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Said

Said

[sed]
Said, Ali Ahmad: see Adonis.
Said, Sayyid or Said ibn Sultan, 1791?-1856, ruler of Oman and Zanzibar. He became ruler of Oman in 1806, when he was about 15. After defeating opposition in Oman, with British help he determined to reassert Oman's traditional claims in E Africa. He eventually succeeded and in about 1840 shifted his capital to Zanzibar, where he introduced the cloves that became the foundation of the island's economy. He also controlled the Arab traders that brought back slaves and ivory from the African interior.

Nuri al-Said (1888 – July 15, 1958) (نوري السعيد) was an Iraqi politician during the British Mandate and the monarchy, who served in various key cabinet positions, including fourteen terms as prime minister of Iraq:

  1. March 23, 1930October 19, 1932
  2. October 20, 1932October 27, 1932
  3. December 25, 1938April 6, 1939
  4. April 7, 1939February 21, 1940
  5. February 22, 1940March 21, 1940
  6. October 9, 1941October 8, 1942
  7. October 9, 1942December 25, 1943
  8. December 26, 1943June 3, 1944
  9. November 21, 1946March 11, 1947
  10. January 6, 1949December 10, 1949
  11. September 15, 1950July 10, 1952
  12. August 2, 1954December 17, 1955
  13. December 18, 1955June 8, 1957
  14. March 3, 1958May 13, 1958

From his first appointment under the British colonial regime as prime minister in 1930, Nuri was a major political figure in Iraq under the monarchy. During his many terms in office, he was involved in some of the key policy decisions that shaped the modern Iraqi state. In 1930, during his first term, he signed the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty, which, as a step toward greater independence, granted Britain the unlimited right to station its armed forces in and transit military units through Iraq. It also gave legitimacy to British control of the country's oil industry. While the treaty nominally reduced British involvement in Iraq's internal affairs, this was only to the extent that Iraq's behavior did not conflict with British economic or military interests. This agreement led the way to nominal independence as the Mandate ended in 1932. Throughout his career Nuri was a supporter of a continued and extensive British role within Iraq. These policies were always matters of great contention.

Nuri was a controversial figure with many enemies, and had to flee Iraq twice in the aftermath of coups. By the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, he was deeply unpopular—his policies, regarded as pro-British, were believed to have failed in adapting to the country's changed social circumstances. Poverty and social injustice were widespread, and Nuri had become a symbol of a regime that failed to address these issues, choosing a course of repression instead, to protect the interests of the well-off. On 15 July 1958, the day after the republican revolution, he attempted to flee the country disguised as a woman, but was captured and killed.

Early career

Nuri as-Sa'id was born in Baghdad to a lower middle class Sunni Muslim family of North Caucasian origin. His father, a member of the Karaghul tribe, was a minor government accountant. Nuri graduated from a military college in Istanbul in 1906, trained at the staff college there in 1911 as an officer in the Ottoman army, and was among the officers dispatched to Libya in 1912 to raise resistance against the Italian occupation of that province. During the First World War he was converted to the Arab nationalist cause and fought in the Arab Revolt under Emir Faisal ibn Hussein of the Hijaz, who would later reign briefly as king of Syria before becoming king of Iraq. Like other Iraqi officers who had served under Faisal, he emerged as part of a new political elite.

Initial positions under the new Iraqi monarchy

Nuri headed the Arab troops who took Damascus for Faisal in the wake of the retreating Turkish forces in 1918. When Faisal was deposed by the French in 1920, Nuri followed the exiled monarch to Iraq, and in 1922 became first director general of the Iraqi police force. He used this position to fill the force with his placemen, a tactic he would repeat in subsequent positions and which was a basis of his considerable political clout in later years.

He was a trusted ally of Faisal who, in 1924, appointed him deputy commander in chief of the army so as to ensure the loyalty of the troops to the regime. Once again, Nuri used this position to build up his own power base. During the 1920s, he supported the king's policy to build up the nascent state's armed forces, based on the loyalty of Sharifian officers, the former Ottoman soldiers who formed the backbone of the regime.

