Abubaker Saad is currently the chair of the History Department at Western Connecticut University. After working a number of years in the Libyan Foreign Service, Dr. Saad was forced to flee because of taking part in a coup attempt to overthrow President Qadaffi. Given political asylum in the United States he decided to further his education. He received his Masters Degree from the University of Portland before going on to write this dissertation and earn his Ph.D. at the University of Washington.

The thesis of this work as argued by the author can be found in the first paragraph of the introduction:

 

 This study is a study of Iraq’s role in inter-Arab relations, 1941-1958. Special attention was given to the dominant figure on the Iraqi political scene, Nuri as Said. He was the key catalyst in Iraqi politics, whether in power or not (1).

 

Saad, used a variety of documents to write this work. He points out that when he began this project  he felt disadvantaged by his inability to leave the United States to travel to the Middle East and Europe to obtain the information he needed to conduct his study. Without the benefit of primary sources needed from Iraq, Britain and a few other countries he thought it would be difficult to conduct a thorough study. However, he discovered there is a wealth of sources in many institutions in the United States. Documents both in Arabic and English were complete enough to make this work possible. This is an encouraging note to all Middle East History students who plan to write theses and doctoral dissertations in the future. Some of the sources used were the minutes of the military court trials, which were held following the revolution in 1958. These were published by the Iraqi Defense Ministry in Eleven Volumes and took place from 1958-1960. The minutes of the Iraqi Parliament from 1943-1958 are also available but Dr. Saad does not say where he obtained them from. . Dr. Saad also makes use of the memoirs of  Khalid al-Azm, Syrian statesmen, King Abdullah of Jordan, Fadhil al-Jamali na dTawfiq al-Suwwedi of Iraq  as well as secondary sources like the “History of the Iraqi Ministries,” by Abdel-Raziq al Hassani. I was a little uncomfortable with his use of these sources. In a work such as this primary sources are essential and he tends to rely on them more than is appropriate for a dissertation.

Dr. Saad, breaks up his work into five distinct sections. The first, is entitled “Iraq and the Arab struggle for Independence and Liberation.” In this chapter Dr. Saad, covers the Independence of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt with the “abrogation of the 1936 treaty. He also covers two incidences in which Arab nationalism exercised its rights against European colonialism, the nationalization of the Suez Canal, and the Buraimi Problem, both taking place in 1956.

Two, “Iraq and the Arab League” covers its creation, Iraq’s policy towards its influence and importance, its participation in the league’s actions.

“Iraq and Arab Unity and Unification,” is the third section. Here, Dr Saad, reveals through his sources the attempts at a “union” with Jordan and Syria, and the Egyptian-Syrian Unity of 1958.

The question of Palestine is so important to the history of this time that Dr. Saad devotes the last two chapters to this complicated issue. Chapter IV the question from 1941-1948  is discussed by subdividing it up into two divisions from 1941-1945 and from 1945-1948.

Chapter V, the Palestine question covers the ten years from 1948 to 1958.   Saad, discusses the War of 1948, the annexation of the West Bank by Jordan and the Arab Israeli conflict from 1948-1958 and how it affected Iraq.

Dr. Saad spends a lot of time setting up his evidence. Perhaps this is the correct nature of a doctoral thesis. The information held with in the dissertation would constitute an important work of the time period. I wrote the professor to see if he had any plans in publishing his dissertation for public consumption as well as an explanation on sources.  Unfortunately, he never returned my email.

What originally attracted me to this work was the title. It leads one to believe it encompasses the life and times of Nuri es-Said. As someone who is interested in Nuri’s career I was disappointed in the amount of information actually offered. It is remarkably barren of the involvement of the former Iraqi leader in Iraqi and by wider extension Arab politics during the period in question. This is not to say that the information conveyed is not important, only that Nuri is not the central figure of this story, and is absent from much of the narrative. The work might have been more appropriately titled, “Iraq, the Arab League and Palestine: the Years 1941-1958.”  Therefore, I would advise students of Nuri and his life to be cautious in viewing this material. The information is rather limited.

What Dr. Saad’s does say about Nuri seem to lean on treating the political career of Nuri as basically a benign and benevelant ruler. I would disagree with this assessment. While Nuri might have felt he had done what was best for the Arab cause, he had no limits as to how far he would go to make his political point. Two brief examples will explain my point. Nuri was at the very least infatuated with National Socialism. He had stated many times his admiration of Hitler and what he was trying to achieve. Dr. Saad, glosses over this part of his life. He explains away Nuri’s dalliance with setting himself against British colonialism in his country by siding with England’s enemies. However, even after the war was over evidence shows Nuri  continued his acceptance of Nazi concepts and an admiration of Hitler. Iraq, along with several other Arab countries harbored Nazi war criminals for many years after World War II. A more accurate interpretation of Nuri’s actions would have been to include in his fight to oust the British his complete feelings on the matter of Nazi ideology.

The other example was how he treated the Jewish community in Iraq after the 1948 war.  This community, with a long and illustrious history both in Babylon and modern day Iraq, was used as a pawn in his game to try to defeat the Zionist entity occupying Arab land in Palestine.. While it is well documented, Dr. Saad does not cover this part of Iraqi history at all. It is the opinion of this reviewer that Dr. Saad was an admirer of Nuri. Therefore, he chose not to reveal the negative aspects of his time in Iraqi politics. It would have been more interesting to show him “warts and all” as the saying goes.

\Where Dr. Saad seems to shine is his coverage of the Iraq’s activities during the War of 1948. His view of Iraq’s intentions is complete and shows why Iraq sent troops to fight for Palestine. He laid out several reasons why Iraq was interested in the Palestine problem. One, Haifa was their main Mediterranean port. If they lost that port under Jewish control they felt it would severely injure their economy.  Two, Iraq and the Palestine Arabs share the ties of one nation and Iraq wanted to keep King Abdullah of Jordan from annexing the country if possible. The failure of the Iraqi military to achieve its aims during the war is not really addressed in this paper. No one can deny the fact the military failure to achieve its goals was due to the unpreparedness of the army to go to war. Dr. Saad does not comment on it himself.

 

The question we are face with now is, did the Iraqi army fulfill what was perceived as its Arab national duty towards Palestine? I’ll let the Iraqi sources answer the question (371).

 

The paper then takes quotes from the Iraqi Crown, the official Iraqi government statement on the matter, a petition from the Palestinian Arabs themselves, Iraqi General Awni Abdel-Hadi, the Iraqi newspaper, al-Yaqazah and a few others. All the statements were designed to save face. None dealt with the real problem for such a poor showing, being militarily unprepared for war and lack of a unified command of all the Arab states involved.

The final part of the chapter deals with the Iraqi revolution and Nuri’s subsequent assassination. Here too, Dr. Saad, gives Nuri a pass on the activities that cost him his life. Being  implicated in conspiring against Syria contributed to his downfall. Of his assassination Dr. Saad does not mention. The final sentence in the paper reads, “ Thoughtout all these events, Nuri was trying to find a solution to the Palestinian problem, but he was swimming against the current until he was killed during the Iraqi revolution of July 14, 1958” (422). This indicates that Nuri might not have been assassinated. I wish he had explained that comment a little further.

 

 

 

 

 

Jewish community examiner

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field