food, and turned out construction materials.

The Baath's efforts to create a unified Arab nation have been more problematic. The party has not abandoned its goal of Arab unity. This goal, however, has become a long-term ideal rather than a short-term objective. President Saddam Husayn proclaimed the new view in 1982 by stating that Baathists now "believe that Arab unity must not take place through the elimination of the local and national characteristics of any Arab country. . . . but must be achieved through common fraternal opinion." In practice this meant that the Iraqi Baath Party had accepted unity of purpose among Arab leaders, rather than unification of Arab countries, as more important for the present.

As of early 1988, the Baath Party claimed about 10 percent of the population, a total of 1.5 million supporters and sympathizers; of this total, full party members, or cadres, were estimated at only 30,000, or 0.2 percent. The cadres were the nucleus of party organization, and they functioned as leaders, motivators, teachers, administrators, and watchdogs. Generally, party recruitment procedures emphasized selectivity rather than quantity, and those who desired to join the party had to pass successfully through several apprentice-like stages before being accepted into full membership. The Baath's elitist approach derived from the principle that the party's effectiveness could only be measured by its demonstrable ability to mobilize and to lead the people, and not by "size, number, or form." Participation in the party was virtually a requisite for social mobility.

The basic organizational unit of the Baath was the party cell or circle (halaqah). Composed of between three and seven members, cells functioned at the neighborhood or the village level, where members met to discuss and to carry out party directives. A minimum of two and a maximum of seven cells formed a party division (firqah). Divisions operated in urban quarters, larger villages, offices, factories, schools, and other organizations. Division units were spread throughout the bureaucracy and the military, where they functioned as the ears and eyes of the party. Two to five divisions formed a section (shabah). A section operated at the level of a large city quarter, a town, or a rural district. Above the section was the branch (fira), which was composed of at least two sections and which operated at the provincial level. There were twenty-one Baath Party branches in Iraq, one in each of the eighteen provinces and three in Baghdad. The union of all the branches formed the party's congress, which elected the Regional Command.

The Regional Command was both the core of party leadership and the top decision-making body. It had nine members, who were elected for five-year terms at regional congresses of the party. Its secretary general (also called the regional secretary) was the party's leader, and its deputy secretary general was second in rank and in power within the party hierarchy. The members of the command theoretically were responsible to the Regional Congress that, as a rule, was to convene annually to debate and to approve the party's policies and programs; actually, the members were chosen by Saddam Husayn and other senior party leaders to be "elected" by the Regional Congress, a formality seen as essential to the legitimation of party leadership.

Above the Regional Command was the National Command of the Baath Party, the highest policy-making and coordinating council for the Baath movement throughout the Arab world. The National Command consisted of representatives from all regional commands and was responsible to the National Congress, which convened periodically. It was vested with broad powers to guide, to coordinate, and to supervise the general direction of the movement, especially with respect to relationships among the regional Baath parties and with the outside world. These powers were to be exercised through a national secretariat that would direct policy-formulating bureaus.

In reality, the National Command did not oversee the Baath movement as a whole in 1988 because there continued to be no single command. In 1966 a major schism within the Baath movement had resulted in the creation of two rival National Commands, one based in Damascus and the other in Baghdad. Both commands claim to be the legitimate authority for the Baath, but since 1966 they have been mutually antagonistic. Michel Aflaq, one of the original cofounders of the Baath Party, was the secretary general of the Baghdad-based National Command, and Saddam Husayn was the vice-chairman. In practice, the Syrian Regional Command, under Hafiz al Assad, controlled the Damascus-based National Command of the Baath Party, while the Iraqi Regional Command controlled the Baghdad-based National Command.

Theoretically, the Iraqi Regional Command made decisions about Baath Party policy based on consensus. In practice, all decisions were made by the party's secretary general, Saddam Husayn, who since 1979 had also been chairman of the RCC and president of the republic. He worked closely with a small group of supporters, especially members of the Talfah family from the town of Tikrit; he also dealt ruthlessly with suspected opposition to his rule from within the party. In 1979 several high-ranking Baathists were tried and were executed for allegedly planning a coup; other prominent party members were forcibly retired in 1982. Saddam Husayn's detractors accused him of monopolizing power and of promoting a cult of personality.


