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Hark Back to the Past: How the USA Lost Influence in Iraq

MG is a senior air warrior who has seen combat and is an alumnus of the Staff College and a writer on military matters.

The man who finished American influence

The man who finished American influence

Last King of Iraq

Last King of Iraq


The Western powers for a variety of reasons have always coveted the lands in the Middle East. The end of the first world war saw the rise of British and French imperialism. On May 19, 1916, representatives of Great Britain and France secretly reached an accord, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, by which most of the Arab lands under the rule of the Ottoman Empire are to be divided into British and French spheres of influence. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the present Arab world was created. It was an artificial creation.

After World War II, the United States replaced the Anglo-French powers as the main influencer in the Middle East. The United States began to have tremendous leverage in Iran and Iraq. In Iran, a coup supported by the CIA put into power Reza Pahlavi as the Shah of Iran in 1954. In Iraq, King Faisal II and his government began to rely on America for both security and economy.

Iraq was a pro-west monarchy. The king was a pro-west man and his Prime Minister Nuri Al-Said a rabid pro-American. There was little development as corruption reigned supreme. Iraq was the linchpin of American influence when General Ike Eisenhower was president. He had formulated a plan to ring the Soviet Union with military alliances and bases. One of the important military pacts was the Baghdad Pact with its headquarters in the capital city of Iraq.

One fact the Americas overlooked was the anti-American feeling in the Middle East particularly among orthodox Muslims who felt America was the 'great satan' and must be removed.

Revolution 1958

Revolution 1958

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The coup

The economy of Iraq was in the doldrums and the people were poor. Right from World War II when the Arabs had secretly conspired with the Germans, the anti-West feeling was high. Iraq was ripe for a revolution. In 1958, Lieutenant General Abdul Karim Kaseem the military commander staged a bloody coup. The entire family of King Faisal including the king was shot dead. Violent crowds lynched Prime Minister Nuri to death. It was a blood bath that shook the world. Princess Badiya bin Ali the aunt of the king was the only survivor as she took refuge in the Saudi embassy. She died in 2020.

When the coup began Faisal II who was only 23 ordered the Royal Guard to offer no resistance and surrendered to the soldiers. He hoped for a safe passage. Around 8 am, Captain Abdul Sattar Sabaa Al-Ibousi, leading the platoon at the Rihab Palace, ordered the King and his immediate family to gather in the palace courtyard. They were told to face the wall and were machine-gunned by their captors. Later Saddam Hussein gave his body respectability by building a mausoleum for the king in Baghdad.

General Kaseem abolished the monarchy and became president. He went to the office armed with a sub-machine gun. The military putsch led to a blood bath and anybody remotely connected with the royal family was executed.

Badiya bin Ali last surviving princess died in 2020

Badiya bin Ali last surviving princess died in 2020

Counter coup and Saddam

The power equation in the Middle East changed significantly. Eisenhower, the then US president had launched the’ Baghdad Pact’ to contain communism. It had its headquarters in Baghdad. Kaseem promptly withdrew from the Baghdad pact which became redundant. The United States had no option but to look for an alternate headquarters. This was the beginning of the end of American influence in Iraq.
Those who ride the tiger are eaten by the tiger and in 1963, Lt General Kaseem was killed in another coup led by his opponents. He was executed almost immediately after a trial during the famous Ramadan revolution. The present cycle of violence seems to be a carryover of the past.

In retrospect, one can see that the United States committed a great mistake by aligning with kings and rulers who had no connection with the common man. The instability in Iraq continued till Saddam Hussein took over as president. He brought stability to Iraq and was a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. The Americans again committed hara-kiri when George Bush launched the invasion of Iraq and got Saddam Hussein executed after a mock trial. Despite this American influence continues to be zero in Iraq and now no American walks the streets of Baghdad alone. The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution asking for the complete withdrawal of American troops left behind in Iraq. America also lost all influence in Iran when the Shah was overthrown.

America now persona non grata

The situation in the Middle East is now fluid. The only ally of the United States is Israel and Saudi Arabia. There is an undercurrent of hostility throughout the entire Middle East and somehow America has come to be associated with the enemies of the Arabs. The revolution in Iraq is important because it set in motion a series of events that are a direct result of the imperialism practiced by the British and French by the agreement they made in 1916.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 21, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, after the Shia- Sunni separation in 700 AD both sects have been at each other's throats and Iraq is not an exception. Look at Pakistan where thousands of Shia's have been killed. Iraq is ruined , yes Saddam was treated as a friend then suddenly Bush decide to get him executed. Bush gained nothing except sending 4000 young Americans to their death in Iraq. The man should be tried for it. But not many white Americans see it that way. Saddam was India's friend and always supported India on Kashmir, even before him Kassem had authorized Indian Air Force pilots to train Iraqi pilots. The training program continued for 10 + years. Saddam was secular and his foreign minister was a Christian. Iraq is now in Irans orbit and Biden must be wondering what to do.

tom jose on June 21, 2021:

islam ruined sunni split ,ad 700 split ,no iraqi vs kurd,minority christian and jews always targeted.sykes picot agrrement ruined arabia,only freind of arabs was lawrence of arabia,israel invincible,bablyonian empire better,calipates did nothing for muslims,renaissance caused military revoultion in europe,noori said fought under lawrence,socialism ruined iraq,1979 cia backed saddam ,he became enemy in 1990,iran iraq war one milliion kiled,iraq better under byzantine empire,pre islamic iraq better,failed muslim state.baghdad capital of caliphate now warzone.kurds pro us northern iraq kurdistan,iraq ur old testament oly land bloody land,religion cause of all viloence,iraq arms buyer under saddam

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