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Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region

Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region
Leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri
Founded est. 1948–1952
(recognized in 1951) (est. 1948–1952
(recognized in 1951)
Headquarters Baghdad, Iraq
Newspaper Al-Thawra
Paramilitary wing National Guard (1963)
Popular Army (1970–1991)
Fedayeen Saddam (1995–2003)
Naqshbandi Army (2006–present)
Membership At least 102,900[1][2][3][4]
Ideology Ba'athism
Saddamist Ba'athism (1979–present)
Iraqi nationalism (1991–present) [5]
National affiliation National Progressive Front
International affiliation Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (1951–1966)
Iraq-based Ba'ath Party (1966–present)
Colors Black, Red, White and Green (Pan-Arab colors)
Party flag
Politics of Iraq
Political parties

The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region (Arabic: حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي في العراقHizb Al-Baath Al-'Arabi Al-Ishtiraki fi Al-'Iraq), officially the Iraqi Regional Branch, is a regional branch of the Arab Ba'athist political party founded in 1951 by Fuad al-Rikabi. It was part of the original Ba'ath Party (1951–1966), changing its allegiance to the Iraqi-dominated Ba'ath movement following the 1966 split within the Ba'ath Party.


  • History 1
    • Early years and the 14 July Revolution: 1951–1958 1.1
    • Qasim's Iraq: 1958–1963 1.2
    • In power: February–September 1963 1.3
      • Union talks with Syria 1.3.1
      • Bilateral union 1.3.2
    • Underground: 1963–1968 1.4
    • Ba'athist Iraq: 1968–2003 1.5
    • 2003 invasion and new Iraqi government 1.6
      • Downfall and de-Ba'athification 1.6.1
      • Saddam's death and party split: 2006–present 1.6.2
  • Organization and structure 2
    • Regional (central) level 2.1
    • Lower levels 2.2
    • Security functions 2.3
  • Management 3
    • Discipline 3.1
    • Finances 3.2
    • Membership 3.3
  • Election results 4
  • Notes and references 5
    • Notes 5.1
    • References 5.2
    • Bibliography 5.3


Early years and the 14 July Revolution: 1951–1958

Rikabi was one of the leading figures in early Ba'athist history

The Iraqi Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party in 1951[6] or 1952.[7] Some historians claim that the Iraqi Regional Branch was established by Abd ar Rahman ad Damin and Abd al Khaliq al Khudayri in 1947 after their return from the founding congress of the Ba'ath Party held in Damascus, Syria the same year.[8] In another version, Fuad al-Rikabi established the Iraqi Regional Branch in 1948 with Sa'dun Hamadi, a Shia Muslim, but became secretary of the Regional Command in 1952.[9]

The Iraqi Regional Branch was Arab nationalist and vague in its socialist orientation.[10] Al-Rikabi, expelled from the party in 1961 for being a Nasserist,[11] was an early follower of Michel Aflaq, the founder of Ba'athism.[12] During the party's early days, members discussed topics regarding Arab nationalism, the social inequalities that had grown out of the British "Tribal Criminal and Civil Disputes Regulation," and the Iraqi Parliament's Law 28 of 1932 "Governing the Rights and Duties of Cultivators".[6] By 1953, the party, led by al-Rikabi, was engaged in subversive activities against the government.[13]

The party initially consisted of a majority of Shia Muslims, as al-Rikabi primarily recruited his friends and family, but it slowly became Iraqi Communist Party than the Ba'ath Party.[15] In the mid-1950s, eight of 17 members of the Ba'ath leadership were Shia.[15]

According to Talib Shabib, the Ba'ath foreign minister in the Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr government, the sectarian background of the leading Ba'ath members was considered of little importance because most Ba'athists did not know each other's sectarian denominations.[15] Between 1952 and 1963, 54% of the members of the Ba'ath Regional Command were Shia Muslims, largely because of al-Rikabi's effective recruitment drive in Shia areas. Between 1963 and 1970, after al-Rikabi's resignation, Shia representation in the Regional Command had fallen to 14 percent. However, of the three factions within the Ba'ath Party, two out of three faction leaders were Shia.[9]