Iraq - The Politics of Alliance: The Progressive National Front


In 1988 Iraq was no nearer to the goal of democracy than it had been when the Baath came to power in 1968. The establishment of "popular democracy" as a national objective remained essentially unfulfilled. Political activities were restricted to those defined by the Baath regime. The party, however, recognized that not all citizens would become party members, and it sought to provide a controlled forum for non-Baathist political participation. It created the Progressive National Front (PNF) in 1974 to ally the Baath with other political parties that were considered to be progressive. As a basis for this cooperation President Bakr had proclaimed the National Action Charter in 1971. In presenting the charter for public discussion, the Baath had invited "all national and progressive forces and elements" to work for the objective of a "democratic, revolutionary, and unitary" Iraq by participating in the "broadest coalition among all the national, patriotic, and progressive forces."

The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) was one of the important political groups that the Baathists wanted involved in the PNF. Discussions between the Baath and the ICP took place periodically over three years before the latter was induced to join the PNF in 1974. For Baath leaders, the PNF was a means of containing potential opposition to their policies on the part of the ICP. Although the ICP was too small to pose a serious armed challenge to the Baath, it was regarded as a major ideological rival. The ICP's roots were as deep as those of the Baath, because the former party had been formed by Iraqi Marxists in the 1930s. Like the Baath, the ICP was an elitist party that advocated socialist programs to benefit the masses and that appealed primarily to intellectuals. Despite these similarities, there had been a long history of antagonism between the two parties. Baathists tended to suspect the communists of ultimate loyalty to a foreign power, the Soviet Union, rather than to the Arab nation, even though the Baathists themselves regarded the Soviet Union as a friendly and progressive state after 1968.

In return for participation in the PNF, the ICP was permitted to nominate its own members for some minor cabinet posts and to carry on political and propaganda activities openly. The ICP had to agree, however, not to recruit among the armed forces and to accept Baath domination of the RCC. The ICP also recognized the Baath Party's "privileged" or leading role in the PNF: of the sixteen-member High Council that was formed to direct the PNF, eight positions were reserved for the Baath, five for other progressive parties, and only three for the communists. The ICP also agreed not to undertake any activities that would contravene the letter or spirit of the National Action Charter.

The ICP may have hoped that the PNF would gradually evolve into a genuine power-sharing arrangement. If so, these expectations were not realized. The Baath members of the High Council dominated the PNF, while the party retained a firm grip over government decision making. By 1975, friction had developed between the ICP and the Baath. During the next two years, at least twenty individual ICP members were arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison for allegedly attempting to organize communist cells within the army in contravention of the specific ban on such activities. The April 1978 Marxist coup d'etat in Afghanistan seemed to serve as a catalyst for a wholesale assault on the ICP. Convicted communists were retried, and twenty-one of them were executed; there were virulent attacks on the ICP in the Baathist press; and scores of party members and sympathizers were arrested. The ICP complained, to no apparent avail, that communists were being purged from government jobs, arrested, and tortured in prisons. By April 1979, those principal ICP leaders who had not been arrested had either fled the country or had gone underground. In 1980 the ICP formally withdrew from the PNF and announced the formation of a new political front to oppose the Baath government. Since then, however, ICP activities against the Baathists have been largely limited to a propaganda campaign.

The various Kurdish political parties were the other main focus of Baath attention for PNF membership. Three seats on the PNF were reserved for the Kurds, and initially the Baath intended that these be filled by nominees from the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), the oldest and largest Kurdish party. By the time the PNF was established in 1974, however, the KDP was already involved in hostilities against the government. The KDP, which originally had been formed in 1946 in Iran where Mullah Mustafa Barzani and other party cofounders had fled following the collapse of a 1945 revolt, was suspicious of the Baath's ultimate intentions with respect to self-rule for the Kurdish region. Even though Barzani himself had negotiated the March 1970 Autonomy Agreement with Saddam Husayn, he rejected Baghdad's March 1974 terms for implementing autonomy. Subsequently, full-scale warfare erupted between central government forces and KDP-organized fighters, the latter receiving military supplies covertly from Iran and from the United States. The Kurdish rebellion collapsed in March 1975, after Iran reached a rapprochement with the Baath regime and withdrew all support from the Kurds. The KDP leaders and several thousand fighters sought and obtained refuge in Iran. Barzani eventually resettled in the United States, where he died in 1979. Following Barzani's death, his son Masud became leader of the KDP; from his base in Iran he directed a campaign of guerrilla activities against Iraqi civilian and military personnel in the Kurdish region. After Iraq became involved in war with Iran, Masud Barzani generally cooperated with the Iranians in military offensives in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Barzani's decision to fight Baghdad was not supported by all Kurdish leaders, and it led to a split within the KDP. Some of these Kurds, including Barzani's eldest son, Ubaydallah, believed that the Autonomy Agreement did provide a framework for achieving practical results, and he preferred to cooperate with the Baath. Other leaders were disturbed by Barzani's acceptance of aid from Iran, Israel, and the United States, and they refused to be associated with this policy. Consequently, during 1974, rival KDP factions, and even new parties such as the Kurdish Revolutionary Party and the Kurdish Progressive Group, emerged. Although none of these parties seemed to have as extensive a base of popular support as did the KDP, their participation in the PNF permitted the Baath to claim that its policies in the Autonomous Region had the backing of progressive Kurdish forces.

