Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973



The task of achieving political independence had been achieved, in form, by the Revolution of July 14th 1958 which brought down the reactionary monarchy in Iraq and declared the Republic, disengaged Iraq from the imperialist Baghdad Pact and liberated the currency from dependency on the sterling.

The form however, still lacked the political, economic and intellectual content of political independence in a dangerous way which kept the Revolution under constant threat and strain for the next ten years.

Perhaps one of the main problems facing the national liberation movement in the Third World is such an incapacity to achieve the political, economic and cultural content of political independence without which the national will of an independent country cannot be really free.

The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, fighting for unity, freedom and socialism in order to rebuild a united, free and democratic Arab society, was obliged to deal decisively with such a problem particularly in view of the fact that it had reached power in an important and frontal Arab country. The Party's duty was to achieve a truly democratic, socialist and integrated state which could be the model for the other states in the Arab World... and the Third World.

The first task confronting the Party in Iraq, in the sphere of achieving political independence, was to liquidate completely all foreign intelligence networks and agents. The task may seem simple to those who are not conversant with the situation of Iraq. It may seem a process of arresting a few people and trying them legally. In reality, the operation was far more dangerous particularly in view of its nationalist dimension created by the Arab defeat in June 1967. It required an iron will free of all fear to fight the imperialist Zionist enemy.

Iraq was like a field mined by American, British, Iranian, Israeli and other intelligence networks.

They had infiltrated the armed forces, the security machinery, the economic institutions, some political and religious movements, some other sensitive centres of government society. Iraq had become utterly exposed to such imperialist, Zionist and reactionary hostility.

The country was severely restricted by such a grave situation and the freedom of the national will and its objectives curbed. For these networks were not confined to the gathering of intelligence only, but were engaged in direct and indirect influence of policy through agents of imperialism and reaction.

Since early days, Party and Revolution machinery took to resolute action to put a drastic end to such nets of espionage. Thus the public execution of the first batch of spies in the first phase was imperative in spite of the international furore and harsh criticism levelled at our Revolution and of people by many quarters, some of which were friendly. Some criticism even came from Party members and organizations outside Iraq.

The public liquidation of the spies was in fact a big national demonstration and an overt tangible reassurance of the liberation of the national will from its fetters. The people had lost confidence in former regimes partly because of their inability to deal with foreign spies who filled the country. It was necessary to gain the confidence of the people, who were humiliated by the existence of spies, and thus gain the enthusiasm for the way of the Revolution with all the endurance and sacrifice it required. If some Arab and international quarters felt that the Party and the Revolution had lost out to Arab and world public opinion because of the public executions the tangible fact is to the contrary. The internal gain was real and immeasurable. The people felt for the first time that a real and patriotic, firm and competent authority ruled the country.

The second important task facing the Revolution in consolidating political independence and liberating the national will was to build a strong and central national authority. For it happens in the countries of the Third World that a well intentioned regime without a strong central authority is corroded by conflicts and splits and is consequently unable to direct the free national will in all fields. The weakness of authority and its division among internal centres of power and undercurrents leads it in spite of itself to compromise over basic national issues and renders it an easy prey for infiltration and influence by outside powers, which becomes with time an accepted fact of life.

The consolidation of the Revolution's authority and the Party's resolute leadership gave political independence a real meaning and made it incumbent upon the government machinery and all other elements to act in the national interest. Admittedly, we have still far to go before achieving such an objective in a comprehensive and absolute manner. But the past five and a half years have proved, in no uncertain way to friend and foe alike and to our people first that Iraq is really independent with a firm government guiding its destinies and defending its interests. The ideological and cultural aspect occupies a special importance in strengthening political independence. For when the country is under foreign cultural influence, it finds itself inevitably falling directly or indirectly short of its aims and that its free will is curbed.

The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, ever since its inception, paid great attention to such an aspect. It called for educating the masses, particularly the young, and inculcating them with patriotic, socialist and democratic culture to give them immunity against foreign cultural theories and trends of thought which are incompatible with our national and humanitarian aims. Care must be taken to avoid bigotry and cultural isolation. The door must be kept open for thought and culture that serve our objectives in liberation and the building of socialism.

The Party had over the previous years drawn attention to the importance of such an issue which had been almost completely neglected by former regimes. We have achieved some success in the spreading of national and socialist culture But we still fall short of our ambitions and we must redouble our efforts in this field so that our national will will be completely free and our political independence consolidated.

The Revolution was careful to emphasize also another very important point, very much related to the safeguarding of our political independence. That point was security consciousness especially in military and economic fields. Irresponsibility in this respect which was prevalent in the past had exposed the country to foreigners who gathered what information they needed to weaken the independence of the country and hinder its progressive and free development.


Economic independence is a central aim of the liberation Revolution. It is parallel in importance to political independence and also complementary to it. For without real economic independence, political independence loses its most important pillar and meaning and remains constantly threatened.