By the end of 1951, the party had at least 50 members.[16] With the collapse of the pan-Arabist United Arab Republic (UAR), several leading Ba'ath members, including al-Rikabi, resigned from the party in protest.[17] In 1958, the year of the 14 July Revolution that overthrew the Hashemite monarchy, the Ba'ath Party had 300 members nationwide.[18] General Abd al-Karim Qasim, the leader of the Free Officers Movement which overthrew the king, supported joining the UAR, but changed his position when he took power. Several members of the Free Officer Movement were also members of the Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath Party considered the President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of the pan-Arab movement, to be the leader most likely to succeed, and supported Iraq's joining the union. Of the 16 members of Qasim's cabinet, 12 were Ba'ath Party members. However, the Ba'ath Party supported Qasim on the grounds that he would join Nasser's UAR.[19]

Qasim's Iraq: 1958–1963

Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party student cell, Cairo, in the period 1959–63.

Shortly after taking power, Qasim changed his position on joining the UAR and started campaigning for the "Iraq first policy".[19] To strengthen his own position within the government, Qasim created an alliance with the Saddam Hussein, the Iraq region's secretary-general, was a leading member of the operation. At the time, the Ba'ath Party was more of an ideological experiment then a strong, anti-government, fighting machine. Most of its members were either educated professionals or students, and Saddam fit the bill.[21] The choice of Hussein was, according to historian Con Coughlin, hardly surprising. Abdul Karim al-Shaikhly, the leader of the operation, asked Hussein to join it when one of team members left.[22] The idea of assassinating Qasim may have been Nasser's and speculations exist that some participants in the operation received training in Damascus, which was then part of the UAR.[23]

The assassins planned to

  • Davies, Eric (2005). Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in modern Iraq.  
  • Dawisha, Addid (2005). Arab nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair.  
  • Ghareeb, Edmund A.; Dougherty, Beth K. (2004). Historical Dictionary of Iraq. The Scarecrow Press, Ltd.  
  • Malik, Mufti (1996). Sovereign Creations: pan-Arabism and Political order in Syria and Iraq (1st ed.).  
  • Nakash, Yitzhak (2003). The Shi'is of Iraq (Revised ed.).  
  • Patterson, David (2010). A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad.  
  • Sassoon, Joseph (2012). Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime (1st ed.).  
  • Sheffer, Gabriel; Ma'oz, Moshe (2002). Middle Eastern Minorities and Diasporas.  
  • Tucker, Spencer; Roberts, Priscilla Mary (2008). The encyclopedia of the Arab–Israeli conflict: a Political, Social, and Military History: A–F 1 (1st ed.).  


