The Iraqi Ba’ath party was formed in 1954 by anti-communist and reactionary nationalist Shiite and Sunni Arabs.
From the beginning, the party was anti-democratic and soon after its formation it turned into a fascist organisation, with an Arab nationalist ideology that believed in attaining political power through non-democratic means, and in obliterating all other Iraqi democratic parties by the use of excessive force. This included the assassination of political opponents and co-operation with any external superpower that would enable them to take control of the state.
Since 1979, the Ba’ath party has mainly been led by Sunni leaders, but this has not always been the case. During the early years of its formation, the Ba’ath party comprised a mixture of Shiite and Sunni leadership and policy makers. During the 50’s and up to the 1963 coup d’état when they first came into power, most of the political leaders in the party were Shiite. They included the founder of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party, Fouad Al Rikabi and the leader of the CIA-organised coup d’état in 1963, Ali Salih Al-Sadi, his second in command Hani Fkaiki, and many other leaders. I have covered this issue in more detail in several of my previous articles.
By the 1979 Ba’ath conference, the Saddam wing of the party succeeded in ousting all of its opponents within the "Iraqi Command" of the party. This was the milestone which turned the party into a sectarian organisation, utilising the state as the main sectarian tool against the Shiites and Kurds. It is important to emphasise that the Iraqi Sunni community were not to blame on this issue.
The Iraqi Ba’ath party was then split into several factions after the March 2003 US/UK occupation of Iraq and the arrest of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
From studying the history of the past fifty years, we see that the Iraqi Ba’ath party was frequently used as an instrument for accomplishing US and UK policies in the Middle East and Gulf region. The overwhelming evidence is that the CIA used the Ba’ath party in order to achieve US objectives and that the CIA and the British MI6 were behind the 1963 and 1968 coups d’état which twice brought the Ba’ath party to power.
The Ba’ath was the major tool used in the bloody coup d’etat of 1963 against the Kassim regime and the progressive movements in Iraq. Ali Salih Al-Sadi, the Ba’ath party leader who headed the coup and consequently became Prime Minster, later admitted that they came to power in a coup organised and financed by the CIA and British Intelligence Services, in order to freeze Law 80. The law was introduced by General Kassim’s government in 1961 to recover over 99.5% of Iraqi territory from the control of the international oil companies (IOCs) and return it to Iraqi sovereignty.
The role the Iraqi Ba’ath party played in the success of the US plans to control the Middle East has now been well recognised by many historians.
Detailed information concerning this was revealed in the book, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite (1997) by Said K. Aburish, which sets out in depth, not only how the CIA closely controlled the planning stages, but also how it played a central role in the subsequent purge of suspected democrats and communists after the coup. The author believes that 5,000 people were killed, giving the names of 600 of them — including many doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors who formed Iraq’s educated elite. The massacre was carried out on the basis of death lists provided by the CIA. The Ba’ath party leaders, in return for CIA support, agreed to "undertake a cleansing programme to get rid of the communists and their democratic allies." Hani Fkaiki, a Ba’ath party leader, says that the party’s contact man who orchestrated the coup was William Lakeland, the US assistant military attaché in Baghdad.
There are also many documented claims that Saddam Hussein started working as a CIA agent back in 1957, at the time when he joined the Ba’ath party.
On July 17 1968, the Ba’ath party returned to power for the second time and then on July 30, 1968 there was a coup within the coup, the purpose of which was stated on Iraqi TV by Saddam Hussein, to remove two of the original organisers who were representing the CIA.
In 1980, the Ba’ath regime started an eight year war against Iran to bring to a halt the spreading of ideas and influence of the 1979 Iranian revolution, in line with the objectives of US strategy in the Gulf at the time. The Ba’ath government was supported militarily, politically and financially by the US, UK and all the Arab reactionary regimes in the area during this war. The US succeeded not only in countering the influence of the Iranian revolution, but also in returning to the US all the hundreds of billions of dollars which states in the area had accumulated from the sale of their oil in the 1980’s.
After the collapse of the USSR in 1989, the US was no longer interested in a partnership with the Iraqi Ba’ath party (in a similar way that it withdrew support from Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1989) and instead shifted their policies to the direct and full control of the Gulf area. This meant that the US now had no more need for the Iraqi Ba’ath party and when the Iraqi Ba’athists attacked and occupied Kuwait in August 1990, this allowed the US, the only super power left, to use this opportunity to take full military, political and economical control of the Middle East.
