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Heads Up West Coast: Aziz Al-Taee on Today Show 7 a.m. Hour 3/03/03
Monday, March 3, 2003
Posted on 03/03/2003 6:15:11 AM PST by kristinn
Aziz Al-Taee, Chairman of the Iraqi-American Council and friend of the D.C. Chapter was on NBC's Today Show this morning.
He participated in a panel with Sen. Joe Biden (D-Deleware), Steve Emerson and others for a one-hour discussion on Iraq and the war on terror.
I missed the show (sleeping) but I'm told that Katie Couric was surprised at the large number of audience members who raised their hands when asked if they support going to war to disarm Saddam Hussein of WMDs.
I'm also told that Aziz made several good points, one of which was his response to a question about the cost of going to war with Saddam.
Those of you out west should be able to see the discussion when the Today Show plays out there.
TOPICS: Breaking News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; US: Alaska; US: California; US: Hawaii; US: Oregon; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: azizaltaee; iraqiamerican
Aziz is an American citizen. His family left Iraq many years ago to escape Saddam's murderous regime. He has spoken at the last three Patriots Rallies put on by the D.C. Chapter.
posted on 03/03/2003 6:15:12 AM PST
I saw parts of the show and the only thing I came away with is: Joe Biden is running.
posted on 03/03/2003 6:20:41 AM PST
Darn, I had no idea. And I was awake!
It looks like all the 'Rats are running!
posted on 03/03/2003 6:25:37 AM PST
Could some West Coaster give us Today Show boycotters a synopsis?
Three cheers for Aziz! I am so glad he is getting the real message out. He was a good clear speaker.I am thankful he is getting air time!
Darn...I didn't know aobut it and missed it. Aziz is a really good speaker, and he's getting better.
It's about TIME the media started paying attention to him.
He should start an Iraqi American counter movement to the 'Not in Our Name' crowd, called 'IN OUR NAMES'.
posted on 03/03/2003 6:54:56 AM PST
(UN Resolutions = VERY expensive, very SCRATCHY toilet paper.)
Bump for Aziz.
posted on 03/03/2003 7:04:33 AM PST
(FReepers are Everywhere! We Support Our Troops!)
I saw him at your Pro-America rally shown on c-span and he is very good. He knows the truth and what the Iraqi regime is. I never watch Today, but I wish I had caught that this morning.
Sorry to say, the audience is full of feel good wimps and such. I'm suprised how many clueless people we have here.
posted on 03/03/2003 7:55:29 AM PST
by Nam Vet
(Rooting for 'Big Al Sharpton', Savior of the Dims. (America's Mugabe?))
I happened to turn on cspam late last night, and saw Aziz speaking. Had not heard of him before, and only caught part of his speech, and don't even know where he was speaking. Sorry to be so inexact with this but I wasn't paying much attention, due to the lateness of the hour.
Perhaps it will be replayed.
Thanks for the heads up Kristinn! I'm glad that Mr. Azziz gets CSPAN exposure through us -- he's the *real* spokesman for the Iraqi Americans. The leftists just have these radical fundamentalist nuts from the Muslim American council on their stage.
He's a good man and a good speaker.
I love it when Mr. Azziz said that the plight of the Iraqi people under Saddam is too great for people to politicize the war. He said to the camera, "My liberal friends, do not politicize this war." He is right.
I'm a member of humanity too. That's why I think the Gulags were bad and that's why I supported democracy in South Africa via the ANC over the Boer regime. I think human rights should be *above* political partisanship: it's a God-given right to be free, and on this issue, as in *most* cases, I find the Republican party on the right side.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF IRAQ (from the website of the iraqi american council)
The Cradle of Civilization
In ancient times the land area now known as modern Iraq was almost equivalent to Mesopotamia, the land between the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates), the Mesopotamian plain was called the Fertile Crescent. This region is known as the Cradle of Civilization; was the birthplace of the varied civilizations that moved us from prehistory to history. An advanced civilization flourished in this region long before that of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, for it was here in about 4000BC that the Sumerian culture flourished . The people of the Tigris and the Euphrates basin, the ancient Sumerians, using the fertile land and the abundant water supply of the area, developed sophisticated irrigation systems and created what was probably the first cereal agriculture as well as the earliest writing, cuneiform - a way of arranging impression stamped on clay by the wedge-like section of chopped-off reed stylus into wet clay. Sumerians invented the wheel 3700 BC. Sumerians developed a math system based on the numeral 60, which was the basis of time in modern world. Sumerian society was "Matriarchial" and women had a highly respected place in society. Banking originated in Mesopotamia (Babylonia) out of the activities of temples and palaces which provided safe places for the storage of valuables. Initially deposits of grain are accepted and later other goods including cattle, agricultural implements, and precious metals. Another important Sumerian legacy was the recording of literature. Poetry and epic literature was produced. The most famous Sumerian epic and the one that has survived in the most nearly complete form is the epic of Gilgamesh. The story of Gilgamesh, who actually was king of the city of Uruk in approximately 2700 BC, is a moving story of the ruler's deep sorrow at the death of his friend Enkidu, and of his consequent search for immorality. Other central themes of the story are a devastating flood and the tenuous nature of man's existence, and ended by meeting a wise and ancient man who had survived a great flood by building an ark.
