Sunday, November 30, 2008

CIA or NSC Who Admitted their Involvement in the 1963 Iraqi Coup

The way the U.S. assisted the 1963 Iraqi coup by Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was financially. Writing in his memoirs of the 1963 coup, long time OSS and CIA intelligence analyst Harry Rositzke presented it as an example of one on which they had good intelligence in contrast to others that caught the agency by surprise. The Ba’ath overthrow “was forecast in exact detail by CIA agents.”

"Agents in the Ba’th Party headquarters in Baghdad had for years kept Washington au courant on the party’s personnel and organization, its secret communications and sources of funds, and its penetrations of military and civilian hierarchies in several countries…
CIA sources were in a perfect position to follow each step of Ba’th preparations for the Iraqi coup, which focused on making contacts with military and civilian leaders in Baghdad. The CIA’s major source, in an ideal catbird seat, reported the exact time of the coup and provided a list of the new cabinet members.
…To call an upcoming coup requires the CIA to have sources within the group of plotters. Yet, from a diplomatic point of view, having secret contacts with plotters implies at least unofficial complicity in the plot."

“Unofficial complicity in the plot” indeed. The CIA would have paid a lot of money for this steady supply of information, especially because American planners had determined that the Ba’ath Party would be the best for U.S. policy in Iraq going forward in 1962.[2] The First Political Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq in 1963 during the coup, Bill Lakeland, has admitted that CIA officer Ed Kane told him that the U.S. “had people who informed us about things…The CIA was kept aware of what was happening…[The CIA] had paid informants within the Ba’ath, but had no control of any operational…It was ultra secret….”[3] Ed Kane was in charge of the Iraq Desk in Washington at the time of the coup.[4]

The best direct evidence that the U.S. was complicit is the memo from NSC staff member Bob Komer to President John F. Kennedy on the night of the coup, February 8, 1963. The last paragraph reads,

"We will make informal friendly noises as soon as we can find out whom to talk with, and ought to recognize as soon as we’re sure these guys are firmly in the saddle. ________excellent reports on the plotting, but I doubt either they or UK should claim much credit for it."[5]

Eight typewritten spaces are still classified just before the word “excellent.” “CIA had,” would fit in here perfectly and is most likely in the original. This is consistent with Rositzke’s memoir that writes of the CIA having a “major source in an ideal catbird seat.” They would have had to pay money for this, but probably did not do too much more than fund the coup and this is why Komer wrote, “I doubt whether they [CIA] or UK [British Intelligence] should claim much credit for it.” They can claim some but not much credit for it. At least they helped fund it and gave assurances that the Ba’ath would be well received in Washington and as CIA analyst Harry Rositzke stated, they were "complicit in the plot."

[1] See Harry Rositzke, The CIA’s Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action (Boulder, CO: 1977), 109-110.
[2] United States, Department of State, Nina J. Noring and Glenn W. LaFantasie eds. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. XVII: Near East 1961-1962, 364-365.
[3] Interview with Lakeland, June 2005.
[4] Interview with Kane, June 2005.
[5] Kennedy Library, “Secret Memorandum for the President: R. W. Komer to Kennedy,” National Security Files, Countries, Box no. 117, Iraq 1/63-2/63, originally partially published in United States, Department of State, Nina J. Noring and Glenn W. LaFantasie, ed. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. 18: Near East 1962-1963, 334n-335n.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scholars Who Wrote about the CIA backed Iraqi Coup in 1963 that Brought Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to Power

Some of you may know me as the guy who published my master's thesis entitled, "U.S. Covert Intervention in Iraq 1958-1963: The Origins of U.S. Supported Regime Change in Modern Iraq." This is published and available in the library at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona California. I am finally getting around to posting some of my research on this, specifically focusing on the 1963 CIA backed Iraqi coup that put Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in power. I will start with detailing the previous scholars that have exposed U.S. involvment in the 1963 coup.

The first scholar to mention this in a book was Hanna Batatu who in 1978 published his classic tome, Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq. This is the earliest historical study in English that mentions the CIA involvement in the 1963 coup.[1] Batatu shames other historians who wrote before him by citing a public record that they all had access to: the September 1963 Al-Ahram (Egypt’s very popular paper) cited Jordan’s King Hussein’s assertions that the CIA met repeatedly with the Ba’ath party before the coup and supplied them with the lists of “communists” whom the Ba’ath party brutally purged after the takeover. Batatu cites this and qualifies it by informing the reader of Hussein’s CIA connections, but then adds personal knowledge of surreptitious pre-coup contact between Ba’th party members and Americans. Hanna Batatu was the first book writer to record this “in the interest of truth,” and thus he distinguished himself as a thorough scholar.

Edith and E. F. Penrose published Iraq: International Relations and National Development in 1978. They interviewed “well informed Iraqi Baathists” who stated that the CIA had collaborated with the Ba’ath in 1963. “Hashim Jawad, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told us later that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry had information of complicity between the Baath and the CIA.”[2]

In 1987, Marion and Peter Sluglett published Iraq Since 1958, updated in 2001. The Slugletts summarize the U.S. involvement in the coup, including information about the CIA collaboration gained from their own interview with a “high ranking former member of the U.S. State Department.”[3] This was probably James Akins, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and 2nd Secretary of Politics in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad at the time of the Ba’athi coup. Akins has a reputation for being helpful with information about the CIA involvement in the coup, but he recently declined to go “on the record” with me about 1963.[4]

In 1996, Malik Mufti published Sovereign Creations. Chapter nine, entitled “Renewed Unionism: 1963-1964,”[5] is most informative. Mufti summarizes information printed in Batatu’s Old Social Classes, the Penrose’s Iraq and then adds information about Ba’thist arguments between Syrian and Iraqi elements that he gained from a personal interview with Jamal Atasi, former member of the Syrian cabinet.[6] This provides further documentation of U.S. collaboration in the 1963 coup.

Said K. Aburish is perhaps the most complete writer on the topic of U.S. intervention in Iraq in 1963. His books, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, issued in 1997 and Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, published in 2000 acknowledge the research of previous writers such as Malik Mufti, Hanna Batatu, and the Slugletts but go much further. Aburish’s great contribution is that he added detailed information gained from personal experience as well as numerous interviews with key figures in the 1963 coup such as James Critchfield, CIA chief of the Middle East during 1963; Hani Fkaiki, member of the Ba’ath Party Command during 1963; and many other Americans and Iraqis both named and confidential. [7] [8]. Aburish is a Middle Eastern journalist in the 1950s and 1960s and an East-West liaison for procurement of arms and strategic materials for Iraq from 1974 to 1977 and 1981 to 1984. After this, Aburish has become a prolific writer about the Middle East and his books give valuable insight into this topic. He was very helpful to me through many email interviews and I am greatly indebted to him for helping me unravel the basic picture of what happened in Iraq in 1963.

This is just some of the scholarly evidence I have accumulated regarding the CIA's assist to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in 1963. The details of what I learned through these scholars, as well as other published memoirs, government documents, and interviews with the people who were involved with Iraq in 1963 will come later.

[1] Batatu, Old Social Classes, 985-986.
[2] Penrose, Iraq, 288.
[3] Marion and Peter Sluglett, Iraq Since 1958, 327n.
[4] Zeman correspondence with retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer James Akins, June 2005.
[5] Mufti, Sovereign Creations, 143-167.
[6] Ibid, 144.
[7] Aburish, A Brutal Friendship, 394.
[8] Aburish, Saddam Hussein, 388-390.