ABOVE: OIL PAINTING BY LITTLEDEAN JAIL’S IN-HOUSE ARTIST PAUL BRIDGMAN HERE ON DISPLAY WITHIN OUR DARK TOURIST ART GALLERY .
PLEASE BE WARNED … THIS EXHIBITION ALONG WITH THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION, HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN OR THOSE EASILY DISTURBED OR OF A SENSITIVE NATURE ….
With some of the scenes from the new Star Wars film ” The Force Awakens” having been filmed at Puzzlewood here in Coleford ( not too far from Littledean Jail) , we have ourselves now added an intriguing and volatile mix of myth and reality with our own insight into THE FEDAYEEN SADDAM ( Saddam Hussein’s “Men of Sacrifice”) . This was an Iraqi paramilitary militia and personal bodyguard division formed by Saddam’s equally brutal dictator son Uday, who were accountable only to Saddam and Uday .
THE FEDAYEEN SADDAM ENFORCERS wore a helmet that was designed by Uday to mirror the helmet worn by Star Wars villain Darth Vader. Also the all black uniform , though without the “Darth Vader” cape .
Both Saddam and his son Uday were keen fans of Star Wars films . Even Saddams infamous “Hands of Victory ” monuments at the gateways to Baghdad, to celebrate the defeat of Iran in the Iran – Iraq War… were based on the “Empire Strikes Back ” film poster image (see below) depicting Darth Vader holding crossed Lightsabers .
Here on display at The Crime Through Time Collection , Littledean Jail , and new for 2016 … we have pieced together ” The Dark Side of the Fedayeen”exhibition, This to compliment Saddam and Uday’s fascination and interest with Star Wars phenomena . This being alongside various other Star Wars signed memorabilia , action figures and also on a more serious note, the brutal acts of the Fedayeen and the Iraqi regime .
NOT FORGETTING OF COURSE THAT AFTER THE FALL OF SADDAM’S REGIME IN 2003 , THE FEDAYEEN AND SOME 100 OR SO OF SADDAM’S CHIEF COMMANDERS BECAME THE FOUNDERS AND LEADERS OF THE ISLAMIC STATE (ISIS), FOR WHICH IS STILL VERY MUCH CONTROLLED BY SADDAM HUSSEIN’S FORMER CHIEFS SOME 13 YEARS OR SO LATER .
THE VIEW OF MANY IS THAT WE SHOULD HAVE LEFT SADDAM HUSSAIN’S IRAQI REGIME TO RULE IT’S OWN COUNTRY AS THEY FELT FIT TO DO SO . .
TO A GREAT MANY ….A SEEMINGLY COSTLY AND POINTLESS WAR AGAINST A CULTURE AND RELIGION THAT MOST OF THE WESTERN WORLD DO NOT UNDERSTAND AND YET HAVE SEEMED FIT TO INTERFERE IN.
THIS HAVING RESULTED IN A TRAGIC LOSS OF A GREAT MANY LIVES ON ALL SIDES. MANY ARGUE THAT WE SHOULD NEVER HAVE GOT INVOLVED IN THIS EQUALLY SEEMINGLY NEVER ENDING WAR?
Above from left: ORIGINAL STAR WARS FILM POSTER ADVERITISING “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” PICTURED HERE ALONGSIDE SADDAM HUSSEIN’S INFAMOUS “HANDS OF VICTORY ” MONUMENTS AT THE GATEWAYS TO BAGHDAD , IRAQ
Fedayeen Saddam (فدائيي صدام) was a paramilitary organization loyal to the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. The name was chosen to mean “Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice”. At its height, the group had 30,000-40,000 members.
BELOW: THE ORIGINAL STAR WARS DARTH VADER HELMET ALONG SIDE AN ORIGINAL FEDAYEEN SADDAM ( SADDAM’S MEN OF SACRIFICE ) HELMET . THEY CERTAINLY MIRROR EACH OTHER AS WAS UDAY HUSSEIN’S WISH
BELOW ARE VARIOUS INFORMATIVE AND INTERACTIVE ILLUSTRATIONS AS FEATURED HERE ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL , UK
ABOVE IS A SLIDESHOW OF SOME OF THE FEDAYEEN SADDAM ( SADDAM’S “MEN OF SACRIFCE”) UNIFORM AND OTHER ASSOCIATED EXHIBIT ITEMS ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL .
The Fedayeen Saddam was not part of Iraq‘s regular armed forces but rather operated as a paramilitary unit of irregular forces. As a result of this, the Fedayeen reported directly to the Presidential Palace, rather than through the military chain of command. Whilst paramilitary the Fedayeen were not an elite military force, often receiving just basic training and operating without heavy weapons. In this they were somewhat similar to the Basij of Iran or Shabbiha militia of Syria.
Much like other paramilitaries, the Fedayeen was volunteer based and the units were never given an official salary. As a result, most of the members resorted to extortion and theft of property from the general population, even though the members had access to sanction-evading trade and high quality services (i.e. new cars, hospitals reserved for officials, expensive electronics) and a general standard of living considerably higher than that of the average Iraqi of the time.However, they were ordered not to threaten or harm any government officials. This group wasn’t religious or anything so it had a mix of sunni and Shia minority.
ORIGINAL FEDAYEEN SADDAM UNIFORM ON DISPLAY AT THE JAIL
ORIGINAL FEDAYEEN SADDAM UNIFORM ON DISPLAY AT THE JAIL
The Fedayeen were among the most loyal organizations to the government of Saddam Hussein and were a politically reliable force against domestic opponents. The Fedayeen played a role in the 2003 war, resisting the American invasion.
BELOW: An original oil painting depicting notorious ISIS Executioner “Jihadi John” unmasked .
BELOW: An original oil painting depicting notorious ISIS Executioner “The Bulldozer ” unmasked .
The secret to ISIS’s success: Over 100 former Saddam Hussein-era officers run jihadi group’s military and intelligence operations in Iraq and Syria
Intelligence source said 100 to 160 former Iraqi army officers with ISIS
The 2003 US led invasion of Iraq led Saddam Hussein to allow foreign fighters to join the resistance against the invaders
ISIS’s deputy leader Abu Muslim al-Turkmani was an Iraqi army major
Once part of one of the most brutal dictator’s army in the Middle East, over 100 former members of Saddam Hussein’s military and intelligence officers are now part of ISIS.
Now they make up the complex network of ISIS’s leadership, helping to build the military strategies which have led the brutal jihadi group to their military gains in Syria and Iraq.
The officers gave ISIS the organization and discipline it needed to weld together jihadi fighters drawn from across the globe, integrating terror tactics like suicide bombings with military operations.
Self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the formation of an Islamic Caliphate in June 2014
While attending the Iraqi army’s artillery school nearly 20 years ago, Ali Omran remembers one major well. An Islamic hard-liner, he once chided Omran for wearing an Iraqi flag pin into the bathroom because it included the words ‘God is great.’
‘It is forbidden by religion to bring the name of the Almighty into a defiled place like this,’ Omran recalled being told by Maj. Taha Taher al-Ani.
Omran didn’t see al-Ani again until years later, in 2003. The Americans had invaded Iraq and were storming toward Baghdad. Saddam Hussein’s fall was imminent.
At a sprawling military base north of the capital, al-Ani was directing the loading of weapons, ammunition and ordnance into trucks to spirit away. He took those weapons with him when he joined Tawhid wa’l-Jihad, a forerunner of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq.
Now al-Ani is a commander in the Islamic State group, said Omran, who rose to become a major general in the Iraqi army and now commands its 5th Division fighting IS.
He kept track of his former comrade through Iraq’s tribal networks and intelligence gathered by the government’s main counter terrorism service, of which he is a member.
One of the most prominent former Iraqi Army generals within ISIS was Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (left) who led the terrorists’ operations in Iraq until he was killed in an American airstrike last November. Abu Ayman al-Iraqi (right), a former colonel in Iraqi Air Force intelligence now plays a leading role in ISIS’ military council
Tyrant: Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein built his regime and cult of personality through his use of fear
Deadly: Foreign fighters have flocked from around the world, attracted by the brutal group’s propaganda
They have been put in charge of intelligence-gathering, spying on the Iraqi forces as well as maintaining and upgrading weapons and trying to develop a chemical weapons program.
Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer who has served in Iraq, said Saddam-era military and intelligence officers were a ‘necessary ingredient’ in the Islamic State group’s stunning battlefield successes last year, accounting for its transformation from a ‘terrorist organization to a proto-state.’
‘Their military successes last year were not terrorist, they were military successes,’ said Skinner, now director of special projects for The Soufan Group, a private strategic intelligence services firm.
The group’s second-in-command, al-Baghdadi’s deputy, is a former Saddam-era army major, Saud Mohsen Hassan, known by the pseudonyms Abu Mutazz and Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, according to the intelligence chief.
Hassan also goes by Fadel al-Hayali, a fake name he used before the fall of Saddam, the intelligence chief, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.
Targeted: Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi (left) – who had been the head of Baghdadi’s four man military council – was killed by a coalition warplane last year. Another militant reportedly killed in an airstrike was Abu Hajar Al-Sufi (right) who had been one of Baghdadi’s most trusted advisers on the Shura Council
US soldiers and Iraqi civilians pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein at the start of the 2003 Iraq War
ISIS’s strength of ideology in vowing to maintain an Islamic state governed by Shari’ah law, has attracted considerable support from Islamists
During the 2000s, Hassan was imprisoned in the notorious U.S.-run Bucca prison camp, the main detention center for members of the Sunni insurgency, where al-Baghdadi also was held.
The prison was a significant incubator for the Islamic State group, bringing militants like al-Baghdadi into contact with former Saddam officers, including members of special forces, the elite Republican Guard and the paramilitary force called Fedayeen.
In Bucca’s Ward 6, al-Baghdadi gave sermons and Hassan emerged as an effective organizer, leading strikes by the prisoners to gain concessions from their American jailers, the intelligence chief said.
Former Bucca prisoners are now throughout the IS leadership. Among them is Abu Alaa al-Afari, a veteran Iraqi militant who was once with al-Qaida and now serves as the head of IS’s ‘Beit al-Mal,’ or treasury, according to a chart of what is believed to be the group’s hierarchy provided to the AP by the intelligence chief.
Al-Baghdadi has drawn these trusted comrades even closer after he was wounded in an airstrike earlier this year, the intelligence chief said.
He has appointed a number of them to the group’s Military Council, believed to have seven to nine members – at least four of whom are former Saddam officers. He brought other former Bucca inmates into his inner circle and personal security.
Saddam-era veterans also serve as ‘governors’ for seven of the 12 ‘provinces’ set up by the Islamic State group in the territory it holds in Iraq, the intelligence chief said.
Iraqi officials acknowledge that identifying IS leadership is an uncertain task. Besides al-Baghdadi himself, the group almost never makes public even the pseudonyms of those in its hierarchy.
When leaders are killed, it’s often not known who takes their place – and several have been reported killed multiple times, only to turn up alive. Figures are believed to take on new pseudonyms, leaving it unclear if a new one has emerged or not.
Brutal: ISIS continue to carry out horrific public executions and floggings in Syria and Iraq
Gunned down: Iraqi army recruits were executed in the Speicher massacre last summer
No mercy: The militants have targeted religious minorities, particularly the Yazidis and rebellious tribes
‘IS’s military performance has far exceeded what we expected. The running of battles by the veterans of the Saddam military came as a shock,’ a brigadier general in military intelligence told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic.
‘Security-wise, we are often left unable to know who replaces who in the leadership. We are unable to infiltrate the group. It is terrifying.’
Estimates of the number of Saddam-era veterans in IS ranks vary from 100 to 160 in mostly mid- and senior-level positions, according to the officials.
Typically, they hail from Sunni-dominated areas, with intelligence officers mostly from western Anbar province, the majority of army officers from the northern city of Mosul and members of security services exclusively from Saddam’s clan around his hometown of Tikrit, said Big. Gen. Abdul-Wahhab al-Saadi, a veteran of battles against IS north and west of Baghdad.
For example, a former brigadier general from Saddam-era special forces, Assem Mohammed Nasser, also known as Nagahy Barakat, led a bold assault in 2014 on Haditha in Anbar province, killing around 25 policemen and briefly taking over the local government building.
Many of the Saddam-era officers have close tribal links to or are the sons of tribal leaders in their regions, giving IS a vital support network as well as helping recruitment.
These tribal ties are thought to account, at least in part, for the stunning meltdown of Iraqi security forces when IS captured the Anbar capital of Ramadi in May.
Several of the officers interviewed by the AP said they believe IS commanders persuaded fellow tribesmen in the security forces to abandon their positions without a fight.
Skinner, the former CIA officer, noted the sophistication of the Saddam-era intelligence officers he met in Iraq and the intelligence capabilities of IS in Ramadi, Mosul and in the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.
‘They do classic intelligence infiltration. They have stay-behind cells, they actually literally have sleeper cells,’ Skinner said.
The process of giving former Iraqi commanders senior roles was started by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (left) who was a former Iraqi Army officer nother former member of Saddam Hussein’s army turned ISIS commander, Abu Musa al-Alwani (right), has also been killed
Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province in 2014
Bleek future: With their black flags and military gear, the new ISIS recruits graduate in Deir ezzor
‘And they do classic assassinations, which depends on intelligence,’ he said, citing a wave of assassinations in 2013 that targeted Iraqi police, army, hostile tribal leaders and members of a government-backed Sunni militia known as Sahwa.
In the run-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Saddam publicly invited foreign mujahedeen to come to Iraq to resist the invaders.
Thousands came and Iraqi officials showed them off to the media as they were trained by Iraqi instructors. Many stayed, eventually joining the insurgency against American troops and their Iraqi allies.
After the collapse of the Saddam regime, hundreds of Iraqi army officers, infuriated by the U.S. decision to disband the Iraqi army, found their calling in the Sunni insurgency. In its early stages, many insurgent groups were relatively secular.
But Islamic militants grew in prominence, particularly with the creation and increasing strength of al-Qaida in Iraq. Some Sunnis were radicalized by bitterness against the Shiite majority, which rose to power after Saddam’s fall and which the Sunnis accuse of discriminating against them.
Al-Qaida in Iraq was initially led by a Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and had a strong foreign presence in its leadership. But after al-Zarqawi’s death in a 2006 U.S. airstrike, his Iraqi successor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, began to bring in more Iraqis, particularly former Saddam officers. That process was accelerated when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took over after his predecessor was killed in a 2010 airstrike.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s first two deputies, who each played a major role in setting up what would become its sweep over Syria and Iraq, were both Saddam-era officers, according to those interviewed by the AP.
They were Sameer al-Khalifawy, an air force colonel killed in fighting in Syria in 2014, and Abdullah el-Bilawy, a former intelligence officer who was killed in Mosul by the Iraqi military in May 2014, a month before the city fell to the Islamic State group. He was replaced by the current deputy, Hassan.
‘It’s clear that some of these (Saddam-era officers) must have been inside the core of the jihadist movement in the Sunni triangle from the beginning,’ said Michael W.S. Ryan, a former senior executive at the State Department and Pentagon, referring to the Sunni-dominated area that was the most hostile to American forces in Iraq.
‘Their knowledge is now in the DNA of ISIS,’ he said, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.
‘This melding of the Iraqi experience and what we might call the Afghan Arab experience became the unique ISIS brand,’ said Ryan, now a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.
‘That brand ultimately became more successful in Iraq than al-Qaida in Iraq … and, at least for now, stronger in Syria than al-Qaida.’
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A BRUTAL TYRANT – SADDAM HUSSEIN …..
A GREAT MANY WOULD SAY AND FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT SADDAM HUSSEIN SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DEPOSED BY INTERFERING WESTERN POLITICAL LEADERS AND SHOULD HAVE REMAINED IN POWER ???
