Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (Arabic: أحمد حسن البكر ''Aḥmad Ḥasan al-Bakr'; 1 July 1914 – 4 October 1982) was the 4th President of Iraq, from July 17 1968 until July 16 1979. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organisation Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region (the Ba'ath Party's Iraqi branch), which espoused Ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism.
Al-Bakr was born 1 July 1914 in Tikrit, Ottoman Iraq, and was Saddam Hussein's elder cousin. He entered the Iraqi Military Academy in 1938 after spending six years as a primary-school teacher.
During his early military career, he took part in the Rashid Ali al-Gaylani's failed revolt against the British in 1941, and was imprisoned and expelled from the army. After 15 years of trying to rehabilitate himself al-Bakr was reinstated in the Iraqi Army in 1956 – the same year that he became a member of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party's Iraqi branch. The following year, in 1957, al-Bakr was promoted to brigadier. It was at about this time that al-Bakr got into contact with the Free Officers and Civilians Movement.
Al-Bakr helped bring down the Hashemite Monarchy and bring Abd al-Karim Qasim to power during the 14 July Revolution. He had a short stint in the public limelight during Qasim's rule, and withdrew Iraq from the Baghdad Pact and was a key player in improving Iraq's bilateral relations with the Soviet Union.
In 1959, a year following the coup, he was again forced to retire from the military under allegations that he led an anti-government rebellion in Mosul by officers who favoured closer ties with the United Arab Republic. It was during this period, that al-Bakr became a member of the Ba'ath Party. Even so, al-Bakr retained his prominence within the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party's Iraqi branch.
It was in the late 1950s, when Saddam became a member of the Ba'ath Party, that the two established a bond. Their future close relationship became possible because of Saddam's uncle, Khairallah Talfah. However, at the very beginning, Saddam was only a Ba'ath Party member, not a party activist.
Because of Qasim's government's repressive policy towards the opposition, Ali Salih al-Sadi, Secretary (leader) of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party's Iraqi branch, reorganised the party's rank and file, and on 24 December 1962 launched a nationwide protest against Qasim's government. The government's treatment of dissent did not soften and by 1963 several leading Iraqi Ba'athists had travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to plan a coup against Qasim's government. The plan was simple, to build a support network in the military. A Military Bureau was established to set these plans in motion. Al-Bakr was elected its chairman.
Through this office he was able to recruit members to the ba'athist cause through patronage and cronyism. Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim was overthrown in the Ramadan (8 February) Revolution; al-Bakr was appointed Prime Minister, and later, Vice President of Iraq in a Ba'ath-Nasserist coalition government. The government lasted for less than a year, and was ousted in November 1963.
Following the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party's ouster from government in 1963, al-Bakr and the party pursued underground activities and became vocal critics of the government. It was during this period that al-Bakr was elected the Ba'ath Party's Iraqi branch's Secretary General (the head), and appointed his cousin, Saddam Hussein, to be the party cell's deputy leader. Al-Bakr and the Ba'ath Party regained power in the coup of 1968, later referred to as the 17 July Revolution.
In the coup's aftermath, al-Bakr was elected Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and President; he was later appointed Prime Minister. Saddam, the Ba'ath Party's deputy, became Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and Vice President, and was responsible for Iraq's security services.
During his rule, Iraq was blossoming; high economic growth due to high international oil prices strengthened Iraq's role in the Arab world and increased the people's standard of living. Land reforms were introduced, and wealth was distributed more equally. A sort of socialist economy was established in the late-1970s, under the direction of Saddam. Al-Bakr gradually lost power to Saddam in the 1970s, when the latter strengthened his position within the party and the state through security services. In 1979, al-Bakr resigned from all public offices for "health reasons" and died in 1982 of unreported causes.