Therefore, no one should be surprised if US policy makers may today be hoping to use the Ba’ath party as it did in 1963 and 1980.
Furthermore, some Iraqi and international analysts who supported the 2003 US occupation of Iraq are now becoming supporters of the CIA’s plans to officially return the Ba’ath party to the political arena in Iraq. They insist that all the mistakes and brutality which happened during both periods that the Ba’ath party held power, had in fact nothing to do with the fascist ideology of the Ba’ath party and that the only people responsible were the principal leaders, such as Saddam Hussein.
However, if we study fascist movements through history, we see that they all needed to create, "The Leader" in order to succeed in controlling their people. The German Nazis created Hitler, the Italian Fascists made Mussolini, whereas the Iraqi Ba’athists produced Saddam in order to rule Iraq for 35 years. It is not the leader who creates the movements, as some would have us believe, in order to place all the blame on that one individual and allow the fascist ideas to re-emerge after the old leader vanishes following his military defeat.
Today with the re-emergence of the Ba’ath party as a major military threat to the political process in Iraq (again with the help of the CIA) and in open co-operation with the US plans, they are in the process of creating leaders to replace Saddam Hussein, such as Iyad Allawi (a Shiite Ba’athist), Saleh Al-Mutlag, Mohammed Younis, and even Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri.
There are some who will disagree with this analysis of the Ba’ath regime in Iraq as a pro-Western regime because of the nationalisation of Iraqi oil between 1972 and 1975. However, if we look in depth at what happened in the 1970’s, we will see that the first country to start the process of oil nationalisation was Algeria in 1970, when they nationalised the interests of "Total," the French oil giant, in Algeria. This was followed by Libya in 1971, when colonel Gadafi nationalised BP’s shares in Libyan oil.
Between 1972 and 1979, all the Gulf countries, including the states that had newly emerged from under British occupation, nationalised their oil. This included the Shah of Iran (who had been re-instated by the CIA/MI6 coup d’état in1953 after the nationalisation of Iranian oil by Dr. Mossadeq), and the newly appointed Saudi king who was brought to power after the assassination of King Faisal in 1974 (an assassination widely believed in the Middle East to be organised by the CIA after Faisal ordered the halt of Saudi oil exportation during the October 1973 war between Israel and the Arabs), the Iraqi Ba’ath regime and all the other Gulf states. Furthermore, the rulers of Kuwait, UAE, Qatar and Oman who nationalized their oil were still very much under strong British influences and control throughout the 1970’s.
We should not underestimate the significance of oil nationalisation in the 1970’s, but these nationalisations took place for different reasons, which are not covered in this analysis, and do not indicate that they were signs of an anti-Western shift, as the vast majority of the countries who did nationalise their oil were very much under US/British influences and control.
We should take note here that almost all the Middle Eastern countries, to this date, have kept their oil completely nationalised, including the pro-Western Saudi and Kuwaiti regimes, but excluding the Iraqi Ba’ath regime that started its privatisation program with the first Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) contract with the Russian oil company, Lukoil, in 1997, which was followed by a second PSA contract in 2000 with the Chinese oil company, CNOC, and subsequently followed by several PSA contracts with other foreign companies.
What are the new US policies in Iraq?
The US occupation of Iraq in 2003 did not for the most part achieve the neo-conservatives’ aims to privatise and control the oil and gas wealth and turn Iraq into the main US military base in the Middle East; but they have not entirely failed.
It is quite obvious now that the existing political process in Iraq, with all its negatives, including corruption and its sectarian structure, will not guarantee the US to fully achieve its objectives. That is why US policies and tactics in Iraq needed to be changed. Thus, US officials have become interested in bringing back the Ba’athists, their "old friends," who are more likely to guarantee the success of US plans.
The first step occurred in the middle of 2004, when the US occupying administration appointed Iyad Allawi, the CIA man and an old Shiite Ba’athist, as Prime Minister, who within days of his appointment started his massacre — in cooperation with the United States — of thousands of civilians in Najaf, Sadr city and Fallujah. He returned thousands of old Baath army officers to the newly formed Iraqi army and developed the "Iraqi National Intelligence Service" ( INIS), under the leadership of the old Baathist general, Muhammed Abdulla Al-Shahwani, an organisation which became directly operated, financed and controlled by the CIA in Baghdad.