POLITE WARNING… WE ARE PREDOMINANTLY A HISTORICAL AND HOPEFULLY EDUCATIONAL MUSEUM OF CRIME, SLEAZE, SCANDAL AND THE TABOO ….THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION, HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN OR THOSE EASILY DISTURBED OR OF A SENSITIVE NATURE ….
TRUE CRIME MURDERABILIA, MAIMERABILIA, DISMALABILIA AND MUCH MORE HERE AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION , LITTLEDEAN JAIL, FOREST OF DEAN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK .
ON DISPLAY WE HAVE A VAST ARRAY OF TRUE CRIME RELATED MEMORABILIA ITEMS COVERING MANY OF THE WORLDS MOST EVIL MEN AND WOMEN, TYRANTS, WARLORD, SERIAL KILLERS, GANGSTERS, CRIMINALS, ETC.
A UNIQUE PRIVATE COLLECTION LIKE NO OTHER
BELOW IS THE GENUINE ORIGINAL TOILET SEAT REMOVED FROM SADDAM HUSSEIN’S BASRA PRESIDENTIAL PALACE AT THE TIME OF LIBERATION IN 2003 BY NEWS OF THE WORLD REPORTER CHRIS BUXTON WHO WAS THERE WITH THE UK’S DESERT RATS ON 7 APRIL 2003 . THIS NOW ON DISPLAY HERE AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION , LITTLEDEAN JAIL
Below : News Of The World Journalist Chris Buxton pictured at Saddam Hussein’s Basra Palace in Iraq inside the toilet area
BELOW: CLOSE UP OF SADDAM’S TOILET SEAT, UNDOUBTEDLY USED BY SADDAM AND HIS ROYAL FAMILY ON A GREAT MANY OCCASSIONS PRIOR TO THE LIBERATION OF IRAQ AND HIS SUBSEQUENT CAPTURE IN 2003
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (Arabic: صدام حسين عبد المجيد التكريتي Ṣaddām Ḥusayn ʿAbd al-Maǧīd al-Tikrītī; 28 April 1937 – 30 December 2006) was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Iraqi Ba’ath Party, which espoused a mix of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to long-term power of Iraq.
As vice president under the ailing General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, and at a time when many groups were considered capable of overthrowing the government, Saddam created security forces through which he tightly controlled conflict between the government and the armed forces. In the early 1970s, Saddam nationalized oil and other industries. The state-owned banks were put under his control, leaving the system eventually insolvent. Through the 1970s, Saddam cemented his authority over the apparatuses of government as oil money helped Iraq’s economy to grow at a rapid pace. Positions of power in the country were filled with Sunnis, a minority that made up only a fifth of the population.
Saddam suppressed several movements, particularly Shi’a and Kurdish movements seeking to overthrow the government or gain independence, respectively. Saddam maintained power during the Iran–Iraq War of 1980 through 1988. In 1990 he invaded and looted Kuwait. An international coalition came to free Kuwait in the Gulf War of 1991, but did not end Saddam’s rule. Whereas some venerated him for his aggressive stance against Israel, including firing missiles at Israeli targets, he was widely condemned for the brutality of his dictatorship.
In March 2003, a coalition of countries led by the U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq to depose Saddam, controversially citing his weapons of mass destruction and terror links. Saddam’s Ba’ath party was disbanded and the nation made a transition to a democratic system. Following his capture on 13 December 2003 (inOperation Red Dawn), the trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi interim government. On 5 November 2006, he was convicted of charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites and was sentenced to death by hanging. The execution of Saddam Hussein was carried out on 30 December 2006.
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was born in the town of Al-Awja, 13 km (8 mi) from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, to a family of shepherds from the al-Begat tribal group, a sub-group of the Al-Bu Nasir (البو ناصر) tribe. His mother, Subha Tulfah al-Mussallat, named her newborn son Saddam, which in Arabicmeans “One who confronts”; he is always referred to by this personal name, which may be followed by the patronymic and other elements. He never knew his father, Hussein ‘Abid al-Majid, who disappeared six months before Saddam was born. Shortly afterward, Saddam’s 13-year-old brother died of cancer. The infant Saddam was sent to the family of his maternal uncle Khairallah Talfah until he was three.Youth
His mother remarried, and Saddam gained three half-brothers through this marriage. His stepfather, Ibrahim al-Hassan, treated Saddam harshly after his return. At about age 10, Saddam fled the family and returned to live in Baghdad with his uncle Kharaillah Tulfah. Tulfah, the father of Saddam’s future wife, was a devout Sunni Muslim and a veteran from the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War between Iraqi nationalists and the United Kingdom, which remained a major colonial power in the region. Later in his life relatives from his native Tikrit became some of his closest advisors and supporters. Under the guidance of his uncle he attended a nationalistic high school in Baghdad. After secondary school Saddam studied at an Iraqi law school for three years, dropping out in 1957 at the age of 20 to join the revolutionary pan-Arab Ba’ath Party, of which his uncle was a supporter. During this time, Saddam apparently supported himself as a secondary school teacher.
Revolutionary sentiment was characteristic of the era in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. In Iraq progressives and socialists assailed traditional political elites (colonial era bureaucrats and landowners, wealthy merchants and tribal chiefs, monarchists). Moreover, the pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt profoundly influenced young Ba’athists like Saddam. The rise of Nasser foreshadowed a wave of revolutions throughout the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s, with the collapse of the monarchies of Iraq, Egypt, and Libya. Nasser inspired nationalists throughout the Middle East by fighting the British and the French during the Suez Crisis of 1956, modernizing Egypt, and uniting the Arab world politically.
In 1958, a year after Saddam had joined the Ba’ath party, army officers led by General Abd al-Karim Qasim overthrew Faisal II of Iraq. The Ba’athists opposed the new government, and in 1959 Saddam was involved in the unsuccessful United States-backed plot to assassinate Qasim.
Rise to power
Army officers with ties to the Ba’ath Party overthrew Qasim in a coup in 1963. Ba’athist leaders were appointed to the cabinet and Abdul Salam Arif became president. Arif dismissed and arrested the Ba’athist leaders later that year. Saddam returned to Iraq, but was imprisoned in 1964. Just prior to his imprisonment and until 1968, Saddam held the position of Ba’ath party secretary. He escaped from prison in 1967 and quickly became a leading member of the party. In 1968, Saddam participated in a bloodless coup led by Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr that overthrew Abdul Rahman Arif. Al-Bakr was named president and Saddam was named his deputy, and deputy chairman of the Baathist Revolutionary Command Council. According to biographers, Saddam never forgot the tensions within the first Ba’athist government, which formed the basis for his measures to promote Ba’ath party unity as well as his resolve to maintain power and programs to ensure social stability.
Iraq was a strategic buffer state for the United States against the Soviet Union, and Saddam was often seen as an anti-Soviet leader in the 1960s and 1970s. Some even suggested that John F. Kennedy’s administration supported the Ba’ath party’s takeover. Although Saddam was al-Bakr’s deputy, he was a strong behind-the-scenes party politician. Al-Bakr was the older and more prestigious of the two, but by 1969 Saddam Hussein clearly had become the moving force behind the party.
Promoting women’s literacy and education in the 1970s
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, formally the al-Bakr’s second-in-command, Saddam built a reputation as a progressive, effective politician. At this time, Saddam moved up the ranks in the new government by aiding attempts to strengthen and unify the Ba’ath party and taking a leading role in addressing the country’s major domestic problems and expanding the party’s following.
After the Baathists took power in 1968, Saddam focused on attaining stability in a nation riddled with profound tensions. Long before Saddam, Iraq had been split along social, ethnic, religious, and economic fault lines: Sunni versus Shi’ite, Arab versus Kurd, tribal chief versus urban merchant, nomad versus peasant. Stable rule in a country rife with factionalism required[dubious – discuss] both massive repression and the improvement of living standards.
Saddam actively fostered the modernization of the Iraqi economy along with the creation of a strong security apparatus to prevent coups within the power structure and insurrections apart from it. Ever concerned with broadening his base of support among the diverse elements of Iraqi society and mobilizing mass support, he closely followed the administration of state welfare and development programs.