Land was cultivated for the first time, early calendars were used and the first written alphabet was invented here. Its bountiful land, fresh waters, and varying climate contributed to the creation of deep-rooted civilization that had festered humanity from its affluent fountain since thousand of years. Mesopotamia is the suspected spot known as the "Garden of Eden." Ur of the Chaldees, and that's where Abraham came from, (that's just north of the traditional site of the Garden of Eden, about twenty-five miles northeast of Eridu, at present Mughair), was a great and famous Sumerian city, dating from this time. Predating the Babylonian by about 2,000 years, was Noah, who lived in Fara, 100 miles southeast of Babylon (from Bab-ili, meaning "Gate of God"). The early Assyrians, some of the earliest people there, were known to be warriors, so the first wars were fought there, and the land has been full of wars ever since. The Assyrians were in the northern part of Mesopotamia and the Babylonians more in the middle and southern part.
After the collapse of the Sumerian civilization, the people were reunited in 1700BC by King Hammurabi of Babylon (1792-1750 BC), and the country flourished under the name of Babylonia. Babylonian rule encompassed a huge area covering most of the Tigris-Euphrates river valley from Sumer and the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf). He extended his empire northward through the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys and westward to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. After consolidating his gains under a central government at Babylon, he devoted his energies to protecting his frontiers and fostering the internal prosperity of the Empire. Hammurabi's dynasty, otherwise referred to as the First Dynasty of Babylon, ruled for about 200 years, until 1530 BC. Under the reign of this dynasty, Babylonia entered into a period of extreme prosperity and relative peace. Throughout his long reign he personally supervised navigation, irrigation, agriculture, tax collection, and the erection of many temples and other buildings. Although he was a successful military leader and administrator, Hammurabi is primarily remembered for his codification of the laws governing Babylonian life. Under Hammurabi the two cultures which compose Mesopotamian civilization [the Assyrians and the Babylonians] achieve complete and harmonious fusion.
Hammurabi was a king and a great lawgiver of the Old Babylonian (Amorite) Dynasty. His law code was produced in the second year of his reign. Many new legal concepts were introduced by the Babylonians, and many have been adopted by other civilizations. These concepts include: Legal protection should be provided to lower classes; The state is the authority responsible for enforcing the law; Social justice should be guaranteed; The punishment should fit the crime. Hammurabi Code, ("An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.") is still quoted today attests to its importance, is a collection of the laws and edicts of the Babylonian king Hammurabi, and is considered the earliest legal comprehensive code known in history. A copy of the code is engraved on a block of black diorite nearly 2.4 m (8 ft) high. A team of French archaeologists at Susa, Iraq, formerly ancient Elam unearthed this block, during the winter of 1901-2. The block, broken in three pieces, has been restored and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
On Hlammurabi's death, however, a tribe known as the Cassites (Kassites) began to attack Babylonia as early as the period when Hammurabi's son ruled the empire. Over the centuries, Babylonia was weakened by the Cassites. Finally, around 1530 BC (given in some sources as 1570 or 1595 BC), a Cassite Dynasty was set up in Babylonia.
The Mitanni, another culture, were meanwhile building their own powerful empire. They were having a "considerable, if temporary importance"--they were very powerful but were around for only about 150 years. Still, the Mitanni were one of the major empires of this area in this time period, and they came to almost completely control and subjugate the Assyrians (who were located directly to the east of Mitanni and to the northwest of Cassite Babylonia).
The Assyrians, after they finally broke free of the Mitanni (who were having political troubles of their own), were the next major power to assert themselves on Babylonia. After defeating and virtually annexing Mitanni, the Assyrians, reasserted themselves on Babylonia. They weakened Babylonia so much that the Cassite Dynasty fell from power; the Assyrians virtually came to control Babylonia, until revolts in turn deposed them and set up a new dynasty, known as the Second Dynasty of Isin. Nebuchadnezzar the First, of this Dynasty, added a good deal of land to Babylonia and eventually came to attack Assyria. the land was under Assyrian rule for about two centuries. The Assyrian culture showed a dramatic growth in science and mathematics, among the great mathematical inventions of the Assyrians was the division of the circle into 360 degrees and were among the first to invent longitude and latitude in geographical navigation. They also developed a sophisticated medical science, which greatly influenced medical science as far away as Greece.
In the 6th century BC (586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea (Judah), destroyed Jerusalem; Solomon's Temple was also destroyed; Nebuchadnezzar carried away an estimated 15,000 captives, and sent most of its population into exile in Babylonia. It was not until the reign of Naboplashar (625-605 BC) of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty that the Mesopotamian civilization reached its ultimate distinction. His son, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited for building the legendary Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is said that the Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his wife or concubine, Amyitis, who had been "brought up in Media and had a passion for mountain surroundings". He did this because his wife had lived in the mountains and she was homesick on the flat plains of Babylon. He planted a large amount of brightly colored tropical plants on the roof of the palace. The gardens were completed around 600 BC. The Hanging Gardens were built on top of stone arches 23 meters above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. It was Nebuchadnezzar II who restored Mesopotamia to its former Babylonian glory and made Babylon the most famous city of the ancient world.
