Abdul Karim Kassem, the son of a carpenter, was born in Baghdad in 1914. He joined the Iraq Army and eventually reached the rank of brigadier.
The Jewish state of Israel was established on 14th May 1948 when the British mandate over Palestine came to an end. The neighbouring Arab states, including Iraq, refused to recognize Israel and invaded the country on the 15th May. During the war Kassem showed outstanding bravery and won several medals.
Although Iraq was a close ally of Britain, King Faisal II, under pressure from his own population, was forced to give his support to Egypt in the war over the Suez Canal. However, he upset Arab nationalists in 1958 when he opposed the plan to establish the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria.
In July 1958, King Faisal II and his entire household were assassinated during a military coup. Nuri es-Said, his prime minister, attempted to escape from Baghdad disguised as a woman but he was captured and executed on 14th July, 1958.
Abdul Karim Kassem emerged as the leader of the Iraqi Revolution and became prime minister and minister of defence in the new republican government. In 1959 Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact. In 1961 the Kurds, located in northern Iraq, staged a revolt and demanded independence from Baghdad.
Kassem's moderate policies lost him the support of the Ba'ath Party and he was executed after a military coup in February 1963.