At the center of this strategy was Iraq’s oil. On 1 June 1972, Saddam oversaw the seizure of international oil interests, which, at the time, dominated the country’s oil sector. A year later, world oil prices rose dramatically as a result of the 1973 energy crisis, and skyrocketing revenues enabled Saddam to expand his agenda.
Within just a few years, Iraq was providing social services that were unprecedented among Middle Eastern countries. Saddam established and controlled the “National Campaign for the Eradication of Illiteracy” and the campaign for “Compulsory Free Education in Iraq,” and largely under his auspices, the government established universal free schooling up to the highest education levels; hundreds of thousands learned to read in the years following the initiation of the program. The government also supported families of soldiers, granted free hospitalization to everyone, and gave subsidies to farmers. Iraq created one of the most modernized public-health systems in the Middle East, earning Saddam an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO).
With the help of increasing oil revenues, Saddam diversified the largely oil-based Iraqi economy. Saddam implemented a national infrastructure campaign that made great progress in building roads, promoting mining, and developing other industries. The campaign helped Iraq’s energy industries. Electricity was brought to nearly every city in Iraq, and many outlying areas.
Before the 1970s, most of Iraq’s people lived in the countryside and roughly two-thirds were peasants. This number would decrease quickly during the 1970s as global oil prices helped revenues to rise from less than a half billion dollars to tens of billions of dollars and the country invested into industrial expansion.
Saddam was lucky for the revenue. The Economist described the sentiments, stating that “Much as Adolf Hitler won early praise for galvanising German industry, ending mass unemployment and building autobahns, Saddam earned admiration abroad for his deeds. He had a good instinct for what the “Arab street” demanded, following the decline in Egyptian leadership brought about by the trauma of Israel’s six-day victory in the 1967 war, the death of the pan-Arabist hero, Gamal Abdul Nasser, in 1970, and the “traitorous” drive by his successor, Anwar Sadat, to sue for peace with the Jewish state. Saddam’s self-aggrandising propaganda, with himself posing as the defender of Arabism against Jewish or Persian intruders, was heavy-handed, but consistent as a drumbeat. It helped, of course, that his mukhabarat (secret police) put dozens of Arab news editors, writers and artists on the payroll.”
In 1972 Saddam started developing his chemical weapons program. In 1973 he signed a 15-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union.
Saddam focused on fostering loyalty to the Ba’athists in the rural areas. After nationalizing foreign oil interests, Saddam supervised the modernization of the countryside, mechanizing agriculture on a large scale, and distributing land to peasant farmers. The Ba’athists established farm cooperatives and the government also doubled expenditures for agricultural development in 1974–1975. Saddam’s welfare programs were part of a combination of “carrot and stick” tactics to enhance support for Saddam. The state-owned banks were put under his thumb. Lending was based on cronyism
Development went forward at such a fevered pitch that two million people from other Arab countries and even Yugoslavia worked in Iraq to meet the growing demand for labor.
In 1976, Saddam rose to the position of general in the Iraqi armed forces, and rapidly became the strongman of the government. As the ailing, elderly al-Bakr became unable to execute his duties, Saddam took on an increasingly prominent role as the face of the government both internally and externally. He soon became the architect of Iraq’s foreign policy and represented the nation in all diplomatic situations. He was the de facto leader of Iraq some years before he formally came to power in 1979. He slowly began to consolidate his power over Iraq’s government and the Ba’ath party. Relationships with fellow party members were carefully cultivated, and Saddam soon accumulated a powerful circle of support within the party.
In 1979 al-Bakr started to make treaties with Syria, also under Ba’athist leadership, that would lead to unification between the two countries. Syrian President Hafez al-Assad would become deputy leader in a union, and this would drive Saddam to obscurity. Saddam acted to secure his grip on power. He forced the ailing al-Bakr to resign on 16 July 1979, and formally assumed the presidency.
Shortly afterwards, he convened an assembly of Ba’ath party leaders on 22 July 1979. During the assembly, which he ordered videotaped (viewable via this reference), Saddam claimed to have found a fifth column within the Ba’ath Party and directed Muhyi Abdel-Hussein to read out a confession and the names of 68 alleged co-conspirators. These members were labelled “disloyal” and were removed from the room one by one and taken into custody. After the list was read, Saddam congratulated those still seated in the room for their past and future loyalty. The 68 people arrested at the meeting were subsequently tried together and found guilty of treason. 22 were sentenced to execution. Other high-ranking members of the party formed the firing squad. By 1 August 1979, hundreds of high-ranking Ba’ath party members had been executed.
Saddam was notable for terror against his own people. The Economist described Saddam as “one of the last of the 20th century’s great dictators, but not the least in terms of egotism, or cruelty, or morbid will to power”.
The New York Times described in its obituary how Saddam “murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends on friends, circles within circles — making an entire population complicit in his rule”. Others have estimated 800,000 deaths caused by Saddam not counting the Iran-Iraq war. Estimates as to the number of Iraqis executed by Saddam’s regime vary from 300–500,000 to over 600,000, estimates as to the number of Kurds he massacred vary from 70,000 to 300,000, and estimates as to the number killed in the put-down of the 1991 rebellion vary from 60,000 to 200,000. Estimates for the number of dead in the Iran-Iraq war range upwards from 300,000.
Iraqi society is divided along lines of language, religion and ethnicity; Saddam’s government rested on the support of the 20% minority of Sunnis. The Ba’ath Party was increasingly concerned about potential Shi’a Islamist influence following the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The Kurds of northern Iraq (who are Sunni, but not Arabs) were also permanently hostile to the Ba’athist party’s pan-Arabism. To maintain power Saddam tended either to provide them with benefits so as to co-opt them into the regime, or to take repressive measures against them. The major instruments for accomplishing this control were the paramilitary and police organizations. Beginning in 1974, Taha Yassin Ramadan (himself a Kurd Baathist), a close associate of Saddam, commanded the People’s Army, which was responsible for internal security. As the Ba’ath Party’s paramilitary, the People’s Army acted as a counterweight against any coup attempts by the regular armed forces. In addition to the People’s Army, the Department of General Intelligence (Mukhabarat) was the most notorious arm of the state security system, feared for its use of torture and assassination. It was commanded by Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam’s younger half-brother. Since 1982, foreign observers believed that this department operated both at home and abroad in their mission to seek out and eliminate Saddam’s perceived opponents.
As a sign of his consolidation of power, Saddam’s personality cult pervaded Iraqi society. Thousands of portraits, posters, statues and murals were erected in his honor all over Iraq. His face could be seen on the sides of office buildings, schools, airports, and shops, as well as on Iraqi currency. Saddam’s personality cult reflected his efforts to appeal to the various elements in Iraqi society. He appeared in the costumes of the Bedouin, the traditional clothes of the Iraqi peasant (which he essentially wore during his childhood), and even Kurdish clothing, but also appeared in Western suits, projecting the image of an urbane and modern leader. Sometimes he would also be portrayed as a devout Muslim, wearing full headdress and robe, praying toward Mecca.
He erected statues around the country, which Iraqis toppled after his fall.
Iraq’s relations with the Arab world have been extremely varied. Relations between Iraq and Egypt violently ruptured in 1977, when the two nations broke relations with each other following Iraq’s criticism of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat‘s peace initiatives with Israel. In 1978, Baghdad hosted an Arab League summit that condemned and ostracized Egypt for accepting the Camp David accords. However, Egypt’s strong material and diplomatic support for Iraq in the war with Iran led to warmer relations and numerous contacts between senior officials, despite the continued absence of ambassadorial-level representation. Since 1983, Iraq has repeatedly called for restoration of Egypt’s “natural role” among Arab countries.
Saddam developed a reputation for liking expensive goods, such as his diamond-coated Rolex wristwatch, and sent copies of them to his friends around the world. To his ally Kenneth Kaunda Saddam once sent a Boeing 747 full of presents — rugs, televisions, ornaments. Kaunda sent back his own personal magician.
