What is the Ba'ath Party?


  1. The Ba'ath Party: Description

  2. The Ba'ath Party: Structure

  3. Former Members of the Ba'ath Party

I. The Ba'ath Party: Description

"The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, to give its full name, was founded in Syria in the 1940s by a small group of French-educated Syrian intellectuals - Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox, and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim.

The word 'Ba'ath' means 'renaissance' in Arabic.

The party's ideology is pan-Arab, secular nationalism.

The Iraqi Ba'ath Party was founded in 1951 and had 500 members three years later.

The party came to power on 8 February 1963 in a coup backed by the Army, overthrowing Brigadier Abdel Karim Qasim - who himself overthrew the British-installed Iraqi monarchy in 1958."
Mar. 24, 2003 "The Iraqi Ba'ath Party," BBC

"The Ba'ath party began in Iraq in the 1950s as a political movement of likeminded activists and Arab Nationalists. Its secular and progressive positions quickly won it a strong following among students, small businesspeople and military personnel. It played a key role in the 17 July 1968 coup that installed the current regime. But Iraq's rulers gradually distorted the party goals, transforming it into a malleable and compliant instrument of power."
Dec. 2002 "Iraq: The Party in Power," Le Monde diplomatique

"The Ba'ath Party is the only legal political party in Iraq. It pervades all aspects of Iraqi life. Membership, around 700,000, is necessary for self-advancement and confers benefits from the regime."
Sep. 24, 2002 "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Assessment of the British Government," UK Joint Intelligence Committee

"Arab political party, in Syria and in Iraq. Its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism. Founded in Damascus in 1941 and reformed, with the name Ba'ath, in the early 1950s, it rapidly achieved political power in Syria."
2002 "Ba'ath Party," Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition

"Arab unity is at the core of Ba'ath doctrine and prevails over all other objectives. According to Michel Aflak the Arab peoples form a single nation with the aspiration of becoming a State with its own specific role in the world. Although persuaded of the importance of secularity, he [Michel Aflak] recognized the impact of Islam and advocated socialism. In the 50's the Ba'ath Party called for a pluralist democracy and free elections."
Sep. 1999 "Ba'ath," MEDEA Institute

"The Baath Party in Iraq, like its counterparts in other Arab regions (states), derived from the official founding congress in Damascus in 1947. This conclave of pan-Arab intellectuals was inspired by the ideas of two Syrians, Michel Aflaq and Salah ad Din al Bitar, who are generally regarded as the fathers of the Baath movement. Several Iraqis, including Abd ar Rahman ad Damin and Abd al Khaliq al Khudayri, attended this congress and became members of the party. Upon their return to Baghdad, they formed the Iraqi branch of the Baath. Damin became the first secretary general of the Iraqi Baath."
May 1988 "A Country Study: Iraq," US Library of Congress

II. The Ba'ath Party: Structure

"At the lowest level, [Ba'ath Party] study circles (halaqa) and cells (kheliya) hold weekly meetings with a dozen or so activists from the same neighborhood or sector. They talk about current events, or the party version of them, in line with the inclinations of the regime. Basic instructions are issued; any irregularities observed during the week are discussed with the cell leaders and written up in obligatory reports. The party's divisions (firqa), which include all the cells within a district office or factory, occupy the next highest level, then the sections (shu'ba) and branches (fara'), which make up urban areas or governates (Iraq has 18 governates, three of which have Kurdish majorities and are currently autonomous.)

Unlike the cells, the sections and branches enjoy considerable privileges. They are legally authorized to incarcerate suspects using extra-judicial procedure; they have taken over many of the traditional functions of police, especially outside Baghdad; and they run specialized bureaus for cultural, agricultural and other matters. In each governate the organizational command (qiyadat al-tanzim) is the supreme authority, alongside the traditional civil service. The Ba'ath party duplicates, infiltrates, subverts and competes with the state apparatus.

