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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: June 2014

6 - The Baʿth and the rule of Saddam Husain 1968–2003


The regime established in the summer of 1968 was nominally Baʿthist, but, as subsequent events were to show, this did not mean that the men at the centre could be defined simply with reference to their membership of the party. This was but one identity amongst many and only partially influenced their ideas of Iraq and their methods of operating in Iraqi politics. Equally important was the fact that most of the chief figures of the new regime were army officers. This not only shaped their conduct and their views of the proper ordering of politics, but also ensured their connection to the social networks which had historically provided an important recruiting ground for the officer corps. These groupings, composed of the extended families, clans and tribal networks from the provincial Sunni Arab north-west of Iraq, were disproportionately represented in the new regime. Their codes, status distinctions, insecurities and solidarities formed yet another central influence on the outlook and methods of the men who seized power in 1968.

One consequence of this multitude of influences was the dilution, as under the previous regime of the ʿArifs, of their commitment to pan – Arabism. Arab nationalist rhetoric certainly formed part of their official credo and was adhered to as an ideal by a considerable number of Baʿthists and others in Iraq.