IRAQ: In One Swift Hour

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Throughout his long life, in which he had served 14 times as Premier and for 27 years as Iraq's strongman, Nuri had lived both dangerously and adroitly. "The man," he insisted, "has not been born who can assassinate me." He knew he was hated by many, regarded as a "British stooge" in the kingdom set up by the British in 1920.

Nuri boasted that he was no idealist but a practical patriot who aligned his country with the West as the only way of keeping the country's oil flowing and Communism out. "History would curse me," he once said, "if I appealed to the emotions of the masses at the expense of the national security." Nuri let the powerful sheiks get richer and richer, but in recent years had seen to it that 70% of the vast oil royalties (some $300 million a year) went to the well-conceived dams and construction programs of the national Development Board. In time, Iraq's common man stood to gain more than the impoverished fellahin of Nasser's Egypt. But the cry of independence and Arab unity was irresistible.

Within hours after proclaiming martial law, buses were running as usual in Baghdad, and shops were open. So far as any outsider could tell, many Iraqis welcomed the coup and almost all accepted it. Yet it was only a handful of plotters who changed the history of Iraq. Later intelligence suggests that they acted earlier than they had intended, worried by Nuri's dispatch of one of the crucial colonels to Jordan.

The Old Pros. As the week passed, more light was shed on the men behind General El-Kassim. While their followers cried, "We are your soldiers, Gamal Abdel Nasser," the rebels seemed to be only in part a clique of Nasserian army officers. About half of the new ministers were civilians, and of these, five belonged to the banned ultranationalist, right-wing Istiqlal Party, whose members were old pros at nationalist plotting long before Nasser was ever heard of. After General El-Kassim, the most powerful man on the Council of State is Mohammed Mahdi Kubah, 52, the brains behind the pro-Nazi coup of 1941 that drove Nuri out of the country until British troops smashed the revolt. He is considered fanatically antiWestern.

Most of the civilians are strong nationalists, anti-British. The Sorbonne-educated Minister of Guidance (Propaganda), a longtime Kubah colleague, worked with the Nazis during World War II. The Finance Minister, a graduate of the London School of Economics during Harold Laski's heyday, wants to nationalize the oil wells. The Minister of Public Works and Communications (Baba Ali), considered friendly to Americans, went to Columbia University.

All in all, the government's composition suggested that it might cooperate with Nasser but would not be his stooge. After rushing out declarations of friendship to Nasser, and more slowly responding to Russia and Red China's offers of recognition, the new rulers began to make cooing noises toward the West—perhaps out of conviction, perhaps out of expediency. Apparently no more anxious than Nuri asSaid to lose oil royalties, they announced that Western interests were in no danger, and throughout all the week, the vast Kirkuk and Mosul oilfields kept pumping and the pipelines kept flowing.

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