Born in Baghdad, he trained as an officer in the Ottoman army, but was converted to the Arab nationalist cause and fought with T. E. Lawrence in the Arab Revolt as an advisor to Emir Faisal of Hejaz, who would later reign briefly as king of Syria befor becoming king of Iraq. He obtained his first cabinet position in Iraq in 1922, with his appointment as defense minister, and served almost continuously in government in some key capacity until the overthrow of the monarchy.
During his various terms in office, Said was involved in some of the key policy decisions that shaped the modern Iraqi state. During his first term, he signed the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930), reducing British involvement in Iraq's internal affairs and defense policies, thereby leading the way to full independence upon the completion of the Mandate in 1932. It also ensured Iraq membership in the League of Nations and international recognition upon the termination of the Mandate.
Said fled Iraq during the 1936 coup led by General Bakr Sidqi, returning after Sidqi was assassinated. An outspoken supporter of Britain and the Allies in [[World War II]], he fled again in 1941, following Rashid Ali al-Kaylani's pro-Axis coup, but returned after the British invasion of Iraq in 1941. As Arab anti-colonialist and independence movements gathered momentum in the immediate post-war years, Said was an avid supporter of Arab unity and helped to found the Arab League. Throughout his terms in office, he supported a pro-Western foreign policy, and on February 24, 1954, he signed the Baghdad Pact with his neighbors Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan, and Great Britain to serve as a buffer against perceived Soviet encroachments in the region. It was this pro-Western stance that brought him into conflict with the pan-Arab government of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, who supported increased Soviet involvement in the Middle East.
Said resigned the office of prime minister on May 13, 1958, in preparation for assuming his new role as prime minister of a planned federation of Iraq and Jordan, which was to be headed by King Faisal as the senior member of the Hashemite family. When the nationalist coup overthrew the monarchy on July 14, Said attempted to flee Iraq again, this time dressed as a woman. This time, however, he was identified by a mob and killed.