The Hanging Gardens on the east bank of the River Euphrates, about 50-km south of Baghdad, Iraq, used to be considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. "Has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns... Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels... These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches... This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators."
In 626 BC, the Chaldeans helped Nabopolassar to take power in Babylonia. At that time, Assyria was under considerable pressure from an Iranian people, the Medes (from Media). Nabo-polassar allied Babylonia with the Medes. Assyria could not withstand this added pressure, and in 612 BC, Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell. The entire city, once a great capital of a great empire, was burned and sacked.
The Arab conquest and the coming of Islam
Various invaders conquered the land after Nebuchadnezzar's death, including Cyrus the Great in 539BC and Alexander the Great in 331BC, who died there in 323 BC, Babylon declined after the founding of Seleucia, the New Greek capital. In the second century BC, it became part of the Persian Empire, remaining thus until the 7th century AD, when Arab Muslims captured it. In 634AD, an army of 18,000 Arab Muslims, under the leadership of Khalid ibn al Walied, reached the perimeter of the Euphrates delta. Although the occupying Persian force was vastly superior in techniques and numbers, its soldiers were exhausted from their unremitting campaigns against the Byzantines. The Sassanid troops fought ineffectually, lacking sufficient reinforcement to do more.
The first battle of the Muslims campaign became known as Dhat Al-Salasil (the battle of the Chains) because Persian soldiers were reputedly chained together so that they could not flee. Muslims offered the inhabitants of Iraq an ultimatum: "Accept the faith and you are safe; otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame. A people is already upon you, loving death as you love life". Most of the Iraqi tribes were Christian at the time of the Islamic conquest. They decided to pay the "jizya", the tax required of non-Muslims living in Muslim-ruled areas, and not further disturbed. The Persian rallied briefly under their hero, Rustum, and attacked the Muslims at Al-Hirah, west of the Euphrates. There, the Muslims soundly defeated them. The next year, in 635AD, the Muslims defeated the Persians at the Battle of Buwayb. Finally, in May 636AD at Al-Qadisiyah, a village south of Baghdad on the Euphrates, Rustum was killed. The Persians, who outnumbered the Muslims six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Muslims pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon (Madain). Because the Muslim warriors were fighting a jihad (holy war), they were regulated by religious law that strictly prohibited rape and the killing of women, children, religious leaders, or anyone who had not actually engaged in warfare. Further, the Muslim warriors had come to conquer and settle a land under Islamic law. It was not in their economic interest to destroy or pillage unnecessarily and indiscriminately. The second caliph Omar (634-44 AD) ordered the founding of two garrisoned cities to protect the newly conquered territory: Kufah, named as the capital of Iraq, and later the capital of Imam Ali, and the founding of Basra, which was also to be a port.
The Muslims continued the Sassanid office of the divan (Arabic form diwan). Essentially an institution to control income and expenditure through record keeping and the centralization of administration, the divan would be used henceforth throughout the lands of the Islamic conquest. Arabic replaced Persian as the official language and it slowly filtered into common language usage. Iraqis intermarried with Arabs and converted to Islam.
Empires - The Abbasid Caliphate
In 750AD, Abo al Abbas was established in Baghdad as the first caliph of the Abbasid dynasty. The Abbacies, whose line was called "the blessed dynasty" by it supporters, presented themselves to the people as divine-right rulers who would initiate a new era of justice and prosperity. Their political policies were, however, remarkably similar to those of the Umayyads. And in 762AD, the capital city of Baghdad was founded. In the eighth century, the Abbasid caliphate established its capital at Baghdad, which became an important commercial, cultural, and a famous center of learning in the Middle Ages, and was regarded in the tenth century, the intellectual center of the world. As capital of the caliphate, Baghdad was also to become the cultural capital of the Islamic world. Baghdad became a center of power in the world, where Arab and Persian cultures mingled to produce a blaze of philosophical, scientific, and literary glory. This era is remembered throughout the Arab world, and by the Iraqis in particular, as the pinnacle of the Islamic past.
It was the second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754-75 AD), who decided to build a new capital, surrounded by round walls, near the site of the Sassanid village of Baghdad. Within fifty years the population outgrew the city walls as people thronged to the capital to become part of the Abbacies' enormous bureaucracy or to engage in trade. Baghdad became a vast emporium of trade linking Asia and the Mediterranean. By the reign of Mansur's grandson, Harun ar Rashid (786-806 AD), Baghdad was second in size only to Constantinople. Baghdad was able to feed its enormous population and to export large quantities of grain because the political administration had realized the importance of controlling the flows of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The Abbacies reconstructed the city's canals, dikes, and reservoirs, and drained the swamps around Baghdad, freeing the city of malaria. Harun ar Rashid, the caliph of the Arabian nights, actively supported intellectual pursuits, but the great flowering of Arabic culture that is credited to the Abbacies reached its apogee during the reign of his son, al-Ma`mun (813-833 AD).