Saddam had close relationship with Russian intelligence agent Yevgeny Primakov and apparently Primakov helped Saddam to stay in power in 1991.
Several Iraqi leaders, Lebanese arms merchant Sarkis Soghanalian and others have told that Saddam financed Chirac’s party. In 1991 Saddam threatened to expose those who had taken largasse from him: “From Mr. Chirac to Mr. Chevènement, politicians and economic leaders were in open competition to spend time with us and flatter us. We have now grasped the reality of the situation. If the trickery continues, we will be forced to unmask them, all of them, before the French public.” France armed Saddam and it was Iraq’s largest trade partner throughout Saddam’s rule. Seized documents show how French officials and businessmen close to Chirac, including Charles Pasqua, his former interior minister, personally benefitted from the deals with Saddam.
Because that Saddam Hussein rarely left Iraq, Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam’s aides, traveled abroad extensively and represented Iraq at many diplomatic meetings. In foreign affairs, Saddam sought to have Iraq play a leading role in the Middle East. Iraq signed an aid pact with the Soviet Union in 1972, and arms were sent along with several thousand advisers. However, the 1978 crackdown on Iraqi Communists and a shift of trade toward the West strained Iraqi relations with the Soviet Union; Iraq then took on a more Western orientation until the Gulf War in 1991.
After the oil crisis of 1973, France had changed to a more pro-Arab policy and was accordingly rewarded by Saddam with closer ties. He made a state visit to France in 1975, cementing close ties with some French business and ruling political circles. In 1975 Saddam negotiated an accord with Iran that contained Iraqi concessions on border disputes. In return, Iran agreed to stop supporting opposition Kurds in Iraq. Saddam led Arab opposition to the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel (1979).
Saddam initiated Iraq’s nuclear enrichment project in the 1980s, with French assistance. The first Iraqi nuclear reactor was named by the French “Osirak“. Osirak was destroyed on 7 June 1981 by an Israeli air strike (Operation Opera).
Nearly from its founding as a modern state in 1920, Iraq has had to deal with Kurdish separatists in the northern part of the country. Saddam did negotiate an agreement in 1970 with separatist Kurdish leaders, giving them autonomy, but the agreement broke down. The result was brutal fighting between the government and Kurdish groups and even Iraqi bombing of Kurdish villages in Iran, which caused Iraqi relations with Iran to deteriorate. However, after Saddam had negotiated the 1975 treaty with Iran, the Shah withdrew support for the Kurds, who suffered a total defeat.
In early 1979, Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution, thus giving way to an Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The influence of revolutionary Shi’ite Islam grew apace in the region, particularly in countries with large Shi’ite populations, especially Iraq. Saddam feared that radical Islamic ideas — hostile to his secular rule — were rapidly spreading inside his country among the majority Shi’ite population.
There had also been bitter enmity between Saddam and Khomeini since the 1970s. Khomeini, having been exiled from Iran in 1964, took up residence in Iraq, at the Shi’ite holy city of An Najaf. There he involved himself with Iraqi Shi’ites and developed a strong, worldwide religious and political following against the Iranian Government, whom Saddam tolerated. However, when Khomeini began to urge the Shi’ites there to overthrow Saddam and under pressure from the Shah, who had agreed to a rapprochement between Iraq and Iran in 1975, Saddam agreed to expel Khomeini in 1978 to France. However this turned out to be an imminent failure and a political catalyst, for Khomeini had access to more media connections and also collaborated with a much larger Iranian community under his support whom he used to his advantage.
After Khomeini gained power, skirmishes between Iraq and revolutionary Iran occurred for ten months over the sovereignty of the disputed Shatt al-Arabwaterway, which divides the two countries. During this period, Saddam Hussein publicly maintained that it was in Iraq’s interest not to engage with Iran, and that it was in the interests of both nations to maintain peaceful relations. However, in a private meeting with Salah Omar Al-Ali, Iraq’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations, he revealed that he intended to invade and occupy a large part of Iran within months. Later (probably to appeal for support from the United States and most Western nations), he would make toppling the Islamic government one of his intentions as well. Iraq invaded Iran, first attackingMehrabad Airport of Tehran and then entering the oil-rich Iranian land of Khuzestan, which also has a sizable Arab minority, on 22 September 1980 and declared it a new province of Iraq. With the support of the Arab states, the United States, and Europe, and heavily financed by the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Saddam Hussein had become “the defender of the Arab world” against a revolutionary Iran. The only exception was The Soviet Union, who initially refused to supply Iraq on the basis of Neutrality in the conflict, although in his memoirs, Mikhail Gorbachev claimed that Leonid Brezhnev refused to aid Saddam over infuriation of Saddam’s treatment of Iraqi Communists. Consequently, many viewed Iraq as “an agent of the civilized world”. The blatant disregard of international law and violations of international borders were ignored. Instead Iraq received economic and military support from its allies, who conveniently overlooked Saddam’s use of chemical warfare against the Kurds and the Iranians and Iraq’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
In the first days of the war, there was heavy ground fighting around strategic ports as Iraq launched an attack on Khuzestan. After making some initial gains, Iraq’s troops began to suffer losses from human wave attacks by Iran. By 1982, Iraq was on the defensive and looking for ways to end the war.
At this point, Saddam asked his ministers for candid advice. Health Minister Dr. Riyadh Ibrahim suggested that Saddam temporarily step down to promote peace negotiations. Initially, Saddam Hussein appeared to take in this opinion as part of his cabinet democracy. A few weeks later, Dr. Ibrahim was sacked when held responsible for a fatal incident in an Iraqi hospital where a patient died from intravenous administration of the wrong concentration of potassium supplement.
Dr. Ibrahim was arrested a few days after he started his new life as a sacked Minister. He was known to have publicly declared before that arrest that he was “glad that he got away alive.” Pieces of Ibrahim’s dismembered body were delivered to his wife the next day.
Iraq quickly found itself bogged down in one of the longest and most destructive wars of attrition of the twentieth century. During the war, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces fighting on the southern front and Kurdish separatists who were attempting to open up a northern front in Iraq with the help of Iran. These chemical weapons were developed by Iraq from materials and technology supplied primarily by West German companies as well as  theReagan administration of the United States which also supplied Iraq with “satellite photos showing Iranian deployments” and advised Hussein to bomb civilian targets in Tehran and other Iranian cities. France sold 25 billion dollars worth arms to Saddam.
Saddam reached out to other Arab governments for cash and political support during the war, particularly after Iraq’s oil industry severely suffered at the hands of the Iranian navy in the Persian Gulf. Iraq successfully gained some military and financial aid, as well as diplomatic and moral support, from the Soviet Union, China, France, and the United States, which together feared the prospects of the expansion of revolutionary Iran’s influence in the region. The Iranians, demanding that the international community should force Iraq to pay war reparations to Iran, refused any suggestions for a cease-fire. Despite several calls for a ceasefire by the United Nations Security Council, hostilities continued until 20 August 1988.
On 16 March 1988, the Kurdish town of Halabja was attacked with a mix of mustard gas and nerve agents, killing 5,000 civilians, and maiming, disfiguring, or seriously debilitating 10,000 more. (see Halabja poison gas attack) The attack occurred in conjunction with the 1988 al-Anfal campaign designed to reassert central control of the mostly Kurdish population of areas of northern Iraq and defeat the Kurdish peshmerga rebel forces. The United States now maintains that Saddam ordered the attack to terrorize the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, but Saddam’s regime claimed at the time that Iran was responsible for the attack which some including the U.S. supported until several years later. (See also Halabja poison gas attack.)
The bloody eight-year war ended in a stalemate. There were hundreds of thousands of casualties with estimates of up to one million dead. Neither side had achieved what they had originally desired and at the borders were left nearly unchanged. The southern, oil rich and prosperous Khuzestan and Basra area (the main focus of the war, and the primary source of their economies) were almost completely destroyed and were left at the pre 1979 border, while Iran managed to make some small gains on its borders in the Northern Kurdish area. Both economies, previously healthy and expanding, were left in ruins.