Economic independence in the Arab Revolutionary movement, and Third World revolution in general to which the Arab Ba'th socialist Party belongs and occupies a leading position, carries special importance. For it has become the main point of struggle for political independence between the old imperialist empires such as Britain and France after their downfall and the new emerging nations, the Arab countries included. The economic field had become the new arena for manipulation by the neo-imperialists under the lead of the United States of America. The neo-imperialists have consistently tried to exploit the backwardness, divisons, weaknesses of the emerging nations and their ever increasing needs for commodities by trying to rid their newly-won political independence of its true meaning.

Economic imperialism resorted to various new forms of manipulation, direct and indirect; it has employed extremely clever methods perfected and complex so that struggle against such ways has become much more complex than mere fighting against military occupation or political hegemony. Some of the methods have become so highly deceptive and suspect to the extent that counter struggle has required a very high level of political and economic consciousness together with a resolute national will and great efforts. Imperialist control of basic national sources of wealth such as oil was one of the most dangerous forms of economic exploitation.

The development of such resources by the emerging nations required great material, technological and administrative potential on an international scale which the underdeveloped nations did not possess. The imperialist countries were thus in a position to exploit such an advantage, by imposing their extortionist terms while appearing to be doing a kind service to the underdeveloped nations. The revenues of the underdeveloped nations from their national wealth were ridiculously small. Struggle to regain control of the wealth was extremely perilous and reminiscent of the Iranian nationalization experiment under Moussadeg in 1953.

Economic imperialism took yet another dangerous form: in attempts to delay development in the newly independent nations or to direct such a development towards permanent economic dependence in spite of vast outlays in development projects. The policy of loans plays a very dangerous role in this scheme. American imperialism and its allies used this policy cunningly by flooding the newly independent countries with loans to be invested in trifling unproductive projects leaving those countries under the false impression of economic activity and increased employment. Years pass, and the underdeveloped countries find themselves still in the same position of underdevelopment -but with their economies irretrievably in pawn to the imperialist creditors and without a free national will in spite of the outward forms of political independence and the verbiage attendant upon it.

Encouragement of consumerist trends by imperialist states and corporations among the newly independent countries was and still is another important tool of neo-imperialism. The markets are flooded with attractive well-made goods which become habit-forming for the citizens and a fulcrum of a different set of values with the following consequences:

a) Emergence of a wide and active class of merchants and middlemen tied to the imperialist market by virtue of its selfish interests. This class is inimical to national liberation and economic independence. It tries in every way to influence the policy of the state.

b) Creation of an aversion to usually less wellmade national products thus lessening the incentive for industrialization.

c) As a result the government finds itself in the difficult position of being unable to control the balance of foreign trade and incapable of following a national industrialization programme. The country falls into the category of constant buyer, nonproductive consumer and a seller of primary products at best.

In leading the Revolution of July 17-30th 1968, the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party found itself duty-bound to wage a complex and many sided fight in order to achieve economic independence in a decisive manner as the Party understood it and as it believed in such an independence as a revolutionary Party fighting for the unification and freedom of the Arab Nation and for the building of socialism and democracy. The Party had fought Arab regimes for such an independence which they had failed to achieve.

Economic independence became an excepetionally important target after the defeat of June 5th. The defeat revealed ailments and some very dangerous failings in the Arab condition therefore making comprehensive and radical struggle inevitable. Economic independence in fact became a central condition for liberating Arab will and enabling the Arabs to challenge the imperialist Zionist enemy. The defeat and its aftermath also revealed the importance of the economic factor as an effective weapon which could and must be used by the Arab Nation in its struggle against imperialism and Zionism.

Iraq, which had achieved political independence with the Revolution of July 14th 1958, remained until the Revolution of July 17th 1968 under the imperialist economic hegemony as represented mainly by the big monopolies, which controlled our main source of income: oil. Consumerist trends, neglect of economic growth and development, the serious problem of the balance of trade and a chaotic policy of borrowing from and trading with foreign governments, all had grave consequences on the economic independence of the country and its political free will.

The decisive battle in Iraq to achieve economic independence, and thence political independence is the battle of liberating the oil wealth from the control of imperialist monopolies in planning, production and marketing. Without tackling this, Iraq would remain under foreign economic control, and any progress that might be achieved in other fields would still be lacking and theatened. The Revolution, however, had a long and difficult way to go before embarking on the oil battle and achieving complete success.

The Revolution had to make the necessary political preperations before plunging into such a dangerous and comprehensive battle. It had first to consolidate the authority of the Revolution and the leadership of the Party. It had to make progress towards solution of the Kurdish Question, to strengthen relations with the other national parties and political forces and to improve relations with the other Arab countries or at least halt the deterioration of relations while establishing any possible economic relations. It had to establish strong tie with the Soviet Union and other countries of the socialist camp and also establish good relations with France and many other European and Third World countries.

The Revolution had also to make the necessary economic preparations for the battle in order to be able to choose its time and secure the requirements of success.

These political and economic preparations were at one and the same time compatible with the principles of the Revolution and its tactical and strategic aims. They served their purpose perfectly in the battle of nationalization and set the Revolution on the road forward.

The Revolution had inherited from the Aref dictatorial regime a chaotic and bankrupt economy. The State treasury was almost empty. It was unreasonable to enter into a decisive battle with the oil companies at that stage unprepared, particularly since oil revenues formed a high percentage of the State's budget and of the development budget.