By the 9th century, al-Ma`mun was the caliph who was largely responsible for cultural expansion. The caliph al-Ma`mun was responsible for the translation of Greek works into Arabic. He founded in Baghdad "bait al-hikma" the Academy of Wisdom, which took over from the Persian University of Jundaisapur and soon became an active scientific center. The Academy's large library was enriched by the translations that had been undertaken. Scholars of all races and religions were invited to work there. They were concerned with preserving a universal heritage, which was not specifically Moslem and was Arabic only in language. Its first director Hunayn ibn Ishaq translated the complete medical and philosophical works of Galen, the physics of Aristotle, and the Greek Old Testament, before his death in 873. Hunayn's many students completed the translation of Plato, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Euclid, and Pythagoras into Arabic, and made great original discoveries in mathematics, particularly in integral calculus and spherical astronomy.
The most notable mathematician of the period, Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khawarizmi (680-750 AD), discovered algebraic equations, and some credit him with the invention of zero. Al-Khawarizmi wrote ten math textbooks, which have survived. His "Kitab hisab al'adad al-hindi" was an arithmetic textbook, which introduced Hindu numbers to the Arab world. Now generally known as Arabic numbers. Mediaeval Christian Europeans were not keen on the Hindu-Arabic numbers and declared them the work of Satan! His major work is entitled "Kitab al-jabr w'al-muqabalah" (restoration and balancing) whose title gives us the word Algebra. Courtesy of an Arabic book collector in Muslim Spain and the adventurer El Cid, the books were translated into Latin, and hit renaissance Italy like tactical nuclear culture shock. They couldn't speak Arabic, of course, so his name came out as "Algorismus". His name (misspelled again!) has gone into mathematics and computerspeak as Algorithm; for a step by step process for performing computations.
The study of medicine also progressed rapidly, and a number of hospitals were soon established in Baghdad, including a teaching hospital.
Baghdad had grown to be almost one million people and part of the predominately Muslim Empire of Adu Jafar al-Mansur. His empire stretched from western China to northern Africa. In the 13th century, during the reign of the 37th Abbasid caliph, Mustansir Billah, al-Madrasa al-Mustansiriyah (Mustansiriyah School) was built, this was once a highly esteemed university. A new Abbasid Palace was also built in the same era and in the same architectural style as the Mustansiriyah School, the palace overlooks the Tigris.
The first truly Arab philosopher, al-Kindi, worked to reconcile the ideas of neo-Platonism with Islamic revelation. He was one of the thinkers called the Mu`tazilites, who sought to employ reason in preference to tradition in interpreting scripture and formulating theology. Al-Ma`mun favoured this group, removing from office any judge or religious scholar who did not profess the new doctrines. One traditionalist who refused to recant was Ahmed ibn Hanbal, the fourth of the chief Sunni jurists.
The polarization which occurred between these two factions was extremely unfortunate for Islam, because both points of view were - and are - necessary for the Muslim community to be whole. The Mu`tazilites ultimately lost the power struggle after the death of al-Ma`mun, and consequently their sympathizers down to the present day have lacked a voice and legitimacy within the Islamic discourse. The Hanbalites went on to become the ideological forerunners of the present regime of Saudi Arabia.
After the reign of al-Ma`mun the Abbasid caliphate was increasingly weakened by internal strife, and eventually fell under the control of the Persians and then the Turks. During the reign of the last independent caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908-932), a number of very notable men died in Baghdad. There was the outstanding scientist and physician al-Razi, who compiled a thorough medical encyclopedia from Sanskrit, Greek, and Aramaic sources synthesized with his own clinical insights.
One cannot leave the subject of Baghdad and its learning without speaking of Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, a professor at the Madrasa al-Nizamiya, Baghdad's first great school of religious law founded in 1067. Al-Ghazzali abandoned his post to become a wandering mystic, then wrote many deeply original religious books synthesizing the mystical and orthodox points of view. Muslims still regard him as their greatest reformer. The centre of intellectual life was by then shifting from Baghdad to the new city of Cairo (where the Fatimid dynasty had won all of North Africa away from the Abbasids in 969), and to Cordoba and Toledo in Spain, where all of the amazing achievements of Muslim scientists and thinkers would pass into the heritage of Europe.
The Mongol Invasion & The Ottoman Period
In the early years of the thirteenth century, a powerful Mongol leader named Temujin brought together a majority of the Mongol tribes, whome were nomadic people, and led them on a devastating sweep through China. At about this time, he changed his name to Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, meaning "World Conqueror." In 1219 he turned his force of 700,000 west and quickly devastated Bokhara, Samarkand (in Uzbekistan), Balkh (in Afghanistan), Merv capital of the great Seljuk Empire (in Turkmenistan), and Neyshabur (in present-day Iran), where he slaughtered every living thing. Before his death in 1227, Chinnggis Khan, pillaging and burning cities along the way, had reached western Azarbaijan in Iran. After Chinggis's death, the area enjoyed a brief respite that ended with the arrival of Hulagu Khan (1217-65), Chinggis's grandson. The Mongols under the leadership of Hulagu, the Mongol ruler, from the far east swept west and gained control of the land, he marched on Baghdad with two hundred thousand Tartars. al-Musta`sim Billah's army and the people of Baghdad jointly faced them, but it was not in their power to stop this torrent of calamity. The result was that the Tartars entered Baghdad on the day of `Ashura' in AD1258 carrying with them bloodshed and ruin. They remained busy in killing for forty days. Rivers of blood flowed in the streets and all the alleys were filled with dead bodies. Hundred of thousands of people were put to the sword while al-Musta`sim Billah, the last Abbasid caliph, was murdered, trampled to death under foot. The Mongol (Tartar) left the countryside the way they left many other countryside's, totally ruined. While in Baghdad, Hulagu deliberately destroyed what remained of Iraq's canal headworks. The material and artistic production of centuries was swept away. Iraq became a neglected frontier province ruled from the Mongol capital of Tabriz in Iran.