The unanticipated and swift termination of KDP-central government hostilities in March 1975 resulted in more factional splits from the party. One breakaway group, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) under the leadership of Jalal Talabani, was committed to continuing the armed struggle for Kurdish autonomy. Until 1985, however, most of the PUK's skirmishes were with fellow Kurdish fighters of the KDP, and Talabani himself held intermittent negotiations with Baathist representatives about joining the PNF. Other KDP splinter groups agreed to cooperate with the central government. In order to accommodate them, and in recognition of the fact that no single political party represented the Kurds, two additional seats, bringing the total to eighteen, were created in the PNF. Thus, the number of Kurdish representatives increased from three to five. The composition of the PNF changed again in 1980, following the withdrawal of the three ICP members; the number of Kurds remained constant.

In 1975 the Baath invited two independent progressive groups to nominate one representative each for the unreserved seats on the PNF. These seats went to the leaders of the Independent Democrats and the Progressive Nationalists. Neither of these groups was a formally organized political party, but rather each was an informal association of non-Baathist politicians who had been active before 1968. These groups had demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Baath Party that their members had renounced the former "reactionary" ideas of the various pre-revolutionary parties to which they had belonged.

In 1988 the Baath Party continued to hold the position that the PNF was indispensable as long as the Arab revolutionary movement faced dangers in Iraq and in other parts of the Arab homeland. The Baath insisted that its policy of combining its "leading role" within the front and a cooperative relationship based on "mutual respect and confidence" among itself and the front's members was correct and that, in fact, this was a major accomplishment of its rule. Nevertheless, the PNF was not an independent political institution. Although it served as a forum in which policy could be discussed, the Baath actually controlled the PNF by monopolizing executive positions, by holding half of the total seats, and by requiring that all PNF decisions must be by unanimous vote.


Iraq - Political Opposition


Although the Baath in 1988 permitted the existence of several non-Baathist political parties, it did not tolerate political opposition to its policies. An effective security police apparatus had forced underground those groups opposed to the Baath. Other opposition groups operated in exile in Europe, Iran, and Syria. These included the ICP, the KDP, the PUK, a Baath splinter that supported the Damascus-based National Command, and several Islamic parties. Although various opposition parties periodically succeeded in carrying out acts of violence against regime targets, especially in Kurdistan, for the most part their activities within Iraq did not seriously challenge the Baath regime.

The opposition to the Baath historically has been fragmented, and efforts to form alliances--such as the ICP's November 1980 initiative to create a Democratic and Patriotic Front of Kurdish and Arab secular parties--foundered over ideological divisions. Personality clashes and feuds also prevented the various Kurdish and Arab secular parties from cooperating. In addition, many of the opposition parties seemed to have a weak internal base of popular support because of the prevailing perception that they had collaborated with enemies of Iraq at a time when the country was engaged in war with Iran.

The religious opposition to the Baath was primarily concentrated among the devout Shia population. The most important opposition party was Ad Dawah al Islamiyah (the Islamic Call), popularly known as Ad Dawah, which originally had been established by Shia clergy in the early 1960s. After the Baath came to power in 1968, Ad Dawah opposed the regime's secular policies, and consequently many prominent clergy associated with the party, as well as some who had no connections to Ad Dawah, were persecuted. In 1979, apparently to contain any radicalization of the Iraqi Shia clergy like that which had occurred in Iran, the regime arrested and subsequently executed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir as Sadr, the country's most respected Shia leader. Sadr's precise relationship to Ad Dawah was not established, but his death precipitated widespread, violent demonstrations and acts of sabotage. Ad Dawah was banned in 1980, and membership in the organization was made a capital offense. After the war with Iran had begun, Ad Dawah and other Shia political groups reorganized in exile in Europe and in Iran.

In late 1982, the Iranian authorities encouraged the Iraqi Shia parties to unite under one umbrella group known as the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI). Headquartered in Tehran, SAIRI was under the chairmanship of Muhammad Baqir al Hakim, a prominent clergyman whose father had been the leading ayatollah of Iraq in the 1960s. SAIRI's aim was to promote the cause of Islamic revolution in Iraq by overthrowing the Baathist regime. To further that objective, in 1983 SAIRI established a government-in-exile. SAIRI's activities brought harsh reprisals against members of the extended Hakim family still living in Iraq but were generally ineffective in undermining the political controls of the Baath. Another opposition element included in SAIRI was the Organization of Islamic Action, headed by Iraqi-born Muhammad Taqi al Mudarrissi.




