The coup d'état of 14 July 1958 established an autocratic regime headed by the military. Until his execution in February 1963, 'Abd al-Karim al-Qasim ruled Iraq, with a council of state and a cabinet. On 27 July 1958, a fortnight after taking over, Qasim's regime issued a provisional constitution, which has been repeatedly amended to accommodate changes in the status of the Kurdish regions. Since the 1968 coup, the Ba'ath Party ruled Iraq by means of the Revolutionary Command Council, "the supreme governing body of the state," which selected the president and a cabinet composed of military and civilian leaders. The president (Saddam Hussein from 1979–2003) served as chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, which exercised both executive and legislative powers by decree. He was also prime minister, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and secretary-general of the Ba'ath Party. A national assembly of 250 members that was elected by universal suffrage in 1980, 1984, 1989, 1996, and 2000, had little real power. Most senior officials were relatives or close associates of Saddam Hussein; nevertheless, their job security was not great.
The precarious nature of working in the regime of Saddam Hussein, even for relatives, was made evident in 1995 when two of his sons-in-law defected to Jordan along with President Hussein's daughters. The defection was widely reported in the international media and considered a great embarrassment to the regime as well as a strong indicator of how brutal and repressive its machinations were. After a promise of amnesty was delivered to the defectors by Iraq, the men returned and were executed shortly after crossing the border into Iraq.
In the aftermath of the 2003 war, Iraq was effectively ruled by the US-installed Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. US and British troops occupied and policed the country until a new government, run by Iraqis and severed from the Ba'ath Party, would be formed. As of June 2003, the whereabouts or survival of Saddam Hussein was unknown.