Nuri as-Said
Nuri Pasha al-Said was an 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....

i politician during the British Mandate and during the Kingdom of Iraq
Kingdom of Iraq
The Kingdom of Iraq was the sovereign state of Iraq during and after the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. The League of Nations mandate started in 1920. The kingdom began in August 1921 with the coronation of Faisal bin al-Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi as King Faisal I...

. He served in various key cabinet positions, and served seven terms as Prime Minister of Iraq.

From his first appointment as prime minister under the British mandate in 1930, Nuri was a major political figure in Iraq under the monarchy. During his many terms in office, he was involved in some of the key policy decisions that shaped the modern Iraqi state. In 1930, during his first term, he signed the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty
Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930)
The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 was a treaty of alliance between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British-Mandate-controlled administration of the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq. The treaty was between the governments of George V of the United Kingdom and Faisal I of Iraq...

, which, as a step toward greater independence, granted Britain the unlimited right to station its armed forces in and transit military units through Iraq. It also gave legitimacy to British control of the country's oil industry. While the treaty nominally reduced British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 involvement in Iraq's internal affairs, this was only to the extent that Iraq's behavior did not conflict with British economic or military interests. This agreement led the way to nominal independence as the Mandate ended in 1932. Throughout his career Nuri was a supporter of a continued and extensive British role within Iraq. These policies were always matters of great contention.

Nuri was a controversial figure with many enemies, and had to flee Iraq twice in the aftermath of coups. By the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, he was deeply unpopular. His policies, regarded as pro-British, were believed to have failed in adapting to the country's changed social circumstances. Poverty and social injustice were widespread, and Nuri had become a symbol of a regime that failed to address these issues, choosing a course of repression instead to protect the interests of the well-off. On 15 July 1958, the day after the republican revolution, he attempted to flee the country disguised as a woman, but was captured and killed.

Early career

Nuri as-Sa'id was born in 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...

 to a lower middle class Sunni Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 family of Kurdish origin. His father was a minor government accountant. Nuri graduated from a military college in Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 in 1906, trained at the staff college there in 1911 as an officer in the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 army, and was among the officers dispatched to Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 in 1912 to raise resistance against the Italian occupation of that province. During the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 he was converted to the Arab nationalist
Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world...

 cause and fought in the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 under Emir Faisal ibn Hussein
Faisal I of Iraq
Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi, was for a short time King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, and was King of the Kingdom of Iraq from 23 August 1921 to 1933...

 of the Hijaz, who would later reign briefly as king of 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....

 before becoming king of Iraq. Like other Iraqi officers who had served under Faisal, he emerged as part of a new political elite.

Initial positions under the new Iraqi monarchy

Nuri headed the Arab troops who took Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 for Faisal in the wake of the retreating Turkish forces in 1918. When Faisal was deposed by the French in 1920, Nuri followed the exiled monarch to Iraq, and in 1922 became first director general of the Iraqi police force. He used this position to fill the force with his placemen, a tactic he would repeat in subsequent positions and which was a basis of his considerable political clout in later years.

He was a trusted ally of Faisal who, in 1924, appointed him deputy commander in chief of the army so as to ensure the loyalty of the troops to the regime. Once again, Nuri used this position to build up his own power base. During the 1920s, he supported the king's policy to build up the nascent state's armed forces, based on the loyalty of Sharifian
Sharifian Army
The Sharifian Army was the military force behind the Arab Revolt which was a part of the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. Sharif Husayn ibn 'Ali led the Sharifian Army in a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire with the ultimate goal of uniting the Arab people under and independent government...

 officers, the former Ottoman soldiers who formed the backbone of the regime.

Prime minister for the first time, 1930

Faisal first proposed Nuri as prime minister in 1929, but it was only in 1930 that the British were persuaded to forgo their objections. As in previous appointments, Nuri was quick to appoint supporters to key government positions, but this only weakened the king's own base among the civil service, and the formerly close relationship between the two men soured. Among Nuri's first acts as prime minister was the signing of the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Treaty
Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930)
The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 was a treaty of alliance between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British-Mandate-controlled administration of the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq. The treaty was between the governments of George V of the United Kingdom and Faisal I of Iraq...

