The Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council was established after the
military coup in 1968, and was the ultimate decision making body in
Iraq before the 2003 American-led invasion. It exercised both
executive and legislative authority in the country, with the Chairman
and Vice Chairman chosen by a two-thirds majority of the council. The
Chairman was also then declared the President of
Iraq and he was then
allowed to select a Vice President. After
Saddam Hussein became
Iraq in 1979 the council was led by deputy chairman Izzat
Ibrahim ad-Douri, deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and Taha Yassin
Ramadan, who had known Saddam since the 1960s. The legislature was
composed of the RCC, the National Assembly and a 50-member Kurdish
Legislative Council which governed the country. During his presidency,
Saddam Hussein was Chairman of the RCC and President of the Republic.
Other members of the RCC included
Salah Omar Al-Ali who held the
position between 1968 and 1970, one of Saddam's half-brothers, Barzan
Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Taha Yasin Ramadan, Adnan Khairallah, Sa'adoun
Tariq Aziz Isa, Hasan Ali Nassar al-Namiri, Naim Hamid
Haddad and Taha Mohieddin Maruf. It was officially dissolved on 23 May
Paul Bremer per Order Number 2 of the Coalition Provisional
3 Power and controversies
The Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was established as the
de facto ruling power in
Iraq after the military coup of 1968. However
its foundation materialized much earlier. The Revolution of 1958
mobilized a small group of young military officers known as the Free
Officers. The Free Officers, headed by 'Abd al-Karim Qasim, agreed
Iraq should become a republic and that army officers should
occupy all senior posts in the administration in hopes of keeping
civilians subordinate to the officers. As Charles R. H. Tripp
explains "the officers' power would be institutionalized in a
Revolutionary Command Council, formed from the membership of the
Supreme Committee [an organization of eleven ranking officers who
helped plan the coup], and this body would wield supreme executive
power in the wake of the overthrow of the monarchy." The capture of
power by the military in 1958 greatly altered the political landscape
in Iraq’s government as military officers gained massive control
over civilian and governmental affairs. 'Abd al-Karim Qasim formed a
popular government that consolidated its power and redirected oil
revenues. However, Qasim was overthrown in 1963 as the Ba’ath Party
attempted to gain control. The Ba’thist contingent formed the
National Council of the Revolutionary Command which exercised supreme
power replacing the RCC. This regimes power was short-lived as new
Ba’thists regained the upper hand and brothers Abd al-Salam ‘Arif
and ‘Abd al-Rahman ruled
Iraq for the next five years.
The coup in 1968 led to the rise of the Ba’ath Party as it regained
control. The coup in 1968 led to the establishment of the Iraqi
Revolutionary Command Council which became the ultimate
decision-making body in
Iraq during the Ba’ath’s rule from 1968 to
2003. Accordingly "under a provisional constitution adopted by the
party in 1970,
Iraq was confirmed as a republic, with legislative
power theoretically vested in an elected legislature but also in the
party-run RCC, without whose approval no law could be promulgated."
Furthermore, "second to the council in political importance was the
Regional Command of the Baath, the party executive, and third was the
Council of Ministers." The legislature also included the National
Assembly and a 50-member Kurdish
The RCC was composed of a selective group of legislative leaders. The
Ba’ath Party supported the RCC but it was not completely Ba’ath
led. Under the Provisional Constitution, “article 43 assigns to the
RCC, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, authority to promulgate
laws and regulations, to deal with national security, to declare war
and conclude peace, and to approve the government's budget. Article 38
stipulates that all newly elected members of the RCC must be members
of the Baath Party Regional Command. The Constitution also provides
for an appointed Council of Ministers that has responsibility for
carrying out the executive decisions of the RCC.
"The chief executive of the RCC is the president, who serves as the
commander in chief of the armed forces and as the head of both the
government and the state." Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became president,
prime minister, chairman of the RCC and secretary-general of the
Ba’ath Party, all these positions gave Bakr immense powers of
patronage at his disposal. Al-Bakr maintained power until 1979 and
Saddam Hussein became the president of Iraq.
Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, President and Prime Minister of
Iraq from 1968
to 1979, also held the position of Chairman of the Revolutionary
Command Council. Al-Bakr's role as Chairman of the RCC strengthened
and maintained his power and control of the decision making process.
Hassan al-Bakr’s involvement in the RCC led to legislation that
greatly reinforced the power of the Ba’ath party as he created a
strong Ba’ath base within the government.