The Revolution, therefore, had to concentrate for some time on general economic reform and minimizing dependence on oil revenues. This was by no means easy since oil revenues occupied an exceptional position in the economy of the country. And a few years were not enough for a radical economic reform to transform it from backwardness to progress.

The Revolution, however, had no alternative but to struggle with all available means to achieve quickly economic independence. It succeeded to a great extent in creating a climate of public opinion conducive to economic reform, and in lessening dependence on oil revenues. That was very important psychologically and materially in the fight with the monopolies, the fight that ended in our triumph.

An extensive effort was made to develop agriculture and reduce agricultural imports. Likewise, industrial development received a boost. Shutdown factories were put back into operation. Hard currencies were saved. Consumerist trends were curbed and foreign trade was so directed as to conform with the development plan and the requirements of an economy saving on hard currency. As in military battles, where an army cannot win a big battle without proper training and the winning of smaller battles as experience, so political and economic battles cannot be waged without adequate preparation. Those political and economic preparations were essential to liberate the oil wealth. The need arose for smaller battles in the field of oil in order to gain the necessary experience and information on the way to the decisive battle.

The Revolution had, from the beginning, to enter into two battles: national exploitation of sulfur. Iraq is rich in crude sulfur. Imperialist monopolies, particularly American, had since the days of the monarchy tried to win control over this resource. Under Aref, Pan American almost won the sulfur concession but for the opposition of the masses and national forces led by the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party. When the Party assumed political power, it had to prove that the people were capable of exploiting their own wealth. In the first year of the Revolution, we were able to reach an agreement on cooperation with Poland in the field of the national exploitation of sulfur. That was the first battle against the monopolies in which the Revolution proved its freedom of will and laid the cornerstone of national minerals industry.

In the field of oil, Law No . 80 of 1961, according to which the government appropriated all unexploited areas of oil concession - remained ink on paper until the Revolution of July 17th. The National Oil Company which had been established in 1964 was weak and inefficient, controlled by some rotten and suspect elements. Its role was confined to following the contract agreement with the ERAP Company of France providing for the exploitation of those areas covered by Law No. 80.

Many attempts had been made in the past by the monopolies to by-pass Law No. 80 and render it void of its national content. In 1965, the government of Taher Yahya was about to mortgage the relinquished lands to the monopolies under the cover of a joint venture. The Party had opposed that project strongly and was able with other national forces to mobilize public opinion against i t ;r and cause it to fail.

Success in national exploitation of oil was considered a decisive step against the oil monopolies and the freedom of the resource. In July 1969, the Revolution concluded cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union for national exploitation of oil. The oil monopolies considered that step a dangerous challenge to their interests and future in Iraq. For a long time and with all means they sought to abort that move and render its national meaning hollow. But it went through with success, thanks to the resolute national will, and brought its first fruits on April 7th 1972.

During that time, the Revolution and the ,government was active in Arab and international fields and through OPEC to secure greatest possible rights for the producing countries and to increase the price of oil. The Tehran agreement of 1971 increased considerably the oil revenues of Iraq and other producers.

Oil nationalization was a high strategic aim of Arab revolution. It was the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party that coined the slogan of "Arab Oil for Arabs".

The idea of oil nationalization began to be entertained seriously in the summer of 1970 after the unpublicized failure of negatiations between the government and the oil companies. It dawned then upon the Party that the companies were trying to contain the Revolution by delaying tactics to gain time for its downfall.

At the end of 1971, the government summoned the companies to negotiations that were to be decisive. From the outset the government made the companies feel that the Revolution viewed the relationship in both political and economic terms and that it would not go back on Law No. 80 or allow any compromise of the basic rights of the people to their national wealth.

Negotiations were an important field for a trial of strength and for discovery of the companies tactics. From the Revolution's political, economic, financial preparedness and from the course of the negotiations, the companies found that they were facing a totally new situation which they had not faced before in Iraq or in any of the oil producing countries. They apparently felt that they were being cornered and that the Revolution might in the end achieve partial or total nationalization. The companies therefore resorted to hard bargaining and delaying tactics, and when they fully realized the Revolution's unswerving position they decided to strike first by considerably reducing production. This was meant to hold up the development programme and prevent the Revolution from saving the necessary hard currency, causing it to be discredited and unable to do anything for the people. The companies thought they would thus be able to handle the Revolution, humiliate it, and even bring it down.

The leadership of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party understood this game in spite of all the euphemistic excuses of the companies. The Revolution decided to open fire on the companies and issued the famous two-week ultimatum on May 17th 1972. During this glorious period in the history of our Party and the people, the Revolution carried out a wide-scale mobilization of all popular forces and organizations. A general feeling of national urgency prevailed. Support for the Revolution was widespread and the people expressed their willingness to sacrifice. Just a few days before the ultimatum was issued the leadership of the Party decided to put its popular front course into action as a necessary political requirement for the confrontation. Two communist ministers were taken into the cabinet. When the ultimatum expired and the companies were still offering excuses and delays, the Regional Secretary General of the Party announced the historical nationalization decree to the people. That was on the first of June.

