A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14, 1958: The Fall of the Iraqi Monarchy

King Faisal II
Today is Bastille Day, of course, but it is also the 56th anniversary of the coup tha toppled the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, killing most of the Royal Family and Prime Minister Nuri al-Sa‘id.

At the time, in the midst of the global Cold War and the so-called "Arab Cold War,"
Nuri al-Sa‘id
the coup set off alarms in the US and Britain, as the British installed Hashemites were ousted and killed, and a key member of the Baghdad Pact changed allegiances.

The coup, led by ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim and ‘Abd al-Salam ‘Arif, seemed to follow the Nasser model, but it soon became clear that Qasim was more an Iraqi nationalist than a Nasserist.Qasim cultivated the Iraqi Communist Party and other groups. ‘Arif, a pan-Arabist along Nasser lines, was sidelined.

‘Arif (left)  and Qasim
An encouraging new constitution raised hopes, but Qasim proved a typical authoritarian, and after five years in power was himself overthrown and shot in 1963 in a coup led by Arif. Qasim, of mixed Sunni-Shi‘ite background, was a rare exception to the long string of Sunni rulers in Iraq.

The monarchy, Sunni, foreign, and widely seen as too pro-British, never took deep roots in Iraq, but in the international context of 1958, its overthrow led to renewed concerns in the West about Soviet and Nasserist intentions, and British moved to shore up the Jordanian Hashemites while the US landed Marines in Lebanon.


radical royalist said...

Gailan M. Ramiz wrote in The New York Times:
Although in sentiment and conscience I am a republican, as a political scientist I believe the interests of Iraqi stability and democracy — and indeed Iraq's very survival as a state — would be best served by the restoration of the monarchy. I have long held this view and still do. Why?

Under a constitutional monarchy, the army, police force, civil service and judiciary — the major pillars of power in civil society — would be linked to the crown and consequently placed outside the turbulent arena of political conflict.

Such a system is crucial for Iraq, where politics has ethnic, sectarian and fundamentalist roots and thus has a tendency to be violent.

I am sure that more than three-quarters of the problems of Iraq — and of America's problems in Iraq — would be automatically solved by the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. It is also fully compatible with the federal structure of government for Iraq. Furthermore, a monarchy would not be a novel thing for Iraq — it would indeed be a restoration.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

But would you restore the Hashemites? If so, which one? Or find someone else?