Charles Tripp makes the point that "in 1969,
Saddam Hussein was
appointed Vice-Chairman of the RCC, arguably the second most powerful
office in the state." Al-Bakr and Hussein’s political positions
helped them consolidate their power and control. The RCC was mostly
composed of Ba’ath leaders and their control limited the input from
other groups. However, Shi‘i Iraqis were later accepted into the RCC
to help appease the unrest among the Shi‘a in the 1970s. Many
scholars argue that the powerful positions held by al-Bakr and Hussein
in the RCC reinforced their supreme control of the Iraqi government.
Hussein promoted an agenda of modernization as vice chairman of the
RCC that included literacy and education. As vice chairman Hussein
built a strong reputation as an effective and progressive leader.
Saddam Hussein became President of
Iraq and Chairman of RCC,
with deputy chairman Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri, and deputy Prime
Tariq Aziz and Taha Yassin Ramadan. Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri
played an important role in leading the RCC during Saddam Hussein's
administration. The council was led by the deputy chairman, ad-Douri.
Through their leadership positions in the council, the deputy chairman
and deputy prime minister worked on behalf of
Saddam Hussein in the
RCC to advance the Ba’ath Party’s interests. The RCC was the
supreme policy making force in
Iraq until the American-led invasion in
2003 dissolved the council and replaced it with Coalition Provisional
Authority. The power of the
Coalition Provisional Authority
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was
transferred to newly appointed Iraqi Interim Government in 2004 and
the CPA was dissolved in 2008.
Power and controversies
There is a debate among scholars regarding the true power of Hassan
Saddam Hussein in their relation to the Revolutionary
Command Council. Some scholars argue that early on the RCC "functioned
as a genuine collective decision-making body, and was often the arena
for heated debates." Many argue it was
Saddam Hussein who greatly
changed and controlled the RCC by eliminating any manifestations of
pluralism. The government under Hussein was often seen as a brutal
dictatorship. In 1979, Hussein “accused dozens of party officers and
party officials, including five of the RCC’s twenty-two members, of
taking part in a Syrian plot against the regime. The accused were
put on trial and sent to death. Hussein’s actions at the beginning
of his presidency greatly limited the plurality in the RCC with his
accusations against the Syrian plot “conspirators.” This action
consolidated his power in the RCC.
The Revolutionary Command Council passed a multitude of controversial
legislation that advanced only the interests of the Ba’ath Party in
Iraq. For example, "Article 200, and the Penal Code of 1969 and its
various amendments, provide the death penalty for anyone joining the
Ba’ath Party while concealing any previous political affiliation, or
who resigns from it to join another party."
During the Iraq-Iran War,
Saddam Hussein used the Revolutionary
Command Council as his personal headquarters; Hussein maintained tight
control of war operations. Saddam Hussein’s tight control
limited the power of field commanders and this resulted in an intense
conflict between the highest command and the commanders fighting the
war. The military showed signs of discontent in 1982, and Hussein
responded by executing some three hundred high-ranking officers.
Subsequently in the 1990s, "reports in the BMJ drew attention to a
series of decrees of the RCC introducing amputation of the right hand
as judicial punishment for theft, with amputation of the left foot for
a second offence, amputation of one ear for evasion of the draft,
military desertion, or harbouring deserters." Amnesty
International received reports that confirmed the governmental
judicial acts of amputation. After the Gulf War, the United Nations
Special Commission (UNSCOM) was created to ensure Iraq’s compliance
with policies regarding the production of WMDs. The commission
conducted weapons inspections in Iraq. The U.S. used Iraq's failure to
comply with weapons inspections to prompt the American-led invasion of
Iraq in 2003. In the end, Hussein's regime as the U.S. invaded and
Many scholars such Charles Tripp argue that Saddam Hussein’s
complete control of both the executive and legislative components of
the government led to the rise of a brutal dictatorship that crushed
any forms of opposition. Hussein used his vast powers to strengthen
the Ba’ath Party and his control. Groups in opposition to the
Ba’ath Party increasingly became disconnected from the political
process and victimized for their differences.
^ John Simpson (2003). The Wars Against Saddam. Macmillan.
(PDF). External link in title= (help)
^ a b c Charles Tripp (2007). A History of Iraq. Cambridge University
Press. ISBN 978-0-521-70247-8.
^ "Iraq" Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica
Online. 29 November 2009
^ a b Helen Chapin Metz, ed. "Iraq: A Country Study: Constitutional
Framework". Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1988.
^ Tripp, p.187.
^ Tripp, p.190.
^ Efraim Karsh Inside Iraq: Politics Is a Lethal Game Marlowe &
Company, 2002, p.239.
^ Karsh p.239.
^ Peter Sluglett International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol.
13, No. 3 (August 1981) p.371
^ a b Karsh, p.251.
^ BMJ Publishing Group BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 309, No.
6967 (3 December 1