Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973
Reliance on the subjective resources of the Party and the movement of the masses solely, meant a very long delay in revolutionary activity with all the consequent negative possibilities there-in. Moreover, conditions of the Party, regionally and nationally, pressed urgently for assumption of political power for the reasons already cited. The circumstances in Iraq did not allow for hesitation. The situation in Iraq was going downhill, rapidly endangering all parties in the Arab revolutionary movement and the aspirations to rise from the June defeat and face the new situation with more radical and revolutionary means and formulae. Reactionary and client forces in Iraq were making daily inroads on positions of power and in all public and social institutions. American, British, Iranian and Israeli espionage networks were infiltrating freely most of the political forces. The Army was torn apart with many centres of power. It was used by many factors, some of which were directly connected with imperialist circles. Corruption and chaos ruled the economy, administration and all other government institutions.
Under these conditions, the situation was fraught with the danger of a reactionary comeback or a military dictatorial take-over, which of course meant the destruction of the Party and the national movement and regression to the pre July 14th 1958 Revolution era, thus tipping the national balance in the interest of imperialism and reactionary forces.
The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, however, was in an exceptionally special position. It carried great moral and material weight in the political life of the country in spite of all the hostile attempts of many political circles to isolate it. Probably because it was the only Party in Iraq which had once gained political power through revolution, many people looked up to it as the only political force in the country actually capable of repeating the action. For in spite of all the criticisms levelled at the February 1963 Revolution, it was still a source of inspiration for many with its many positive aspects which motivated many political elements to resort to the Party.
While preparing for the uprising against the Aref regime, the Party had to stress the following:
1-To work tirelessly within the framework of a progressive national front incorporating as many national and political forces as possible. In the event of failure the Party would have to keep at least their goodwill.
2 -To neutralize as many opposing political and military circles as possible.
3 -To emphasize special alliances necessitated by the real and technical requirements of the struggle against the Aref regime to assume political authority.
It was virtually impossible from a technical viewpoint for the armed insurgency to bring down Aref without enlisting the cooperation of the Presidential Guard. Thus the need arose for alliance with the commander of the Guard Ibrahim Al-Daoud despite his political leaning and personal ambitions. As for Abdul Razzaq Al-Nayef, the Party decided resolutely against any cooperation with him in spite of his cunning attempts to approach the Party and explore its intentions. He had in fact expressed a desire to take part in bringing about the change. The Party declined his services decisively in spite of the urging of Ibrahim Al-Daoud to the contrary. For he was considered a suspect element. When the final plans of the Revolution were being drawn up, the Party leadership had assigned an armed civilian squadron to encircle al-Nayef in his house upon the break out of the Revolution and liquidate him if he tried to resist or get away.
The technical side of the Revolution called for storming the Presidential Guard and capturing Abdul Rahman Aref. Support would be supplied by the Tenth Armoured Brigade which would leave base at Warrar and move towards Baghdad. Special Party armed forces would hinder the advance of counter-reactionary forces. The plans also called for the direct participation of the Party leadership in the attack on the Presidential Guard and the downfall of the regime. This would be in addition to the participation of a number of retired military comrades and other civilian Party members.
Direct participation of Party leaders was thought to be significant in view of the need to emphasize a point which would assume great meaning in the life and course of the Revolution. The leadership should not confine itself to thought, guidance and planning alone, but must also be involved with action and its attendent risks to avoid the rise of duality and the emergence of a gap between thinkers and activists who have to face the real day-to-day problems and take the risks. The new policy would keep the leaders in constant touch with reality and its implications and make their decisions more realistic. Decision-making would thus become fully respectable.
On the morning of July 16th 1968, the Regional leadership was meeting in full in the house of Regional Party Secretary General Comrade Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr to review and settle the final assignments. Unexpectedly, a messenger from Abdul Razzaq Al-Nayef arrived with an' offer from him to participate in the proposed operation. It was revealed that Ibrahim Al-Daoud had in fact informed Al-Nayef of the coming event and proposed that he take part on the understanding that he would become the prime minister of the new regime. The Party leadership had to act quickly in view of this dangerous development.
Participation by Al-Nayef would mean a great change in plans and calculations and grave dangers. The meaning of the Revolution would be distorted out of recognition and the Revolution itself would be in danger of encirclement and/or deviation from its socialist, national and democratic course. On the other hand to decline the offer of Al-Nayef, with his full knowledge of the Party's intentions and in view of his key position in the regime, would only mean the endangering of the Party's existence and t Ii c dissipation of revolutionary hopes.
The two alternatives reviewed, the Party leadership decided on a course of pretending to accept Al-Nayef's offer as agreed between him and Al-Daoud while at the same time making plans to rid the Revolution of both men as soon as possible. The implementation of such a plan was assigned to some members of the leadership.
At 3 a.m of the morning of July 17th 1968, comrades assigned to execute the armed uprising, made attack on the tank regiment of the Presidential Guard and took control of it. They encircled the presidential palace and sealed it off. Simultaneously, Abdul Rahman Aref was being contacted . by telephone from the Guards headquarters and asked to surrender in return for safe conduct out of Iraq. Initially he refused. But when full fire was directed on the palace and he found himself completely cut off, he offered to surrender. He was taken out of the Palace and sent abroad by dawn.