  1. ^ Colin Freeman (18 May 2013). "Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri: the King of Clubs is back, and he may yet prove to be Saddam Hussein's trump card".  
  2. ^ Heras, Nicholas A. "The Tribal Component of Iraq’s Sunni Rebellion: The General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries". The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Daniel Cassman. "Islamic Army in Iraq | Mapping Militant Organizations". Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  4. ^ "How Syria's civil war is spilling over - Middle East". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 
  5. ^ Bengio, Ofra (1998). Saddam's Word: Political discourse in Iraq (Paperback). Oxford, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511439-3.
  6. ^ a b Polk 2006, p. 109.
  7. ^ Ghareeb & Dougherty 2004, p. 194.
  8. ^ Metz, Helen Chapin. "Iraq — Politics: The Baath Party".  
  9. ^ a b Sheffer & Ma'oz 2002, p. 174.
  10. ^ Tripp 2002, p. 143.
  11. ^ Davies 2005, p. 200.
  12. ^ Davies 2005, p. 320.
  13. ^ Patterson 2010, p. 229.
  14. ^ Nakash 2003, p. 136.
  15. ^ a b c Dawisha 2005, p. 174.
  16. ^ Tucker 2008, p. 185.
  17. ^ Dawisha 2005, p. 224.
  18. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 22.
  19. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, pp. 24–25.
  20. ^ Coughlin 2005, pp. 25–26.
  21. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 26.
  22. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, p. 29.
  23. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 27.
  24. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 30.
  25. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 33.
  26. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 34.
  27. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 39.
  28. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, p. 40.
  29. ^ a b c Coughlin 2005, p. 41.
  30. ^ a b Mufti 1996, p. 161.
  31. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, pp. 41–42.
  32. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 44.
  33. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 45.
  34. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, pp. 45–46.
  35. ^ a b Mufti 1996, p. 165.
  36. ^ Mufti 1996, p. 159.
  37. ^ Mufti 1996, p. 160.
  38. ^ Mufti 1996, pp. 160–161.
  39. ^ Coughlin 2005, pp. 47–48.
  40. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 48.
  41. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 55.
  42. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, p. 52.
  43. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 53.
  44. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 56.
  45. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 57.
  46. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 74.
  47. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 120.
  48. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 94.
  49. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 85.
  50. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 98.
  51. ^ a b Coughlin 2005, p. 106.
  52. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 150.
  53. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 113.
  54. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 107.
  55. ^ Coughlin 2005, p. 105.
  56. ^ Paley, Amit R.; Joshua Partlow (23 January 2008). "Iraq's New Law on Ex-Baathists Could Bring Another Purge".  
  57. ^ a b  
  58. ^ a b  
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ali, Fadhil (5 January 2007). "Reviving the Iraqi Ba’ath: A Profile of General Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad" VII (3).  
  60. ^ a b c d e f g h al-Lami, Alaa (18 January 2012). "Sectarian Divisions Plague Iraqi Baath Party".  
  61. ^ "Former Iraqi Defense Intelligence Chief Requests Resettlement, Comments On Ba'th Party And AQI".  
  62. ^ a b c d al-Lami, Alaa (1 November 2011). "Iraq's Rising Tide of Separatism Ahead of US Withdrawal".  
  63. ^ a b Nasrawi, Salah (4 July 2012). "Fugitive Saddam Aide Calls For Better US Ties After Troops Leave, Govt Toppled".  
  64. ^ a b Freeman, Colin (18 May 2013). "Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri: the King of Clubs is back, and he may yet prove to be Saddam Hussein's trump card".  
  65. ^ a b c Sassoon 2012, p. 36.
  66. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 99.
  67. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 11.
  68. ^ Sassoon 2012, pp. 11–12.
  69. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 12.
  70. ^ a b c Sassoon 2012, p. 35.
  71. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 285.
  72. ^ a b Sassoon 2012, p. 37.
  73. ^ Sassoon 2012, pp. 37–38.
  74. ^ a b Sassoon 2012, p. 38.
  75. ^ a b Sassoon 2012, p. 39.
  76. ^ Sassoon 2012, pp. 39–40.
  77. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 40.
  78. ^ a b Sassoon 2012, p. 42.
  79. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 43.
  80. ^ a b Sassoon 2012, p. 41.
  81. ^ Sassoon 2012, p. 45.
  82. ^ a b Sassoon 2012, p. 46.
  83. ^ Sassoo 2012, p. 47.



Notes and references

Election year # of
overall seats won
187 / 250
183 / 250
207 / 250
161 / 250
165 / 250

Election results

Like most parties, the Ba'ath membership was organised in a hierarchical manner. The head of a branch, division or section was the secretary-general, who was responsible to the secretariat. At the bottom was sympathiser, a member seeking to climb the party ranks with the status of active members, which could take five to 10 years. In certain provinces, "national activity" was the status given to the lowest level of the hierarchy. Where this level existed, it could take two to three years to climb up to the rank of sympathiser.[82] The report to the 10th National Congress stated that "It is not sufficient for a member just to believe in the idea of the party, but what is required is total commitment and not simply a political affiliation."[83]

When the party came to power in 1968 in the 17 July Revolution, it was determined to increase party membership so that it could compete with ideological opponents such as the Iraqi Communist Party. Saddam had a clear plan, and on 25 February 1976 he said, "It should be our ambition to make all Iraqis in the country Ba'athists in membership and belief or in the latter only."[81] This is contrary to his statements in the 1990s, when increasing membership was more important than recruiting members who adhered to Ba'athist ideology.[82]