Prime minister for the first time, 1930

Faisal first proposed Nuri as prime minister in 1929, but it was only in 1930 that the British were persuaded to forego their objections. As in previous appointments, Nuri was quick to appoint supporters to key government positions, but this only weakened the king's own base among the civil service, and the formerly close relationship between the two men soured. Among Nuri's first acts as prime minister was the signing of the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Treaty, an unpopular move since it essentially confirmed Britain's mandatory powers and gave them permanent military prerogatives in the country even after full independence was achieved. In 1932 he presented the Iraqi case for greater independence to the League of Nations.

In October 1932, Faisal dismissed Nuri as prime minister and replaced him with Naji Shawkat. This curbed Nuri's influence somewhat; after the death of Faisal the following year and the accession of King Ghazi, his access to the palace decreased. Further impeding his influence was the rise of Yasin al-Hashimi, who would become prime minister for the first time in 1935. Nevertheless, Nuri continued to hold sway among the military establishment, and his position as a trusted ally of the British meant that he was never far from power. In 1933 the British persuaded Ghazi to appoint him foreign minister, a post he held until the Bakr Sidqi coup in 1936. However, his close ties to the British, which helped him remain in important positions of state, also destroyed any remaining popularity he had.

Intriguing with the army, 1937 - 1940

The Bakr Sidqi coup showed the extent to which Nuri had tied his fate to that of the British in Iraq: he was the only politician of the toppled government to seek refuge in the British embassy, and his hosts sent him into exile in Egypt. He returned to Baghdad in August 1937 and began plotting his return to power, in collaboration with Colonel Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh. This so perturbed then prime minister Jamil al-Midfai that he persuaded the British that Nuri was a disruptive influence who would be better off abroad. They obliged by convincing Nuri to take up residence in London as the Iraqi ambassador. Despairing perhaps of his relationship with Ghazi, he now began to secretly suggest co-operation with the Saudi royal family.

Back in Baghdad in October 1938, Nuri re-established contact with al-Sabbagh, and persuaded him to overthrow the Midfai government. Al-Sabbagh and his cohorts launched their coup on the 24 December 1938, and Nuri was reinstated as prime minister. In this position, he sought to sideline the king by promoting the position—and possible succession—of the latter's half-brother Prince Zaid. Meanwhile Ghazi was also annoying the British with increasingly nationalistic broadcasts on his private radio station. In January 1939 the king further aggrieved Nuri by appointing Rashid Ali al-Kaylani head of the Royal divan. Nuri’s campaign against his rivals continued in March that year, when he claimed to have unmasked a plot to murder Ghazi, and used it as an excuse to carry out a purge of the army's officer corps.

When Ghazi died in a car crash on 4 April 1939, Nuri was widely suspected of being implicated in his death. At the royal funeral crowds chanted: “You will answer for the blood of Ghazi, Nuri.” He supported the accession of 'Abd al-Ilah as regent for Ghazi’s successor, Faisal II, who was still a minor. The new regent was initially susceptible to Nuri’s influence.

By this time, affairs in Europe had begun to have an impact on Iraq—the fall of France in June 1940 encouraged some patriotic elements to place their hopes in a German victory. While Nuri remained loyal to Britain, al-Sabbagh moved into the pro-German camp. This loss of his main military ally meant that Nuri “quickly lost his ability to affect events.”

Coexistence with the regent in the 1940s

In April 1941, the pro-Axis elements seized power, installing Rashid Ali al-Kaylani as prime minister. Nuri fled to British-controlled Jordan; his protectors then sent him to Cairo, but after occupying Baghdad they brought him back, installing him as prime minister under the British occupation. He would retain this post for over two and half years, but from 1943 onward, the regent obtained a greater say in the selection of his ministers and began to assert greater independence. Iraq remained under British Military occupation until late 1947.

The regent's brief flirtation with more liberal policies in 1947 did little to stave off the problems that the established order was facing. The social and economic structures of the country had changed considerably since the establishment of the monarchy, with an increased urban population, a rapidly growing middle class, and increasing political consciousness among the peasants and the working class, in which the Iraqi Communist Party was playing a growing role. However, the political elite, with its strong ties and shared interests with the dominant classes, was unable to take the radical steps that might have preserved the monarchy. In this attempt by the elite to retain power during the last ten years of the monarchy, Nuri, rather than the regent, would increasingly play the dominant role, thanks largely to his superior political skills.