By making the decisive move of nationalization, the government realized economic independence and took control of 65% of the oil producing sector of the national economy which, alone, had been under alien control, save for a small proportion represented by the Rumeila field. The government was now in control of 99.75% of the land from which oil is extracted.

Nationalization had far-reaching effects beyond the mere question of political independence according to its usual meaning. For the oil monopolies are not just foreign commercial companies in control of a small or a big sector of the national economy in this country or that. They are a gigantic international octopus extending across many continents and closely associated with the strategic interests of imperialism and the delicate position of the great powers.

Confrontation with oil companies is thus a direct confrontation with imperialism at its nervecentre. The nationalization decision in Iraq contributed effectively to the exposure of the energy crisis in the West and the revelation of its grave political and strategic dimensions. Nationalization in Iraq was, rightly so, the beginning of a new international era paving the way for basic changes in the balance of world power in favour of the movement for the people's liberation.

On the national level, nationalization in Iraq had a very important dimension. It was the first real blow by the Arab people to imperialism since the defeat of June, 1967. It was also the first taste of triumph for the Arabs for a long time. It rallied the people and created a widespread spirit of enthusiasm amid a climate that had been hitherto dominated by a sense of despair and defeat.

The Arab homeland, in spite of political division and the differing regimes, is always affected directly or indirectly by any radical political, economic or social change that takes place in any part of it, As the possessor of the largest crude oil reserves in the world, the effect of the Iraqi nationalization on it was profound. Voices throughout the Arab World were raised clamouring for oil nationalization and for the strangling of the foreign monopolies. The reactionary Arab oil producing regimes were deeply embarrassed particularly after the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party had shown up correctly the issue of oil as a national issue of political content and as a firm reply to imperialist and Zionist aggression and usurpation. The Party raised the slogan of using oil as a weapon in the battle against the imperialist Zionist enemy.

Successful nationalization of oil is very difficult and risky politically, economically and technically, even when confined to simple cause and effect. The Party and the Revolution having realized the greatest achievement since the Revolution of July 17th, had to embark on the most difficult of battles and exert their utmost in order to make it succeed. For many serious matters, regionally and nationally, depended upon its success.

Indeed, many circles, some of them friendly, were not sure of its complete success. Their expectations, at best, did not exceed partial political rather than economic success. The Party, the people and all national forces for nine glorious months faced the big challenge with great daring, tackling all political, economic, psychological and administrative problems of great complexity and delicacy.

Mobilization and the gaining of support in Iraq, the Arab World and internationally had to go hand in hand with intelligent tactics cognizant of the political circumstances in Iraq, the Arab World and the World at large and of the balance of power. The Revolution thus secured all provisions for complete success in battle.

The leadership's nationalization decision on l June 1972 did not include the Basrah Petroleum Company for two important reasons. The first being that it was a good source of hard currency which was needed to enable the government to stand up to the pressures of the monopolies and secondly it gave the Revolution room to manoeuvre the companies, forcing the companies to accept nationalization as a fact of life and acknowledge Law No. 80. Very significant was the leadership's decision to grant France a privileged position in the nationalization act.

At the same time, the stance of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries in support of nationalization was important politically and economically.

The political, economic and technical provisions made by the Revolution for the complete success of nationalization put it on the right course from the outset until complete triumph on March 1st 1973. The attitude of support and large scale activity by organizations, parties and progressive movements in the Arab World and the world as a whole had a great effect in creating international support for the decision and in curbing imperialism and its monopolies and conspiratorial programmes.

Support was constantly expanding. No serious economic crises occured. The Revolution had taken temporary measures of economy and the citizens were responding. Marketing of nationalized oil was on the way. Significant volumes were sold to states and companies, some of them in the West. We had sold almost all of our nationalized oil before reaching agreement with the companies in March 1973.

Reaching agreement with the companies was necessary in order to settle such outstanding problems as the after-effects of Law No. 80 the question of expensing royalties, other government claims, compensation, the continued flow of oil in pipelines.

After approval of this programme by the leadership, negotiations were conducted along those lines. The companies, through mediators at first and directly afterwards, tried to sound out and explore our ability to persist to the bitter end. They found that the Revolution would not draw back. Their art and cunning tactics collided head-on with a resolute stance and yet more cunning tactics. The leadership itself supervised the battle, not leaving it in the hands of technocrats and officials, although they did their loyal best. For the leadership was dealing with every contingency large or small, from a wider and integrated vantage point of politics and economics. In the end, the companies had to give in. Agreement and victory were achieved in March 1973. The national purport of nationalization was maintained and all the attendant economic benefits accrued to the country.

The Revolution through this heroic battle had realized major progress towards complete economic independence. The Iraqi economy was now largely led and directed by the national interests within the framework of the Revolution and its principles. The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party was able also, through this historic step, to transfer the Arab struggle to a new higher plane compatible with the challenge posed by the defeat of June and the requirements for the new stage of struggle with imperialism and Zionism. It opened a new chapter in the Arab national and social struggle with farreaching future effects.

