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Saddam Hussein

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Saddam Hussein
صدام حسين
Iraq, Saddam Hussein (222).jpg
President of Iraq
In office
16 July 1979 – 9 April 2003
Prime Minister Sa'dun Hammadi
Mohammed Amza Zubeidi
Ahmad Husayn Khudayir as-Samarrai
Preceded by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
Succeeded by Jay Garner (Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance)
Prime Minister of Iraq
In office
29 May 1994 – 9 April 2003
Preceded by Ahmad Husayn Khudayir as-Samarrai
Succeeded by Mohammad Bahr al-Ulloum (Acting President of the Governing Council)
In office
16 July 1979 – 23 March 1991
Preceded by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
Succeeded by Sa'dun Hammadi
Leader of the Ba'ath Party
In office
23 June 1989 – 30 December 2006
Preceded by Michel Aflaq
Succeeded by Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri
Chairperson of the Revolutionary Command Council
In office
16 July 1979 – 9 April 2003
Preceded by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born 28 April 1937(1937-04-28)
Al-Awja, Iraq
Died 30 December 2006(2006-12-30) (aged 69)
Kadhimiya, Iraq
Political party Ba'ath Party
Other political
National Progressive Front
Spouse(s) Sajida Talfah
Samira Shahbandar
Children Uday

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti[1] (28 April 1937 [2] - 30 December 2006[3]), was the President of Iraq, from July 16, 1979 to April 9, 2003, when he was removed from his position during the War in Iraq led by the United States. During his time as President, he killed 5 million people through war and genocide.

Saddam as a young man

Saddam Hussein was born in the village of Al-Awja, in the Tikrit in Iraq. He never knew his father, Hussein 'Abd al-Majid, who disappeared five months before Saddam was born. Shortly before Saddam was born, Saddam's twelve-year-old brother died of cancer, leaving his mother very depressed in the final months of the pregnancy. She tried to kill herself near the end of the pregnancy and did not want to care for Saddam when he was born[source?]. Saddam was sent to the family of an uncle, Khairallah Tulfah, until he was three.

At 10, Saddam ran away from the family to return to live with his uncle, who was a devout Sunni Muslim, in Baghdad. According to Saddam, in 1957, at the age of 20, Saddam became part of the Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath party is an Arab group that supports socialism.

In 1958, Hussein was arrested for killing his brother-in-law because he was a communist activist. He spent six months in prison.[4]

Saddam's rise in the Ba'ath party

A year after Saddam had joined the Ba'ath party, army officers led by General Abdul Karim Qassim got rid of Faisal II of Iraq. The Ba'athists opposed the new regime, and in 1959, Saddam was involved in the attempted murder of Prime Minister Qassim. Saddam was shot in the leg, but managed to get away to Syria, later he moved to Egypt. He was sentenced to death. In exile, he attended the University of Cairo law school.

Army officers, including some with the Ba'ath party, came to power in Iraq in a military coup in 1963. However, the new regime was kicked out quickly. Saddam returned to Iraq, but was imprisoned in 1964 when an anti-Ba'ath group led by Abdul Rahman Arif took power. He escaped from jail in 1967 and became one of the leading members of the party.

Saddam gains power

In 1976, Saddam was appointed as a general in the Iraqi army. He quickly became the most important person of the regime. He slowly began to gain more power over Iraq's government and the Ba'ath party. As Iraq's weak and old President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became more unable to do the duties of his office, Saddam began to become an larger important role as the head of the Iraqi government. He soon became the creator of Iraq's foreign policy and represented the nation in all diplomatic situations.

Iraq-Iran War

In 1979, Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution, giving way to an Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The influence of revolutionary Shi'ite Islam grew in the region, particularly in countries with large Shi'ite populations, especially Iraq. Saddam was afraid that radical Islamic ideas that would go against his leadership were quickly spreading inside his country among most of the Shi'ite people.

