IRAQ UNDER SADDAM HUSSEIN
1. The Republic of Iraq is bounded by Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Jordan,
Syria and the Persian Gulf. Its population of around 23 million is ethnically and
religiously diverse. Approximately 77% are Arabs. Sunni Muslims form around
17% of the Arab population and dominate the government. About 60% of Iraqis
are Shias and 20% are Kurds. The remaining 3% of the population consists of
Assyrians, Turkomans, Armenians, Christians and Yazidis.
Saddam Hussein's rise to power
Saddam Hussein was born in 1937 in the Tikrit district, north of Baghdad. In
1957 he joined the Ba'ath Party. After taking part in a failed attempt to
assassinate the Iraqi President, Abdul Karim Qasim, Saddam escaped, first to
Syria and then to Egypt. In his absence he was sentenced to 15 years
Saddam returned to Baghdad in 1963 when the Ba'ath Party came to power.
He went into hiding after the Ba'ath fell from power later that year. He was
captured and imprisoned, but in 1967 escaped and took over responsibility
for Ba'ath security. Saddam set about imposing his will on the Party and
establishing himself at the centre of power.
The Ba'ath Party returned to power in 1968. In 1969 Saddam became Vice
Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Deputy to the President,
and Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Command of the Ba'ath. In
1970 he joined the Party's National Command and in 1977 was elected
Assistant Secretary General. In July 1979, he took over the Presidency of
Iraq. Within days, five fellow members of the Revolutionary Command
Council were accused of involvement in a coup attempt. They and 17 others
were summarily executed.
2. Public life in Iraq is nominally dominated by the Ba'ath Party (see box on p44).
But all real authority rests with Saddam and his immediate circle. Saddam's
family, tribe and a small number of associates remain his most loyal supporters.
He uses them to convey his orders, including to members of the government.
3. Saddam uses patronage and violence to motivate his supporters and to control or
eliminate opposition. Potential rewards include social status, money and better
access to goods. Saddam's extensive security apparatus and Ba'ath Party
network provides oversight of Iraqi society, with informants in social,
government and military organisations. Saddam practises torture, execution and