134. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

RPM 78–10407

Government In Iraq


In the ten years the Baath Party has ruled Iraq,2 it has brought a relative measure of stability and unity to a country long known for its instability, disunity, and high level of political violence. There are elaborate institutional mechanisms which ostensibly represent the divergent ethnic and political groups in Iraqi society and politics, but real power lies with President Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, Revolutionary Command Council Deputy Chairman Saddam Husayn, and a few close advisers.

—Bakr and Saddam Husayn are in firm control of the country. They use economic and political carrots-and-sticks to create an impression of national solidarity and widespread support for the government, but their power is dependent on their control of the party and the state security and intelligence organizations, and on the acquiescence of the military.

—The relationship between Bakr and Saddam is one marked more by consensus on major issues than conflict over who wields power. They share close family ties and a common perception of the direction Iraq’s policies should take. Their primary concerns are the stability of the regime, the unity of the country, and military and economic independence.

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—Saddam’s position has been strengthened considerably in the past four years. The ailing President Bakr apparently has willingly relinquished much of the conduct of government to the younger and healthier Saddam. Saddam, in turn, has orchestrated major governmental and party reorganizations which have consolidated his hold on both institutions and virtually assure his succession to the presidency.

—Institutions like the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), once the dominant governmental body, and the Baath Party’s Regional Command, the party’s policy-making body, have only a limited input in the decision-making process. They have symbolic importance, however, and could play a decisive role in any succession crisis.

—The party and the government are dominated, for the most part, by the country’s Sunni Arab minority. Promotions and awards are frequently dependent more on family and village ties and personal loyalty than on party service.

—Although Communists and Kurds are represented in the Cabinet and the National Front, their presence is essentially cosmetic. There is no power-sharing and no room for political dissent.

—Saddam Husayn appears to rely on a half-dozen advisers, including Defense Minister Talfah, his brother-in-law, for advice on economic planning, military reorganization, and oil affairs. He seems to have no special consultant on foreign affairs and has developed no discernible relations of trust with anyone in either the government or the party.

—Bakr and Saddam Husayn have few rivals for power. The opposition—be it Communist, Kurd, rival Baathist, or military—seems to be in disarray, unable to mount an effective challenge to Saddam or alter the present governmental or political structure.

[Omitted here is the body of the Intelligence Memorandum.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Support Services (DI), Job 80T00634A, Production Case Files (1978), Box 4, Folder 47, Government in Iraq. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Prepared in the Office of Regional and Political Analysis of the National Foreign Assessment Center.
  2. Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Bitar founded the Ba’ath Party in Syria in 1946 to pursue Arab nationalist and socialist agendas. The 1968 coup in Iraq brought the Ba’ath Party to power.