Saddam borrowed tens of billions of dollars from other Arab states and a few billions from elsewhere during the 1980s to fight Iran, mainly to prevent the expansion of Shiite radicalism. However, this had proven to completely backfire both on Iraq and on the part of the Arab states, for Khomeini was widely perceived as a hero for managing to defend Iran and maintain the war with little foreign support against the heavily backed Iraq and only managed to boost Islamic radicalism not only within the Arab states, but within Iraq itself, creating new tensions between the Sunni Baath Party and the majority Shiite population. Faced with rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure and internal resistance, Saddam desperately sought out cash once again, this time for postwar reconstruction.
Tensions with Kuwait
The end of the war with Iran served to deepen latent tensions between Iraq and its wealthy neighbor Kuwait. Saddam urged the Kuwaitis to forgive the Iraqi debt accumulated in the war, some $30 billion, but they refused.
Saddam pushed oil-exporting countries to raise oil prices by cutting back production; Kuwait refused, however. In addition to refusing the request, Kuwait spearheaded the opposition in OPEC to the cuts that Saddam had requested. Kuwait was pumping large amounts of oil, and thus keeping prices low, when Iraq needed to sell high-priced oil from its wells to pay off a huge debt.
Saddam had always argued that Kuwait was historically an integral part of Iraq, and that Kuwait had only come into being through the maneuverings of British imperialism; this echoed a belief that Iraqi nationalists had voiced for the past 50 years. This belief was one of the few articles of faith uniting the political scene in a nation rife with sharp social, ethnic, religious, and ideological divides.
The extent of Kuwaiti oil reserves also intensified tensions in the region. The oil reserves of Kuwait (with a population of 2 million next to Iraq’s 25) were roughly equal to those of Iraq. Taken together, Iraq and Kuwait sat on top of some 20 percent of the world’s known oil reserves; as an article of comparison, Saudi Arabia holds 25 percent.
Saddam complained to the U.S. State Department that Kuwait had slant drilled oil out of wells that Iraq considered to be within its disputed border with Kuwait. Saddam still had an experienced and well-equipped army, which he used to influence regional affairs. He later ordered troops to the Iraq–Kuwait border.
As Iraq-Kuwait relations rapidly deteriorated, Saddam was receiving conflicting information about how the U.S. would respond to the prospects of an invasion. For one, Washington had been taking measures to cultivate a constructive relationship with Iraq for roughly a decade. The Reagan administration gave Saddam roughly $40 billion in aid in the 1980s to fight Iran, nearly all of it on credit. The U.S. also gave Saddam billions of dollars to keep him from forming a strong alliance with the Soviets. Saddam’s Iraq became “the third-largest recipient of U.S. assistance”.
U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met with Saddam in an emergency meeting on 25 July 1990, where the Iraqi leader stated his intention to give negotiations only… one more brief chance before forcing Iraq’s claims on Kuwait. U.S. officials attempted to maintain a conciliatory line with Iraq, indicating that while George H. W. Bush and James Baker did not want force used, they would not take any position on the Iraq–Kuwait boundary dispute and did not want to become involved. Whatever Glaspie did or did not say in her interview with Saddam, the Iraqis assumed that the United States had invested too much in building relations with Iraq over the 1980s to sacrifice them for Kuwait. Later, Iraq and Kuwait met for a final negotiation session, which failed. Saddam then sent his troops into Kuwait. As tensions between Washington and Saddam began to escalate, the Soviet Union, under Mikhail Gorbachev, strengthened its military relationship with the Iraqi leader, providing him military advisers, arms and aid.
On 2 August 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait, initially claiming assistance to “Kuwaiti revolutionaries,” thus sparking an international crisis. On 4 August an Iraqi-backed “Provisional Government of Free Kuwait” was proclaimed, but a total lack of legitimacy and support for it led to an 8 August announcement of a “merger” of the two countries. On 28 August Kuwait formally became the 19thGovernorate of Iraq. Just two years after the 1988 Iraq and Iran truce, “Saddam Hussein did what his Gulf patrons had earlier paid him to prevent.” Having removed the threat of Iranian fundamentalism he “overran Kuwait and confronted his Gulf neighbors in the name of Arab nationalism and Islam.”
When later asked why he invaded Kuwait, Saddam first claimed that it was because Kuwait was rightfully Iraq’s 19th province and then said “When I get something into my head I act. That’s just the way I am.” With Saddam’s seizure of Kuwait in August 1990 an UN coalition led by the United States drove Iraq’s troops from Kuwait in February 1991. The ability for Saddam Hussein to pursue such military aggression was from a “military machine paid for in large part by the tens of billions of dollars Kuwait and the Gulf states had poured into Iraq and the weapons and technology provided by the Soviet Union, Germany, and France.”
Shortly before he invaded Kuwait, he shipped 100 new Mercedes 200 Series cars to top editors in Egypt and Jordan. Two days before the first attacks, Saddam reportedly offered Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak 50 million dollars in cash, “ostensibly for grain”.
U.S. President George H. W. Bush responded cautiously for the first several days. On one hand, Kuwait, prior to this point, had been a virulent enemy of Israel and was the Persian Gulf monarchy that had had the most friendly relations with the Soviets. On the other hand, Washington foreign policymakers, along with Middle East experts, military critics, and firms heavily invested in the region, were extremely concerned with stability in this region. The invasion immediately triggered fears that the world’s price of oil, and therefore control of the world economy, was at stake. Britain profited heavily from billions of dollars of Kuwaiti investments and bank deposits. Bush was perhaps swayed while meeting with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who happened to be in the U.S. at the time.
Co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union made possible the passage of resolutions in the United Nations Security Council giving Iraq a deadline to leave Kuwait and approving the use of force if Saddam did not comply with the timetable. U.S. officials feared Iraqi retaliation against oil-rich Saudi Arabia, since the 1940s a close ally of Washington, for the Saudis’ opposition to the invasion of Kuwait. Accordingly, the U.S. and a group of allies, including countries as diverse as Egypt, Syria and Czechoslovakia, deployed a massive amount of troops along the Saudi border with Kuwait and Iraq in order to encircle the Iraqi army, the largest in the Middle East.
Saddam’s officers looted Kuwait, stripping even the marble from its palaces to move it to Saddam’s own palace.
During the period of negotiations and threats following the invasion, Saddam focused renewed attention on the Palestinian problem by promising to withdraw his forces from Kuwait if Israel would relinquish the occupied territories in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. Saddam’s proposal further split the Arab world, pitting U.S.- and Western-supported Arab states against the Palestinians. The allies ultimately rejected any linkage between the Kuwait crisis and Palestinian issues.
Saddam ignored the Security Council deadline. Backed by the Security Council, a U.S.-led coalition launched round-the-clock missile and aerial attacks on Iraq, beginning 16 January 1991. Israel, though subjected to attack by Iraqi missiles, refrained from retaliating in order not to provoke Arab states into leaving the coalition. A ground force consisting largely of U.S. and British armoured and infantry divisions ejected Saddam’s army from Kuwait in February 1991 and occupied the southern portion of Iraq as far as the Euphrates.
On 6 March 1991, Bush announced:
What is at stake is more than one small country, it is a big idea — a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law.
In the end, the over-manned and under-equipped Iraqi army proved unable to compete on the battlefield with the highly mobile coalition land forces and their overpowering air support. Some 175,000 Iraqis were taken prisoner and casualties were estimated at over 85,000. As part of the cease-fire agreement, Iraq agreed to scrap all poison gas and germ weapons and allow UN observers to inspect the sites. UN trade sanctions would remain in effect until Iraq complied with all terms. Saddam publicly claimed victory at the end of the war.
Iraq’s ethnic and religious divisions, together with the brutality of the conflict that this had engendered, laid the groundwork for postwar rebellions. In the aftermath of the fighting, social and ethnic unrest among Shi’ite Muslims, Kurds, and dissident military units threatened the stability of Saddam’s government. Uprisings erupted in the Kurdish north and Shi’a southern and central parts of Iraq, but were ruthlessly repressed.