The Ba'ath Party was supported financially by the RCC, the highest executive and legislative body of government. Members were required to pays fees commensurate with their ranks. For instance, a supporting member would pay 25 Iraqi dinar for membership, while a branch member would pay 3,000 Iraqi dinars. Fees were important in the party's balance sheet. The central party leadership often emphasised the importance of members' financial abilities. The leadership encouraged members to contribute more to party finances.[80] According to Jawad Hashim, a former Minister of Planning and the RCC Economic Advisor, Saddam gave the Ba'ath Party the five percent of Iraqi oil revenues, which were previously owned by the Gulbenkin Foundation. Saddam's reasoning was that, if a counter-coup took place and the Ba'ath Party was forced from power, as had been the case in November 1963, the party needed financial security so that it could reclaim power.[80] By Hasim's estimates, the Ba'ath Party had accumulated US$10 billion in external revenues by 1989.[78]


The Ba'ath Party instilled party corruption and abuses of power. Members found breaching the party code were either demoted or expelled from the party.[79]



One of the party's most important functions was gathering information about its opponents. In Northern Iraq, the Ba'ath gathered information about the Kurdish Democratic Party by tracking their activities among the local population. They tried to recruit members from Kurd-dominated areas through supplying food or a literacy campaign.[75] During the drive to Arabise Kurdistan, the party resettled several hundred loyal party officials there to strengthen the party in the area. Kurds who had moved from Kurdistan would, in most instances, not be allowed back unless they were loyal Ba'ath Party members.[76] The Military and Armament Department was responsible for coordinating the distribution of arms to party officials.[77]

Nationally, the Ba'ath Party functioned as an institution acting as the eyes and ears of the government. During its rule, the party gained influence over the military, the government bureaucracy, labour, professional unions and, not least, the building of the cult of personality of Saddam. From the 1990s until the fall of the Ba'ath Party in 2003, it became involved in the handling of food distribution, the pursuing and apprehension of military deserters and, by the end,[74] it was responsible for the preparations for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Branches and sections enjoyed powers similar to those of the police in the West. Outside of Baghdad, they were "legally authorised to incarcerate suspects using Extrajudicial procedures".[75]

Security functions

[74], the number of sections increased from five in 1989 to 20 in 2002, each section in turn having 93 divisions. By September 2002, there existed 4,468 party offices in the country, and there were 32,000 cells.Maysan province In [73] The numbers of sections and divisions varied between provinces. As membership increased, new sections and divisions were established.[72] Below the Regional Command were the bureau structures (

Lower levels

The Department for Organisational and Political Affairs (DOPA) was the most important department of the secretariat. It prepared material for discussion that the secretary-general (Arabic: amin sir‎), the party's leader, personally ordered. The DOPA also was responsible for following up on political matters in party branches. One of DOPA's sections was responsible for gathering information for candidates for important positions within the party or the government. Some departments had a similar job to the DOPA section, and were responsible for admissions to the military colleges, institutions for higher education and the Saddam Institute for the Study of the Qur'an. The party sought to control these institutions so that no single opposition party could gain a foothold in them.[65]

The functions and responsibilities of the secretariat were drawn up in a detailed manner. The Office of the President issued a directive to formulate its hierarchy, and the functions of the sections and departments were clearly defined.[70] The secretariat encompassed all party branches. This system led to the bureaucratisation of the party, and decision-making was often cumbersome and inefficient. This inefficiency meant that Saddam could govern without fearing any rivals.[65]

The head of the secretariat was the deputy director, who was the second in the Qur'an.[71]

The Ba'ath Party had its own [70]

Congresses held

The Regional Command (RC) (Iraqi regional affairs when in session, but was (in practice) a tool in control of the Regional Command.