The nationalization battle had strengthened the Party's hand in leading the revolutionary movement and society. It has made many circles inside the country and outside look a new at the Party with respect and appreciation. This has had a very important political effect both nationally and internationally.

Imperialism and its reactionary allies in the area who had been irrevocably defeated were forced to recognize the victory of our Revolution. But they will continue to think and plan, in vain, of ways to punish our Party and the Revolution for such an historically bold action.

During the period prior to the agreement, immediate measures were taken to construct the strategic oil pipeline from Haditha to Fao to ensure the export of our oil via the Gulf and the Mediterranean at one and the same time. The project guarantees the transport of northern oil to the south and at a second stage from the south to the north giving us a higher degree of flexibility under various strategic requirements and future recessities in addition to the economic benefits.

When the October War broke out, the Revolution was faithful to the revolutionary slogan of using oil as a weapon in the battle. It immediately nationalized the American share in the Basrah Petroleum Company, then the Dutch share and finally Gulbenkian's. Thus 85% of the country's oil production came under the control of the people. Economic independence became an established fact.


The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party's view of the Kurdish Question and its attempts to solve it were based on the following basic considerations:

The Kurdish national movement in Iraq, despite some historical circumstantial errors and reactionary isolationist trends some of which were on openly good terms with imperialism and reactionary circles, is essentionally a legitimate national movement so long as it works within the framework of national rights for the Kurdish people within the Republic of Iraq. Autonomous Kurdish rule is realistic and justified. And the movement as such is considered a basic part of the national movement in Iraq.

The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party is national, humane, socialist and democratic in its tenets. It is only natural that it should understand and recognize the legitimate rights of the Kurds and struggle for their fulfilment. The Party, having been in power since July l7 30th 1968, bears responsibility for guaranteeing these rights in constitutional, legal and procedural forms.

The basic and constant course adopted by the Party to guarantee and safeguard those rights is the peaceful and democratic course through sincere and positive cooperation with the national and progressive forces of the Kurdish masses and within the framework of joint national action as represented in the popular national and progressive front.

In the light of these considerations, the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party has worked with all the means at its disposal since July 17-30th 1968 to find a solution for the Kurdish Question. Admittedly the problem has become very complicated because of foreign interventions, the chauvinistic and dictatorial attitudes of the former reactionary regimes towards the Kurd's legitimate rights, protracted armed fighting over many years and because of the state of the Kurdish movement itself, together with many other factors.

Indeed, the Kurdish Question has been the most difficult problem confronting the Party and the Revolution in past years. The Party had to find a solution, theoretical and practical, that would satisfy the national aspirations of our Kurdish masses while protecting the territorial unity of the land and the unity of the national progressive movement without conflicting with the aims of the Arab struggle.

The Party found the ideal formula which was integrated theoretically, politically and practically. The formula was expressed in the great historic document of March 11th 1970 which is considered a turning point in the struggle of our Kurdish masses and the struggle of our people in Iraq as a whole for the building of a democratic progressive and prosperous society.

It must be mentioned that when the leadership of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party decided to cooperate with the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party within the framework of March 11th announcement, it did not ignore the erroneous policies pursued by some segments of the said Party and their suspect connections with separatist and reactionary circles and their separatist tendencies. The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party took its historic decision in spite of its knowledge of these facts and their implications. Its stance was based on the correct analysis that the Kurdish national movement by nature of its structure and its level of development, must contain various trends which should not be judged from one aspect only. It is the responsibility of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party and other nationalist forces in the country to help create the right conditions for the development of the Kurdish movement towards the committment to the national unity and the course of democracy and progress in the country.

Peaceful conditions and persistence in applying the articles and provisions of the March document together with efforts to erase the painful effects of armed conflict which lasted for years and the realization of a quick and wide development programme in the North, together with work within the framework of a front that includes Arabs, Kurds and all other fraternal minorities and their progressive forces would create the aforementioned conditions.

The course of the March announcement, however, was not what the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party had hoped for. Many errors were committed in dealing with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, some of them committed by our Party machinery and by the authorities. Perhaps this was because of the many uncoordinated centres that were dealing with the various aspects of the Kurdish issue. This led eventually to loss of central control over events and developments and to involvement in secondary matters and details at the expense of the main issues and central views. Many times, it even led to an inability to know what was really going on and differentiate between errors by the authorities and works of sabotage effected by certain elements of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Some government officials, particularly in the North, were unable to understand properly the letter and spirit of the March announcement and so continued to handle matters in the wrong way, perpetuating the state of affairs prior to the announcement.

On the other side, the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party often did not behave in the spirit of national unity and sincere alliance with the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party which had presumably been established after the March announcement. Many leading elements in the Kurdistan Democratic Party considered the March announcement and the alliance good only for tactical gains and an opportunity to make more demands. We have found nothing, since the first days after the March announcement, in the behaviour of the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or at least the effective and prevailing element in it, to match our expectations. On the contrary, we felt that the leadership was intensifying emergency patterns in its dealings with the government and making suspect relations with foreign powers.