The United States, which had urged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, did nothing to assist the rebellions. The Iranians, despite the widespread Shi’ite rebellions, had no interest in provoking another war, while Turkey opposed any prospect of Kurdish independence, and the Saudis and other conservative Arab states feared an Iran-style Shi’ite revolution. Saddam, having survived the immediate crisis in the wake of defeat, was left firmly in control of Iraq, although the country never recovered either economically or militarily from the Gulf War. Saddam routinely cited his survival as “proof” that Iraq had in fact won the war against the U.S. This message earned Saddam a great deal of popularity in many sectors of the Arab world. John Esposito, however, claims that “Arabs and Muslims were pulled in two directions. That they rallied not so much to Saddam Hussein as to the bipolar nature of the confrontation (the West versus the Arab Muslim world) and the issues that Saddam proclaimed: Arab unity, self-sufficiency, and social justice.” As a result, Saddam Hussein appealed to many people for the same reasons that attracted more and more followers to Islamic revivalism and also for the same reasons that fueled anti-Western feelings. “As one U.S. Muslim observer noted: People forgot about Saddam’s record and concentrated on America … Saddam Hussein might be wrong, but it is not America who should correct him.” A shift was, therefore, clearly visible among many Islamic movements in the post war period “from an initial Islamic ideological rejection of Saddam Hussein, the secular persecutor of Islamic movements, and his invasion of Kuwait to a more populist Arab nationalist, anti-imperialist support for Saddam (or more precisely those issues he represented or championed) and the condemnation of foreign intervention and occupation.”
Saddam, therefore, increasingly portrayed himself as a devout Muslim, in an effort to co-opt the conservative religious segments of society. Some elements of Sharia law were re-introduced, and the ritual phrase “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”), in Saddam’s handwriting, was added to the national flag. Saddam also commissioned the production of a “Blood Qur’an“, written using 27 litres of his own blood, to thank God for saving him from various dangers and conspiracies.
Relations between the United States and Iraq remained tense following the Gulf War. The U.S. launched a missile attack aimed at Iraq’s intelligence headquarters in Baghdad 26 June 1993, citing evidence of repeated Iraqi violations of the “no fly zones” imposed after the Gulf War and for incursions into Kuwait.
The United Nations sanctions placed upon Iraq when it invaded Kuwait were not lifted, blocking Iraqi oil exports. This caused immense hardship in Iraq and virtually destroyed the Iraqi economy and state infrastructure. Only smuggling across the Syrian border, and humanitarian aid ameliorated the humanitarian crisis. On 9 December 1996 the UN allowed Saddam’s government to begin selling limited amounts of oil for food and medicine. Limited amounts of income from the United Nations started flowing into Iraq through the United Nations Oil for Food program.
U.S. officials continued to accuse Saddam of violating the terms of the Gulf War’s cease fire, by developing weapons of mass destruction and other banned weaponry, and violating the UN-imposed sanctions. Also during the 1990s, President Bill Clinton maintained sanctions and ordered air strikes in the “Iraqi no-fly zones” (Operation Desert Fox), in the hope that Saddam would be overthrown by political enemies inside Iraq. Western charges of Iraqi resistance to UN access to suspected weapons were the pretext for crises between 1997 and 1998, culminating in intensive U.S. and British missile strikes on Iraq, 16–19 December 1998. After two years of intermittent activity, U.S. and British warplanes struck harder at sites near Baghdad in February 2001.
Saddam’s support base of Tikriti tribesmen, family members, and other supporters was divided after the war, and in the following years, contributing to the government’s increasingly repressive and arbitrary nature. Domestic repression inside Iraq grew worse, and Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, became increasingly powerful and carried out a private reign of terror.
Iraqi co-operation with UN weapons inspection teams was intermittent throughout the 1990s.
Saddam continued involvement in politics abroad. Video tapes retrieved after show his intelligence chiefs meeting with Arab journalists, including a meeting with the former managing director of Al-Jazeera, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali, in 2000. In the video Saddam’s son Uday advised al-Ali about hires in Al-Jazeera: “During your last visit here along with your colleagues we talked about a number of issues, and it does appear that you indeed were listening to what I was saying since changes took place and new faces came on board such as that lad, Mansour.” He was later sacked by Al-Jazeera.
In 2002 Austrian prosecutors investigated Saddam government’s transactions with Fritz Edlinger that possibly violated Austrian money laundering and embargo regulations. Fritz Edlinger, president of the General Secretary of the Society for Austro-Arab relations (GÖAB) and a former member of Socialist International‘s Middle East Committee, was an outspoken supporter of Saddam Hussein. In 2005 an Austrian journalist revealed that Fritz Edlinger’s GÖAB had received $100,000 from an Iraqi front company as well as donations from Austrian companies soliciting business in Iraq.
In 2002, a resolution sponsored by the European Union was adopted by the Commission for Human Rights, which stated that there had been no improvement in the human rights crisis in Iraq. The statement condemned President Saddam Hussein’s government for its “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law“. The resolution demanded that Iraq immediately put an end to its “summary and arbitrary executions … the use of rape as a political tool and all enforced and involuntary disappearances”.
In the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme, Saddam was supposed to trade oil for food. In practice, the program benefitted political parties, politicians, journalists, companies, and individuals around the world.
The Russian state was the largest beneficiary.
Satellite channels broadcasting the besieged Iraqi leader among cheering crowds as U.S.-led troops push toward the capital city.
4 April 2003.
The international community, especially the U.S., continued to view Saddam as a bellicose tyrant who was a threat to the stability of the region. After the September 11 attacks, Vladimir Putin began to tell the United States that Iraq was preparing terrorist attacks against the United States. In his January 2002 state of the union address to Congress, President George W. Bush spoke of an “axis of evil” consisting of Iran, North Korea, and Iraq. Moreover, Bush announced that he would possibly take action to topple the Iraqi government, because of the threat of its weapons of mass destruction. Bush stated that “The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade … Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.” Saddam Hussein claimed that he falsely led the world to believe Iraq possessed nuclear weapons in order to appear strong against Iran.
With war looming on 24 February 2003, Saddam Hussein took part in an interview with CBS News reporter Dan Rather. Talking for more than three hours, he expressed a wish to have a live televised debate with George W. Bush, which was declined. It was his first interview with a U.S. reporter in over a decade. CBS aired the taped interview later that week.
The Iraqi government and military collapsed within three weeks of the beginning of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq on 20 March. By the beginning of April, U.S.-led forces occupied much of Iraq. The resistance of the much-weakened Iraqi Army either crumbled or shifted to guerrilla tactics, and it appeared that Saddam had lost control of Iraq. He was last seen in a video which purported to show him in the Baghdad suburbs surrounded by supporters. When Baghdad fell to U.S-led forces on 9 April, marked symbolically by the toppling of his statue by iconoclasts, Saddam was nowhere to be found.
Photograph taken by American soldiers during Saddam’s capture.
Saddam shortly after capture by American forces, and after being shaved to confirm his identity
In April 2003, Saddam’s whereabouts remained in question during the weeks following the fall of Baghdad and the conclusion of the major fighting of the war. Various sightings of Saddam were reported in the weeks following the war, but none was authenticated. At various times Saddam released audio tapes promoting popular resistance to his ousting.
Saddam was placed at the top of the U.S. list of “most-wanted Iraqis“. In July 2003, his sons Uday and Qusay and 14-year-old grandson Mustapha were killed in a three-hour gunfight with U.S. forces.
On 13 December 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces at a farmhouse in ad-Dawr near Tikrit in a hole in Operation Red Dawn. Following his capture on 13 December Saddam was transported to a U.S. base near Tikrit, and later taken to the U.S. base near Baghdad. The day after his capture he was reportedly visited by longtime opponents such as Ahmed Chalabi.
On 14 December 2003, U.S. administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer confirmed that Saddam Hussein had indeed been captured at a farmhouse in ad-Dawr near Tikrit. Bremer presented video footage of Saddam in custody.
