14 July Revolution
The 14 July Revolution was a coup which took place on 14 July 1958 in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, marking the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy established by King Faisal I in 1932 under the auspices of the British. In 1958, the coup overthrew King Faisal II
Faisal II of Iraq
Faisal II was the last King of Iraq. He reigned from 4 April 1939 until July 1958, when he was killed during the "14 July Revolution" together with several members of his family...

, the regent and Crown Prince 'Abd al-Ilah
'Abd al-Ilah
Crown Prince Abd al-Ilāh of Hejaz, GCB, GCMG, GCVO was a cousin and brother-in-law of King Ghazi of the Kingdom of Iraq. Abdul Ilah served as Regent for King Faisal II from April 4, 1939 to May 2, 1953, when Faisal came of age...

, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, all of whom were perceived as cooperating with the British. The coup established an Iraqi Republic and was a result of a number of different grievances with Hashemite Iraqi policies. One of the most salient themes that the Free Officers
Free Officers and Civilians Movement
The Free Officers and Civilians Movement was an Iraqi opposition movement that campaigned against President Saddam Hussein.It was formed in 1996 from defected Iraqi army officers and led by former Brigadier General Najib al-Salihi. The Movement claimed it could raise 30,000 fighters...

, the group that engineered and executed the coup, represented was anger at Western imperialist control of Iraq through its monarchic mediators.

Regional (Middle East) agitations

During World War II, Iraq housed a growing presence of Arab nationalist sympathizers. The Arab nationalists aimed, in part, to remove British imperial influence in Iraq. This sentiment grew from a politicized educational system in Iraq and an increasingly assertive and educated middle class. Schools served as instruments to internalize Pan-Arab nationalist identity because the leaders and the designers of the Iraqi educational system in the 1920s and 1930s were Pan-Arab nationalists who made a significant contribution in the expansion of that ideology in Iraq as well as the rest of the Arab world. The nationalist directors (Sami Shawkat and Fadhil al-Jamal) of the educational system in Iraq employed teachers who were political refugees from Palestine and Syria. These exiles fled to Iraq because of their roles in the anti-British and anti-French contentions, and subsequently fostered nationalist consciousness in their Iraqi students. Institutions like school added to the general awareness of Arab identity and generated criticism of imperialism.

Similarly, Pan-Arab sentiment circulated in the Middle East and was proliferated by a rising politician and a staunch opponent of imperialism, Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt. As such, Hashemite Iraq confronted and cradled those sentiments as well. At the same time, Nuri al-Said, Iraqi Prime Minister, was interested in pursuing the idea of a federation of Arab States of the Fertile Crescent, but reserved his enthusiasm about a pan-Arab state. al-Said joined the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 in 1944 on Iraq’s behalf seeing it as a providing a forum for bringing together the Arab states, leaving the door open for a possible future federation. The charter of the League enshrined the principle of the autonomy for each Arab state and referenced pan-Arabism only rhetorically.

Economic climate

The Iraqi economy fell into a recession and then a depression following World War II; inflation was uncontrolled and the Iraqi standard of living was dropping. Al-Said and the Arab Nationalist regent, Abd al-Ilah, were continually in opposition to each other. Instead of cooperating to improve the quality of life among the Iraqi citizens, the regent and al-Said did not agree on a cohesive economic policy, infrastructure improvements, and other needed internal undertakings.

In 1950, Nuri al-Said persuaded Iraqi Petroleum Company to increase the royalties paid to the Iraqi government. Al-Said looked to Iraq’s growing oil revenues to fund and propel development. Al-Said determined that 70 percent of Iraq’s revenue from was to be set aside for infrastructure development by a Development Board, which consisted of three foreign advisors, out of six members in total. This foreign presence provoked popular disapproval on al-Said’s policy because of its reliance on decision-making by foreigners. Despite anti-Western sentiment
Anti-Western sentiment
Anti-Western sentiment refers to broad opposition or hostility to the people, policies, or governments in the western world. In many cases the United States, Israël and the United Kingdom are the subject of discussion or hostility...

s toward oil and development, al-Said’s hired economist Lord Salter to investigate the prospects for development in Iraq because al-Said’s oil revenue reallocation seemed to be ineffective. Salter continued to make suggestions as to how to implement development projects regardless of massive Iraqi dislike of his presence.