After the death in 1335 of the last great Mongol khan, Abu Said (also known as Bahadur the Brave), a period of political confusion ensued in Iraq until a local petty dynasty, the Jalayirids, seized power. The Jalayirids ruled until the beginning of the fifteenth century. Jalayirid rule was abruptly checked by the rising power of a Mongol, Tamerlane (or Timur the Lame, 1336-1405), who had been atabeg of the reigning prince of the capital Samarkand (Uzbekistan). In 1401 he sacked Baghdad and massacred many of its inhabitants. Tamerlane killed thousands of Iraqis and devastated hundreds of towns.
In Iraq, political chaos, severe economic depression, and social disintegration followed in the wake of the Mongol invasions. Baghdad, long a center of trade, rapidly lost its commercial importance. Basra, which had been a key transit point for seaborne commerce, was circumvented after the Portuguese discovered a shorter route around the Cape of Good Hope. In agriculture, Iraq's once-extensive irrigation system fell into disrepair, creating swamps and marshes at the edge of the delta and dry, uncultivated steppes farther out. The rapid deterioration of settled agriculture led to the growth of tribally based pastoral nomadism. By the end of the Mongol period, the focus of Iraqi history had shifted from the urbanbased Abbasid culture to the tribes of the river valleys, where it would remain until well into the twentieth century.
After much conflict over supremacy, the country was conquered by the Turks (The Saljuqs in Anatolia) in the 17th century and became part of the Ottoman Empire. It had become a frontier outpost of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans conquered much of eastern Europe and nearly the whole of the Arab world, only Morocco and Mauritania in the West and Yemen, Hadramaut and parts of the Arabian peninsula remaining beyond their control. The Ottomans brought the Arab Middle East under strong central rule. Turkish rule continued unchecked, and with very little development, until the end of the 19th century, on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.
During the First World War, Turkey became a German ally and its empire collapsed when British forces invaded Mesopotamia in 1917 and occupied Baghdad.
The country became a British Mandate - due, in no small part, to the British interest in Iraqi oil fields, and because they wanted to build a transcontinental railroad from Europe, across Turkey, and down through Iraq to Kuwait on the Persian Gulf. This railroad would allow a direct trade route with India without having to skirt Africa. - and an armistice was signed with Turkey in 1918. Local unrest (Thawrah), however, resulted in an Iraqi uprising in 1920, and after costly attempts to quell this, the British government decided to draw up a new plan for the state of Iraq.
The British government had laid out the institutional framework for Iraqi government and politics; the Iraqi political system suffered from a severe legitimacy crisis; Britain imposed a Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) monarchy, defined the territorial limits of Iraq with little correspondence to natural frontiers or traditional tribal and ethnic settlements, and influenced the writing of a constitution and the structure of parliament. The British also supported narrowly based groups--such as the tribal shaykhs--over the growing, urban-based nationalist movement, and resorted to military force when British interests were threatened, as in the 1941 Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani coup.
Iraq was to be a kingdom, under the rule of Emir Faisal ibn Hussain, brother of the new ruler of neighbouring Jordan, Abdallah, a member of the Hashemite family, and although the monarch was elected and proclaimed King by plebiscite in 1921, full independence was not achieved until 1932, when the British Mandate was officially terminated. Iraq joined the League of Nations in the October of that year, and was officially recognized as an independent sovereign state. On Faisal's death in 1933, he was succeeded by his son, King Ghazi I. In March 1945, Iraq became a founding member of the League of Arab States (Arab League), which included Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. And in December 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations (UN).
The growing state
In 1936 King Ghazi I formed an alliance with other Arab nations, known as the Pan-Arab movement. This was, in effect, a non-aggression treaty, and promising kinship between Arab countries. Also in 1936 Iraq experienced its first military coup d'etat--the first coup d'etat in the modern Arab world, led by General Bakr Sidqi. The Sidqi coup marked a major turning point in Iraqi history; it made a crucial breach in the constitution, and it opened the door to further military involvement in politics. Ghazi sanctioned Sulayman's government (Sulayman was one of the agents of the coup along with General Bakr Sidqi) even though it had achieved power unconstitutionally. Eventually, Sidqi's excesses alienated both his civilian and his military supporters, and he was murdered by a military group in August 1937.