In early 1988, all radio and television broadcasting in Iraq was controlled by the government. Radio Iraq had both domestic and foreign services. The domestic service broadcasted in Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac, and Turkoman; the foreign service, in English, French, German, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. Two radio stations based in Baghdad broadcasted all day, and they could be picked up by the overwhelming majority of the estimated 2.5 million radio receivers in the country. There were also separate radio stations with programs in Kurdish and Persian.

Baghdad Television was the main government television station. It broadcasted over two channels throughout the day. Government-owned commercial television stations also broadcasted from Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul, and nineteen other locations for an average of six hours a day. A Kurdish-language television station aired programs for eight hours each day. There were an estimated 750,000 privately owned television sets in the country in 1986, the latest year for which such statistics were available.

In 1988 there were six national daily newspapers, all of which were published in Baghdad. One of these papers, the Baghdad Observer, was published in English; it had an estimated circulation of 220,000. Another daily, Al-Iraq, with a circulation of abut 30,000, was published in Kurdish. The largest of the four Arabic-language dailies was Al Jumhuriya, which had a circulation of approximately 220,000. Ath Thawra, with a circulation of about 22,000, was the official organ of the Baath Party. There were also seven weekly papers, all published in Baghdad. The government's Iraqi News Agency (INA) distributed news to the foreign press based in, or passing through, Iraq.

Although Article 26 of the Provisional Constitution guarantees freedom of opinion and publication "within the limits of the law," newspapers, books, and other publications were subject to censorship. The Ministry of Guidance monitored published material to ensure that all writing was "in line with the nationalist and progressive line of the revolution." The Ministry of Culture and Information's National House for Publishing and Distributing Advertising had the sole authority to import and to distribute all foreign newspapers, magazines, and periodicals.




Iraq's relations with other countries and with international organizations are supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1988 the minister of foreign affairs was Tariq Aziz, who had served in that post since 1983. Aziz was a member of the RCC and an influential leader of the Baath Party. Before becoming minister of foreign affairs, he had been director of the party's foreign affairs bureau. Aziz, Saddam Husayn, and the other members of the RCC formulated foreign policy, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bureaucracy implemented RCC directives. The Baath maintained control over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and over all Iraqi diplomatic missions outside the country through its party cells that operated throughout the ministry and in all embassies abroad.

In 1988 Iraq's main foreign policy issue was the war with Iran. This war had begun in September 1980, when Saddam Husayn sent Iraqi forces across the Shatt al Arab into southwestern Iran. Although the reasons for Saddam Husayn's decision to invade Iran were complicated, the leaders of the Baath Party had long resented Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and had especially resented the perceived Iranian interference in Iraq's internal affairs both before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They may have thought that the revolutionary turmoil in Tehran would enable Iraq to achieve a quick victory. Their objectives were to halt any potential foreign assistance to the Shias and to the Kurdish opponents of the regime and to end Iranian domination of the area. The Baathists believed a weakened Iran would be incapable of posing a security threat and could not undermine Iraq's efforts to exercise the regional influence that had been blocked by non-Arab Iran since the mid-1960s. Although the Iraqis failed to obtain the expected easy victory, the war initially went well for them. By early 1982, however, the Iraqi occupation forces were on the defensive and were being forced to retreat from some of their forward lines. In June 1982, Saddam Husayn ordered most of the Iraqi units to withdraw from Iranian territory; after that time, the Baathist government tried to obtain a cease-fire based on a return of all armed personnel to the international borders that prevailed as of September 21, 1979.

Iran did not accept Iraq's offer to negotiate an end to the war. Similarly, it rejected a July 1982 United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. Subsequently, Iranian forces invaded Iraq by crossing the Shatt al Arab in the south and by capturing some mountain passes in the north. To discourage Iran's offensive, the Iraqi air force initiated bombing raids over several Iranian cities and towns. The air raids brought Iranian retaliation, which included the aerial bombing of Baghdad. Although Iraq eventually pushed back and contained the Iranian advances, it was not able to force Iranian troops completely out of Iraqi territory. The perceived threat to Iraq in the summer of 1982 thus was serious enough to force Saddam Husayn to request the Nonaligned Movement to change the venue of its scheduled September meeting from Baghdad to India; nevertheless, since the fall of 1982, the ground conflict has generally been a stalemated war of attrition--although Iran made small but demoralizing territorial advances as a result of its massive offensives in the reed marshes north of Basra in 1984 and in 1985, in Al Faw Peninsula in early 1986, and in the outskirts of Basra during January and February 1987. In addition, as of early 1988 the government had lost control of several mountainous districts in Kurdistan where, since 1983, dissident Kurds have cooperated militarily with Iran.

