Ahmad Hasan al Bakr

Ahmad Hasan al Bakr

Ahmad Hasan al Bakr was an officer in the Iraq Army. As a result of the Iraqi Revolution, the Arab nationalist, Abdul Karim Kassem, became the country's new leader.

Kassem's moderate policies lost him the support of the Ba'ath Party and he was executed after a military coup in February 1963.

Colonel Abd al-Salam Aref became the new president and Ahmad Hasan al Bakr served as prime minister. He left the government later that year when right-wing military leaders ousted the Ba'ath Party from power.

When Abd al-Salam Aref was killed in an air crash on 13th April 1966 he was replaced by his brother General Abdul Rahman. Another military coup on 17th July 1968 brought the Ba'ath Party back to power. Ahmad Hasan al Bakr became president and quickly nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company and introduced wide-ranging social and economic reforms.

The new government ruthlessly suppressed opposition it did agree to enter negotiations with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). In March 1970 the government promised to grant the Kurds a degree of autonomy.

On 6th October 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. Two days later the Egyptian Army crossed the Suez Canal while Syrian troops entered the Golan Heights. Iraq joined in the Arab-Israeli War but was defeated when Israeli troops counter-attacked on 8th October. Iraq was able to hurt the Western economy when it participated in the oil boycott against Israel's supporters.

It now became clear to the Kurdish Democratic Party that Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr was not going to keep his promises about Kurdish autonomy. In the spring 1974 fighting broke out between the Kurds and the government's armed forces. In March 1975 Iran closed its border with Iraq which led to the collapse of the Kurdish military force. Kurdish villages were destroyed and their inhabitants resettled in specially constructed villages surrounded by barbed wire and fortified posts.

Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr also suppressed non-Kurds in Iraq. In July 1978 a decree was passed which made all non-Ba'thist political activity illegal and membership of any other political party punishable by death for all those who were members or former members of the armed forces.

In July 1979 Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr resigned and was replaced by Saddam Hussein. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr died in 1982.