, an unpopular move since it essentially confirmed Britain's mandatory powers and gave them permanent military prerogatives in the country even after full independence was achieved. In 1932, he presented the Iraqi case for greater independence to the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...


In October 1932, Faisal dismissed Nuri as Prime Minister and replaced him with Naji Shawkat
Naji Shawkat
Muhammad Naji Shawkat Bey was an Iraqi politician who served as Prime Minister of Iraq under King Faisal I.- Early Life:Muhammad Naji Shawkat was born to an Arabized family of Turkish and Caucasian origins in the Iraqi town of al-Kut where his father was stationed as provincial governor...

. This curbed Nuri's influence somewhat; after the death of Faisal the following year and the accession of King Ghazi
Ghazi of Iraq
Ghazi bin Faisal was the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq from 1933 to 1939 having been briefly Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Syria in 1920...

, his access to the palace decreased. Further impeding his influence was the rise of Yasin al-Hashimi
Yasin al-Hashimi
Yasin al-Hashimi was an Iraqi politician who served twice as that country's prime minister. Like many of Iraq's early leaders, Hashimi, who was born Yasin Hilmi Salman, served as an officer during Ottoman control of the country...

, who would become prime minister for the first time in 1935. Nevertheless, Nuri continued to hold sway among the military establishment, and his position as a trusted ally of the British meant that he was never far from power. In 1933 the British persuaded Ghazi to appoint him foreign minister, a post he held until the Bakr Sidqi
Bakr Sidqi
Bakr Sidqi , an Iraqi nationalist and general of Kurdish origin, but not a Kurdish nationalist, was born 1890 in Kirkuk and assassinated on August 12, 1937, at Mosul.-Biography:...

 coup in 1936. However, his close ties to the British, which helped him remain in important positions of state, also destroyed any remaining popularity he had.

Intriguing with the army, 1937 - 1940

The Bakr Sidqi coup showed the extent to which Nuri had tied his fate to that of the British in Iraq: he was the only politician of the toppled government to seek refuge in the British embassy, and his hosts sent him into exile in Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. He returned to Baghdad in August 1937 and began plotting his return to power, in collaboration with Colonel Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh
Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh
Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh was an Iraqi Army officer and Arab nationalist that led the Golden Square group which had opposed the government at the time and had highly influenced politics between the years of 1939 to 1941.-Early life and career:...

. This so perturbed then prime minister Jamil al-Midfai
Jamil al-Midfai
Jamil al-Midfai ‎ was an Iraqi politician. He served as that country's prime minister on five separate occasions:# November 9, 1933 – August 25, 1934# March 1, 1935 – March 16, 1935...

 that he persuaded the British that Nuri was a disruptive influence who would be better off abroad. They obliged by convincing Nuri to take up residence in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 as the Iraqi ambassador. Despairing perhaps of his relationship with Ghazi, he now began to secretly suggest co-operation with the Saudi royal family.

Back in Baghdad in October 1938, Nuri re-established contact with al-Sabbagh, and persuaded him to overthrow the Midfai government. Al-Sabbagh and his cohorts launched their coup on the 24 December 1938, and Nuri was reinstated as prime minister. In this position, he sought to sideline the king by promoting the position—and possible succession—of the latter's half-brother Prince Zaid. Meanwhile Ghazi was also annoying the British with increasingly nationalistic broadcasts on his private radio station. In January 1939 the king further aggrieved Nuri by appointing Rashid Ali al-Kaylani
Rashid Ali al-Kaylani
Rashid Aali al-Gaylani served as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Iraq on three occasions. He is chiefly remembered as an Arab nationalist who attempted to remove the British influence from Iraq...

 head of the Royal divan
A divan was a high governmental body in a number of Islamic states, or its chief official .-Etymology:...

. Nuri’s campaign against his rivals continued in March that year, when he claimed to have unmasked a plot to murder Ghazi, and used it as an excuse to carry out a purge of the army's officer corps.

When Ghazi died in a car crash on 4 April 1939, Nuri was widely suspected of being implicated in his death. At the royal funeral crowds chanted: “You will answer for the blood of Ghazi, Nuri.” He supported the accession 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...

 as regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 for Ghazi’s successor, 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...

, who was still a minor. The new regent was initially susceptible to Nuri’s influence.