Political grievances

During World War II, the British reoccupied Iraq and in 1947, through the Treaty at Portsmouth on 15 January, 1948, Salih Jabr negotiated British withdrawal from Iraq. However, this agreement consisted of a joint British and Iraqi joint defense board that oversaw Iraqi military planning. Additionally, the British continued control of Iraqi foreign affairs. Iraq would still be tied to Great Britain for military supplies and training. This treaty was to last until 1973—a twenty-five-year time period that Arab nationalists in Iraq could not accept. As a staunch reaction to the Portsmouth Treaty, Arab nationalists led the Wathbah Rebellion a year later in protest of a continued British presence in Iraq. Al-Said repudiated the Portsmouth Treaty as a concession offered to the Iraqi and Arab nationalists who rebelled.

In 1955, Iraq entered into the Baghdad Pact with Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. The pact was a defense agreement between the four nations and endorsed by the UK and US as anti-communist Cold War strategy, but was greatly resented by Iraqis in general. Egypt saw the Baghdad Pact as a provocation and a challenge against its regional dominance. In 1956, when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, Iraqi-Egyptian relations further exacerbated. The British, French, and Israelis invaded Egypt. Iraq, as a British ally, had to support the invasion. The fact that imperial ties dragged Iraq into supporting invasion of Arab lands led to wide disapproval within the Iraqi populace, which largely sympathized with Egypt and responded to pan-Arab ideology. They felt that the invasion of Egypt was another sign of Western aggression and dominance in the region.

Similarly, when Egypt and Syria united to make the United Arab Republic
United Arab Republic
The United Arab Republic , often abbreviated as the U.A.R., was a sovereign union between Egypt and Syria. The union began in 1958 and existed until 1961, when Syria seceded from the union. Egypt continued to be known officially as the "United Arab Republic" until 1971. The President was Gamal...

 under the banner of pan-Arabism in 1958, Iraqi politicians found themselves in a vulnerable position. Iraqi leaders had no interest in uniting with Egypt and instead proposed and ratified their own pan-Arab union with Hashemite Jordan in May 1958. Great Britain and the United States openly supported this union. Many Iraqis however were suspicious of the purpose of this union regarded the Arab Union of Iraq and Jordan as another “tool of their Western overlord.”


The primary goal of the coup was to liberate Iraq from its imperial ties with the British and the US. The Western powers dominated all sectors of Iraqi governance: national politics and reform, regional politics with its Arab and non-Arab neighbors, and economic policies. As a general rule, many Iraqis were resentful of the presence of Western powers in the region, especially the British. Furthermore, Hashemite monarchic rule could not be divorced from the image of imperial masters behind the monarchy.

Discord mounts

A growing number of educated elites in Iraq were becoming enamored with the ideals espoused by Nasser’s pan-Arabism
Pan-Arabism is an ideology espousing the unification--or, sometimes, close cooperation and solidarity against perceived enemies of the Arabs--of the countries of the Arab world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea. It is closely connected to Arab nationalism, which asserts that the Arabs...

 movement. The ideas of qawmiyah found many willing adherents, particularly within the officer classes of the Iraqi military. The policies of Said were considered anathema by certain individuals within the Iraqi armed forces, and opposition groups began to form, modeled upon the Egyptian Free Officers Movement which had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. Despite efforts by Said to quell growing unrest with the military ranks (such as economic benefits designed to benefit the officer class, and brokering deals with the U.S. to supply the Iraqi military) his position was significantly weakened by the events of the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

. Said was to suffer for his association with Britain; the latter’s role in the Crisis seeming a damning indictment of his wataniyah policies Despite Said’s efforts to distance himself from the crisis, the damage had been done to his position. Iraq was to become isolated within the Arab world; a fact highlighted by her exclusion from the ‘Treaty of Arab Solidarity’ in January 1957. The Suez Crisis benefited the Nasser’s pan-Arabism cause, whilst simultaneously undermining those Arab leaders who held a pro-Western policy. Said’s fell firmly within the latter camp, and covert opposition to his governance steadily grew in the wake of Suez.