There had also been a rivalry between Saddam and Khomeini since the 1970s. Khomeini, having been exiled from Iran in 1964, began living in Iraq, at the Shi'ite holy city of An Najaf. There, he became involved himself with Iraqi Shi'ites and got a strong religious and political following throughout the world. Under pressure from the Shah, who had agreed to a rapprochement between Iraq and Iran in 1975, Saddam agreed to kick Khomeini out in 1978. After the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini thought defeating Saddam's government may have been the second most important thing to do, only behind keeping his power in Iran.

After Khomeini gained power, small battles between Iraq and revolutionary Iran happened for ten months. They were fought over who controlled the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway, which divides the two countries. Iraq and Iran entered into warfare on September 22, 1980. The pretext for war with Iran was this territorial dispute, but the war was more likely an attempt by Saddam, helped by both the United States and the Soviet Union, to have Iraq stop radical revolutions like in Iran from spreading any further.

In the first days of the war, there was heavy ground fighting around major ports as Iraq launched an attack on Iran's oil-rich, Arab-populated province of Khuzestan. After making some gains, Iraq's troops began to suffer losses from human-wave attacks by Iran. By 1982, Iraq was looking to end the war.

During the war, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists. On March 16, 1988, Iraqi troops, on orders from Saddam to stop a Kurdish uprising, attacked the Kurdish town of Halabjah with a mix of poison gas and nerve agents killing 5000 people, mostly women and children.

Saddam reached out to other Arab governments for cash and political help. The Iranians, hoping to bring down Saddam's non-religious government and start a Shi'ite rebellion in Iraq, refused a cease-fire until 1988.

The eight-year war ended in a tie. There were hundreds of thousands of casualties. Perhaps 1.7 million died on both sides. Both economies, previously healthy and expanding, were left in ruins.

Saddam was also stuck with a debt of roughly $75 billion. Borrowing money from the U.S. was making Iraq into its client state, embarrassing a strongman who had sought to define and dominate Arab nationalism. Saddam also borrowed a large amount of money from other Arab states during the 1980s to fight Iran. Faced with rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, Saddam desperately sought out cash once again, this time for postwar reconstruction.

Tensions with Kuwait

Saddam was pressuring Kuwait to forgive its share of his debt, some $30 billion. He argued that since the struggle with Iran had been fought for the benefit of the other Persian Gulf Arab states as much as for Iraq that a share of Iraqi debt should be forgiven.

Saddam had pushed oil-exporting countries to raise oil prices and cut back production, but on top of Kuwaiti refusals to do so, Kuwait helped spearhead OPEC's opposition to the production cuts that Saddam had requested. Kuwait was pumping large amounts of oil, and keeping prices low, when Iraq needed to sell high-priced oil from its wells to pay off a huge debt.

The fact that Kuwait had so much oil made the region even more tense. Even though Kuwait had fewer people, it had about as much oil in reserve as Iraq. Together, Iraq and Kuwait had 20 percent of the world's known oil reserves.

The Kuwaiti monarchy made Saddam even angrier by drilling oil out of Iraqi wells. At the time, Saddam's regime was not thought to be disliked by most of the world. Saddam complained about the drilling to the U.S. State Department. Although this had gone on for years, Saddam now needed oil money to get rid of a looming economic crisis. Saddam still had an experienced and well-equipped army, which he used to influence regional affairs. He later ordered troops to the Iraq-Kuwait border.

As Iraq-Kuwait relations rapidly grew worse, Saddam was getting conflicting information about how the U.S. would respond to an invasion. Washington had been taking measures to start a good relationship with Iraq for roughly a decade. The Reagan administration gave Saddam roughly $40 billion worth of arms in the 1980s to fight Iran, nearly all of it on credit. The U.S. also sent billions of dollars of food and arms to Saddam to keep him from forming a strong alliance with the Soviets.[5]

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam in a meeting on July 25, where the Iraqi leader said he wanted to keep talks going. U.S. officials attempted to maintain a conciliatory line with Iraq, indicating that while Bush and Baker did not want force to be used, they would not take any position on the Iraqi-Kuwait dispute and did not want to become involved. Later, Iraq and Kuwait then met for a final negotiation session, which failed. Saddam then sent his troops into Kuwait.