On 1 September 1939, Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaded Poland
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

. Soon Germany and Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 were at war. In accordance with Article 4 of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930
Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930)
The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 was a treaty of alliance between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British-Mandate-controlled administration of the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq. The treaty was between the governments of George V of the United Kingdom and Faisal I of Iraq...

, Iraq was committed to declaring war on Germany. Instead, in an effort to maintain a neutral position, Nuri announced that Iraqi armed forces would not be employed outside of Iraq. While German officials were deported, Iraq would not declare war.

By this time, affairs in Europe had begun to have an impact on Iraq — the fall of France in June 1940 encouraged some Arab nationalist elements to seek, in the style of the United States and Turkey, to move toward neutrality toward Germany and Italy rather than being part of the British war effort. While Nuri generally was more pro-British, al-Sabbagh moved into the camp more positively oriented toward Germany. This loss of his main military ally meant that Nuri “quickly lost his ability to affect events.”

Coexistence with the regent in the 1940s

In April 1941, the pro-neutrality elements seized power, installing Rashid Ali al-Kaylani as prime minister. Nuri fled to British-controlled Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

; his protectors then sent him to Cairo, but after occupying Baghdad they brought him back, installing him as prime minister under the British occupation. He would retain this post for over two and half years, but from 1943 onward, the regent obtained a greater say in the selection of his ministers and began to assert greater independence. Iraq remained under British Military occupation until late 1947.

The regent's brief flirtation with more liberal policies in 1947 did little to stave off the problems that the established order was facing. The social and economic structures of the country had changed considerably since the establishment of the monarchy, with an increased urban population, a rapidly growing middle class, and increasing political consciousness among the peasants and the working class, in which the Iraqi Communist Party
Iraqi Communist Party
Since its foundation in 1934, the Iraqi Communist Party has dominated the left in Iraqi politics. It played a fundamental role in shaping the political history of Iraq between its foundation and the 1970s. The Party was involved in many of the most important national uprisings and demonstrations...

 was playing a growing role. However, the political elite, with its strong ties and shared interests with the dominant classes, was unable to take the radical steps that might have preserved the monarchy. In this attempt by the elite to retain power during the last ten years of the monarchy, Nuri, rather than the regent, would increasingly play the dominant role, thanks largely to his superior political skills.

The regime resists growing political unrest

In November 1946, an oil workers’ strike culminated in a massacre of the strikers by the police, and Nuri was brought back as premier. He briefly brought the Liberals and National Democrats into the cabinet, but soon reverted to the more repressive approach he generally favoured, ordering the arrest of numerous communists in January 1947. Those captured included party secretary Fahd. Meanwhile, Britain attempted to legalize a permanent military presence in Iraq even beyond the terms of the 1930 treaty, although it no longer had World War II to justify its continued presence there. Both Nuri and the regent increasingly saw their unpopular links with Great Britain as the best guarantee of their own position, and accordingly set about cooperating in the creation of a new Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. In early January 1948 Nuri himself joined the negotiating delegation in England, and on 15 January the treaty was signed.

The response on the streets of Baghdad was immediate and furious. After six years of British occupation, no single act could have been less popular than giving the British an even larger legal role in Iraq's affairs. Demonstrations broke out the following day, with students playing a prominent part and the Communist Party guiding much of the anti-government activity. The protests intensified over the following days, until the police fired on a mass demonstration (20 January), leaving many casualties. On the following days, `Abd al-Ilah disavowed the new treaty. Nuri returned to Baghdad on 26 January and immediately implemented a harsh policy of repression against the protesters. At mass demonstration the next day, police fired again at the protesters, leaving many more dead. In his struggle to implement the treaty, Nuri had destroyed any credibility he had left. Although he retained considerable power throughout the country, he was generally hated.

The next major political demarche with which Nuri's name would be associated was the Baghdad Pact, a series of agreements concluded between 1954 and 1955 which tied Iraq politically and militarily with the Western powers and their regional allies, notably Turkey. This pact was especially important to Nuri, as it was favored by the British and Americans. On the other hand, it was also contrary to the political aspirations of most of the country. Taking advantage of the situation, Nuri stepped up his policies of political repression and censorship. This time, however, the reaction was less fierce than it had been in 1948. According to historian Hanna Batatu, this can be attributed to slightly more favourable economic circumstances and the weakness of the Communist Party, damaged by police repression and internal division.

