Al Bakr, Ahmad (Iraq)
Following the Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba’ath) Party coup of 17 July 1968, Ahmad Al Bakr was the political leader of Iraq and commander-in-chief of the armed forces until his resignation in July 1979. He was also minister of defence from 1973–77.
Al Bakr was born in Tikrit in 1914. He pursued a military career initially, serving in the army until 1958 when he was forced to retire for revolutionary activities as a member of the Ba’ath. Following the Feb. 1963 coup against Gen. Qassim, Al Bakr served briefly as Prime Minister and then Vice-President until Jan. 1964.
He took power as President, Prime Minister, and as Chairman of the newly-established Revolutionary Command Council following the Ba’ath coup in July 1968, thereafter governing in concert with his increasingly influential deputy, Saddam Hussein. In 1969 he was promoted to the military rank of Field Marshal. With a militant, nationalist background in the Ba’ath Party, he maintained total opposition while in office to any compromise with Israel in the Middle East conflict. Good relations with the Soviet Union were meanwhile reinforced by a 15-year friendship treaty in 1972. Al Bakr also oversaw a short-lived improvement in relations with Iran by agreeing a treaty in 1975 to settle the longstanding disputes over territorial sovereignty of the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Iranian aid to Kurdish rebels in Iraq. The later Iraqi abrogation of this agreement by Saddam Hussein sparked the Iran–Iraq war in Sept. 1980. On 16 July 1979 Al Bakr announced his retirement, reportedly because of declining health having earlier suffered a heart attack. Power was transferred peacefully to Saddam Hussein.
Al Bakr died on 4 Oct. 1982 in Baghdad.