In 1938 King Ghazi decided to attempt to realize his ambition of annexing Kuwait, part of his dream to lead the Fertile Crescent movement [King Ghazi, announced from Qasr al-Zohour radio station, he is looking forward to the day when Syria, Palestine, and Kuwait, united to Iraq]. With a combination of propaganda (Qasr al-Zohour radio station), and military intimidation, he began to foment dissent in Kuwait, exploiting the aspirations of sections of the Kuwaiti middle class, which sought greater participation in government. But, at a critical moment, when Iraqi troops had massed near Kuwait's northern border, Ghazi's obsession with fast motor cars proved his undoing. The king drove his car into a lamppost and died instantly on the 3rd of April 1939.
King Ghazi was succeeded by his three-year-old son, Faisal II, under a regency. Ghazi's first cousin, Amir Abd al Ilah, was made regent. Faisal, the cousin of Jordan's present King Hussein, did not assume the throne formally until his eighteenth birthday, in May 1953. Whereas Faisal and Ghazi had been strong Arab nationalists and had opposed the British-supported tribal shaykhs, Abd al Ilah and Nuri as-Said were Iraqi nationalists who relied on the tribal shaykhs as a counterforce against the growing urban nationalist movement. By the end of the 1930s, panArabism had become a powerful ideological force in the Iraqi military, especially among younger officers who hailed from the northern provinces and who had suffered economically from the partition of the Ottoman Empire. The British role in quelling the Palestine revolt of 1936 to 1939 further intensified anti-British sentiments in the military and led a group of disgruntled officers to form the Free Officers' Movement, which aimed at overthrowing the monarchy.
During the earlier part of World War II, Iraq's government was strongly pro-British, however, the Iraqi nationalist and ardent anglophobe Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani succeeded Nuri as-Said as prime minister. The new prime minister proposed restrictions on British troop movements in Iraq. Abd al Ilah and Nuri as-Said both were proponents of close cooperation with Britain. They opposed Rashid Ali's policies and pressed him to resign. In response, Rashid Ali and four generals led a military coup, on April 3, that ousted Nuri as-Said and the regent, both of whom escaped to Transjordan; and announced that the temporarily absent regent was deposed. Shortly after seizing power in 1941, Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani appointed an ultranationalist civilian cabinet, which gave only conditional consent to British requests in April 1941 for troop landings in Iraq. The British quickly retaliated by landing forces at Basra on April 19, justifying this second occupation of Iraq by citing Rashid Ali's violation of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. Many Iraqis regarded the move as an attempt to restore British rule. Iraqi troops were then concentrated around the British air base at Habbaniyah, west of Baghdad; and on May 2 the British commander there opened hostilities, lest the Iraqis should attack first. Having won the upper hand at Habbaniyah and been reinforced from Palestine, the British troops from the air base marched on Baghdad. The ensuing war between Britain and Iraq lasted less than a month, as the British steadily advanced, and on May 30th Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani and his government fled to Egypt. A new, pro-British government was established. Abd al Ilah was reinstated as regent; Nuri became prime minister; and the British military presence remained to uphold them. In the following year Iraq became an important Middle Eastern supply centre for American and British forces, particularly with regard to the trans-shipment of arms to the USSR.
Coups, wars & instability
War with Israel followed in 1948, in which Iraqi forces were allied with those of Transjordan, in accordance with a treaty signed by the two countries during the previous year. Fighting continued until the signing of a cease-fire agreement in May 1949. The war also had a negative impact on the Iraqi economy. The government allocated 40 percent of available funds for the army and for Palestinian refugees. Oil royalties paid to Iraq were halved when the pipeline to Haifa was cut off in 1948. The war and the hanging of a Jewish businessman led, moreover, to the departure of most of Iraq's prosperous Jewish community. Although emigration was prohibited, many Jews made their way to Israel during this period with the aid of an underground movement. In 1950 the Iraqi parliament finally legalized emigration to Israel, and between May 1950 and August 1951, the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government succeeded in airlifting approximately 110,000 Jews to Israel in Operations Ezra and Nehemiah; about 120,000 Iraqi Jews emigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1952.
In the mid-1950s, the monarchy was embroiled in a series of foreign policy blunders that ultimately contributed to its overthrow. Following a 1949 military coup in Syria that brought to power Adib Shishakli, a military strongman who opposed union with Iraq, a split developed between Abd al Ilah, who had called for a Syrian-Iraqi union, and Nuri as-Said, who opposed the union plan. Although Shishakli was overthrown with Iraqi help in 1954, the union plan never came to fruition. Instead, the schism between Nuri as-Said and the regent widened. Sensing the regime's weakness, the opposition intensified its antiregime activity.
The monarchy's major foreign policy mistake occurred in 1955, when Nuri as-Said announced that Iraq was joining a British supported mutual defense pact with Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. The Baghdad Pact constituted a direct challenge to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. In response, Nasser launched a vituperative media campaign that challenged the legitimacy of the Iraqi monarchy and called on the officer corps to overthrow it. The 1956 British-French-Israeli attack on Sinai further alienated Nuri as-Said's regime from the growing ranks of the opposition. In 1958 King Hussein of Jordan and Abd al Ilah proposed a union of Hashimite monarchies to counter the recently formed Egyptian-Syrian union. At this point, the monarchy found itself completely isolated. Nuri as-Said was able to contain the rising discontent only by resorting to even greater oppression and to tighter control over the political process.