Saddam Husayn's government has maintained consistently since the summer of 1982 that Iraq wants a negotiated end to the war based upon the status quo ante. Iran's stated conditions for ceasing hostilities, namely the removal of Saddam Husayn and the Baath from power, however, have been unacceptable. The main objective of the regime became the extrication of the country from the war with as little additional damage as possible. To further this goal, Iraq has used various diplomatic, economic, and military strategies; none of these had been successful in bringing about a cease-fire as of early 1988.

Although the war was a heavy burden on Iraq politically, economically, and socially, the most profound consequence of the war's prolongation was its impact on the patterns of Iraq's foreign relations. Whereas trends toward a moderation of the Baath Party's ideological approach to foreign affairs were evident before 1980, the war helped to accelerate these trends. Two of the most dramatic changes were in Iraq's relationships with the Soviet Union and with the United States. During the course of the war Iraq moved away from the close friendship with the Soviet Union that had persisted throughout the 1970s, and it initiated a rapprochement with the United States. Iraq also sought to ally itself with Kuwait and with Saudi Arabia, two neighboring countries with which there had been considerable friction during much of the 1970s. The alignment with these countries was accompanied by a more moderate Iraqi approach to other Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, which previously Iraq had perceived as hostile.


Iraq - The Soviet Union


When the Baath Party came to power in 1968, relations between Iraq and the West were strained. The Baathists believed that most Western countries, and particularly the United States, opposed the goal of Arab unity. The Baathists viewed the 1948 partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel as evidence of an imperialist plot to keep the Arabs divided. Refusal to recognize Israel and support for the reestablishment of Palestine consequently became central tenets of Baath ideology. The party based Iraq's relations with other countries on those countries' attitudes toward the Palestinian issue. The Soviet Union, which had supported the Arabs during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War and again during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, was regarded as having an acceptable position on the Palestine issue. Thus, the Baath cultivated relations with Moscow to counter the perceived hostility of the United States.

In 1972 the Baathist regime signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union. Article 1 stated that the treaty's objective was to develop broad cooperation between Iraq and the Soviet Union in economic, trade, scientific, technical, and other fields on the basis of "respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in one another's internal affairs." Under the treaty, Iraq obtained extensive technical assistance and military equipment from the Soviet Union.

Despite the importance that both the Bakr and the Saddam Husayn governments attached to the relationship with the Soviet Union, they were reluctant to have Iraq become too closely entangled with the Soviet Union or with its sphere of influence. Ideologically, the Baath Party espoused nonalignment vis-a-vis the superpower rivalry, and the party perceived Iraq as being part of the Nonaligned Movement. Indeed, as early as 1974, the more pragmatic elements in the party advocated broadening relations with the West to counterbalance those with the East and to ensure that Iraq maintained a genuine nonaligned status. The dramatic increase in oil revenues following the December 1973 quadrupling of prices by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) provided the government with the financial resources to expand economic relations with numerous private and public enterprises in Western Europe, Japan, and the United States. Iraq also was able to diversify its source of weapons by purchasing arms from France.

The major impetus for Iraq's retreat from its close relationship with the Soviet Union was not economic, despite Iraq's increasing commercial ties with the West, but political. Iraqis were shocked by the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Saddam Husayn's government took a lead among the Arab states in condemning the invasion. Additional strain was placed on Iraqi-Soviet relations in the fall of 1980, when the Soviet Union cut off arms shipments to Iraq (and to Iran) as part of its efforts to induce a cease-fire. This action angered Saddam Husayn and his colleagues, because Iraq had already paid more than US$1 billion dollars for the interdicted weapons. Although Moscow resumed arms supplies to Iraq in the summer of 1982, following the Iranian advance into Iraqi territory, Iraqi leaders remained bitter over the initial halt.

Despite Iraq's apparent ambivalence about its relationship with the Soviet Union, in early 1988 relations remained correct. The Soviets were still the main source of weapons for the Iraqi military, a fact that restrained public criticism. Nevertheless, the Saddam Husayn government generally suspected that the Soviet Union was more interested in gaining influence in Iran than in preserving its friendship with Iraq. Consequently, Iraqi leaders were skeptical of Soviet declarations that Moscow was trying to persuade Iran to agree to a cease-fire. They expressed disappointment in late 1987 that the Soviet Union had not exerted sufficient pressure upon Iran to force it to cooperate with the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution of July 1987.


