221. Telegram From the Interests Section in Baghdad to the Department of State1

380. Subj: Abortive Coup.

1. Radio Baghdad announced at 2000 hours July 1 that coup attempt by Director of National Security Nazim Kazar on June 30 had failed. Statement said Kazar and his unknown supporters had invited Minister of Defense, Lt General Hammad Shehab, and Minister of Interior Lt General Saadoun Ghaidan and others to lunch on June 30 with intent to imprison them and then seize control. Plan misfired and Kazar and supporters fled toward Iranian border taking two Ministers with them. They were caught, but not before they killed Shehab and slightly wounded Ghaidan. Radio and TV reading from Koran and Shehab funeral set for 0800 July 2. As of 2300 hours July 1 city appears normal except for heavy security guards around strategic points, many of them party militia.

2. Rumors of coup began circulating early morning of July 1 following reports of shooting during night. Chiefs of Mission, who were at airport for departure of Dutch Ambassador, tied shooting in with fact that President al-Bakr’s plane was unaccountably two hours late, arriving at 2000 June 30, on return from State visits to Bulgaria and Poland. Airport reception was unusually modest and neither Shehab nor Ghaidan were present.

3. Many rumors and theories now circulating since few observers give credibility to GOI statements. Pakistani Chargé told me that President’s plane had been told to delay landing until all was safe and that AF plane was in air to shoot plane down, but when pilot learned that plot discovered, he fled across border. There is also rumor that several hundred army personnel and Baath militia were killed in clashes on July 1 when militia went to take control of Camp Rashid, largest military installation near Baghdad. Closest thing to confirmation of this is reliable report from British nurse at local hospital that at about 1300 July 1 loudspeaker called for all personnel to stay on duty and all available doctors and nurses were sent to Rashid Military Hospital.

4. Comment: While it obviously too early to determine significance these events, certain elements stand out. Generals Shehab and Ghaidan well known as close relatives and supporters of President Bakr. They [Page 634] are last two military men on RCC, excluding Bakr. Thus plot against them could be seen as next to final act in takeover of complete power by Saddam Hussain and civil wing of Baath; process which included assassination of General Hardan al-Tikriti in March 19712 and forced exile of Lt Gen Salah Mahdi Ammash in October 1971. Since Ghaidan apparently only slightly wounded and alleged plotters to be tried, however, this explanation seems unlikely, or else plot badly misfired.

5. It perhaps coincidence that the four Kurdish Ministers were also absent from airport reception for Bakr. Possibility that Kurdish issue involved in this Baath power struggle should not however be ruled out since this has been issue on which military and civilian leaders strongly disagreed in past.

6. As of 0800 July 2 city appears normal except for crowd gathering for Shehab funeral procession.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number]. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated Priority to Amman, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Moscow, Paris, Tehran, Tripoli, and Cairo and to Beirut.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Document 278.