Atop this structure sits the regional command (quiyadat al-qutr) which in theory is made up of directors democratically elected at party conventions; in reality voting only serves to confirm Saddam's nominees. The regional command's bureaus serve as quasi-ministries responsible for military and cultural affairs. They also oversee a parallel diplomatic corps, together with vast social groups, including farmers, workers and young people. Party membership is a prerequisite for military personnel; the army is divided into cells that report to the Ba'ath party military bureau, while monitoring any dissent within the ranks. The party's security services guarantee loyalty and orthodoxy within the party."
Dec. 2002 "Iraq: The Party in Power," Le Monde diplomatique

"The basic organizational unit of the Ba'ath was the party cell or circle (halaqah). Composed of between three and seven members, cells functioned at the neighborhood of the village level, where members met to discuss and to carry out party directives. A minimum of two and a maximum of seven cells formed a party division (firqah). Divisions operated in urban quarters, larger villages, offices, factories, schools, and other organizations. Division units were spread throughout the bureaucracy and the military, where they functioned as the ears and eyes of the party. Two to five divisions formed a section (shabah). A section operated at the level of a large city quarter, a town, or a rural district. Above the section was the branch (fira), which was composed of at least two sections and which operated at the provincial level. There were twenty-one Baath Party branches in Iraq, one in each of the eighteen provinces and three in Baghdad. The union of all the branches formed the party's congress, which elected the Regional Command.

The Regional Command was both the core of party leadership and the top decision-making body. It had nine members, who were elected for five-year terms at regional congresses of the party. Its secretary general (also called the regional secretary) was the party's leader, and its deputy secretary general was second rank and in power within the party hierarchy. The members of the command theoretically were responsible to the Regional Congress that, as a rule, was to convene annually to debate and to approve the party's policies and programs; actually, the members were chosen by Saddam Husayn [sic]and other senior party leaders to be 'elected' by the Regional Congress, a formality seen as essential to the legitimation of party leadership.

Above the Regional Command was the National Command of the Baath Party, the highest policy-making and coordinating council for the Baath movement throughout the Arab world. The National Command consisted of representatives from all regional commands and was responsible to the National Congress, which convened periodically. It was vest with broad powers to guide, to coordinate, and to supervise the general direction of the movement, especially with respect to relationships among the regional Baath parties and with the outside world. These powers were to be excercised through a national secretariat that would direct policy-formulating bureaus."
May 1988 "A Country Study: Iraq," US Library of Congress

"The [Ba'ath] party still retains much of the secret compartmentalized structure and the clandestine methods by which, like many revolutionary parties, it has ensured its survival. Direction of the party comes from the Regional Command, which represents sixteen provincial units. The members of the Regional Command are elected from a network of sections and cells not unlike the local communist party committees in many countries. They function everywhere-in the workplace, in the neighborhoods, and in all ranks of the military forces-including the party's doctrines of traditional Arab unity, nationalism, socialism, and spiritual revival. Membership in the party, which numbers approximately half a million at present, is required of all regular officers and diplomats.

Since its emergence from the underground, and following a decade of experience in power, the Baath leadership had been able to train a second elite group to operate at all levels of the bureaucracy and the military forces. These are the commissars, and they are often from peasant or lower-class village backgrounds; few of them have been abroad for university degrees, and much of their training has been from the military academy."
Apr. 1979 "Iraq," The Atlantic Monthly

III. Former Members of the Ba'ath Party

"Supreme Commander-in-Chief - President since July 16, 1979, Prime Minister since May 1994"
Feb. 2003 "Special Report: War in Iraq" CNN

Taha Yasin Ramadan:

"Vice President [since 1991]- Helped plot and carry out 1968 coup that eventually brought Saddam to power. Ramadan is Kurdish and has survived several assassination attempts."
Feb. 2003 "Special Report: War in Iraq" CNN

"Hawkish vice president, one of Saddam Hussein's key foreign policy advisors."
Sep. 17, 2002 "Picture Gallery: Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle," The Guardian Unlimitedspan>

Abid Hamad Mahmoud al-Tikriti:

"One senior United States official said Mr. Mahmoud, 46, a distant cousin of Mr. Hussein's, actually ranked third in the Iraqi hierarchy, ahead of Uday Hussein, Mr. Hussein's elder son. As Mr. Hussein's presidential secretary, he controlled access to the president, American officials said. The officials cited intelligence reports saying that only Mr. Hussein's sons could see the Iraqi president without going through Mr. Mahnoud."
Mar. 26, 2003 "Hussein's Top Aide Has Been Caught, US Officials Say," The New York Times

"Presidential Secretary"
Mar. 26, 2003 "Key Figures in Saddam's Government," Center for Nonprolieration Studies

Ahmed Husayn al-Samarrai:

"Head of the Presidential Cabinet"
Mar. 26, 2003 "Key Figures in Saddam's Government," Center for Nonprolieration Studies

Ahmed Rashid:

"Undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry"
Mar. 26, 2003 "Key Figures in Saddam's Government," Center for Nonprolieration Studies

Qusay Hussein:

"...Qusay headed Iraq's intelligence and security services, his father's personal security force and the Republican Guard, an elite force of 80,000 soldiers responsible for defending Baghdad...

