From beginnings as a young activist, Saddam Hussein rose to become a highly controlling deputy to the Iraqi president.
In 1957, Saddam Hussein, a youth from a village near Tikrit in the north of Iraq, joined the fledgling Iraqi Baath Party which expounded a socialist brand of pan-Arab nationalism.
Britain had administered Iraq under a League of Nations mandate from 1920 to 1932 and exercised strong political and military influence long afterwards. Anti-Western sentiment was strong.
The young Saddam Hussein was involved in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Brigadier Abdel Karim Qasim, who overthrew the British-installed Iraqi monarchy in 1958.
Saddam Hussein fled to Egypt after the plot against Brigadier Qasim failed, then returned when the Baath party staged a coup in 1963 - only to be jailed within months when Brigadier Qasim's former ally, Col Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif, seized power from the Baathists.
But Saddam Hussein escaped in 1966 and was elected assistant general secretary of the party, which then staged a successful coup in 1968.
General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, also from Tikrit and a relative of the 31 year-old Saddam Hussein, took power.
The two worked closely together and became the dominant force in the Baath party, with Saddam Hussein gradually outstripping the president's leadership.