In the meanwhile, the influential separatist, suspect, client and reactionary elements and tendencies in the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party were not on the decline to the degree anticipated before and after the March announcement. These elements committed large scale sabotage and conducted propaganda activity against the Party and the Revolution at home and abroad. They were and still are forming a rallying point for all elements hostile to the Party and the Revolution whether they be Arabs or Kurds. They cooperated with conspirators against the Party and the Revolution and gave shelter in the areas under their control. They are still to this day openly cooperating with the reactionary states and imperialist forces in the area to weaken and destroy the Party and the Revolution. These trends and elements are now forming the primary reserve for the forces of imperialism and regression in Iraq.

The Kurdish Question, however, must not be measured by the attitudes and behaviour of these elements and trends whose true intent is now widely known in Iraq, the Arab World and the rest of the world. It is a national question and its responsibility falls on all the benevolent forces in the nation led by the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party.

The Party, in its capacity as leader of the Revolution, is chiefly responsible for the unity of the country and the interests and rights of its people, both Arabs and Kurds. It is responsible for safeguarding independence and providing the requirements of progress. The Party, therefore, was and will be responsible for the solution of the Kurdish Question according to permanent and correct political principles within the framework of the national progressive front.

We must confess that the errors committed already have greatly harmed the progress of the Revolution. Without those errors, we should now be in an advanced position on the way to a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish Question and should have been, through correct political means, in a position to weaken considerably the evil elements which try to exploit the legitimate aspirations of the Kurdish masses for other ends, rather than in the interests of the masses, all the masses of Iraq.

However, in spite of all the errors and negative aspects, the peaceful democratic method of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party in tackling the Kurdish Question has proved to be correct and has yielded significant positive results. Over the past four years, the Revolution has discharged all its committments as expressed in the announcement of March 11th regardless of the behaviour and attitude of the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the exceptional circumstances prevailing in the area.

After four years of persistent struggle to solve the Kurdish Question peacefully and democratically, the general political, psychological and economic trends of the Kurdish masses are no longer as they used to be before the March announcement. Large sections of our Kurdish people are now finding their lives more secure and peaceful than ever before. They also feel directly the results of the Revolution's policy in fulfilling their legitimate rights and improving their standard of living. Continued peace over the past four years has created new economic conditions in the Northern area. A greater number of Kurdish citizens are now associated with the agricultural, industrial and commercial activity, which is more linked with the country's economic structure than before.

The establishment of peace and order which has succeeded in realizing many industrial, agricultural, irrigational, touristic and public service projects in the North has created conditions conducive to ultimate peace. The task of provocative elements, urging mutiny and destruction, has become much more difficult than before: Their attempts often meet with negative response by our Kurdish masses in spite of all their means of provocation, terrorism and deception.


The task of establishing the progressive front was one of the most prominent and important tasks faced by the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party since the early days of Revolution and during the past few years. The Party felt a historical responsibility for establishing it.

Since the late fifties and through the sixties, the experiences of struggle both on the regional and national levels proved beyond all doubt that all the setbacks suffered by the struggle stemmed from grave basic faults, foremost of which was the deviation of Arab progressive forces from joint direct conflict against imperialism, Zionism and reactionary forces to infighting among- themselves. This is seen clearly in the deviation of the July 1958 revolution, the failure of the Egyption-Syrian union and the setbacks of November 18th 1963 in Iraq and February 23rd 1966 in Syria and of course the major Arab defeat on June 5th 1967.

This correct analysis, as stressed in the documents of the Nineth National Congress, had to apply itself in the new phase of our Party's struggle either against dictatorial, reactionary and corrupt regimes, or on a positive plane in the form of assuming power in an Arab country.

In Iraq, the establishment of a united progressive front after assumption of power by the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party was confronted by the following basic facts:

1 - The history of popular front activity in Iraq and its previous errors and negative effects.

2 - The balance of political power in the country after the Revolution and its relation to the structure, permanence and programme of the front.

3 - Definition of the tasks of the front on the regional and national levels and the fundamental necessity of the front being an effective link in the struggle to establish a united Arab progressive front and all attendant duties.

4 - Definition of a clear programme for the solution of the Kurdish Question, for without such an agreed programme it would be useless to establish a front.

The Party's relation with political circles in Iraq on the eve of the Revolution of July 17th had been burdened with negative past experiences of conflict in spite of the efforts that the Party had exerted before the Revolution to improve such relations.

Experience proved that the establishment of close positive ties of cooperation between the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party and other political circles in Iraq was no easy matter, it was, in fact, extremely difficult and complex. It required time and a great deal of theoretical, political and practical preparation. Often, past experiences of conflict gave suspicion the upper hand. Theoretically, all parties were agreed on the necessity of working together. In practice, the automatic psychological reflexes worked against such a cooperation mainly because of the special temper of the Iraqi people. It is perfectly true that the attitudes of political parties must conform with their theoretical stands. But in reality this was not easy to apply and it needed time and exceptional efforts.

The lapse of a comparatively long time before the establishment of positive relations of understanding and cooperation between the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party and the Communist and other progressive nationalist forces was to a large extent a result of the need for the gradual creation of understanding and cooperation against the accumulation of previous experience. New problems had to be tackled one by one as they arose and the effects treated wisely and correctly.

