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Arab coups that crashed and burned: The region's unsuccessful attempts at changing history

Arab coups that crashed and burned: The region's unsuccessful attempts at changing history

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Culture History

Tuesday 11 April 202303:20 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

انقلابات عربية لم يكتب لها النجاح


There are many Arab coups that have gone down in history, since Bakr Sidqi's coup in Iraq against the government of Yassin Pasha al-Hashemi in 1936. This was the first coup in the Arab world, but most sources attribute this description to General Husni al-Za'im, the architect of Syria's first coup in 1949. After the leader's coup, a series of other coups followed in Syria, with two consecutive attempts in the same year, the first led by Sami al-Hinnawi and the second led by Adib Shishakli.

In Egypt, the Free Officers succeeded in their coup against King Farouk in 1952, followed by a military coup against King Faisal II in Iraq in 1958. But what about the Arab coups that never saw the light of day? Here are the most famous ones in Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Jordan

Morocco 1972

On August 16, 1972, King Hassan II's plane came under fire on its way back from France, in a failed assassination attempt by General Mohamed Oufkir, Chief of Staff of the Moroccan Army and Minister of Defense. The king grabbed the radio and addressed the putschists, saying: "The king has been killed... Halt the fire." The trick worked, and the Boeing 727 landed at Rabat Airport safely. General Oufkir was then found dead, and Moroccan authorities said at the time that he committed suicide after the coup failed, but his family insisted that he was killed by order of the king.

This was the second coup against the Moroccan king in less than a year, after a failed attempt in July 1971 that Oufkir had suppressed as interior minister at the time, who was also in charge of all security services. After his death, Oufkir's family was placed under house arrest until 1977, when they were transferred to an isolated prison in the desert, where they lived in very harsh conditions until their release in 1991.

In Egypt, the Free Officers succeeded in their coup against King Farouk in 1952, followed by a military coup against King Faisal II in Iraq in 1958. But what about the Arab coups that failed? Here are the most famous ones in Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Jordan

This coup is considered the most famous in Morocco's modern history, because its leader was one of the most powerful men of the reign and was the closest to King Mohammed V and his son King Hassan II. This is how military coups are usually carried out, by people who are close to the court, and are influential and reliable, with no suspicion revolving around them.

Libya 1969

In Libya, for example, three months after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi came to power, following his coup d' état against the monarchy, he faced a failed coup attempt by Defense Minister ​​Musa al-Hasi on December 7, 1969. The plotters took control of camps in the eastern region, but Gaddafi struck with an iron fist and thwarted the attempt in one day. One of the coup leaders, Lieutenant Colonel Adham al-Hawaz, was killed in prison, while Musa al-Hasi was imprisoned for twenty years. 

Jordan 1957

Before that, Jordan's young king, Hussein bin Talal, had faced a failed coup attempt in April 1957, five years after he ascended the throne succeeding his father, King Talal bin Abdullah. Standing behind this coup was the chief of staff of the Jordanian army, General Ali Abu Nuwar, who was close to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. A year earlier, King Hussein had appointed Abu Nuwar as the Chief of the General Staff in May 1956, to appease the Arab nationalists, Jordanian and Palestinian alike. The coup was preceded by the advance of Abu Nuwar's forces towards the Jordanian capital Amman on April 8, 1957, and anti-government demonstrations in the city of Zarqa on April 13.

In Libya, three months after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi came to power, following his coup d' état against the monarchy, he faced a failed coup attempt by Defense Minister ​​Musa al-Hasi on December 7, 1969

King Hussein imposed martial law in Amman, Nablus, and Jerusalem. Abu Nuwar then resigned from his post before being dismissed, and Hussein allowed him to travel to Damascus. From there, he went to Egypt at the invitation of President Nasser, where he issued a statement against King Hussein on Voice of the Arabs (or Sawt al-Arab) radio on April 22. In September of the same year, he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison, and Abu Nuwar responded by establishing a leadership council for the Jordanian revolution, similar to the Egyptian experience. In April 1963 , he announced the establishment of a government-in-exile for what he called the "Republic of Jordan".

King Hussein pardoned him in 1965 and appointed him ambassador to France in February 1971. The general died in a London hospital in August 1991 of cancer, eight years before King Hussein died of the same disease in February 1999. 

Egypt 1988

On November 1, 1988, engineer Khaled Abdel Nasser, the eldest son of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, was charged with attempting a coup against the government system established by his father with the Free Officers in 1952. Khaled was a popular civil engineer in Egypt, a graduate of Cairo University and the University of Cambridge, and was known for his opposition to the policies of his father's successor, President Anwar Sadat, who was killed in 1981. 

Jordan's young king, Hussein bin Talal, had faced a failed coup attempt in April 1957, five years after he ascended the throne succeeding his father, King Talal bin Abdullah

He was also strongly opposed to the Camp David Accords that Sadat signed with Israel, and was accused in absentia of attempting to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak's regime, attacking the US embassy in Cairo and killing Israeli diplomats. He was said to have masterminded and financed a revolutionary leftist group calling itself the "Egypt Revolution", which was supported by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Abdel Nasser was in Yugoslavia at the time, and all these accusations were made against him in absentia, and if proven, the Egyptian judiciary would have imposed the death penalty against him. This would have negatively affected President Mubarak's popularity, given Khaled's fame and the great popularity his father still enjoyed in Egypt and the Arab world 18 years after his death.

Khaled Abdel Nasser returned from exile in 1990 and defended himself before the Egyptian judiciary, denying involvement in any coup or terrorist operations. He was acquitted of all charges against him, lived in Egypt as a teacher at Cairo University, and participated in the Tahrir Square revolution against President Mubarak in February 2011, before passing away six months later in September of the same year.



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