Inspired by the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, the Hashimite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958, in a swift, predawn coup executed by officers of the Nineteenth Brigade known as "Free Officers", under the leadership of Brigadier Abdul-Karim Qassim (known as "il-Za`im") and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif. King Faisal II and Abd al Ilah were executed, and displaying the bodies in public, hanging them by their feet outside the palace; as were many others in the royal family. Nuri as-Said escaped capture for one day after attempting to escape disguised as a veiled woman, but was then caught and put to death, his body tied to the back of a car and dragged through the streets until there was nothing left but half a leg. Iraq was proclaimed a republic.
Later the same year, on two occasions, Aref attempted to assassinate the new Prime Minister, Qassim, but failed.
In 1959, the Mosul garrison, disillusioned with the new government, organized a revolt against Qassim. The revolt was ruthlessly suppressed, with the massacre of many hundreds of disaffected Arab nationalists and Ba'athists.
Later in 1959, another assassination attempt against Qassim, this time organized by the Ba'ath Party, failed. Amongst the unsuccessful assassination squad was the young Saddam Hussein.
Qassim ended Iraq's membership in the Baghdad Pact (later reconstituted as the Central Treaty Organization- CENTO) in 1959. Qassim remained in power for more than four years. The Nasserites and the Baathists both wished to join the UAR (United Arab Republic - Egypt), a means to control the communists, but Qassim, not wishing to be overshadowed by Nasser, allied himself with the left and refused their demands. This served to alienate himself from his strongest supporters.
In 1961, Kuwait gained its independence from Britain. Abdul-Karim Qassim immediately claimed sovereignty over it, claim to the Amirate as originally part of the Ottoman province of Basrah. Britain reacted strongly to this threat to its ex-protectorate, dispatching a brigade to the country to deter Iraq. Qassim backed down, and in October 1963, Iraq recognised the sovereignty and borders of Kuwait.
A period of considerable instability followed, with one military coup swiftly succeeding another, and leaders came and went throughout the 60s and early 70s. Qassim was assassinated in February 1963, when Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party members took power; under the leadership of Gen. Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr as prime minister and Col. Abdul Salam Arif as president. Nine months later, President Abdul Salam Mohammad Arif led a successful coup against the Ba'athists, ousting the Ba'ath government. In April 13 1966 President Abdul Salam Arif dies in a helicopter crash! and is followed by his brother Gen. Abdul Rahman Arif. Following the Six Day War of 1967, the Ba'ath Party felt strong enough. The Ba'athists overthrow Arif and regained power on 17th of July 1968 coup. Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) following the Ba'athists return to power.
Iraq's general policy during these years was one of Arab National. Iraq was on the head of the other Arab troops during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and in the liberation war of 1973, gave material aid to Syria. Iraq was heavily opposed to the cease-fire, which ended the conflict.
Relations with Iran were fast deteriorating in the early 70s. Iranian arms supplies to the Kurd leader, Mustafa al-Barzani, now fueled the ongoing Kurdish situation, which had first emerged in a 1961 Kurdish rebellion. Problems were compounded by border disputes with Iran, but these were partially settled in 1975, In Algiers on March 6, 1975, Saddam Hussein signed an agreement with the Shah (Algiers Agreement), that recognized the thalweg as the boundary in the Shatt al Arab, legalized the Shah's abrogation of the 1937 treaty in 1969, and dropped all Iraqi claims to Khuzestan and to the islands at the foot of the Gulf. In return, the Shah agreed to prevent subversive elements from crossing the border, whereupon Iran withdrew aid from the Kurdish revolt and effectively halted it.
By the end of 1977, the Kurdish people had been granted greater autonomy and Kurdish was recognized as an official language. Politically, Iraq seemed to be stabilizing, and the oil boom of the late 70s contributed dramatically to an upsurge in the economy.
Saddam Hussein & the invasion of Kuwait
In July 1979 the president, Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakr, was replaced by Saddam Hussein, his vice president, chosen successor, and the true ruler of Iraq. Saddam then assumed both of the vacated offices and purged political rivals in order to assure his position. Once more the political situation flared into hostilities with Iran. The Iran-Iraq War, which began in 1980, lasted for eight years and had a crippling effect on the economy of both countries; in which after eight years of war no territory had been gained by either side but an estimated one million lives had been lost. In July, 1988, Iran accepted the terms of UN Resolution 598, and the cease-fire came into force on 20th August, 1988. Before Iraq had a chance to recover economically, it was once more plunged into war, this time with its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The invasion was the result of a long-standing territorial dispute. Iraq accused Kuwait of violating the Iraqi border to secure oil resources, (on July 17, 1990 Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates of flooding the world oil market. In addition, he singled out Kuwait for the production of oil from a disputed supply, the Rumaila oil field), and demanded that its debt repayments should be waived. Direct negotiations were begun in July 1990, but they were destined soon to fail; along with reassurance from the United States making a claim that they would not get involved (the famous meeting of Saddam Hussein with April Glaspie, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, on the 25th of July, 1990). This was the go ahead that Hussein needed. Iraqi troops overran the country on 2nd August 1990. The U.S. fell short on its claim to not get involved and instantly declared interest in keeping Saudi Arabia safe. Over the ensuing months, the United Nations Security Council passed a series of resolutions condemned the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, implementing total mandatory economic sanctions against Iraq. Other countries subsequently provided support for "Operation Desert Shield". In November 1990, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 678, permitting member states to use all necessary means, authorizing military action against the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, and demanded a complete withdrawal by 15th of January 1991.