Regional (central) level

Organization and structure

In July 2012, the Ba'ath Party published a videotaped speech of al-Douri, in which he condemned the existing government and American interference in Iraq.[63] However, in a change of tone, al-Douri stated he wished to establish good relations with the United States when the American forces had been withdrawn and when the government had been toppled.[63] As of 2013, it has been reported that al-Douri is living in the city of Mosul, having left Syria because of the ongoing civil war.[64] Many analysts are afraid that the Ba'ath Party has the potential power to initiate another civil war in Iraq because of al-Douri's popularity in localities with Sunni majorities.[64]

In the wake of Muammar Gaddafi's downfall, the new Libyan government sent documents to the Iraqi government which claimed that Ba'athists, with help from Gaddafi, were planning a coup.[62] Because of the revelations, the Iraqi government initiated a purge of thousands of public officials.[62] The purge triggered Sunni protests, with many calling for Sunni autonomy within Iraq.[62] Surprisingly to outside observers, al-Douri's Ba'ath party opposed Sunni autonomy and, in a statement, referred to it as "a dangerous plan to divide Iraq along sectarian lines."[62]

al-Douri has been considered more of a symbol, but he doesn't actually hold that much power over the party. In a discussion with the American embassy in Amman, Jordan, in 2007, retired Lieutenant General Khalid al-Jibouri stated that he believed "a powerful shadow group of personnel [was] behind him who really constitute the operational leadership of his faction". He further noted that the party was modernizing, in the sense that it recognized it would be impossible to return to power alone, while, at the same time, it returned to its old, Ba'athist ideological roots. In another note, al-Jibouri noted that the Ba'ath Party had become a major enemy of al-Qaida in Iraq.[61]

This decision by the al-Douri faction leadership was a response to complaints by Ba'athist organizations in Shiite-dominated areas on what they considered policy errors which led to marginalization and exclusion of Shiite members.[60] The OCES rejected the decision, and considered them illegitimate.[60] In its statement, the OCES stated that "the failure to implement [its] decisions is considered a rebellion against legitimate authority [...]" and “a conscious and explicit threat, and an attempt to impose a bitter reality through decisions that are tainted by sectarian and regional motivations."[60] In its ending remarks, the OCES statement read "any connection or link with any member of the Iraqi branch leadership locally or abroad, while continuing organizational activities according to the Organizations of Central Euphrates and the South leadership’s decisions that were reached last year based on prior understandings with the national leadership".[60] Despite breaking with al-Douri's faction, al-Karafi's faction has not aligned itself with either al-Ahmed's faction or Resurrection and Renewal Movement, a third Ba'athist group.[60]

On 2 January 2012, the Organizations of Central Euphrates and the South (OCES), believed to be headed by Hamed Manfi al-Karafi, issued a statement condemning sectarianism within the party, specifically criticizing al-Douri's faction.[60] The OCES condemned the leadership's decision of creating a primary Sunni leadership and a reserve Shiite leadership.[60]

It could be said that al-Ahmed has returned to the Ba'ath Party's original ideology of secular pan-Arab nationalism which, in many cases, has proven successful in Iraq's Shi'a dominated southern provinces.[59] However, despite his attempts, al-Ahmed has failed in his goal to overthrow al-Douri.[59] Al-Douri's faction is the largest and the most active on the Internet, and the large majority of Ba'athist websites are aligned to al-Douri.[59] Another failure is that al-Ahmed's faction, which is based in Syria, does not have exclusive Syrian support[59] and, considering that it is based in Syria, the party is susceptible to Syrian interference in its affairs.[59] However, despite the differences between the al-Douri and al-Ahmed factions, both of them adhere to Ba'athist thought.[59]

al-Ahmed's Ba'ath Party is based in Syria.[59] It is believed to contain most of the remaining leading party figures who were not arrested or executed,[59] including Mezher Motni Awad, To’ma Di’aiyef Getan, Jabbar Haddoosh, Sajer Zubair, and Nihad alDulaimi.[59] In contrast to al-Douri's group, al-Ahmad's faction has had success in recruiting Shi'as to the party.[59] While al-Ahmed and the faction's senior leaders are Sunnis, there are many Shiites who are working in the organization's middle level.[59] Upon his election as leader, an al-Ahmed's faction statement said he was "of Shia origins and coming from Shia areas in Nineveh governorate".[60] In contrast to al-Ahmed, al-Douri has stuck to a more conservative policy, recruiting members from a largely Sunni-dominated areas.[59]