At Zero count-down of the Revolution, the Tenth Armoured Brigade started out for Baghdad. It must be noted here that the Party leadership, upon receiving unexpectedly Al-Nayef s offer to take part in the Revolution, had expected Al-Nayef to try and play a trick by asking the Tenth Armoued Brigade not to advance toward Baghdad. He would do that, it was thought rightly, in order to have for him and his supporters the upper hand in the capital. As a precaution, the leadership informed comrades in the Tenth Brigade to ignore any message from Al-Nayef and to advance resolutely toward Baghdad under all circumstances. Things happened as expected. Immediately after Aref s declaration of surrender, Al-Nayef hurriedly despatched an officer to the Tenth Brigade to ask it not to proceed to Baghdad since the Revolution had succeeded. Comrades in the Tenth Brigade, however, refused to comply and advanced according to Party instructions and camped in "Abu Ghraib". On the morning of July 17th, the Revolution's declaration was broadcast over the radio. An extremely delicate and sensitive situation arose in the ranks of the Party and the masses when the first cabinet was announced with Abdul Razzaq Al-Nayef at its head. Party members had not yet been informed of the last minute developments and considerations taken into account by the leadership, "They had not yet been told of the decision to liquidate him. It was impossible to explain. For the circumstances dictated that the leadership should pretend to have no reservations about Al-Nayef so that the second part of the plan be implemented.
The Party was under unprecedented stress. For reasons of security the leadership could not explain matters to Party members and had to depend mainly on their confidence and discipline during the thirteen tough days that followed. The plan devised on July 16th had to be carried out in full.
The liquidation of Al-Nayef was not expected to be easy. He had supporters in the Presidential Guards and inside the Palace where the Regional Secretary General of the Party resided. Any miscalculation by the Party might arouse the suspicions of Al-Nayef and Al-Daoud or any of their known or unknown supporters and thus lead to the liquidation of the Party leaders and supporters alike. Riddance of Al-Nayef however, was bound to clear the situation and the risk had to be taken, after the necessary military and psychological measures were carefully drawn up to ensure the success of the operation.
On July 30th 1968, the liquidation plan was to be implemented. Ibrahim Al-Daoud had left Iraq for Jordan to inspect the Iraqi forces there. At 3p. m of that glorious day, a number of Party leaders arrested Al-Nayef inside the presidential palace in such a meticulous and decisive way as to leave no trace of suspicion on the doubtful elements inside or around the palace. Minutes before the operation took place, instructions were given to the late comrade Hammad Shihab to encircle the palace with the Tenth Brigade and secure complete control of the Guards. Precise arrangements were also made quickly to send Al-Nayef abroad. At 6 p.m. the Regional Secretary of the Party made the historic July 30th announcement over the radio. Thus the liquidation of the conspiratorial clique was successfully concluded.
The time between 3 a.m. July 17th and 3 p.m. July 30th was the most delicate and sensitive in the life of the Party and the most dangerously far-reaching in effect on the whole future of the Party in Iraq and the Arab revolutionary movement. It was also one of the most glorious, carrying in its womb the risks, pains and anxiety which gave birth to the Revolution of the Party and the Arab masses. It was the Revolution of July 17th, triumphant and advancing towards unity, freedom and socialism.
For many months after July 17th, the Revolution was dubbed the "White Revolution". The Party was then careful to promote that image for political and psychological reasons whose effects were spreading over the whole range of Party and revolutionary measures.
Iraq had lived through many years in a state of bloody turmoil. Much blood had been shed by all national forces without any positive result accruing for the benefit of the country or the public. The November 1963 setback showed the shortcomings of the revolutionary experience and the effect on the relations of the Party to the masses was adverse. The leadership of the Party, therefore, decided this time xxxxt I ha a t assumption of power must not be accompanied by bloodshed, in order to keep the Revolutionary image clean and dissociated from the bloody events of 1963. Thus the plan of the Revolution called for meticu1ous care in bringing down the regime of Aref without any bloodshed.
It was decided to send Aref abroad peacefully. His supporters were treated similarly, in spite of the crimes they had committed against Party members and the people. No revengeful act was to be allowed against the Novemberists and the criminal security elements. Only some were put under arrest, others were left free. Even Al-Nayef was sent abroad to an ambassodorial post at the time and Ibrahim Al-Daoud enjoyed the same treatment.
The leadership was very careful to avoid bloodshed and it gave instructions to avoid violence except in extreme cases where the Revolution and the Party were exposed to danger. No such cases arose at that stage.
The method was extremely useful. The Revolution didn't meet with any strong reaction or resistance. No tension materialized. And the Party was able to conduct itself peacefully through the initial stage of the Revolution and get off to a good constructive start.
The slogan of the "White Revolution" and the tactics were correct and they served well their political and psychological purposes.