The 1936 Iraqi coup d'état, also known as the Bakr Sidqi coup was the first military coup in modern Iraq, initiated by general Bakr Sidqi in order to otherthrow Prime Minister Yasin al-Hashimi. The coup succeeded in installing Hikmat Sulayman as the new Prime Minister, while Sidqi was de'facto ruler of Iraq as powerful Chief of Staff. Bakr Sidqi was assassinated the next year in Mosul. After Baqr Sidqi's coup and until 1941, in a wave of political instability, the Kingdom of Iraq experienced 6 more political coups, involving extra-constitutional transfer of power.
In 1936, during the reign of Faisal's ineffectual son King Ghazi I, Sidqi, then acting commander of the Iraqi Army, staged what was probably the first modern military coup d'état in the Arab world against the government of Yasin al-Hashimi. Eleven Iraqi military planes dropped leaflets over Baghdad on October 29, 1936, requesting the King for the dismissal of Yasmin al-Hashimi’s administration and for the installment of the ousted anti-reform Prime Minister Hikmat Sulayman. In addition, the leaflets warned the citizens that military action will be taken against those who do not “answer our sincere appeal”. It is important to note that the leaflets were signed by Sidqi himself as the “Commander of the National Forces of Reform”. Badr Sidqi, wanted to improve the Iraqi ties towards Iran and Kemalist Turkey.
Bakr Sidqi could not have found a better time to execute his plan as the Chief of Staff, because General Taha al-Hashimi was in Ankara, Turkey. As the acting Chief of Staff, Sidqi ordered those in the military and in the air force, who shared his beliefs of a military coup to adhere to his directions. Any and all interference by Sidqi’s opponents was neutralized by Sidqi, who managed to send a telegram to Taha al-Hashimi ordering him not to return. In an interview conducted by Majid Khadduri, the writer claims that Sidqi had disclosed Khodduri that the king had called the British Ambassador, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, over to Zahur Palace for advice. The ambassador suggested that the king invite all ministers in the government for an emergency meeting. Of those in attendance were Yasin al-Hashimi, Nuri as-Sa’id, General Ja’far al-Askari and Rashid Ali, minister of interior. Immediately, the king discounted any notion of a revolutionary movement, however, this proved to be costly as reports of some bombing in Serai and the advancement of troops towards Baghdad reached the palace. With the exception of Nuri al-Sa’id, all those present in the palace agreed to comply with the demands of Bakr Sidqi and allow Hikmat Sulayman to step into power. As a result, Yasin al-Hashimi resigned. According to Khodduri, Ambassador Kerr suggested that Hikmat be invited to the meeting. Coincidentally, Sulayman arrived at the palace to deliver the letter, written by Sidqi and Latif Nuri, to the king explaining the implications of the coup.
Jafar al-Askari, who was minister of defense during the coup and twice the prime minister of Iraq prior to Yasin al-Hashimi, sought out to deter Sidqi from his plans by attempting to distract the two battalions loyal to Sidqi from advancing towards Baghdad. In addition, he tried to appeal to those officers, who still regarded him as instrumental in the formation of the Iraqi army. Cautious of any dissention as a result of al-Askari’s actions, Sidqi’s sent two of his men, Akram Mustapha, member of the air force, and Ismail Tohalla, who had participated in the Simele Massacre, to assassinate him. The death of al-Askari was widely viewed as a challenge to the old government and highlighted Sidqi’s quest in ultimately gaining control of the country by first taking over the army. As a result, Nuri al-Sa’id was exiled to Cairo and Yasin al-Hashimi was exiled to Istanbul.
Despite the obvious overthrow, Sidqi found it necessary to enter the capital city of Baghdad with the army and parade with the citizens. According to Khodduri, some felt this was a move to dissuade any last-minute resistance while others felt that Sidqi wanted to prove himself with the parade and be applauded for bringing in a new regime for Iraq.
As a result of the coup, Yasin stepped down, insisting that the king write a formal letter accepting his resignation. Sulayman became Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, but after overthrowing the government, it was Sidqi, who as commander of the armed forces, essentially ruled Iraq. Some other members of the new cabinet included Abu al-Timman, Minister of Finance, Kamil al-Chadirchi, Minister of Economics and Public Works, Abd al-Latif, Minister of Defense and Yusuf Izz ad-Din Ibrahim as Minister of Education. It is important to note that though Sidqi was instrumental in the formation of the coup, he did not want a cabinet position and remained Chief of the General Staff.
The murder of al-Askari created strong feelings, especially among Iraqi forces, against the new government, and Sulayman's cabinet lasted under ten months, before Sidqi was assassinated. In August 1937, while en route to Turkey, Sidqi was assassinated in the garden of one of the air force bases in Mosul along with Mohammad ‘Ali Jawad, the commanding officer of the Iraqi Royal Air Force. Both Sidqi and Jawad were sent as part of a military mission by the Iraqi government, in response to an invitation from the Turkish government. Sidqi had stopped in Mosul on August 11 on the way to Turkey to spend the afternoon with Jawed when a soldier named Muhammad ‘Ali Talla’fari opened fire, instantly killing both men. The bodies of both men were flown to Baghdad the following day and buried with full military honors.
Many attribute his murder to his reformist judgment and dissociation from the idea of pan-Arabism. It is still unclear as to who was behind the death of Sidqi, but many conspiracy theories have emerged. Some theories state that the British in conjunction with Nuri al-Sa’id were behind it.
Other theories suggest that Sidqi was assassinated by a group of dissident nationalist military officers, who had withdrawn their support from him after he had promoted adherent officers key military posts. However, a thorough investigation by Hikmat Sulayman’s government, revealed seven army officers as part of the plot, including Aziz Yamulki, Fahmi Sa’id, Mahmud Hindi and Muhammad Khorshid.
As a result of Sidqi's assassination, Sulayman resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Jamil al-Midfai.
The 1936 coup marked the "beginning of end" of constitutional order in Iraq. After 1936, extra-constitutional, often violent transfers of power became a rule more than exception, while the monarchical rule began its gradual disintegration.