Despite al-Douri's succession, another high ranking Ba'athist, splinter party led by al-Ahmed.[59]

According to Abu Muhammad, a Ba'ath Party spokesman from al-Douri's faction, on the eve of Saddam's death, "Comrade Izzat has been leading the [Ba'ath] party's political and resistance factions since 2003, but it is a matter of protocol and internal regulation to appoint him officially as the party's secretary-general."[58] Al-Douri was elected the party's secretary-general in early January.[58]

On 31 December 2006, the previously unknown group called the Baghdad Citizens Gathering publicly issued a statement in Amman, Jordan, at the Jordanian Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party endorsing Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri as the new president of Iraq and the party's secretary-general following Saddam's death.[57] The statement referred to Iraqis killed in the 1980–88 war with Iran, the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait and the 13 years of sanctions afterwards, and went on to say, "We vow to liberate our country from the heinous criminals, neo-Zionists and the Persians in order to restore Iraq's unity".[57] The party's armed wing since al-Douri's ascension is the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order.

Saddam's death and party split: 2006–present

The new Constitution of Iraq, approved by a referendum on 15 October 2005, reaffirmed the Ba'ath Party ban, stating that "No entity or program, under any name, may adopt racism, terrorism, the calling of others infidels, ethnic cleansing, or incite, facilitate, glorify, promote, or justify thereto, especially the Saddamist Ba'ath in Iraq and its symbols, regardless of the name that it adopts. This may not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq."

Under the Ba'ath Party, one could not reach high positions in the government or in schools without becoming a party member. Membership was also a prerequisite for university admission. While many Ba'athists joined for ideological reasons, many more joined as a way to improve their options. After much pressure by the U.S., the policy of de-Ba'athification was addressed by the Iraqi government in January 2008 in the highly controversial "Accountability and Justice Act," which was supposed to ease the policy, but which many feared would lead to further dismissals.[56]

In June 2003, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority banned the Ba'ath Party, and banned all members of the party's top four tiers from the new government and from public schools and colleges, a move which some citicised for blocking too many experienced people from participating in the new government. Thousands were removed from their positions, including doctors, professors, school teachers and bureaucrats. Many teachers lost their jobs, causing protests and demonstrations at schools and universities.

Downfall and de-Ba'athification

2003 invasion and new Iraqi government

Under al-Bakr's tenure, Iraq experienced its most dramatic and successful period of economic growth [53] with its citizens enjoying standards of healthcare, housing, education and earnings comparable with those of European countries. Several major infrastructures were laid down to assist the country's growth,[54] and the Iraqi oil industry was nationalised[55] with help from the Soviet Union. Alexei Kosygin, Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, signed the bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1972.[51]

At the time of the 1968 coup, only 5,000 people were members;[46] by the late 1970s, membership had increased to 1.2 million.[47] In 1974, the Iraqi Ba'athists formed the National Progressive Front to broaden support for the government's initiatives. Wrangling within the party continued, and the government periodically purged its dissident members,[48] including Fuad al-Rikabi, the party's first secretary-general of the Regional Command.[49] Emerging as the party strongman,[50] Hussein used his growing power[51] to push al-Bakr aside in 1979 and ruled Iraq until the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[52]

The 17 July Revolution was a military coup, not a popular revolt against the incumbent government. According to Coughlin, compared to the coups of 1958 and 1963, the 1968 coup was a "relatively civil affair". The coup begun in the early morning of 17 July, when the military and Ba'ath Party activists seized several key positions in Baghdad, such as the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, television and radio stations and the electricity station. All the city's bridges were captured, all telephone lines were cut and at exactly 03:00, the order was given to march on the Presidential Palace. President Arif was asleep and had no control over the situation.[42] al-Bakr masterminded the plot,[43] but Hussein and Saleh Omar al-Ali led operations on the ground.[42] A power struggle began between the Ba'ath Party led by al-Naif and the military led by Daud, which al-Bakr had anticipated and planned.[44] Daud lost his ministership during an official visit to Jordan, while al-Naif was exiled after Hussein threatened him and his family with death.[45]

Then Iraqi President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, right, and Saddam Hussein as seen in Baghdad, 1978.

