This Day in History: 1958 Coup in Iraq sparks jitters in Middle East

kassem_2A group of Iraqi army officers have staged a coup in Iraq and overthrown the monarchy.
Baghdad Radio announced the Army has liberated the Iraqi people from domination by a corrupt group put in power by “imperialism”.
From now on Iraq would be a republic that would “maintain ties with other Arab countries”. It said some 12,000 Iraqi troops based in neighbouring Jordan have been ordered to return.
Major-General Abdul Karim el Qasim is Iraq’s new prime minister, defence minister and commander-in-chief.
Baghdad Radio also announced that Crown Prince Abdul Illah and Nuri es Said, prime minister of the Iraq-Jordan Federation, had been assassinated.
King Faisal reported killed
It said the body of the Crown Prince, the powerful uncle of 23-year-old King Faisal, was hanging outside the Defence Ministry for all to see.
Reports from the US Embassy in Baghdad say the British Embassy has been ransacked and set on fire. The ambassador, Sir Michael Wright, and his wife were held at the embassy until late this afternoon when they were released. They are now in a Baghdad hotel.
Unconfirmed reports suggest King Faisal himself has also been killed.
His cousin, King Hussein of Jordan, has declared himself head of the Arab Federation – the five-month alliance between Iraq and Jordan – in the “absence” of King Faisal.
In a broadcast to his subjects, King Hussein condemned the coup as the work of outsiders.
While Iraqis are celebrating on the streets of Baghdad, the news is a cause for concern for western powers worried about their oil interests and instability in the region.
Mixed reaction in Arab world
The insurrection was probably inspired by a similar uprising staged in Egypt by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser six years ago. In February this year he formed a political union between Egypt and Syria known as the United Arab Republic (UAR).
Radio stations in the UAR are naturally delighted by news of the Iraq coup.
But leaders of Jordan and Lebanon fear it might inspire Arab nationalist rebellions in their own states and have appealed to Britain and the United States to send troops to their countries.
The US President Dwight D Eisenhower is said to be “extremely disturbed” by the Iraqi revolt and has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.
Officials in Washington fear the Iraqi coup will mean the end of the Baghdad Pact whose members include Turkey, Persia and Pakistan. It was intended to stem the influence of the Soviet Union in the region.
There are fears the Iraq coup will have a domino effect and that the pro-Western oil regimes of Kuwait, Bahrain and the Trucial States may fall to Arab nationalists.

Courtesy BBC News

In context

The following day 1,700 Marines of the US Sixth Fleet arrived in Lebanon and two days later 2,000 British paratroopers were flown into Amman after reports that Syrian troops were massing on the border with Jordan.
The Soviet Union supported Arab nationalist Colonel Nasser, president of the United Arab Republic (now Egypt), so tensions rose further when the USSR announced major manoeuvres close to the Persian and Turkish borders
On 19 July, barely a week after the coup, President Nasser signed a defence pact between the UAR and the new Iraqi regime.
The UAR collapsed in 1961 when Syria withdrew from it after a military coup, but Egypt kept the name until 1971.
The Baghdad Pact was renamed CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation) in 1959 after Iraq pulled out and Ankara in Turkey became its headquarters.
Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan withdrew in 1979, spelling the end of CENTO. They felt the US and UK were more interested in the pact as an anti-Soviet alliance than as a way of improving the economy of the region.
Iraq’s coup leader and prime minister, Abdul Karim el Qasim, was ousted and killed in 1963 in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party.


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