Gulf War

In August 2, 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait, thus making an international crisis. The invasion of Kuwait gave Iraq, with its own substantial oil fields, control of 20 percent of the Persian Gulf oil. The U.S. helped Saddam Hussein in the war with Iran, but with Iraq's take over of the oil-rich emirate of Kuwait in August of 1990, the United States led a United Nations attempt that drove Saddam from Kuwait in February 1991.

Cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union made it possible for resolutions to pass in the United Nations Security Council and gave Iraq a deadline to leave Kuwait.

Saddam ignored the Security Council deadline. Helped by the Security Council, a U.S.-led coalition launched missile attacks on Iraq, January 16, 1991. The United States and a group of allies it had hastily rounded up, including Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, made Saddam's army move from Kuwait in January 1991. (see Gulf War).

Israel, though subjected to attack by Iraqi missiles, refrained from retaliating in order not to anger Arab states into leaving the coalition. But Saddam had focused attention on the Palestinian problem by promising to make his forces leave from Kuwait if Israel would leave the occupied territories in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. Saddam's proposal further split the Arab world, pitting U.S.- and Western-supported Arab states against the Palestinians.

175,000 Iraqis were taken prisoner and the dead were estimated to be 85,000. As part of the cease-fire agreement, Iraq agreed to get rid of all poison gas and germ weapons and allow UN observers to inspect the sites.

After the War

All of the different religions and the violence of the war that this had created, caused after-war rebellions. After the war, fighting between Shi'ite Muslims, Kurds, and dissident military units was bad. This was a problem to Saddam's rule. Saddam acted by stopping all rebellions in their tracks, especially in the North.

The United States did not help the rebellions, although they had wanted Iraqis to rise up against Saddam. Turkey - a friend of the US - was against Kurdish independence, which would have stopped the fighting. This was because the Saudis and old-fashioned Arab states were afraid of a change like what happened in Iran with the Shiites. Saddam survived these problems that happened right after the war. He was then left completely in control of Iraq. The country never recovered from the Gulf War, economically or with the army. Hussein often showed his "proof" that Iraq had won the Gulf War, and the USA had lost. This made Saddam popular in many parts of the Arab world.

Saddam liked to show himself as a strict Muslim. This was to calm down the religious parts of the society. Some parts of the Sharia law were brought back. This included the 2001 law imposing the death penalty for homosexuality. The phrase "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great"), in Saddam's handwriting, was added to the Iraq national flag.


Relations between the United States and Iraq remained tense after the Gulf War. The U.S. launched a missile attacked aimed at Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad June 26, 1993, believing evidence that Iraq had sponsored a plot to kill former President George Bush.

The UN placed a trade embargo on Iraq, blocking Iraqi oil exports. This caused hardship in Iraq and almost destroyed the Iraqi economy and state infrastructure. Only smuggling across the Syrian border, and humanitarian aid kept Iraq from crisis. Later, limited amounts of income from the United Nations oil-for-food program started flowing into Iraq. On December 9, 1996, the United Nations allowed Baghdad to begin selling limited amounts of oil for food and medicine.

U.S. officials continued to accuse Saddam of violating the terms of the Gulf War's cease fire, by developing weapons of mass destruction and other banned weaponry, and violating the UN-imposed sanctions and "no fly zones." Isolated military strikes by U.S. and British forces continued on Iraq, the largest being Operation Desert Fox in 1998. After two years of intermittent activity, U.S. and British warplanes struck harder at sites near Baghdad in February 2001.

Saddam's base of Tikriti tribesmen, family members, and other supporters was divided after the war, and in the following years, adding to the regime's increasingly repressive and arbitrary nature. Domestic repression inside Iraq grew worse, and Saddam's sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein, became increasingly powerful and carried out a private reign of terror. They likely had a leading hand when, in August 1995, two of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law, who held high positions in the Iraqi military, defected to Jordan. Both were killed after returning to Iraq the following February.