Building to a crisis

On 1 February, 1958, Egypt and Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 were to boost the pan-Arabian movement immeasurably with the announcement that they had unified under the title of the United Arab Republic
United Arab Republic
The United Arab Republic , often abbreviated as the U.A.R., was a sovereign union between Egypt and Syria. The union began in 1958 and existed until 1961, when Syria seceded from the union. Egypt continued to be known officially as the "United Arab Republic" until 1971. The President was Gamal...

 (UAR). The move was a catalyst for a series of events that culminated in revolution in Iraq. The formation of the UAR and Nasser’s lofty rhetoric calling for a united Arab world was to galvanize the pan-Arabism movement within Iraq and Jordan. The governments in Iraq and Jordan attempted something of a riposte with the creation of the Arab Federation
Arab federation
Arab federation can mean:* Arab Federation, a confederation between Iraq and Jordan * Arab League, a regional organization of Arab States in the Middle East and North Africa....

 on 14 February - a union of the two states- yet few were impressed by the knee-jerk reaction to the UAR.

The UAR quickly found another member in the form of Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 soon after its formation: attention was soon to shift to Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 where Syria was to sponsor the Arab nationalist movement in its civil war campaign against the pro-Western government of Camille Chamoun
Camille Chamoun
Camille Nimr Chamoun was President of Lebanon from 1952 to 1958, and one of the country's main Christian leaders during most of the Lebanese Civil War ....

. Said recognised that defeat for Chamoun would leave Iraq and Jordan isolated. As such he made moves to bolster Chamoun’s government with aid throughout May and June More fatefully he attemptted to bolster Jordan with units from the Iraqi army, a move that was a direct catalyst for the coup d’état.

14 July revolution

On 14 July 1958, a group that identified as the Free Officers, a secret military group led by General Abd al-Karim Qasim, overthrew the monarchy. This group was markedly Pan-Arab in character. King Faisal II, the Regent and Crown Prince Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Said were all killed.

The Free Officers were inspired by and modeled after the Egyptian Free Officers who overthrew the Egyptian Monarchy in 1952. The Free Officers represented all parties and cut across political factions and were led by General Abd al-Karim Qasim. Qasim was a member of the generation that had launched the revolution in Egypt, and had grown up in an era where radicalism and Pan-Arabism were circulating in schools, including high schools and military academies. As a group, most of the Free officers were Sunni Arabs that came from a modern middle class. Iraqi Free Officers were inspired by a number of events in the Middle East the decade before 1952. The 1948 War against Israel was an experience that intensified the Egyptian Free Officers’ sense of duty. They understood their mission as deposing the corrupt regimes that weakened a unified Arab nation and thrown their countries into distress. The success of the Free Officers in overthrowing the Egyptians monarchy and seizing power in 1952 made Nassir into a source of inspiration for the Iraqi Officers.

The Iraqi Free Officer group was, in fact, an underground organization and so much of the planning and timing rested in the hands of Qasim and his associate, Colonel Abdul Salam Arif
Abdul Salam Arif
Abdul Salam Mohammed Arif Aljumaily was President of Iraq from 1963 till his death. He played a leading role in the coup in which the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958.-1958 revolution and conflict with Qasim:...

. The Free Officers sought to ensure Nasser’s support and the assistance of the UAR to implement the overthrow, because they feared the members of the Baghdad Pact would subsequently overthrow the Free Officers as a reaction to the Coup. Nasser only offered moral support, whose material significance remained vague and so Egypt had no practical role in the Iraqi revolution.

