On October 7, an attempt was made to assassinate General Kassem, Iraq's Prime Minister, in one of the main streets of Baghdad.
On October 7, an attempt was made to assassinate General Kassem, Iraq's Prime Minister, in one of the main streets of Baghdad. Kassem was taken to hospital, closely guarded by the army, and said to be recovering from three bullet wounds in the arm and hand. The shooting was followed by public demonstrations of support for Kassem.
Three weeks previously a number of officers implicated in the Mosul revolt of last March were executed, and following the executions attempts on General Kassem's life were expected.
General Kassem's narrow escape occurred some 14 months after the revolution in which he came to power, and in which King Faisal; the Crown Prince, and Chief Minister Nuri es Said were killed. In the intervening period the new 1/8 Prime Minister, undoubtedly popular, had precariously maintained his position as Iraq's leader.
The well organized Communist party and pro-Nasser elements, wit with assistance from the United Arab Republic, both campaigned to achieve power in Iraq. Kassem retained his supreme position, avoiding an open disagreement with the Communists. But between Kassem and President Nasser there was violent and open disagreement, although Kassem originally proclaimed friendship towards the U.A.R.
The pro-Nasser "nationalist" elements received a major setback in their quest for power with the suppression of the Mosul revolt; a Communist demand for seats in the Cabinet, was parried by Kassem's declaration of a transitional period in which political parities should cease to function.
Shortly afterwards, however, however, during the anniversary celebrations, Kassem surprisingly announced that political life in Iraq would be revived within six months, and that he hoped a National Assembly could soon be created through free elections. During Iraq's internal tug-of-war, Kassem's popularity, and army support have played a major part in keeping him in power.
Kassem has steered Iraq along a neutral course in her relationships with Russia and the Western powers. This was strikingly illustrated in the anniversary army parade in Baghdad, at which tanks and other vehicles originating in Russia and Western countries took part in almost equal numbers.
Before the revolution, athletic 45-year-old Kassem was noted as an efficient and confidence-inspiring military leader, but was little known outside Iraq. Born of a middle class Baghdad family, he has admitted, since the revolution, that he was previously leader of a secret revolutionary movement in the army, inspired by its disgust with corrupt politicians, and had long been in favour of liquidating the monarchy. He was in charge of the army units which surrounded Baghdad when the revolution took place, July 14, 1958.