Iraq - The West


Iraq's disappointment in its relations with the Soviet Union gradually led to a tilt toward the West. This process began as early as 1974 when prominent Baathists such as Bakr, Saddam Husayn, and Aziz expressed the need for a more pragmatic, less ideological approach to relations with "the Western capitalist world." For example, the government stated in January 1974 that the West was not composed "totally of enemies and imperialists," that some countries were relatively moderate, and that there were contradictions among the principal Western nations. These views became the basis on which the regime established generally cordial relations with Britain, Italy, France, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and Japan.

Iraq's closest ties were with France, which came to rank second to the Soviet Union as a source of foreign weapons. Iraq imported billions of dollars worth of French capital and consumer goods during the 1970s and signed several agreements with French companies for technical assistance on development projects. A major project was the Osiraq (Osiris-Iraq) nuclear reactor, which French engineers were helping to construct at Tuwaitha near Baghdad before it was bombed by Israel in June 1981. Because Iraq was a signatory to the nuclear weapons Nonproliferation Treaty and had previously agreed to permit on-site inspections of its nuclear energy facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency and because France expected to reap considerable economic benefits from Iraqi goodwill, France agreed to assist in the reconstruction of the nuclear power station; however, as of early 1988 no major reconstruction work had been undertaken.

Economic links with France became especially important after the war with Iran had begun. Arms purchases from France, for example, continued in the 1980 to 1982 period when the Soviet Union was withholding weapons supplies. France also provided Iraq generous credits, estimated at US$7 billion, during 1980 to 1983 when oil revenues were severely reduced on account of the warrelated decline in exports. To demonstrate its support further, in 1983 France provided Iraq with advanced weapons, including Exocet missiles and Super Etendard jets, which Iraq subsequently used for attacks on Iranian oil loading facilities and on tankers carrying Iranian oil.

Iraq's ties with the United States developed more slowly, primarily because the Baathists were antagonistic to the close United States-Israeli relationship. Relations had been severed following the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, before the Baath came to power, but after 1968 the government became interested in acquiring American technology for its development programs. State organizations were therefore permitted to negotiate economic contracts, primarily with private American firms. In discussing the United States during the 1970s, the government emphasized, however, that its ties were economic, not political, and that these economic relations involving the United States were with "companies," not between the two countries.

Even though Iraqi interest in American technical expertise was strong, prior to 1980 the government did not seem to be seriously interested in reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States. The Baath Party viewed the efforts by the United States to achieve "step-by-step" interim agreements between Israel and the Arab countries and the diplomatic process that led to the Camp David Accords as calculated attempts to perpetuate Arab disunity. Consequently, Iraq took a leading role in organizing Arab opposition to the diplomatic initiatives of the United States. After Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Iraq succeeded in getting members of the League of Arab States (Arab League) to vote unanimously for Egypt's expulsion from the organization.

Concern about the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted Iraq to reexamine seriously the nature of its relationship with the United States. This process led to a gradual warming of relations between the two countries. In 1981 Iraq and the United States engaged in lowlevel , official talks on matters of mutual interest such as trade and regional security. The following year the United States extended credits to Iraq for the purchase of American agricultural commodities, the first time this had been done since 1967. More significant, in 1983 the Baathist government hosted a United States special Middle East envoy, the highest-ranking American official to visit Baghdad in more than sixteen years. In 1984, when the United States inaugurated "Operation Staunch" to halt shipment of arms to Iran by third countries, no similar embargo was attempted against Iraq because Saddam Husayn's government had expressed its desire to negotiate an end to the war. All of these initiatives prepared the ground for Iraq and the United States to reestablish diplomatic relations in November 1984.

In early 1988, Iraq's relations with the United States were generally cordial. The relationship had been strained at the end of 1986 when it was revealed that the United States had secretly sold arms to Iran during 1985 and 1986, and a crisis occurred in May 1987 when an Iraqi pilot bombed an American naval ship in the Persian Gulf, a ship he mistakenly thought to be involved in Iran-related commerce. Nevertheless, the two countries had weathered these problems by mid-1987. Although lingering suspicions about the United States remained, Iraq welcomed greater, even if indirect, American diplomatic and military pressure in trying to end the war with Iran. For the most part, the government of Saddam Husayn believed the United States supported its position that the war was being prolonged only because of Iranian intransigence.