2003 invasion of Iraq

See also: 2003 invasion of Iraq

The main reason for the invasion was the claim by the Bush administration that Saddam has WMD. He was seen as a major threat to Western allies such as oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Israel, to Western oil supplies from the Persian Gulf states, and to Middle East stability generally. Bush's successor, U.S. President Bill Clinton (1993-2001), maintained sanctions and made occasional air strikes in the "Iraqi no-fly zones" or other restrictions, in the hope that Saddam would be overthrown by his many political enemies.

The domestic political equation changed in the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 attacks, which added to the influence of the neoconservative faction in the presidential administration and throughout Washington. In his January 2002 state-of-the-union message to Congress, George W. Bush (the son of George H.W. Bush) spoke of an "axis of evil" comprising Iran, North Korea, and Iraq.[6]

As the war was looming on February 24, 2003, Saddam Hussein talked with CBS News anchor Dan Rather for more than three hours—his first interview with a U.S. reporter in over a decade.[7] CBS aired the taped interview later that week.

The Iraqi government and military collapsed in three weeks of the beginning of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq on March 20. The United States made at least two attempts to kill Saddam with targeted air strikes, but both failed to hit their target. By the beginning of April, Coalition forces had much of Iraq. The resistance of the much-weakened Iraqi Army either crumbled or shifted to guerrilla tactics, and it appeared that Saddam had lost control of Iraq. He was last seen in a video which showed him in the Baghdad suburbs surrounded by supporters. When Baghdad fell to the Coalition on April 9, Saddam was nowhere to be found.

Saddam was also accused by the Bush administration of being part of Al Qaeda. That has never been proven and there is no evidence Saddam ever had any ties. People in the Bush administration, including the Vice President Dick Cheney will forever claim otherwise. Mostly to justify the largely perceived illegal invasion.

Pursuit and capture

Even when Baghdad was taken over, and most of the fighting had stopped, people still did not know where Saddam was. For a few weeks, some people said they saw Saddam, and some videotapes of Saddam talking came out, but still nobody knows if they were true or not.

Although Saddam was placed at the top of the "most-wanted list," he could not be found, even when the other leaders of the Iraqi regime were arrested. His sons and political heirs, Uday and Qusay, were killed in July 2003 in a clash with U.S. forces after a tip from an Iraqi.

Hussein after his capture by U.S. military.

On 14 December 2003 the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) of Iran first reported that Saddam Hussein had been arrested. These reports were soon confirmed by other members of the Governing Council, by U.S. military sources, and by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In a press conference in Baghdad, shortly afterwards, the U.S. Civil Administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer officially announced the capture of Saddam by saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!" He was found at around 8:30 PM Iraqi time on 13 December in an underground "spider hole" at a farmhouse in ad-Dawr near his home town Tikrit, in what was called Operation Red Dawn.

The first photos taken of Saddam after the soldiers found him did not look like the photos taken when he was president of Iraq. He had grown long hair and a long beard. Later on, he shaved his beard to confirm his identity. The DNA tests came back and showed that he really was Saddam Hussein. People who talked with him after the soldiers found him said he was healthy, and wanted to talk to people and do what they told him to do. Paul Bremer said that Saddam would have a trial, but that he did not know yet what kind of trial.

The Iraqi Special Tribunal was in charge of Saddam Hussein's trial, and the trials of some people that helped him to be president of Iraq.

In November, 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty of 148 murders, and on December 30, 2006, he was put to death. The hanging, recorded by officials of the government, and secretly recorded by a member of the witnesses with a cell phone camera - with sound - showed Saddam being calm, as he was prepared for his final moments. Both witnesses and executioners could be heard teasing him as the rope was placed on his head, and he was put on the trap door. He was in the middle of a prayer, when the trap door beneath him opened, and his life ended. Later, pictures and live video of Saddam's taunting and execution, of his dead corpse were shown on many Internet sites. He was buried in his hometown, Al-Awja, Iraq, the next day.


