Saddam Hussein Abdul Majid Al-Tekriti ruled Iraq from 1979 to April 9, 2003, i.e. for 24 consecutive years prior to which he served as vice president from 1975. He joined the Baath Party in 1956 prior to a landmark political event during which non-Baathist officers, the Free Officers of Iraq, overthrew King Faisal II and seized power under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qassem. Qassem ordered the arrest of Baath Party members including Saddam Hussein who was shot in the foot before he fled, first to Syria and then to Egypt. Although the Supreme Military Court had sentenced Saddam and other party members who had fled Iraq to death, Saddam returned to Iraq after Baathists succeeded in toppling the Qassem government in the 1963 coup d’état. After the coup, Abdul Salam Aref was elected President of Iraq because of his popularity, but it was not long before the Baathists deposed him from power. The force that raided the republican palace was headed by Saddam.
Ahmad Hassan Bakr rose to office as president of the republic while Saddam became chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in 1968. Saddam remained in his post for 10 years, during which he bolstered his influence and hired members of his tribe in the state’s governmental, administrative and military apparatuses. Saddam built up a large security apparatus through which he was able to monitor the movements of many of the party’s members and leaders.
In 1979, President Ahmad Bakr tendered his resignation on the grounds of his age and frailty. However, Iraqi media reported that it was Saadam who forced him to resign so he could fulfill his aspirations of ruling Iraq, which he eventually did. In 1980, Saddam’s Iraq entered an eight-year war against Iran that resulted in the death of more than one million people and in untold losses on both sides. During the war, on July 8, 1982, while on a field trip in Dujail, Saddam Hussein survived an attempted assassination plotted by a group of 19 members of the Islamic Daawa Party in cooperation with the residents of the town.
Despite the failure of the operation, Saddam ordered the formation of a joint committee consisting of security and intelligence personnel to purge the town and hunt down his rivals. The committee committed atrocities in order to punish the residents of Dujail whom it viewed responsible for the incident. Regime forces killed 435 people and deported 120 families to the desert.
No sooner had the Iraq-Iran war ended in 1988 than Iraq had to face another war, this time against Kuwait. It resulted in a one-year Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 after which the US obtained the support of a multi-national force to lead the Operation Desert Shield and ensure the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. An immediate financial embargo was imposed on Iraq and having lost his war against international forces, Saddam returned to tighten his security grip on Iraqis back at home.
Prior to 2003, the US and a number of Arab and non-Arab countries pleaded with Saddam to step down and spare his country the brunt of a US military invasion. Their pleadings fell on deaf ears, which gave the US the perfect excuse to carry out its preplanned intention to invade Iraq under the pretense that Saddam was prevaricating about his nuclear and massive destruction weapons.
Saddam managed to remain on the run for eight months until he was finally arrested on Saturday, January 13, 2003. On December 30, 2006, he was hanged to death at around three am.