The political situation deteriorated in 1956, with uprisings in the cities of Najaf
Najaf is a city in Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. Its estimated population in 2008 is 560,000 people. It is the capital of Najaf Governorate...

 and Hayy, while Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

's attack on Egypt
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,...

, coordinated with Britain and France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in response to the nationalisation of the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

, only exacerbated popular mistrust of the Baghdad Pact. Nuri’s political position was weakened, while the opposition began to coordinate its activities: in February 1957 a Front of National Union was established, bringing together the National Democrats, the Independents, the Communists, and the Ba'th Party. A similar process within the military officer corps followed, with the formation of the Supreme Committee of Free Officers. However, Nuri's attempts to preserve the loyalty of the military through generous benefits failed.

The Iraqi monarchy and its Hashemite ally in Jordan reacted to the union between Egypt and Syria (February 1958) by forming the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan
Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan
The Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan was a short-lived country that was formed in 1958 from the union of Iraq and Jordan. Although the name implies a federal structure, it was de facto a confederation....

. (He tried to convince Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 to join too, but the British were opposed.) Nuri was the first prime minister of the new federation, which was soon ended with the coup that toppled the Iraqi monarchy.

Fall of the monarchy and death

As the Lebanon crisis of 1958
Lebanon crisis of 1958
The 1958 Lebanon crisis was a Lebanese political crisis caused by political and religious tensions in the country. It included a U.S. military intervention.-Background:...

 escalated, Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 requested the help of Iraqi troops, who feigned to be en route there on July 14. Instead they moved on Baghdad, and on that day, Colonels Abdul Karim Qassim
Abdul Karim Qassim
Abd al-Karim Qasim , was a nationalist Iraqi Army general who seized power in a 1958 coup d'état, wherein the Iraqi monarchy was eliminated. He ruled the country as Prime Minister of Iraq until his downfall and death in 1963....

 and 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:...

 seized control of the country
14 July Revolution
The 14 July Revolution was a coup which took place on 14 July 1958 in Iraq, 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, the regent and Crown Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, and Prime...

 and ordered the royal family to evacuate the palace. They congregated in the courtyard—King Faisal; Prince 'Abd al-Ilah and his wife Princess Hiyam; Princess Nafeesa, Abdul Ilah’s mother; Princess Abadiya, the king’s aunt; and several servants. Told to turn to the wall, they were shot down by Captain Abdus Sattar As Sab’, a member of the coup. After almost four decades, the monarchy was toppled.

Nuri went into hiding, but he was captured the next day as he sought to make his escape disguised as a woman (but with men's shoes). He was shot dead and buried that same day, but an angry mob disinterred his corpse and dragged it through the streets of Baghdad, where it was hung up, burned, and mutilated.

See also

  • Kinahan Cornwallis
    Kinahan Cornwallis
    Sir Kirnahan Cornwallis, GCMG, CBE, DSO was a British administrator and diplomat best known for being an advisor to King Faisal and for being the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Iraq during the Anglo-Iraqi War.-Biography:...

     - British Ambassador to Iraq
  • Fritz Grobba
    Fritz Grobba
    Fritz Konrad Ferdinand Grobba is best remembered for being a German diplomat during the interwar period and World War II.-Biography:...

     - German Ambassador to Iraq


  • Batatu, Hanna: The Old Social Classes and New Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, al-Saqi Books
    Saqi Books
    Saqi Books is an independent UK publisher co-founded in 1984 by author and feminist Mai Ghoussoub to "print quality academic and general interest books on the Middle East". It now claims to be "the UK's largest publisher of Middle Eastern and Arabic titles"...

    , London, 2000, ISBN 0-86356-520-4
  • Gallman, Waldemar J.: Iraq under General Nuri: My Recollection of Nuri Al-Said, 1954-1958, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1964, ISBN 0801802105
  • Lukutz, Liora: Iraq: The Search for National Identity, pp.256-, Routledge Publishing, 1995, ISBN 0714641286
  • Simons, Geoff: Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004 (3rd edition), ISBN 9781403917706
  • Tripp, Charles: A History of Iraq, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-521-52900-X

External references

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