The question of the balance of power within the front, with the Ba'th being in control of government, is a sensitive and thorny problem. The balance must be established on a realistic basis in order to be productive and permanent. The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party after the Revolution of July 1968 raised the issue in a new and precise manner. The Party must of necessity occupy a distinguished and leading position. This was achieved through the ' Party's success in applying during many years a realistic and correct policy and through its success in consolidating its authority in the face of attempts of encirclement and conspiracies.

The Party was careful, having secured its leading role in the front, to make it a working proposition in reality and not merely in form. For the front must be influential and capable of expanding regionally and nationally. The Party exerted care to deal with all powers within the front in a spirit of mutual respect and confidence, while working at the same time to develop and strengthen its role of leadership in government and society.

Morally speaking, the Party had to prove its true worth as leader of the masses and a leader of the liberating, democratic and progressive transformation in the country. It had to bridge the gap between itself and the masses with confidence and consolidate its position and relations, nationally and internationally, in order to keep its leading position in the front and Society by persuasion.

The great achievements of the Party over the past five years, such as oil nationalization, the March Manifesto regarding the Kurdish Question, agricultural reform, the general development plan, the Iraq-Soviet Treaty and vanguard participation in the fight against imperialism and Zionism particularly during the October War, all of these and other achievements have clarified the identity of our Party and proved to the masses in our country and the Arab Homeland and to the world progressive forces the extraordinary ability of our Party to lead the Revolution and fulfil its central tasks.

The establishment of the front between our Party and the Communist Party July 16th 1973 was considered by all as a proof of its capacity of achievement and an assertion of its correct patriotic course not just a mere bridge for survival in government. The difference between these two considerations is essential and has historical dimension.

The initiative taken by the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party in putting forward the concepts and political content of the solution for the Kurdish Question, as embodied in the March 11th announcement, significantly enhanced the moral aspect of the Party's leading role in the front and Society.

Many local and other circles had thought the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party incapable of putting forward an integrated programme for solving the Kurdish Question. They were under the erroneous impression that the Party, being Arab nationalist, did not possess the theoretical and conceptual capability for the solution of such a problem and had had no tangible experience in this field. The best they expected from the Party was a reasonable, graduated political programme which would solve some aspects of the problem and freeze the armed conflict with the Kurdish movement, thus gaining a temporary truce.

The Party's success in putting forward a conceptual and political programme proved the originality and the humane democratic nature of its nationalist outlook. It also proved its practical ability to handle so complex and sensitive a problem.

The March 11th announcement, on the other hand, was considered by the Party as a solution to the Kurdish Question which would contribute to the unity of the national movement in Iraq after its having been one of the main reasons of conflict. Thus one of the biggest obstacles to the establishment of a progressive front in Iraq was removed. Definition of the tasks and role of the front on the Arab national level took a good deal of discussion with the other parties. It needs intensive ideological and political effort.

The questions of unity and the liberation of Palestine occupy a central position in the struggle of the Party both ideologically and politically. Regional and national circumstances played a fundamental role in defining the extent of divergence between our Party and other parties concerning these two issues before we reached agreement.

The Party could not have gained support for its views on these questions before asserting its leading position in the political life of the country.

Arab circumstances in general during the past years have also played a big role in bridging the gap. For many years the Nasserite view and policy was prevalent and gaining in support concerning these questions while our view was being criticized. This was a reason for the widening gap between our Party and other parties, making agreement virtually impossible.

The important developments that took place in the Arab arena and the emergence of Iraq as a revolutionary and frontal force in the area with strong pull gave the theoretical and political stands of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party added weight unheard of hitherto.

Such a development, on the regional and national levels, made it possible for other parties to enter into agreement with our Party on a united programme concerning these two questions which was compatible with our theoretical and political stands. This was expressed in the documents of the National Action Charter reached with the Communist Party July 17th 1973 and published August 26th of the same year.

The intensive many-sided theoretical and political activity of the Party during the previous stage had paved the way for the establishment of the Progressive National Front.

It can be safely said that the time taken and the efforts consumed were not wasted and that the Front came at the right time and in the right pattern.


Ever since its emergence in the forties, and throughout its struggle in the Arab countries, the Party has made the provision of democratic freedom for the Arab masses an essential condition for national resurgence. The Party, through its theoretical effort and practical struggle for democracy, was able to define its general theory of democracy as one of "popular democracy".

The Party's "popular democracy", though it was explained generally in Party literature, still needed to be born-out in practice by the Party in power. Past experiences of the Party in power in both Syria and Iraq had not afforded such an opportunity. On the contrary, the Party's image was tarnished and distorted by the errors committed. Now it was the responsibility of the Party, having assumed power, to embody its theory of popular democracy and enrich it with practical application to make it an inspiration for the Arab revolutionary movement. The way was fraught, however, with stumbling blocks and complex material and psychological problems.

Iraq had been one of the poorest Arab countries in democratic traditions and practices aside from their social meaning. It had passed from one dictatorial regime to another from the days of the Ottoman rule until the July 17th 1968 Revolution. It had enjoyed only small intervals of freedom of thought, press, parties, unions and the practice of the parliamentary game.