When Saddam Hussein failed to comply with this demand, the Gulf War (Operation "Desert Storm") ensued on the 17th of January 1991, with allied troops of 28 countries, led by the US launching an aerial bombardment on Baghdad. The war, which proved disastrous for Iraq, lasted only six weeks, one hundred and forty thousand tons of firearms had showered down on the country, the equivalent of 7 Hiroshima bombs. Probably as many as 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and tens of thousands of civilians. Allied air raids destroyed roads, bridges, factories, and oil industry facilities (shutting down the national refining and distribution system)' and disrupted electric, telephone, and water service. Conference centers and shopping and residential areas were hit. Diseases spread through contaminated drinking water because water purification and sewage treatment facilities could not operate without electricity. A cease-fire was announced by the US on 28th February 1991. UN terms for a permanent cease-fire were agreed by Iraq in April of that year, and strict conditions were imposed, demanding the disclosure and destruction of all stockpiles of weapons.
A few days after the war had ended, popular insurrections broke out in southern Iraq and in Kurdistan in the north, where rebels took control of most of the region's towns. The United States (President George Bush) again fell short of its commitments in protecting the uprising, let the people exposed. Units of the Republican Guard that had survived the conflict acted with extreme brutality and gained the upper hand in the Basrah, Najaf and Karbala regions. In the southern cities, rebels killed Baathist officials, members of the security service and other supporters of the regime.
Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, Iraqi helicopters and troops regained control of the cities taken by the rebels and there was a mass exodus of Kurds, fearing a repeat of the 1988 chemical attacks, to the Turkish and Iranian borders. By the end of April there were 2.5 million refugees. In late April 1991, it was announced that there had been an agreement to implement the Kurdish peace plan of 1970; however, again, negotiations were stalled on the delineation of the borders of the Kurdish autonomous region with the Kurds insisting on the inclusion of Karkuk.
The United States, in an attempt to prevent the genocide of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq and the Kurds to the north, declared air exclusion zones north of the 36th parallel and south of the 32nd parallel. The Clinton administration judged an alleged attempted assassination of former President George Bush while in Kuwait to be worthy of a military response on 27 June 1993. The Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters in Baghdad was targeted by 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from US warships in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. Three missiles were declared to have missed the target, causing some collateral damage to nearby residential housing and eight civilian deaths.
In October 1994, Iraq moved some Republican Guard units towards Kuwait, an act that provoked a large-scale US troop deployment to the Gulf to deter any Iraqi attack. The move was interpreted as a sign of Saddam's frustration with the continuation of UN sanctions, but afterwards he took a more moderate line, agreeing to recognize the existence and borders of Kuwait. In the months that followed his position appeared to become more precarious as dissatisfaction with his rule spread in the army and among the tribes and clans at the core of his regime. In June clashes broke out with the Dulaimi tribe, which supplied many of his senior officers after one of them was said to have been secretly executed by the regime. These culminated in the brutal suppression of demonstrations in the town of Ramadi by troops under the control of Saddam son, Uday, and in a subsequent attack on Abu Grein prison by a dissident military unit dominated by members of the Dulaym tribe.
In May 1995 Saddam sacked his half-brother, Wathban, as Interior Minister and in July demoted his notorious and powerful Defense Minister, Ali Hassan al- Majid, known popularly as `Chemical Ali' because of his role in gassing operations in Kurdistan. These personnel changes were the result of the growth in power of his two sons, Udai and Qusai, who were given effective vice-presidential authority in May 1995. They have been able to remove most of Saddam's loyal followers and it is clear that Saddam feels more secure protected by his immediate family members. In August Major General Hussein Kamil Hassan al-Majid, his Minister of Military Industries and a key henchman, defected to Jordan, together with his wife (one of Saddam's daughters) and his brother, Saddam, who was married to another of the president's daughters, and called for the overthrow of the regime. In response, Saddam promised full co-operation with the UN commission disarming Iraq (UNSCOM) in order to pre-empt any revelations that the defector could make.
The weakening of the internal position of the regime occurred at a time when the external opposition forces were as weak as ever, too divided among themselves to take any effective action. At the same time, France and Russia have pushed for an easing of sanctions. US determination to keep up the pressure on Iraq has prevailed however. In any case, the apparent weakening of the regime was illusory, not least when the two defectors returned home and were killed, apparently by other clan members, in an awful warning to other potential defectors. In fact, during 1996, the regime's grip on power seemed to have significantly strengthened despite its inability to end the UN sanctions against it.
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