Monday, February 23, 2009

Iraq's Post-1950 History Revisited: Part 4

(See parts 1-3 below)

Most people in the United States would like to see the nearly 150,000 U.S. troops and 200,000 private contractors who are still occupying Iraqi soil (in support of special U.S. corporate interests) to finally be withdrawn from Iraq by Easter 2009. But the Democratic Obama regime is still not willing to immediately bring U.S. troops and private contractors in Iraq back home. Yet if the Obama Administration officials responsible for authorizing the use of U.S. armed forces in Iraq--like U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--had known more about Iraq's post-1950 history, perhaps U.S. troops and private contractors would not still be spending another Easter in Iraq in 2009?

In the months following the Qasim coup, considered the July 1958 Revolution in Iraqi history, the anti-communist Ba'th Party was still not seen as that politically influential within Iraqi society. Although it possessed 300 active members, 1200 organizational partisans, 2,000 organized supporters and 10,000 unorganized supporters by 1958, "its forces of attraction hardly compared with that of its Communist rivals," according to Hanna Batatu's book, The Old Social Classes and The Revolutionary Movements of Iraq.

When 500,000 Iraqi protesters demonstrated on the streets of Baghdad on August 7, 1958 in support of Iraq's new revolutionary government, "the Communists far outdistanced the other elements, at least in their organizational resources, and the direct leadership was manifest in their hands," according to Batatu's book.

By mid-1959, the membership of the Iraq Communist Party exceeded 25,000. And Iraq Communist Party influence in the 40,000 member League for Defense of Women's Rights, the 84,000 Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation and the 275,000 member General Federation of Trade Unions was also strong by mid-1959.

An agrarian reform was soon proclaimed by Qasim's regime on September 30, 1958 that set maximum limits on the amount of land that the 2,800 feudal Iraqi landlords, who previously controlled 56% of all Iraqi private land, could possess. The Qasim regime also reduced rents on rooms by 20%, reduced rents on homes by 15 to 20%, brought down the price of bread, and reduced the Iraqi workday to 8 hours.

Initially, Qasim relied on Iraqi communist activists' support for his government, because they appeared to be the only organized political force in Iraqi society capable of countering any anti-Qasim political forces in Iraq and within the Iraqi military. On August 21, 1958, Iraqi communist activists established a People's Resistance Force of 11,000 young men and women in Baghdad to support the Qasim regime. The head of the Qasim regime's intelligence service in late 1958 was also a member of the Iraq Communist Party. In addition, the General Union of Iraqi Students initially elected an Iraqi communist activist to lead it during Qasim's regime.

Despite the democratic economic reforms he instituted and the political support his regime received from Iraqi communist activists, however, Qasim, himself, was just an anti-imperialist nationalist and not a communist. Initially, Qasim's deputy prime minister was an anti-communist colonel named Abdel Salem Aref, who was an admirer of Egyptian leader Nasser and pro-Ba'thist in his politics in 1958. By late September 1958, however, Aref had resigned his post--since Aref's support for the unification, not federation, of Iraq with Nasser's United Arab Republic was not shared by Qasim.

An unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Qasim was then allegedly made by Aref when he and Qasim met with others in an October 12, 1958 meeting. In response, Qasim's police arrested Aref on November 4, 1958 and closed down the Ba'th Party's newspaper on November 7, 1958. (end of part 4)