Qusay was made chief of the army branch for the ruling Baath party in 2000, meaning virtually all the army's movements were under his supervision. Just before this year's war began, he was put in charge of defending the nation's capital and heartland."
July 23, 2003 "Obituary: Qusay Saddam Hussein," FOX News

"President's younger son, 36. Heir apparent and a trusted confidant. He has wide-ranging powers over Iraq's military apparatus, including the Republican Guard, intelligence and security."
Sep. 17, 2002 "Picture Gallery: Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle," The Guardian Unlimitedspan>

Ayyad Futayh al-Rawi:

"Chief of the General Staff of the Jerusalem Army and General of the 2nd Corps."
Feb. 2003 "Special Report: War in Iraq" CNN

Staff Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad al Jabburi Tai:

"Army's Minister of Defense since 1995 - He served Saddam during the 1980-1988 war with Iran and later in the 1991 Gulf War, signing the cease-fire that ended it. Ahmed began his career in military intelligence after graduating from Baghdad's National Security Institute in 1975."
Feb. 2003 "Special Report: War in Iraq" CNN

Lt. Gen. Ali Hassan al Majid:

"As the Iraqi president's paternal cousin, he [al-Majid] sat astride two pillars of the Iraqi regime - Saddam Hussein's extended family and Baath Party...

Al-Majid was appointed governor of northern Iraq in March 1987, marking the beginning of a sustained offensive, known as the 'Anfal Campaign', by Iraqi troops against the Kurdish population...

Following the annexation of the Gulf state [Kuwait] in August 1990 he became effectively 'governor' of what Baghdad called 'Iraq's 19th governorate. Although he was replaced in that position in November 1990, in March 1991 al-Majid was promoted to minister of the interior...

After a period as defense minister from 1991 to 1995, he was relieved of his ministerial duties. However, he continued to hold important Baath Party posts, as a member of the ruling Revolution Command Council and leader of the Baath Party in Salah-al-Din governorate, which included Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit"
Aug. 21, 2003 "Profile: Chemical Ali," BBC

"Member of the Revolutionary Command Council - One of Saddam's closest advisors, he is considered Saddam's troubleshooter and chief enforcer. Known as "Chemical Ali" for orchestrating gassing the Kurds to suppress their rebellion in 1988, he also served as governor of occupied Kuwait in 1990 and 1991 and most recently was governor of south Iraq"
Feb. 2003 "Special Report: War in Iraq" CNN

Izzat Ibrahim:

"Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council - Born in 1942, he has long been one of Saddam's closest advisers. He helped plot and carry out the 1968 coup that made Saddam secretary and acting deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and eventually brought Saddam to power. In 1999 Ibrahim traveled to Austria for medical treatment. He left quickly after he was threatened with arrest on human rights charges."
Feb. 2003 "Special Report: War in Iraq" CNN

"Deputy chairman of the revolutionary command council, close to Saddam Hussein."
Sep. 17, 2002 "Picture Gallery: Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle," The Guardian Unlimitedspan>

Tariq Aziz:

"Deputy prime minister, has survived as an advisor for more than 20 years. Mr. Aziz was born to a Christian family in 1936. Some attribute his survival to his lack of a power base in Iraq, which means he presents no threat to Saddam [Hussein]."
Sep. 17, 2002 "Picture Gallery: Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle," The Guardian Unlimitedspan>

Naji Sabri:

"Foreign minister and a key member of President Saddam's inner circle."
Sep. 17, 2002 "Picture Gallery: Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle," The Guardian Unlimitedspan>

Odai Saddam Hussein:

"As head of the Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary force, Uday helped his father eliminate opponents and exert iron-fisted control over Iraq's 25 million people. The eldest of Saddam's [Hussein] five children, Uday was elected to parliament in 1999 with a reported 99 percent of the vote, but rarely attended parliament sessions...

Uday had once been a strong candidate to succeed his father [Saddam Hussein], but he was badly injured in 1996 in an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire as he drove his red Porsche through Baghdad. The attack left Uday with a bullet in his spine that forced him to walk with a cane...

Uday owned Iraq's most widely circulated daily newspaper, Babil, which he used as a platform for regime propaganda, publishing signed editorials full of bombastic rhetoric. He also oversaw Al-Zawra, a weekly published by journalists union that he headed, and owned the popular Youth TV."
July 23, 2003 "Obituary: Uday Saddam Hussein," FOX News