The regime resists growing political unrest

In November 1946, an oil workers’ strike culminated in a massacre of the strikers by the police, and Nuri was brought back as premier. He briefly brought the Liberals and National Democrats into the cabinet, but soon reverted to the more repressive approach he generally favoured, ordering the arrest of numerous communists in January 1947. Those captured included party secretary Fahd. Meanwhile, Britain attempted to legalize a permanent military presence in Iraq even beyond the terms of the 1930 treaty, although it no longer had World War II to justify its continued presence there. Both Nuri and the regent increasingly saw their unpopular links with Great Britain as the best guarantee of their own position, and accordingly set about cooperating in the creation of a new Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. In early January 1948 Nuri himself joined the negotiating delegation in England, and on 15 January the treaty was signed.

The response on the streets of Baghdad was immediate and furious. After six years of British occupation, no single act could have been less popular than giving the British an even larger legal role in Iraq's affairs. Demonstrations broke out the following day, with students playing a prominent part and the Communist Party guiding much of the anti-government activity. The protests intensified over the following days, until the police fired on a mass demonstration (20 January), leaving many casualties. On the following dayt, `Abd al-Ilah disavowed the new treaty. Nuri returned to Baghdad on 26 January and immediately implemented a harsh policy of repression against the protesters. At mass demonstration the next day, police fired again at the protesters, leaving many more dead. In his struggle to implement the treaty, Nuri had destroyed any credibility he had left. Although he retained considerable power throughout the country, he was generally hated.

The next major political demarche with which Nuri's name would be associated was the Baghdad Pact, a series of agreements concluded between 1954 and 1955 which tied Iraq politically and militarily with the Western powers and their regional allies, notably Turkey. This pact was especially important to Nuri, as it was favored by the British and Americans. On the other hand, it was also contrary to the political aspirations of most of the country. Taking advantage of the situation, Nuri stepped up his policies of political repression and censorship. This time, however, the reaction was less fierce than it had been in 1948. According to historian Hanna Batatu, this can be attributed to slightly more favourable economic circumstances and the weakness of the Communist Party, damaged by police repression and internal division.

The political situation deteriorated in 1956, with uprisings in the cities of Najaf and Hayy, while Israel's attack on Egypt, coordinated with Britain and France in response to the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, only exacerbated popular mistrust of the Baghdad Pact. Nuri’s political position was weakened, while the opposition began to coordinate its activities: in February 1957 a Front of National Union was established, bringing together the National Democrats, the Independents, the Communists, and the Ba'th Party. A similar process within the military officer corps followed, with the formation of the Supreme Committee of Free Officers. However, Nuri's attempts to preserve the loyalty of the military through generous benefits failed.

The Iraqi monarchy and its Hashemite ally in Jordan reacted to the union between Egypt and Syria (February 1958) by forming the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan. (He tried to convince Kuwait to join too, but the British were opposed.) Nuri was the first prime minister of the new federation, which was soon ended with the coup that toppled the Iraqi monarchy.

Fall of the monarchy and Nuri's death

As the Lebanon crisis of 1958 escalated, Jordan requested the help of Iraqi troops, who feigned to be en route there on July 14. Instead they moved on Baghdad, and on that day, Colonel Abdul Karim Qassim seized control of the country and ordered the royal family to evacuate the palace. They congregated in the courtyard—King Faisal; Prince 'Abd al-Ilah and his wife Princess Hiyam; Princess Nafeesa, Abdul Ilah’s mother; Princess Abadiya, the king’s aunt; and several servants. Told to turn to the wall, they were shot down by Captain Abdus Sattar As Sab’, a member of the coup. After almost four decades, the monarchy was toppled.

Nuri went into hiding, but he was captured the next day as he sought to make his escape disguised as a woman (but with men's shoes). He was shot dead and buried that same day, but an angry mob disinterred his corpse and dragged it through the streets of Baghdad, where it was hung up, burned, and mutilated.

Notes

Sources

  • The Old Social Classes and New Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Hanna Batatu, London, al-Saqi Books, 2000. ISBN 0-86356-520-4
  • A History of Iraq, Charles Tripp, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-52900-X

External links

  • Article with details of Nuri as-Said's suggestions for expelling the Jews from Iraq

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