Saddam Hussein was the 5th President of Iraq who was in office from 16 July 1979 to 9 April 2003. He was a leading light in several incarnations of the Ba’ath Party – a combination of proud Arab Nationalism combined with the broad principles of socialism.
He helped bring the Ba’ath Party to power in Iraq in July 1968 and became Vice President soon after, instituting several important financial changes, including a massive injection of oil money that sent the economy soaring.
He then became President in 1979, and thereafter brutally suppressed several political movements that he considered a threat to his dictatorship. It is estimated that the security forces of his Government killed more than quarter of a million Iraqis during his time as President.
Although Saddam ruled as a secular dictator, he had been born a Sunni Muslim, and supported them in many ways, disenfranchising the Shi’ite majority that he savagely suppressed. Many significant positions within the Government were filled with Sunnis, increasing frustration across many areas of the Iraq population.
He involved Iraq in several major conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, the Al-Anfal Campaign against the Kurds between 1986 and 1988, and then the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 thereby triggering the so called First Gulf War. This was a conflict that eventually led to the intervention of several western nations including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia, and this eventually resulted in the decisive defeat of Iraq in early 1991.
In 2003 Iraq itself was invaded by a coalition led by the United States and United Kingdom, after the Iraqis were accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction and of harbouring terrorism that was being used against the West.
Saddam was deposed and captured in December 2003 and then put on trial by the Iraq Interim Government for crimes against humanity, specifically the killing of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites in 1982. Found guilty, he was executed on 30 December 2006.
Ironically no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq and in 2016 Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister during 2003, expressed “sorrow and regret” about some mistakes he made at the time that led to British involvement in the war.
Image: Saddam Hussein conversing with Michel Aflaq – the Ba’ath Party founder, during a conference in 1988, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.