In 1958, a group called the Free Officers overthrew the Iraqi monarchy. Its two leaders were General Abd al-Karim Qasim who commanded an army unit in Baghdad and Colonel Abd al-Salam Arif who was stationed in Jalawla, Diyala. The United States was caught completely by surprise. No one knew who the two soldiers were. What they did know was that Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arab radio station welcomed the coup. The CIA thought that the Free Officers were either pro-Nasser or worse were directed by the Soviets in a Communist attempt to enter the Middle East. Washington’s fears appeared to be realized because Colonel Arif was pro-Egyptian and General Qasim turned to Moscow for weapons and aligned with the Iraqi Communist Party. As a result, the CIA launched two plans to undermine Qasim . The first was sending a handkerchief laced with a substance in 1960 that was meant to incapacitate the general, which failed. Later, the Agency began sending weapons to the Kurds who started a rebellion against the government in 1961. In 1963, Qasim was killed in a coup led by the army and Baath Party that many believed was supported by the CIA.
During this period, the U.S. knew little about Iraqi politics, and the only thing that really mattered was the Cold War. The fact that Colonel Arif was quickly dispatched from the government and General Qasim moved towards the Soviets to break England’s colonial legacy over Iraq wasn't important. To Washington Iraq appeared to be entering Moscow’s orbit and that was not to be tolerated. As it did too many times the U.S.’s response was to try to get rid of Qasim through covert means leading to these various plots against Iraq.
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