July 31st, 2008 Headsman
On this date in 1963, Iraq’s infant Ba’ath government executed at least 21 soldiers — all Shi’a — who had participated in a Communist coup attempt on July 3.
The Ba’ath were newly in the saddle after overthrowing Qasim earlier that year, and would be ousted again a few months hence before their definitive seizure of power several years later.
For the moment, they were a fledgling government trying to tilt away from the Soviet bloc and towards the west while navigating a minefield of domestic politics. If the coup really occurred as described, it was the fruit of an Iraqi Communist Party with daggers drawn for the regime after the Ba’athists had massacred their membership with CIA help in the course of offing Qasim. (The name is also transliterated Qassim or Kassem.) If it was bogus, it was probably an official cover story to keep massacring Shi’a Communists.
The affair, in either guise, amounted to a minor hazard in the jagged path of the Ba’ath — but of course, we come by that judgment with benefit of hindsight. Far more interesting to follow, courtesy of this site‘s library of historic cables, the perceived unfolding of the situation through the anxious American diplomatic pouch:
Also on this date
- 1722: Cartouche's brother, hanged by the armpits
- 1602: Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron
- 1903: Hilario Hidalgo and Francisco Renteria
- 1959: Cho Pong-am, Presidential runner-up