The dispatching of Iraqi army units to Jordan played into the hands of two of the key members of the Iraqi Free Officers movement: Colonel Abdul Salam Arif
Abdul Salam Arif
Abdul Salam Mohammed Arif Aljumaily was President of Iraq from 1963 till his death. He played a leading role in the coup in which the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958.-1958 revolution and conflict with Qasim:...

 and the movement’s leader, Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qasim. The Iraqi 19th and 20th Brigades of the 3rd Division (Iraq)
3rd Division (Iraq)
The 3rd Division is a formation of the Iraqi Army. It was active by 1941, disbanded along with the rest of the Iraqi Army in 2003, but reactivated by 2005.-History:...

 (the former under the command of Qasim and the latter including Arif's battalion) were dispatched to march to Jordan, along a route that passed Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

. The opportunity for a coup was thus presented to, and seized upon, by the conspirators.

Arif was to march on Baghdad with the 20th Brigade-which he had seized control of with the help of Colonel Abd al-Latif al-Darraji- while Qasim would remain in reserve with the 19th at Jalawla.

In the early hours of 14 July, 1958, Arif seized control of Baghdad’s broadcasting station (which was to become his H.Q.) and broadcast the first announcement of the revolution by radio. Arif ... denounced imperialism and the clique in office; proclaimed a new republic and the end of the old regime... announced a temporary sovereignty council of three members to assume the duties of the presidency; and promised a future election for a new president.

Arif then despatched two detachments from his regiment; one to al-Rahab Palace to deal with King Faisal II
Faisal II of Iraq
Faisal II was the last King of Iraq. He reigned from 4 April 1939 until July 1958, when he was killed during the "14 July Revolution" together with several members of his family...

 and the Crown Prince 'Abd al-Ilah‎, the other to Nuri al-Said’s residence. Despite the presence of the crack Royal Guard at the Palace, no resistance was offered by order of the Crown Prince. It is uncertain what orders were given to the palace detachment, and what level of force they detailed.

However, at approximately 08:00 Hrs the King, Crown Prince, Princess Hiyam ('Abd al-Ilah‎'s wife), Princess Nafeesa ('Abd al-Ilah‎'s mother), Princess Abadiya (Faisal's aunt), other members of the Iraqi Royal Family, and several servants were killed as they were leaving the palace. With their demise, the Iraqi Hashemite
Hashemite is the Latinate version of the , transliteration: Hāšimī, and traditionally refers to those belonging to the Banu Hashim, or "clan of Hashim", a clan within the larger Quraish tribe...

 dynasty ended. Meanwhile, Said was able to temporarily slip the net of his would-be captors, by escaping across the Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 after being alerted by the sound of gunfire.

By noon, Qasim had arrived in Baghdad with his forces and set up headquarters in the Ministry of Defence building. The conspirator’s attention now shifted towards locating al-Said, lest he escape and undermine the coup's early success. A reward of 10,000 Iraqi dinar
Iraqi dinar
The dinar is the currency of Iraq. It is issued by the Central Bank of Iraq and is subdivided into 1,000 fils , although inflation has rendered the fils obsolete.-History:...

 was offered for his capture, and a large scale search began. On 15 July he was spotted in a street in the al-Battawin quarter of Baghdad attempting to escape disguised in a woman’s abaya
The abaya "cloak" , sometimes also called an aba, is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world including in Turkey, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula....

. Said and his accomplice were both shot, and his body was buried in the cemetery at Bab al-Mu’azzam later that evening.