Saddam had been married three times. His first marriage was to his first cousin Sajida Talfah. This union with the eldest daughter of Khairallah Talfah, Saddam's uncle, produced two sons, (Uday Saddam Hussein and Qusay Hussein) and three daughters, Rana, Raghad and Hala. Sajida was put under house arrest in early 1997, along with daughters Raghad and Rana, because of suspicions of their involvement in an attempted assassination on Uday in 12 December 1996. General Adnan Khairallah Tuffah, who was Sajida's brother and Saddam Hussein's boyhood friend, was allegedly executed because of his growing popularity.

Saddam Hussein also married two other women: Samira Shahbandar, whom he married in 1986 after forcing her husband to divorce her (she is said to be his favourite wife), and Nidal al-Hamdani, the general manager of the Solar Energy Research Center in the Council of Scientific Research, whose husband apparently was also persuaded to divorce his wife.

In August 1995, Rana and her husband Hussein Kamel al Majid and Raghad and her husband, Saddam Kamel Majid, defected to Jordan, taking their children with them. They returned to Iraq when they received assurances that Saddam Hussein would pardon them. Within three days of their return in February 1996, both of the Majid brothers were executed.

Saddam's daughter Hala is married to Jamal Mustafa, the deputy head of Iraq's Tribal Affairs Office. Neither has been known to be involved in politics. Another cousin was Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known in the United States as "Chemical Ali," who was accused of ordering the use of poison gas in 1988.[8]


Saddam was scheduled to die on Thursday night, 28 December 2006.[9] Because of last minute legal appeals in Iraq's Supreme Court of Appeals,[10] Saddam's execution came about 40 hours later. Saddam Hussein was hanged on 30 December 2006 at 6:05 AM, Iraqi time. Saddam refused to wear a hood. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 AM Baghdad time. Baghdad had curfews on those days, policy regulation required people to be off the streets by evening.


  1. Hussein is not a surname in the Western sense. "Saddam" (pronounced "Sad-DAHM") is his given name or personal name; "Hussein" is his father's given personal name; "al-Majid" is his family name, and "al-Tikriti" is a name telling what region he was from. In many Arab countries he is usually called "Saddam Hussein' or "Saddam." However, in Iraq, he was and is usually called by his formal presidential title. Some people have argued that calling him only "Saddam" may be rude and academically out of place. It is common for Arab men to add the name of the town or village they are from to their name. This would make his name "Saddam Hussein al-Awja."
  2. Under his government, this date was his official date of birth. His real date of birth was never written down, but it is thought to be between 1935 and 1939. From Con Coughlin, Saddam The Secret Life Pan Books, 2003 (ISBN 0-330-39310-3).
  3. "Hussein executed, Iraqi TV stations report". CNN. Retrieved December 30, 2006.
  4. "Fast Facts: Saddam Hussein". Fox Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  5. A free access online archive relating to U.S.-Iraq relations in the 1980s is offered by The National Security Archive of the George Washington University. It can be read online at [1]. The Mount Holyoke International Relations Program also provides a free access document briefing on U.S.-Iraq relations (1904- present); this can be accessed online at [2].
  6. For further details see Globe and Mail Update, "Hussein does Baghdad walkabout" [3] Apr. 4, 2003.
  7. Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein leading up to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq on March 20 can be read online ( at [4].
  8. For coverage of the postwar CNN and Al-Arabiya interviews with Saddam's daughters, see [5].
  9. "Seattle Times".
  10. Mariam Karouny and Ibon Villelabeitia (26 December 2006). "Iraq court upholds Saddam death sentence". The Washington Post. Reuters. [6]

2 See PBS Frontline (2003), "The survival of Saddam: secrets of his life and leadership: interview with Saïd K. Aburish" at [7].
3 From Elisabeth Bumiller's interview of Jerrold M. Post, the founder of the Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior at the CIA in the New York Times' (May 15, 2004) on the importance of events during Saddam Hussein's youth. It can be read online at [8].
8 The full text of Bush's 2002 State of the Union address can be read online (BBC News) at [9].

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