This depressing heritage and its spiritual and material aftermath weighed heavily on the life of the people and also on the country's political life. During the ten years preceding the July 17th 1968 Revolution, fierce bloody conflicts and the dictatorships of Qassem and Aref intensified despotic practices at the expense of democratic relationships.

When the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party came to power in Iraq in 1963 it found that, despite its desire to practice democracy, it was unable to extricate itself from dictatorial relationships before it was forced out of power in November 18th 1963. Upon re-assumption of power In July 17-30th 1968, the Party had an intense desire for democracy, but in the light of precedents and prevalent circumstances it had to proceed cautiously and try and find gradual formulae toward its vital objective.

The first phase was characterized by intense centralism within the Party, government, popular organizations and society. It was perhaps necessary to stabilize the Revolution. It was also necessary to build up confidence in the Revolution whereas instant democracy at the beginning might not be appreciated for what it was. In this way any democratic step fulfilled gradually would be a credit to the Revolution registered in its favour.

The main effort in the building of democracy in the first phase for some time afterwards was directed towards the establishment of popular organizations such as labour unions, farmers' leagues, students, women's and professional organizations. Guarantees were provided to develop the political, economic and social effectiveness of- such organizations. In spite of' the centralist formulae applied in the formation of such organizations in line with the objectives of the Revolution, they soon fanned out in an unprecedented way in the country and expanded their bases. They functioned in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the country and had mass communication media of' their own. They had started to play a prominent role in the society of the Revolution.

Many professional organizations such as the union of lawyers, the society of economists and later the teachers' union, were formed under leaderships of national unity representing the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party and other progressive political forces.

Even in its first phase, the Revolution allowed ample opportunity for other parties to publish their own periodicals. After the March announcement, an Arabic-language political daily under the name of al-Ta'akhi (Fraternity) was published by the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The paper is still in circulation. The Communist Party was given a license to publish a political and cultural monthly under the name of al-Thaqafa al Jadida (the New Culture). It was also licensed to publish a weekly al-Fikr al Jadid (the New thought) and a political daily Tariq ash-Sha'b (the People's Road). A number of democrats were given a license for a cultural political magazine al-Thaqafa (Culture).

Party and official press and information media were under strict central supervision. They remained so for some time. Some of them, however, particularly al-Thawra (The Revolution) the central Party organ, were used at times to run wide-ranging dialogues on some basic national issues such as the Kurdish Question and the National Front. These papers were given some freedom to criticize the administrative and cultural machinery, but the experience proved to be of little value. Heads of bureaus under fire took the matter personally instead of viewing it as means of widening popular participation.

We must acknowledge, of course, that such erroneous attitudes harmed the development of democracy in revolutionary society. For in the absence of wide constitutional democratic institutions and popular supervisory councils, the Party would have to pay special attention to practicing criticism in its press which is there, after all, to deal with problems. Had this matter been dealt with properly, a better democratic climate and groundwork would have been created in the revolutionary society led by the Party.

More than two years ago, people's councils were started. It was a significant step in the right direction even though such councils had not acquired the precise requirements for development and growth. The councils have been established in most districts, cities, subdistricts and quarters. They have contributed to better relations between the masses and the government.

The peaceful solution of the Kurdish Question is also another sign of democracy, In addition to its significant aspect in consolidating national unity, political independence and social progress in the country, it has provided the opportunity for the first time to create a democratic climate for our Kurdish people to practice their national rights, political, social and cultural activities on a very large scale. The March announcement made it possible for the Kurdistan Democratic Party to operate publicly on a large scale. Many Kurdish organizations of students, women, writers, etc... were formed.

The peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish Question profoundly influenced the development of democracy throughout the country, despite all the obstacles that hindered its application. The dialogues and discussions that took place publicly in the papers over the Kurdish question and the criticism levelled against the erroneous stands of the Kurdistan Democratic Party established some form of democratic tradition in discussion and the expression of opinions on national issues.

Administrative and cultural safeguards for national minorities such as the Turkmens and the Assyrians were of great democratic importance. For they started to enjoy rights never enjoyed before and were given the chance to persue cultural, social and artistic activities which enhanced their feelings of citizenship and belonging.

The National Progressive Front, which came into being on the fifth anniversary of the Revolution, by agreement between the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party and the Iraqi Communist Party on a pact of national action and principles of work within the Front, is considered the most important democratic achievement of the Party and the Revolution during the past five and a half years and one of the most important democratic measures in the whole area.

This front, particularly after it acquires all the necessary elements and institutions, will play, under the leadership of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, a wide and decisive role in building the popular democracy aspired to by the Party and will be an ideal source of inspiration for the Arab revolutionary movement as well as of significance in the Third World.

The past five and half years can be summed up as a phase of laying the foundations for the popular democracy and for applying formulae that suit the objective conditions of the Revolution. In spite of all the circumstances referred to previously, the Party has been able to fulfil essential tasks in this field, most prominent among which was the granting of the freedom of the press and political parties. It is now able to enter a new phase which is the completion of the components and institutions of a people's democracy.