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Baath (Resurgence) Party

The Iraqi Baath (Resurgence) Party came to power through a coup in 1968 and Saddam Hussein became the number two man in the regime. The Ba'ath Party instituted a provisional constitution that established a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) to promulgate laws until a National Assembly could be elected and select the head of state (the president) with a two-thirds majority. The Secretary-General of the Iraq Command of the Ba'ath Party became chairman of the RCC, thereby placing the Ba'ath Party in control of Iraq. By 1976 Hussein had in reality become the power in the regime and in 1979 he took complete control. The Baath regime closely parallels those that have existed since the overthrow of King Feisal II in 1958. The Government is controlled by Sunni Arab military elements who have succeeded in avoiding commitments to a political union with other Arab states. Hussein's Baath Party dominates both military and civilian communities.

During the 1960s and 1970s Iraq had become increasingly more dependent on the former Soviet Union for military assistance. However, after the Soviets reneged on some military aid deals and provided inferior replacement equipment for war losses, the Iraqis began to improve relations with the West and decrease their dependence on the Soviets. During the late 1970s several border clashes with Iran increased tensions between the two countries. In 1979 Saddam Hussein expelled the Ayatollah Khomeini from Iraq, where he had been in exile since 1961. Removed from the seat of Shiite learning in Iraq, Khomeini vowed he would have Hussein's head brought to him on a platter. Khomeini returned to Iran via France vowing to spread the Islamic Revolution to the whole world on February 1, 1979, and, on February 11, 1979, the Shah's caretaker's government fell. In September 1980, before Khomeini could consolidate his power, Iraq revisited an historic dispute over the Shatt al-Arab waterway and invaded Iran. As a result, the two countries were locked in war until September 1988, when a cease fire was agreed to, but no peace settlement has yet been achieved.

Prior to invading Kuwait, Iraq began lodging a series of complaints against Kuwait over oil reserves on the countries' border and also accused Kuwait of leading an oil-pricing conspiracy designed to limit Iraqi oil revenues. The country also demanded that Kuwait reclassify US$12 billion of war loans as gifts.

In August 1990 Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait. The United Nations passed 12 resolutions and urged Iraq to leave Kuwait by 15 January 1991, but to no avail. United States and multi-national forces were rushed into Saudi-Arabia in response to an urgent call from the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. On 16 January 1991 the Gulf War started with thousands of bombing raids in an effort to evict Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On 23 February 1991 the ground war started; it ended in a US and multi-national forces victory after 100 hours fighting by ground forces. Kuwait was liberated and fighting erupted between Iraqi troops and Shiite and Kurd rebels.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees fled to Turkey and Iran. U.S. British, and French troops landed inside Iraq's northern border to set up refugee camps to protect another 600,000 Kurds from Iraqi government reprisals. Throughout 1992 Iraq came under increasing international pressure to eliminate its remaining weapons of mass destruction.

In 1993 UN officials announced that they had completed dismantling Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare capability, prompting calls by Iraq to end the UN-sponsored trade embargo. Again in October 1994 the U.S., Britain and France responding to another buildup of Iraqi troops along the border with Kuwait deployed about 40,000 troops and more than 600 aircraft to the Persian Gulf region. Many analysts thought Iraq was trying to force the UN to lift its trade embargo against Iraq. A short while later, Iraq's soldiers were withdrawn from the border. In November Saddam Hussein signed a decree formally accepting Kuwait's sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity. The decree effectively ended Iraq's claim to Kuwait as a provincial territory.

In 1994 Iraq continued its efforts to crush internal resistance with an economic embargo of the Kurdish-populated north and a military campaign against Shiite Muslim rebels in the south. The Shiites were quickly quieted, but the crisis in Kurdistan, which had long suffered from internal rivalries, continued. Kurds had often argued over land rights, and as their economic and political security deteriorated in the early 1990's, the conflicts escalated. In May 1994 supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) clashed with supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), leaving 300 people dead. Over the next two years the UK and KDP fought several more times, eventually devolving into a state of civil war. In August 1996, leaders of the KDP asked Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to intervene in the war. Hussein sent at least 30,000 troops into the UN-protected Kurdish region, capturing the PUK stronghold of Irbil. The KDP was immediately installed in power. The U.S. responded with two missile strikes against southern Iraq, but in early September Iraq again helped KDP fighters, this time taking the PUK stronghold of As Sulaymaniyah.

Coalition forces enforced no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq to protect Iraqi citizens from attack by the regime and a no-drive zone in southern Iraq to prevent the regime from massing forces to threaten or again invade Kuwait. In addition, the UN Security Council required the regime to surrender its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and submit to UN inspections. When the regime refused to fully cooperate with the UN inspections, the Security Council passed a series of Chapter VII sanctions to prevent further WMD development and compel Iraqi adherence to international obligations.

The 1990s were marked by new moves toward autonomy by the Kurds, periodic Iraqi resistance to arms inspections and "no-fly" restrictions in northern and southern Iraq, and progressive deterioration of living standards in Iraq because of international sanctions. A UN Oil-for-Food Program, established in 1997, did not relieve the domestic crisis. The terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 brought a reassessment of U.S. policy toward Iraq as a threat to international stability.

Although Iraq agreed to unconditional arms inspections in 2002, citing Iraq's failure to comply with UN inspections, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March-April 2003 and removed the Ba'ath regime, leading to the overthrow of the dictator Saddam Hussein. (Following his capture in December 2003 and subsequent trial, Saddam Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006 by the Government of Iraq.)

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:27 ZULU