But the major change in the US tactical policies took place at the time of the Baker-Hamilton report (Iraqi Study Group — ISG), which represented for the first time the combined views of the neo-conservative Republicans and the Democrats following the US midterms elections of 2006. Since that report the US administration started secret negotiations with many elements of the insurgents and their biggest success since the start of the occupation was the creation of the "Awakenings" groups or "Alsahwa" movements. They succeeded in turning over 120,000 of the old enemies to their local private armies, by offering them a share of political power. By arming and financing them at the same time, they succeed in keeping them under US army control. They brought the "Alsahwa" movements into the political process with the assurance of their support for US plans. However, the above achievements still did not guarantee the full success of the US administration’s plans.
The Bush administration started officially forcing their new policies of Re-Ba’athification on the Iraqi parties in the political process in 2006, under the slogan of "re-conciliation." They began with a meeting between President Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki in Amman, which was followed by meetings between Bush and Al-Hakim of the Shiite SCIRI and Al-Hashmi of the Sunni Islamic party; these were followed immediately by the so-called "conference of re-conciliation" in Baghdad, to which several Ba’ath party officials were invited. The policy of co-operation with the Ba’athists represents a major shift in the policies of the Shiite SCIRI movement, which was previously against such co-operation with the Ba’athists, demonstrating the SCIRI’s weakness and inability to resist US pressure.
The latest speech of the new leader of the SCIRI, Mr. Ammar Al Hakim, on Nov. 17, 2009, who took over the leadership of SCIRI after the recent death of his father, clearly stated that the Ba’ath party should be accepted back in the Iraqi political arena and called for their return.
We should not be surprised to see the change of heart within the SCIRI leadership, as their new financial interests are connected to sustaining the US influence in Iraq, and several of their leaders were old members of the Ba’ath party, including the existing Vice President of Iraq, Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was a member of the Ba’ath National Guards when it carried out its killings in 1963. In addition, after the collapse of the Ba’ath regime in April 2003, thousands of Shiite Ba’athists, many of whom were part of the Ba’ath party’s security apparatus and responsible for the mass torture and killings of tens of thousands of Shiite civilians during the Ba’ath regime, joined the SCIRI in order to escape the revenge of ordinary Shiite people and return to new positions of power through their new leaders.
The new US administration is now working very hard to bring all wings of the Ba’ath party to the political process through all types of negotiations, but on the condition that Washington will be assured of their support.
In early 2008, under intense American pressure, Mr. Maliki pushed through Parliament a law to ease restrictions on the return of Ba’ath Party leaders to public life. However, eighteen months later, the US has still been unable to achieve its aim, and this has become a main obstacle to the US plan to bring the Ba’ath party back.
On April 18, 2009, American and British officials from a secretive unit called the Force Strategic Engagement Cell, flew to Jordan to try to persuade one of Saddam Hussein’s top generals, the commander of the final defence of Baghdad in 2003, Lt. Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani, to return to Iraq, giving him all kind of assurances that he will have a place in the new Iraq. This was all happening at the same time that the general was meeting with representatives of Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, who was a Vice President under Saddam Hussein, and also with representatives of Douri’s rival for the party leadership, Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed. General Hamdani also confirmed that American and British officials had attended nearly every meeting since March 2008, in both Amman and Baghdad.
Posters were distributed in many parts of Baghdad and the western provinces of Iraq in the past few weeks, signed by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, calling for all Ba’athists and their friends to support the "Iraqi National List" which is headed by Iyad Allawi (a Shiite Ba’athist) and Saleh Al-Mutlag (a Sunni Ba’athist) in the March 2010 election. At the end of July, a statement by al-Douri was also placed on the Ba’ath Party and insurgent’s website, suggesting political reconciliation.
The recent terrorist bombs attacks in August, October and December 2009 in Baghdad were well organised mass explosions, which resulted in the killings of hundreds and injury to thousands of innocent civilians. These were well orchestrated tactics designed to insure that ordinary Iraqi civilians accept as a reality, that as long as the Ba’ath party is not included in the political process, then massacres will continue to happen and thus that the Iraqi people have no alternative but to accept the Ba’ath party back, if they want the killings to stop.