On 16 July 1968, al-Naif and Daud were summoned to the Presidential Palace by Arif, who asked them if they knew of an imminent coup against him. Both al-Naif and Daud denied knowledge of any coup. However, when the Ba'ath Party leadership obtained this information, they quickly convened a meeting at al-Bakr's house. The coup had to be initiated as quickly as possible, even if they had to concede to give al-Naif and Daud the posts of Prime Minister and Defence Minister, respectively. Hussein said at the meeting, "I am aware that the two officers have been imposed on us and that they want to stab the party in the back in the service of some interest or other, but we have no choice. We should collaborate with them and liquidate immediately during, or after, the revolution. And I volunteer to carry out the task".[41]

In contrast to the coup of 1963, the 1968 coup was led by civilian Ba'ath Party members. According to historian Con Coughlin, the President of Iraq Abdul Rahman Arif, who had taken over from his brother, was a weak leader. Before the coup, Hussein, through the Jihaz Haneen, contacted several military officers who either supported the Ba'ath Party or wanted to use it as a vehicle to power. Some officers, such as Hardan al-Tikriti, were already members of the party, while Abdul Razzak al-Naif, the deputy head of military intelligence, and Colonel Ibrahim Daud, the commander of the Republican Guard, were neither party members nor sympathisers.

The eagle of Saladin served as the logo of the Baathist newspaper Ath-Thawra.

Ba'athist Iraq: 1968–2003

In the aftermath of the coup led against the Ba'ath Party, al-Bakr became the party's dominant driving force, and was elected secretary-general of the Regional Command in 1964. Saddam Hussein received full party membership and a seat in the Regional Command of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party because he was a close protege of al-Bakr.[34] With al-Bakr's consent, Hussein initiated a drive to improve the party's internal security. During his exile in Egypt, Hussein had been influenced by Joseph Stalin, and frequently uttered Stalinist maxims such as "If there is a person, there is a problem; if there is no person, then there is no problem".[39] In 1964, Hussein established the Jihaz Haneen, the party's secretive security apparatus, to act as a counterweight to the military officers in the party and to weaken the military's hold on the party.[40]

Underground: 1963–1968

The Syrian state and its Ba'ath Party criticised the fall of al-Bakr's first government but relented when they discovered that some members of the Iraqi cabinet were Ba'ath Party members. However, the remaining Ba'athists were slowly removed from office. The Syrian Revolutionary Command Council responded by abrogating the Military Unity Charter on 26 April 1964, ending the bilateral unification process between Iraq and Syria.[35]

Work on the union continued with the signing of the Military Unity Charter which established the Higher Military Council, an organ which oversaw the integration and control over the Syrian and Iraqi military. Ammash, the Iraqi Minister of Defence, became the chairman of the Higher Military Council. The unified headquarters was in Syria. The establishment of the military union became evident on 20 October 1963, when Syrian soldiers were found fighting alongside the Iraqi military in Iraqi Kurdistan.[37] At this stage, both Iraqi and Syrian Ba'athists feared excluding Nasser from the union talks since he had a large following.[38]

Both Syria and Iraq were under Ba'athist rule in 1963. When President Arif visited Syria on a state visit, Sami al-Jundi, a Syrian cabinet minister, proposed the creation of a bilateral union between the two countries. Both Arif and Amin al-Hafiz, President of Syria, supported the idea. al-Jundi was given the task of setting up a committee to begin establishing the union. al-Jundi selected al-Sadi as Iraq's chief representative in the committee in a bid to strengthen al-Sadi's position within the Ba'ath Party.

