What was the nature of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq?

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Saddam's rule of Iraq (General)

When did Saddam Hussein come to power and how did he rule? 

Saddam came to power in July 1979 and he ruled as a dictator. This was the same as his political hero Stalin. Saddam closely followed many aspects of Stalin's method of governing.

What was the nature of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq?

  •  Purges and terror
  • Waging war on his own people
  • Personality cult
  • Modernisation
  • Military expansion
  • Totalitarianism
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Purges and terror

  • Once in power, Saddam began to deal with those who questioned the way he had gained power
  • Hundreds of party members and military officers were removed from their positions, with many being executed
  • False accusations, arrests, torture and trials became a regular feature of Saddam's rule by terror and in most instances the accused received lengthy prison sentences or were executed


Mashhadi, the Secretary General of the RCC questioned the validity of Saddam's appointment
- he was relieved of his duties
- brought before senior Baath party members on 22 July 1979
- he gave a detailed fabricated confession of crimes against the state and named 66 alleged co-conspirators
- at a special court, 55 were found guilty and were either sentenced to death (22) or given prison sentences (33)

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Waging war on his own people

  • Saddam aimed to unify the state of Iraq but it was difficult because if the differences within the population with 20% Kurds and 60% Shiites
  • Shiites were hostile to the Sunni-dominated regime
  • The Kurds in the oil-rich north wanted independence
  • He destroyed half of Kurdistan's villages and towns, killed thousands of Kurds using mustard gas and cyanide, and displaced more than a million people
  • Many fled to Iran or Turkey while others were housed in concentration camps in the Iraqi desert
  • In 1991 Saddam took action against the Shiites. The Republican Huard carried out arrests and summary executions.
  • Civilians were used as human shields, fastened onto the front of tanks
  • Women and children were shot on sight
  • In the south-east of Iraq Saddam wanted to destroy the marshes to enable a new waterway to be constructed - the Marsh Arabs were victims of chemical weapon attacks or were starved to death
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Personality cult

  • Saddam realised that to survive long-term he needed to move away from fear and terror
  • To sustain his dictatorship he needed to cultivate popularity and make the Iraqi people love him
  • Saddam set out to cultivate an image of a father-style leader
  • This was achieved by:
    - establishing a permanent exhibition about himself in Baghdad
    - featuring his life through the press
    - glorifying himself through articles in newspapers and on TV
    - having songs written in praise of him
    - renaming roads after himself
    - commissioning statues, murals and paintings
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  • Saddam carried out an extensive modernization programme from Iraq's massive oil revenues
  • Wages roses, taxes were cut and basic foodstuffs were subsidised
  • Electricity was supplied to even remote villages
  • Heavy industry developed including steel, petrochemicals and coal
  • A countrywide network of oil pipelines were built
  • A new radio and TV network was established allowing the spread of government propaganda
  • Major building programmes began for schools, houses and hospitals
  • Major campaign to end adult illiteracy was introduced
  • Hospital treatment was made free
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Military expansion

  • Iraq became a major military power, with Soviet Russia providing most supplies
  • Additional supplies came from many European states
  • Saddam purchased tanks, planes, helicopters, surface-to-air missiles and electronic equipment
  • By mid 1979, he had constructed his first chemical warfare plant was soon producing chemical weapons, including agents such as anthrax
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  • Saddam achieved absolute power in Iraq
  • He and the Baath party control every aspect of life
  • Children at school and young adults in the Baath youth organisation were brainwashed as they introduced the idea of a glorious leader
  • Censorship ensured critical views of Saddam were never heard or read
  • It was a capital offense to criticise the government
  • The law courts were under Saddam 's influence, and all economic production was geared to the needs of the state
  • Membership of the Baath Party was essential if a career in public office was to be followed
  • Even though the economy was a mixture of state and privately owned businesses, ALL production was geared towards the needs of the state
  • Special courts run by the President's office delivered verdicts of which Saddam would have approved
  • Membership of the Baath Party was essential for a public career in the army and civil service or for admission to a uni or college of higher education
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Saddam Hussein's use of relatives in his regime

Khairallah Tulfah:Uncle and father-in-law; Mayor of Baghdad
Adnan Khairallah: First cousin; Member of RCC; Defence Minister
Hussein Kamil Majid: Second cousin; Son-in-law; Minister of Industry and Military Industry
Hisham Hassan Majid: First cousin; Governor of Babil Province
Ali Hassan Majid: First cousin; Minister of Local government; Defence minister; Interior Minister; Head of Party Intelligence (Makhabarat)
Barzan Ibrahim: Half-brother; Head of Makhabarat; Ambassador to the UN
Wathban Ibrahim: Half-brother; Governor of Salah al-Din; Head of Sate Internal Security
Sibawi Ibrahim: Half-brother; Deputy Chief of Police; Head of Makhabarat
Izzal Ibrahim: His son's father-in-law; Vice Chairman of the RCC
Uday Hussein: Eldest son; Head of Iraqi Olympic Committee;Head of Iraqi Soccer Federation

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