Saddam was shown with a full beard and hair longer than his familiar appearance. He was described by U.S. officials as being in good health. Bremer reported plans to put Saddam on trial, but claimed that the details of such a trial had not yet been determined. Iraqis and Americans who spoke with Saddam after his capture generally reported that he remained self-assured, describing himself as a “firm, but just leader.”
The guards at the Baghdad detention facility called their prisoner “Vic,” and let him plant a little garden near his cell. The nickname and the garden are among the details about the former Iraqi leader that emerged during a 27 March 2008 tour of prison of the Baghdad cell where Saddam slept, bathed, and kept a journal in the final days before his execution.
On 30 June 2004, Saddam Hussein, held in custody by U.S. forces at the U.S. base “Camp Cropper“, along with 11 other senior Baathist leaders, were handed over legally (though not physically) to the interim Iraqi government to stand trial for crimes against humanity and other offences.
A few weeks later, he was charged by the Iraqi Special Tribunal with crimes committed against residents of Dujail in 1982, following a failed assassination attempt against him. Specific charges included the murder of 148 people, torture of women and children and the illegal arrest of 399 others.
Saddam and his lawyers’ contesting the court’s authority and maintaining that he was still the President of Iraq.
The assassinations and attempts on the lives of several of Saddam’s lawyers.
The replacement of the chief presiding judge, midway through the trial.
On 5 November 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. Saddam’s half brother, Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court in 1982, were convicted of similar charges. The verdict and sentencing were both appealed, but subsequently affirmed by Iraq’s Supreme Court of Appeals. On 30 December 2006, Saddam was hanged.
Saddam was hanged on the first day of Eid ul-Adha, 30 December 2006, despite his wish to be shot (which he felt would be more dignified). The execution was carried out at Camp Justice, an Iraqi army base in Kadhimiya, a neighborhood of northeast Baghdad.
The execution was videotaped on a mobile phone and his captors could be heard insulting Saddam. The video was leaked to electronic media and posted on the Internet within hours, becoming the subject of global controversy. It was later claimed by the head guard at the tomb where his body remains that Saddam’s body was stabbed six times after the execution.
Not long before the execution, Saddam’s lawyers released his last letter. The following includes several excerpts:
To the great nation, to the people of our country, and humanity,Many of you have known the writer of this letter to be faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgment, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and the state … and that his heart is big enough to embrace all without discrimination.You have known your brother and leader very well and he never bowed to the despots and, in accordance with the wishes of those who loved him, remained a sword and a banner.This is how you want your brother, son or leader to be … and those who will lead you (in the future) should have the same qualifications.Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if He wants, He will send it to heaven with the martyrs, or, He will postpone that … so let us be patient and depend on Him against the unjust nations.
Remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence … I call on you not to hate, because hate does not leave a space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking and keeps away one from balanced thinking and making the right choice.
I also call on you not to hate the peoples of the other countries that attacked us and differentiate between the decision-makers and peoples. Anyone who repents — whether in Iraq or abroad — you must forgive him.
You should know that among the aggressors, there are people who support your struggle against the invaders, and some of them volunteered for the legal defence of prisoners, including Saddam Hussein … some of these people wept profusely when they said goodbye to me.
Dear faithful people, I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any faithful, honest believer … God is Great … God is great … Long live our nation … Long live our great struggling people … Long live Iraq, long live Iraq … Long live Palestine … Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.
Saddam Hussein President and Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Mujahed Armed Forces
Additional clarification note:
I have written this letter, because the lawyers told me that the so-called criminal court — established and named by the invaders — will allow the so-called defendants the chance for a last word. But that court and its chief judge did not give us the chance to say a word, and issued its verdict without explanation and read out the sentence — dictated by the invaders — without presenting the evidence. I wanted the people to know this.
— Letter by Saddam Hussein
A second unofficial video, apparently showing Saddam’s body on a trolley, emerged several days later. It sparked speculation that the execution was carried out incorrectly as Saddam Hussein had a gaping hole in his neck.
Saddam married his first wife and cousin Sajida Talfah (or Tulfah/Tilfah) in 1958 in an arranged marriage. Sajida is the daughter of Khairallah Talfah, Saddam’s uncle and mentor. Their marriage was arranged for Hussein at age five when Sajida was seven. They were married in Egypt during his exile. The couple had five children.
Uday Hussein (18 June 1964 – 22 July 2003), was Saddam’s oldest son, who ran the Iraqi Football Association, Fedayeen Saddam, and several media corporations in Iraq including Iraqi TV and the newspaper Babel. Uday, while originally Saddam’s favorite son and raised to succeed him he eventually fell out of favour with his father due to his erratic behavior; he was responsible for many car crashes and rapes around Baghdad, constant feuds with other members of his family, and killing his father’s favorite valet and food taster Kamel Hana Gegeo at a party in Egypt honoring Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak. He became well known in the west for his involvement in looting Kuwait during the Gulf War, allegedly taking millions of dollars worth of Gold, cars, and medical supplies (which was in short supply at the time) for himself and close supporters. He was widely known for his paranoia and his obsession with torturing people who disappointed him in any way, which included tardy girlfriends, friends who disagreed with him and, most notoriously, Iraqi athletes who performed poorly. He was briefly married to Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri‘s daughter, but later divorced her. The couple had no children.
Qusay Hussein (17 May 1966 – 22 July 2003), was Saddam’s second — and, after the mid-1990s, his favorite — son. Qusay was believed to have been Saddam’s later intended successor, as he was less erratic than his older brother and kept a low profile. He was second in command of the military (behind his father) and ran the elite Iraqi Republican Guard and the SSO. He was believed to have ordered the army to kill thousands of rebelling Marsh Arabs and was instrumental in suppressing Shi’ite rebellions in the mid-1990s. He was married once and had three children.
Raghad Hussein (born 2 September 1968) is Saddam’s oldest daughter. After the war, Raghad fled to Amman, Jordan where she received sanctuary from the royal family. She is currently wanted by the Iraqi Government for allegedly financing and supporting the insurgency and the now banned Iraqi Ba’ath Party. The Jordanian royal family refused to hand her over.
Rana Hussein (born c. 1969), is Saddam’s second daughter. She, like her sister, fled to Jordan and has stood up for her father’s rights. She was married to Saddam Kamel and has had four children from this marriage.
Hala Hussein (born c. 1972), is Saddam’s third and youngest daughter. Very little information is known about her. Her father arranged for her to marry General Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti in 1998. She fled with her children and sisters to Jordan.
Saddam married his second wife, Samira Shahbandar, in 1986. She was originally the wife of an Iraqi Airways executive, but later became the mistress of Saddam. Eventually, Saddam forced Samira’s husband to divorce her so he could marry her. There have been no political issues from this marriage. After the war, Samira fled to Beirut, Lebanon. She is believed to have mothered Hussein’s sixth child. Members of Hussein’s family have denied this.
Saddam had allegedly married a third wife, Nidal al-Hamdani, the general manager of the Solar Energy Research Center in the Council of Scientific Research.
Wafa el-Mullah al-Howeish is rumoured to have married Saddam as his fourth wife in 2002. There is no firm evidence for this marriage. Wafa is the daughter of Abdul Tawab el-Mullah Howeish, a former minister of military industry in Iraq and Saddam’s last deputy Prime Minister.
In August 1995, Raghad and her husband Hussein Kamel al-Majid and Rana and her husband, Saddam Kamel al-Majid, defected to Jordan, taking their children with them. They returned to Iraq when they received assurances that Saddam would pardon them. Within three days of their return in February 1996, both of the Kamel brothers were attacked and killed in a gunfight with other clan members who considered them traitors.
In August 2003, Saddam’s daughters Raghad and Rana received sanctuary in Amman, Jordan, where they are currently staying with their nine children. That month, they spoke with CNN and the Arab satellite station Al-Arabiya in Amman. When asked about her father, Raghad told CNN, “He was a very good father, loving, has a big heart.” Asked if she wanted to give a message to her father, she said: “I love you and I miss you.” Her sister Rana also remarked, “He had so many feelings and he was very tender with all of us.”