Bilateral union

At the time of al-Sadi's removal from the post of Interior Minister, factionalism and discontent were growing within the party. al-Sadi and Mundur al-Windawi, the leader of the Ba'ath Party's National Guard, led the civilian wing. President Arif led the military wing and Talib Shabib led the pro-Aflaq wing.[30] However, a bigger schism was underway in the international Ba'athist movement. Four major factions were being created: the Old Guard led by Aflaq; a civilian alliance between the secretary-generals of the Regional Commands of Syria and Iraq, led by Hammud al-Shufi and al-Sadi respectively; the Syrian Ba'ath Military Committee, represented by Salah Jadid, Muhammad Umran, Hafiz al-Assad, Salim Hatum and Amin al-Hafiz; and the Iraqi military wing, which supported Arif's presidency, represented by al-Bakr, Salih Mahdi Ammash, Tahir Yahya and Hardan Tikriti. The military wings in Syria and Iraq opposed the creation of a pan-Arab state, whereas al-Shufi and al-Sadi supported it. Aflaq officially supported it, but privately opposed it because he was afraid al-Sadi would challenge his position as secretary-general of the National Command of the Ba'ath Party, the leader of the international Ba'athist movement.[36]

Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, as seen in 1974, led the Ba'athist coups of 1963 and 1968

Union talks with Syria

al-Bakr, in an attempt to save the party, called for a meeting of the National Command of the Ba'ath Party. The meeting exacerbated the party's problems. Aflaq, who saw himself as the leader of the pan-Arab Ba'athist movement, declared his intent to take control of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. The "Iraq first" wing was outraged. President Arif lost patience with the Iraqi Ba'ath Party, and the party was ousted from government on 18 November 1963.[33] The 12 Ba'ath members of the government were forced to resign, and the National Guard was dissolved and replaced with the Republican Guard.[34] Some authorities believe that Aflaq supported Arif's coup against the Ba'athist government in order to weaken al-Sadi's position within the party and strengthen his own.[35]

The party was ousted from government in November 1963, due to factionalism. The question within the Ba'ath Party was whether or not it would pursue its ideological goal of establishing a union with Syria, Egypt or both. al-Sadi supported a union with Syria, which was ruled by the Ba'ath Party, while the more conservative military wing supported Qasim's "Iraq first policy".[32] Factionalism and the ill-disciplined behaviour of the National Guard led the military wing to initiate a coup against the party's leadership. al-Sadi was forced into exile in Spain.

According to Con Coughlin, in the aftermath of the coup, the left-wing forces.[29] This period led to the establishment in Baghdad of several interrogation chambers. The government requisitioned several private houses and public facilities, and an entire section of Kifah Street was used by the National Guard. Many of the victims of the rout were innocent, or were victims of personal vendettas.[31] According to Coughlin, the most notorious torture chamber was located at the "Palace of the End," where the royal family was killed in 1958. Nadhim Kazzer, who became director of the Directorate of General Security, was responsible for the acts committed there. Coughlin consider this purge a forerunner for similar anti-leftist purges around the world, most notably the one in Chile during Augusto Pinochet's rule.[31]

Abdul Salam Arif became the president of Iraq and Hassan al-Bakr became prime minister.[29] Ali Salih al-Sadi, secretary-general of the Regional Command of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party, became deputy prime minister and Minister of Interior – a post he lost on 11 May. Despite not being prime minister, al-Sadi had effective control over the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. Seven out of nine members supported his leadership in the party's Regional Command.[30]

In power: February–September 1963

Qasim was overthrown in the February 1963 Iraqi coup d'état, which was allegedly supported by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and led on the ground by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.[27] Several army units refused to support the Ba'athist coup. The fighting lasted for two days,[28] during which 1,500–5,000 were killed.[29] Qasim was captured and, an hour later, he was killed by firing squad. To assure the Iraqi public that Qasim was dead, the plotters broadcast a film of Qasim's corpse being mutilated.[28]

At the time of the attack, the Ba'ath Party had less than 1,000 members.[24] Some of the plotters quickly left the country for Syria, where Fuad al-Rikabi, on the grounds that the party should not have initiated the attempt on Qasim's life. At the same time, Aflaq secured seats in the Iraqi Ba'ath leadership for his supporters, including Hussein.[26]


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