Baeth (Arab Socialist Ba?th Party)

views updated

BAETH (Arab Socialist Baʿth Party)

Political party created on 7 April 1947 in Damascus by Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian, and Salah al-Bitar. Part of the Arab Renaissance movement born in the 1930s, the Baʿth was also inspired by radical socialism. In March 1954, this organization combined with the Arab Socialist Party of Akram al-Hourani (Hawrani). With its vision of a union of all the Arab states combining into a single nation, the Baʿth ideology spread to Jordan, Iraq, Libya, and Aden.

Because of its support of some local rebellions, the Baʿth was banned in the countries concerned. In March 1954, the movement took advantage of the fall of the Shishakli regime in Syria to get eighteen of its members into parliament, including Akram al-Hourani, who became president of the Syrian National Assembly the following year. In February 1958, the Baʿthists in Syria advocated the creation of the United Arab Republic (UAR), which united Egypt and Syria. The president of the UAR was Gamal Abdel Nasser and the vice president was Akram al-Hourani. In December 1959, disappointed with Nasser's politics, the Syrian Baʿthists broke with him, advocating the secession of Syria from Egypt, which took place in February 1961. On 8 March 1963, a coup d'état carried out by "independent officers" still supporting union with Egypt brought the Baʿth to power in Syria. A month earlier, the Baʿth had carried out the same action in Iraq, overthrowing the Qassem government.

The Syrian Baʿth Party split into two currents: One, socialist and anti-Nasserian, was led by al-Hourani; the other, essentially nationalist, was led by Michel Aflaq. In April 1963, the Tripartite Union was proclaimed, uniting Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. In 1964, a reformist current emerged, consisting essentially of violently anticommunist and old guard military. In March 1969, the Syrian army denounced the pro-Soviet policies of the government. On 13 November, General Hafiz al-Asad took power in Syria and immediately undertook a reorganization of the party, becoming its secretary general in the elections of February 1971. The following year, six political parties joined with the Baʿth in a coalition, the National Progressive Front (NPF). The Baʿth Party became one of the principal pillars of the regime of President Hafiz al-Asad. On 18 June 2000, after he died, his son and successor, Bashshar al-Asad, was elected secretary general of the Baʿth Party. Twelve new members were elected to its command, including Prime Minister Muhammad Miro and Foreign Affairs Minister Faruk al-Shara. Among those leaving were Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam and Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas. Members of the command also were members of the Central Committee, which comprised many army and security service leaders. Among them were loyal friends of the new Syrian president, such as his brother, Maher al-Asad, head of the Presidential Guard; General Safi, commander of the Syrian Brigade in Lebanon; Colonel Tlas, son of General Mustafa Tlas; and General Aslan, army chief of staff. The Baʿth is also known as the Arab Reform Movement, the Resurgence Movement, and the Socialist Party of Arab Resurrection.

SEE ALSO Asad, Bashshar al-;Asad, Hafiz al-;Nasser, Gamal Abdel.