History of Iraq: Coups, Wars & Instability

History of Iraq: Coups, Wars & Instability Last updated on Tuesday 20th April 2010

War with Israel followed in 1948, in which Iraqi forces were allied with those of Transjordan, in accordance with a treaty signed by the two countries during the previous year. Fighting continued until the signing of a cease-fire agreement in May 1949.

During the early 1950s, in the reign of the new young King Faisal II, various pro-Western pacts were signed, but Arab factions, bitterly opposed to union with the West, staged a military coup on 14th July 1958, led by General Karim Kassem. King Faisal and the premier, Nuri as-Said were both killed in the uprising and the country was proclaimed a republic.

A period of considerable instability followed, with one military coup swiftly succeeding another, and leaders came and went throughout the 60s and early 70s. Iraq's general policy during these years was one of hostility to the West and friendship with the USSR. Iraq declared war on Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and in the 1973 hostilities, gave material aid to Syria. Iraq was heavily opposed to the cease-fire which ended the conflict.

Relations with Iran were fast deteriorating in the early 70s. The ongoing Kurdish problem, which had first emerged in a 1961 Kurdish rebellion, was now fuelled by Iranian arms supplies to the Kurd leader, Mustafa al-Barzani. Problems were compounded by border disputes with Iran, but these were partially settled in 1975, whereupon Iran withdrew aid from the Kurdish revolt and effectively halted it.

By the end of 1977, the Kurdish people had been granted greater autonomy and Kurdish was recognised as an official language. Politically, Iraq seemed to be stabilising, and the oil boom of the late 70s contributed dramatically to an upsurge in the economy.

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