Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti
(28 April 1937 â€“ 30 December 2006)
was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organisation Ba'ath Party â€“ Iraq Region, which espoused ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup, later referred to as the 17 July Revolution, that brought the party to long-term power of Iraq.
As vice president under the ailing General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, and at a time when many groups were considered capable of overthrowing the government, Saddam created security forces through which he tightly controlled conflict between the government and the armed forces. In the early 1970s, Saddam nationalized oil and other industries. The state-owned banks were put under his control, leaving the system eventually insolvent mostly due to the Iranâ€“Iraq War, the Persian Gulf War, and UN sanctions. Through the 1970s, Saddam cemented his authority over the apparatuses of government as oil money helped Iraq's economy to grow at a rapid pace. Positions of power in the country were filled with Sunnis, a minority that made up only a fifth of the population.
Saddam formally rose to power in 1979, though he had been the de facto head of Iraq for several years prior (see Succession). He suppressed several movements, particularly Shi'a and Kurdish movements seeking to overthrow the government or gain independence, respectively, and maintained power during the Iranâ€“Iraq War of 1980 through 1988. In 1990 he ordered the invasion and looting of Kuwait. An international coalition came to free Kuwait in the Gulf War of 1991, but did not end Saddam's rule. Whereas some venerated him for his aggressive stance against Israel, including firing missiles at Israeli targets, he was widely condemned for the brutality of his dictatorship.
In March 2003, a coalition of countries led by the U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq to depose Saddam, after U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused him of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al-Qaeda. Saddam's Ba'ath party was disbanded and the nation made a transition to a democratic system. Following his capture on 13 December 2003, the trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi interim government. On 5 November 2006, Saddam was convicted of charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites and was sentenced to death by hanging. His execution was carried out on 30 December 2006.