Iraq - The Persian Gulf Countries


Iraq's closest relations in 1988 were with the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, especially Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This was a reversal of the pattern of relations that had persisted in the 1970s. The original Baathist view of the Arabian Peninsula shaykhdoms was that they were regimes that had been set up by the imperialist powers to serve their own interests. This attitude was reinforced in the period between 1968 and 1971, when Britain was preparing the countries of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for complete independence. Iraq wished to have an influence on the governments that would come to power, and it provided clandestine assistance to various groups opposed to the pro-British rulers. Iraqi support of dissident movements was particularly evident in Oman, where an organized guerrilla force was fighting the government from the late 1960s to the mid1970s .

The Baathist perception of Iran's role in the Persian Gulf was an important factor in Iraqi views of the Arabian Peninsula states. In 1969 Iran, which was then providing aid to dissident Iraqi Kurds, unilaterally abrogated a 1937 treaty that had established the Shatt al Arab boundary along the low water on the Iranian shore; in 1971 Iran forcibly occupied three small islands in the lower gulf near the approaches to the Strait of Hormuz; and by 1972 Iran was again giving assistance to antigovernment Kurds. As Iraq became increasingly concerned about Iranian policies, it tried to enlist the cooperation of the Arab monarchies in an effort to keep the Persian Gulf independent of Iranian influence. Iraq believed it was possible to collaborate with the Arab kings and shaykhs because the latter had proven their Arab nationalism by participating in the 1973 oil boycott against the Western countries supporting Israel. Despite Iraq's new friendliness, the rulers in countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia did not easily forget their suspicions of Iraqi radicalism. Nevertheless, political discussions were initiated, and progress was made toward resolving disputes over borders, over oil pricing policy, and over support for subversion.

By the time the Islamic Revolution occurred in Iran in 1979, Iraq had succeeded in establishing generally correct relations with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The war with Iran served as a catalyst to develop these relations even further. Although the Gulf states proclaimed their neutrality in the war, in practice they gave Iraq crucial financial support. The unexpected prolongation of the war and the closing of Iraqi ports early in the war had produced a severe economic crunch by the beginning of 1981. In response, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE all provided loans to help replace revenues that Iraq had lost because of the decline of its oil exports. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were particularly generous, providing an estimated US$50 billion in interest-free loans up through 1987. In addition, a major portion of Iraq's nonmilitary imports were shipped to Kuwaiti harbors, then transported overland to Iraq. Saudi Arabia also agreed to provide to Iraqi contract customers part of its own oil from the Neutral Zone, jurisdiction over which it shared with Iraq; it was understood that Iraq would repay this oil "loan" after the war had ended.


Iraq - Iraq and Other Arab Countries


The war with Iran changed the Baathist perception of what constituted the principal threat to Arab unity. Prior to 1980, the Baath leaders had identified Zionism as the main danger to Arab nationalism. After the war had begun, Iranian nationalism was perceived as the primary force threatening the Arabs. Under the pressures of war, Iraq became reconciled with Egypt and moderated its once-uncompromising stance on Israel. This reconciliation was ironic, because Iraq had taken the lead in 1978 and in 1979 in ostracizing Egypt for recognizing Israel and for signing a separate peace treaty with the latter state. The war with Iran helped to transform Egypt from an excoriated traitor into a much-appreciated ally. Factories in Egypt produced munitions and spare parts for the Iraqi army, and Egyptian workers filled some of the labor shortages created by the mobilization of so many Iraqi men. As early as 1984, Iraq publicly called for Egypt's readmission into pan-Arab councils, and in 1987 Iraq was one of the countries leading the effort to have Egypt readmitted to the Arab League.

The Baath also abandoned its former hostility to countries such as Jordan, Morocco, and the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). On a smaller scale than Egypt, Jordan provided Iraq with tanks and with laborers, and it served as a transshipment point for goods intended for Iraq.

The most ideologically significant consequence of the war was the evolution of Baathist views on the issue of Palestine. Prior to 1980, Iraq had opposed any negotiations that might lead to the creation of a Palestinian state on the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on the ground that these territories constituted only part of historic Palestine. Accordingly, Iraq supported the most extreme Palestinian guerrilla groups, the socalled "rejectionist" factions, and was hostile toward the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Thus, Iraq provided financial and military aid to such forces as George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Palestine Liberation Front, and the Arab Liberation Front. The latter group had actually been founded by the Baath in 1969. In addition, Iraq was widely believed to have links to various Palestinian terrorist groups such as the "Special Operations Branch" of the PFLP, Black June, the Arab Organization of the 15th May, and the Abu Nidal Organization.

