Hussein, Saddam


Hussein, Saddam
▪ 2007
Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti 
      Arab nationalist leader (b. April 28, 1937, Tikrit, Iraq—d. Dec. 30, 2006, Baghdad, Iraq), reduced Iraq to a state of impoverishment and devastation during his 24 years (1979–2003) as the country's dictatorial president. Saddam's brutal rule was marked by costly and unsuccessful wars against neighbouring Iran (1980–88) and Kuwait (1990–91), as well as atrocities against the Iraqi people. Saddam was born into a peasant family and was reared by an uncle. In the mid-1950s they moved to Baghdad, where he joined the ultranationalist Arab Baʿth Socialist Party. By 1959 he was a member of a Baʿth strike force that attempted to assassinate Prime Minister ʿAbd al-Karim Qasim. Saddam fled to Syria and then to Egypt, where he attended (1962–63) Cairo Law School. After a pro-Baʿth coup in February 1963, he returned to Iraq, where he continued his studies at Baghdad Law College and again involved himself in politics. In November 1963 the Baʿth government was overthrown, but the Baʿthists returned to power in July 1968 after two successful coup attempts. Saddam was elected (1969) vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. He effectively shared rule with Pres. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr until July 16, 1979, when the aging Bakr resigned, and Saddam was elected president. In September 1980 Iraqi troops attacked Iran. After eight years in which both sides suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties without any noticeable gains, the two countries accepted a cease-fire. In August 1990 Saddam sent troops into Kuwait, apparently intending to use that country's vast oil revenues to bolster Iraq's devastated economy. An international coalition led by the U.S. evicted Iraq from Kuwait in February 1991. The Persian Gulf War—and a subsequent Iraqi uprising that was harshly suppressed—left Iraq isolated and reeling from international economic sanctions. Saddam's continuing obstreperousness, combined with U.S. allegations that he supported terrorism and cached illegal chemical and biological weapons, resulted in the invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led forces in early 2003. The regime quickly collapsed, but Saddam eluded capture until December. He went on trial in October 2005 before the Iraqi High Tribunal. After nine months of contentious testimony, the tribunal adjourned in July 2006; it handed down its verdict in November. Saddam was convicted of crimes against humanityand sentenced to death by hanging. Days after an Iraqi court upheld his sentence, he was executed.

▪ 2004

      By early 2003 Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, the Arab nationalist leader who had become infamous for atrocities against his people and who, in 24 years in power, had reduced Iraq to a state of impoverishment, devastation, and near dismemberment, had few supporters left among world leaders.

      Saddam was born on April 28, 1937, in a village near Tikrit, Iraq; orphaned, he was reared by an uncle. They moved to Baghdad in the mid-1950s, and he joined the Arab Baʾth Socialist Party, an Arab ultranationalist group. By 1959 Saddam was a member of a Baʾth strike force that attempted to assassinate ʿAbd al-Karim Qasim, the Iraqi prime minister and dictator. Injured in the attempt, Saddam fled to Syria and then to Egypt, where he became a political refugee. He returned to Iraq after a pro-Baʾth coup in February 1963 and again involved himself in politics. In November 1963 the Baʾth Party was ousted from power, and Saddam went underground. He spent the following years in and out of prison while remaining active in the party ranks.

      In July 1968 the Baʾth Party returned to power after two successful coups. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr became president of the Iraqi Republic, and in 1969 Saddam was elected vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, the most important political body in the country. Saddam proved to be a shrewd manipulator and survivor; between 1968 and 1979 Iraq was effectively ruled by both Bakr and Hussein. Finally, on July 16, 1979, the aging Bakr resigned, and Saddam was elected president of the republic.

      Iraq was profoundly affected by the 1979 Islamic revolution in neighbouring Iran, which replaced the shah with the leadership of the Shiʿite ayatollahs. Iraqi-Iranian relations deteriorated as Baghdad feared that the new Iranian Islamic regime would encourage Iraqi Shiʿites to adopt revolutionary Islamic ideas and rise up against the Baʾth regime. After border skirmishes between the two countries, Saddam took the initiative and in September 1980 sent Iraqi troops into Iran. The ensuing war lasted almost eight years. Both sides suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties, yet the conflict ended without any noticeable gains for either side.

      In August 1990 Saddam sent troops into Kuwait and annexed that country. An international coalition led by the United States evicted Iraq from Kuwait in February 1991. An uprising against Saddam's regime in the following month was harshly suppressed. The Persian Gulf War left Iraq isolated and reeling from international economic sanctions. Saddam's reaction was to clamp down further on Iraqi citizens, especially those in southern Iraq, gather more wealth and power for himself and his family, and alternately bait and submit to demands from the Western powers and international organizations, in particular a UN program to eliminate weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Despite the opposition of many members of the UN Security Council, especially France, Germany, and Russia, Iraq's failure to cooperate fully on WMD inspections as well as Saddam's obstreperousness finally resulted in the invasion of Iraq in March–April 2003. The regime collapsed, and Saddam went underground. His sons and aides, Uday and Qusay Hussein, were killed in Mosul, Iraq, on July 22, but Saddam himself eluded capture for nine months. He was finally found in a “spider hole,” a covered underground bunker, just south of his hometown of Tikrit, taken without a struggle by U.S. forces, and spirited away to a secure location, where at year's end he awaited trial.

Louay Bahry

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Universalium. 2010.

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