The evidence to this date, points the finger at the wing of the Ba’ath party which is headed by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, using his friends from Al Qaida as suicide bombers, (who are heavily financed by sources in Saudi Arabia), but with — according to members of the Iraqi parliament — the full co-operation of the CIA-controlled Iraqi security organisation INIS. This organisation has thousands of Shiite, Kurd and Sunni employees, who were part of the old Ba’ath security services organisations. This was revealed after the first bombing which happened in August 2009. On the second day after the August bombing, the Iraqi Prime Minister called the head of the INIS, General Muhammed Al Shahwani, to his office and confronted him with the clear evidence that INIS men were involved in the bombing. According to several Arabic TV stations, he sacked Al Shahwani and the CIA flew him back the same night to the US, where he was a US resident before the 2003 occupation of Iraq. It is a well-known secret that the INIS is a CIA-controlled Iraqi security organisation, which is managed and operated by the CIA, paid for from Swiss banks from CIA accounts, as it was pointed out several times by some members of the Federal Iraqi parliament in open sessions. This CIA-controlled Iraqi security organisation is still to this date operating, but with a new acting head, from their headquarters in the green zone.
It is in the interest of all sections of the Ba’ath party to continue the sectarian divisions in Iraq, in order to maintain their influence on Iraqi politics. The Ba’athists have lost all their support and organisations in the Kurdish and Shiite areas, and they are aware that they have no future there. The only way for them to keep their role in the future of Iraq is to sustain such divisions. Without them they will fade away from the political map, as was the case for many fascist movements around the globe.
It is important to emphasise that when we talk about the Ba’ath party and their crimes, we are talking about the senior leaders of the party who were responsible for planning and carrying out all the crimes against the ordinary civilian Iraqi people and the other Iraqi political movements. This includes members of their security apparatus, who tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during the forty years or so since 1963, when they first came to power and senior Ba’athist army officers who carried out with much enthusiasm the crimes of the party. These are not the ordinary members of the party, many of whom joined the party for various personal reasons and were not involved in these crimes. The US plans are to return to power the most vicious Ba’athist criminals, the main leaders of the party and members of the old security services and army officers who were and still are involved in the massacres.
The US Vice President’s trip at the beginning of July 2009, which was aimed at pressurising Iraq to comply with US demands ahead of a supposed American military pullout by 2011, comes just after President Barack Obama charged Biden with overseeing the US hypothetical departure. Biden is well known in Iraq for his earlier support of a plan to divide Iraq into three "autonomous" regions, one for each major ethnic group here — Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurd — under some kind of fake central government. A stark reminder of the legacy inherited by Obama’s administration, however, came in Sadr City, where thousands of supporters of Sadr, chanted anti-US slogans. "No, no America, No, no occupation, Yes, yes Iraq" they shouted as a US flag was reduced to ashes.
1. The US neo-conservatives’ policies did not succeed in keeping Iraq under direct US occupation or as a complete satellite state, but this should not be interpreted as the total failure of the old polices.
2. The 2003 US neo-conservative administration had several objectives from their easy military victory in the April 2003 occupation of Iraq. One of the main objectives of the occupation was the privatisation of Iraqi oil and gas wealth, together with the complete control of this wealth in order to control the oil resources of the world. Although US officials have been unable to swiftly succeed in their privatisation policies, they have still managed to achieve some success in partially controlling this wealth, and anticipate that 2010 will bring the Oil Law to life, and they will then be able to privatise Iraqi’s oil.
The second objective was to make Iraq the central military base to control the Persian/Arabian gulf area. They aimed to use Iraq as a forward base for the attack on the Iranian Islamic government, in order to stop their influence in the area and replace the regime in Syria with a more friendly one which will accept the full US/Israeli control of the Middle East. They are still working hard to achieve these goals with the help of the US/Iraqi Strategic Framework agreement with their call that the only enemies to the Iraqi people are the Iranians and not the 130,000 US solders with 120,000 foreign mercenaries.
3. Recent Iraqi history has shown that no political party in the area had served the US strategic polices in the Middle East better then the Iraqi Ba’ath party.
From studying the history of the past fifty years, the Iraqi Ba’ath party was frequently used as an instrument in accomplishing US and UK strategic policies in the Middle East and the Gulf. The evidence today is overwhelming, that the CIA has used the Ba’ath party to reach his objectives and that the CIA and the British MI6 were behind the 1963 and 1968 coups d’état which twice brought the Ba’ath party to power.
4. The existing US administration’s policies in Iraq are determined to bring most, if not all, the old and new wings of the Ba’ath party to play a major role in the Iraqi political process. The US administration in Iraq is working hard to make it acceptable to some parties in the political process to be acquainted with the Ba’ath party as one of the "democratic" powers of Iraqi society and they are arranging their plans in stages.
The first stage is to introduce the newly-formed Ba’athist coalition, which is called "The Iraqi National list" of Iyad Allawi and Saleh Al-Mutlag, as one of the main Sunni political blocs in the Federal parliament in the March 2010 election.