Beginning in 1980, Iraq gradually retreated from its longheld position that there could never be any recognition of Israel. In 1983 Baath leaders accepted the de facto partition of pre-1948 Palestine by stating publicly that there could be negotiations with Israel for a peaceful resolution of the ArabIsraeli dispute. Consequently, Iraq cut its ties to the extremist Palestinian factions, including that of Abu Nidal, who was expelled from the country in November; he subsequently established new headquarters in Syria. Iraq shifted its support to the mainstream Palestinian groups that advocated negotiations for a Palestinian state. Yasir Arafat's Al Fatah organization was permitted to reopen an office in Baghdad. Arafat, whose proposed assassination for alleged treason against the Palestinians had been clandestinely supported by Iraq in the late 1970s, was even invited to visit the country. This shift represented a fundamental revolution in the thinking of the Iraqi Baath. In effect, by 1986 the Baath Party was saying that the Palestinians had to determine for themselves the nature of their relationship with Israel.

Iraq's most bitter foreign relationship was with the rival Baath government in Syria. Although there were periods of amity between the two governments--such as the one immediately after the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the one in October 1978, when Iraq and Syria both opposed Egypt's plans for a separate peace with Israel--the governments generally were hostile to one another. Relations began to deteriorate once again at the end of 1980 following the outbreak of the war with Iran. Syria criticized Iraq for diverting Arab attention from the real enemy (Israel) and for attacking a regime (Iran) supportive of the Arab cause. Relations worsened throughout 1981 as each country accused the other of assisting antiregime political groups. In April 1982, Syria closed its borders with Iraq and cut off the flow of Iraqi oil through the pipeline that traversed Syrian territory to ports on the Mediterranean Sea. The cessation of Iraqi oil exports via this pipeline was a severe economic blow; Iraq interpreted the move as a confirmation of Syria's de facto alliance with Iran in the war.

The hostility between Iraq and Syria has been a source of concern to the other Arab states. King Hussein of Jordan, in particular, tried to reconcile the Iraqi and Syrian leaders. Although his efforts to mediate a meeting between Saddam Husayn and Syrian president Hafiz al Assad were finally realized in early 1987, these private discussions did not lead to substantive progress in resolving the issues that divided the two countries. Intense diplomatic efforts by Jordan and by Saudi Arabia also resulted in the attendance of both presidents, Saddam and Assad, at the Arab League summit in Amman in November 1987. The Iraqis were irritated, however, that Syria used its influence to prevent the conference from adopting sanctions against Iran. The animosities that have divided the rival Iraqi and Syrian factions of the Baath appeared to be as firmly rooted as ever in early 1988.


Iraq - Relations with Other Countries


In 1988 Iraq maintained cordial relations with Turkey, its non-Arab neighbor to the north. Turkey served as an important transshipment point for both Iraqi oil exports and its commodity imports. A pipeline transported oil from the northern oil fields of Iraq through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. Trucks carrying a variety of European manufactured goods used Turkish highways to bring imports into Iraq. There was also trade between Turkey and Iraq, the former selling Iraq small arms, produce, and textiles. In addition, Iraq and Turkey have cooperated in suppressing Kurdish guerrilla activities in their common border area.

Outside the Middle East, Iraq maintained correct relations with other countries. Iraq identified itself as part of the Nonaligned Movement of primarily African and Asian nations, actively participated in its deliberations during the late 1970s, and successfully lobbied to have Baghdad chosen as the site for its September 1982 conference. Although significant resources were expended to prepare facilities for the conference, and Saddam Husayn would have emerged from the meeting as a recognized leader of the Nonaligned Movement, genuine fears of an Iranian bombing of the capital during the summer of 1982 forced the government reluctantly to request that the venue of the conference be transferred to New Delhi. Since that time, preoccupation with the war against Iran, which also is a member of the Nonaligned Movement, has tended to restrict the scope of Iraqi participation in that organization.


Iraq - Participation in International Organizations


Iraq is a member of the UN and of its affiliated agencies. It also is a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Labor Organisation (ILO). The Iraqi Red Crescent is affiliated with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Iraq is one of the founding members of OPEC. Iraq also belongs to several pan-Arab organizations including the Arab League and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries.

A good overview of Iraqi politics from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958 until the mid-1980s is Phebe Marr's The Modern History of Iraq. An excellent source for details about Iraqi politics during the first ten years of Baath Party rule is Majid Khadduri's Socialist Iraq. The social origins of the Baath leaders are exhaustively examined in Hanna Batatu's The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq. An analysis of the early years of Saddam Husayn's presidency is Christine Moss Helms's study Iraq, Eastern Flank of the Arab World. Tim Niblock edited a collection of essays on the state of politics at the beginning of the 1980s called Iraq: The Contemporary State. For background on the war with Iran see Jasim Abdulghani, Iraq and Iran: The Years of Crisis. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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