Mob violence was to continue even in the wake of Said’s death. Spurred by Arif's urges to liquidate traitors, uncontrollable mobs took to the streets of Baghdad. The body of 'Abd al-Ilah
'Abd al-Ilah
Crown Prince Abd al-Ilāh of Hejaz, GCB, GCMG, GCVO was a cousin and brother-in-law of King Ghazi of the Kingdom of Iraq. Abdul Ilah served as Regent for King Faisal II from April 4, 1939 to May 2, 1953, when Faisal came of age...

 was taken from the palace, mutilated and dragged through the streets, finally being hung outside the Ministry of Defence. Several foreign nationals (including Jordanian and American citizens) staying at the Baghdad Hotel were killed by the mob. Mass mob violence didn’t begin to die down until Qasim imposed a curfew, yet this did not prevent the disinterment, mutilation and parading of Said's corpse through the streets of Baghdad the day after its burial.


On 9 March 1959, the American newspaper The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 reported that the situation in Iraq was initially “confused and unstable, with rival groups competing for control. Cross currents of communism, Arab and Iraqi nationalism, anti-Westernism and the ‘positive neutrality’ of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic have been affecting the country.”

In the wake of the successful coup, the new Iraqi Republic was to be headed by a Revolutionary Council. At its head was a three man sovereignty council, composed of members of Iraq’s three main communal/ethnic groups. Muhammad Mahdi Kubbah represented the Shi'a population; Khalid al-Naqshabandi the Kurds; and Najib al Rubay’i the Sunni population. This tripartite was to assume the role of the Presidency. A cabinet was created, composed of a broad spectrum of Iraqi political movements: this included two National Democratic Party representatives, one member of al-Istiqlal, one Ba’ath
Baath Party
The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party was a political party mixing Arab nationalist and Arab socialist interests, opposed to Western imperialism, and calling for the renaissance or resurrection and unification of the Arab world into a single state. Ba'ath is also spelled Ba'th or Baath and means...

 representative and one Marxist.

Qasim was to reap the greatest reward, being named Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. Arif was to become Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, as well as deputy Commander in Chief.

Thirteen days after the revolution, a temporary constitution was announced, pending a permanent organic law to be promulgated after a free referendum. According to the document, Iraq was a republic and a part of the Arab nation whilst the official state religion was listed as Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. Powers of legislation were vested in the Council of Ministers, with the approval of the Sovereignty Council, whilst executive function was also vested in the Council of Ministers

By March 1959, Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact and created alliances with left-leaning countries and communist countries, including the Soviet Union. Because of their agreement with the USSR, Qasim’s government allowed the formation of an Iraqi Communist Party.

Abd al-Karim Qasim’s sudden Iraqi coup took Washington aback. CIA Director Allen Dulles told President Eisenhower that he believed it was the hand of Nasser that implemented this coup. Additionally, Dulles feared that a chain reaction would occur throughout the Middle East, where the governments of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran would be doomed. The Hashemite monarchy represented a reliable ally that the Western world could rely on thwarting Soviet advances. Naturally, the coup in Iraq, which was in part inspired by Nasser, compromised Washington’s position in the Middle East.

See also

  • 1941 Iraqi coup d'état
  • February 1963 Iraqi coup d'état
    February 1963 Iraqi coup d'état
    The February 1963 Iraqi coup d'état was a February 8, 1963 armed military coup by the Ba'ath Party's Iraqi wing which overthrew the regime of the Prime Minister of Iraq, Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim. General Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr became the new Prime Minister and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif...

  • List of modern conflicts in the Middle East


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  • Choueiri, Youssef M.; Arab Nationalism: A History Blackwell 2000
  • Cleveland, William L.; A History of the Modern Middle East Westview Press 1994
  • Dawisha, Adeed: Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair Princeton University Press 2003
  • Kedourie, Elie; Politics in the Middle East Oxford University Press 1997
  • Lewis, Roger and Owen, Roger (editors); A Revolutionary Year: The Middle East in 1958 I.B. Tauris 2002
  • Marr, Phebe; The Modern History of Iraq Longman/ Westview 1985
  • Polk, William R.; Understanding Iraq I.B. Tauris 2006
  • Simons, Geoff; Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam Macmillan 1994
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