5. The US administration wants to get rid of Al Maliki’s government after the 2010 election and replace him with a combination of political coalitions that are more loyal to Washington; these will include the two Kurdish parties, the KDP and PUK, as representatives of all the Kurds, the SCIRI as representatives of the majority of the Shiites and the "Iraqi National list" as representatives of the Sunnis. All the three coalitions, and in particular, Mr. Masoud Al Barazani, are very keen to get rid of Al Maliki’s government.
If the results of the March 2010 election give the "Iraqi National List" wide Sunni support, then a serious attempt will be made to form a new pro-US Iraqi government which could be mainly formed from the above coalitions and will very likely exclude from power, not only the Sadr movement, as is the case today, but most likely both wings of the Al Dawa party.
6. If the US does not succeed in bringing such pro-US groups to power after the 2010 election, it is possible it will also work on a backup plan for organising an army coup d’état, as most of the senior and middle ranking officers in the army and the security services and in particular the INIS are connected to one or another wing of the Ba’ath party.
7. The US’s alternative policy in Iraq to return to the use of an army coup d’état in order to bring the Ba’ath party to power, is not a new US policy.
It seems that the threat by the old Bush administration of an army coup d’état, was used against Al Maliki’s government at the beginning of 2007, in order to force Maliki’s government to accept the Bush administrations plans at the time. The threat at the time was a serious one from the US administration and the reason they did not carry it out was because it would have been a serious failure to the so called "Democratisation policies" of the neo-conservatives.
Today the threat is much more serious. Firstly, Obama’s administration do not have any problem with using the slogan of "democratisation" as part of their policy’s cover-up and it is not even part of their political ‘vocabulary’. Secondly, the political mood nowadays, whereby the Kurdish parties and the SCIRI might accept the sharing of power with the old Ba’athists, is now more acceptable than it was back in 2007.
Additionally, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians since the start of the occupation has lessened public resistance to the Ba’athists, as some people are now hoping that if the Ba’ath party does return to power then this will stop the Ba’athists from carrying out their bloody civilian killings.
It should be noted that while the Ba’athists were carrying out their massacres against the civilians, they always placed the blame of the killings on the Iranians.
8. All the wings of the old Ba’ath party are still pursuing the same anti-democratic and fascist goal: they will only be content if they take full control of the political process in Iraq, making all the other political parties no more than satellites to them.
9. Today, the two wings of the Ba’ath party are the only organized political/military force in Iraq which can wipe out by force, with US backing, the existing political process. They would eradicate any possible hope for any future democratic progress in Iraq, returning Iraq to the times of the barbarians’ rule of the one party state and at the same time serve all the US interests, without any impediments, as they have twice done in the past.
1. Munir Chalabi, "Political Observations on Sectarianism in Iraq," ZNet, Jan. 24, 2007.
2. See the source above and Munir Chalabi, "Political Observations Concerning the Immediate Future of Iraq," ZNet, Jan. 7, 2007.
3. Sean Mac Mathuna, "CIA coups in Iraq in 1963 & 1968 helped put Saddam Hussein in power," Flame.
4. Richard Sanders, "Regime Change: How the CIA put Saddam’s Party in Power," Oct. 24, 2002.
5. Sanders, "Regime Change: How the CIA put Saddam’s Party in Power."
6. Mac Mathuna, "CIA coups in Iraq in 1963 & 1968 helped put Saddam Hussein in power."
7. You Tube: "Saddam Hussein — The Trial you will never see." This documentary video tells the story of the Ba’ath regime’s full participation in the US plans.
8. Chalabi, "Political Observations …Immediate Future."
9. Arabic article.
10. Sam Dagher, "Iraq Resists Pleas by U.S. to Placate Baath Party," New York Times, April 26, 2009.
11. Damien McElroy, "Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party loyalists engage with US over Iraq," Telegraph, Aug. 14, 2009.
12. Reuters, "Iraqi Baath leader urges insurgents enter politics," Aug. 1, 2009; Phil Sands, "Baath Party is back in the picture," The National (UAE), Aug. 23, 2009.
13. Chalabi, "Political Observations … Sectarianism."
14. France24, "US threatens political disengagement if ethnic, sectarian violence return," July 4, 2007.
15. You Tube: "Saddam Hussein — The Trial you will never see."
16. Sanders, "Regime Change: How the CIA put Saddam’s Party in Power."
Munir Chalabi is an Iraqi political and oil analyst living in the UK