Assad dissolves Pan-Arab Ba’ath command over misgivings

Friday 29/01/2016
Assad is abandoning those who once staunchly backed his regime

AMMAN - Syrian President Bashar Assad has reportedly dis­missed the regional Pan- Arab command of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, a move that points to his frustration with the body’s lack of support during Syria’s lengthy civil strife.
Dissolving the Pan-Arab com­mand underlines the divisions within the Ba’ath Party over the way Assad handled the Syrian rev­olution, which began in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrations but developed into all-out civil war. More than 250,000 people have died and millions have been dis­placed in the conflict since then.
It indicates that Assad is aban­doning those who once staunchly backed his regime and that of his predecessor, his late father Hafez Assad. The Assad regime is made of the Alawite minority ruling a majority Sunni Muslim popula­tion through the socialist system of Ba’ath. The Alawites are an off-shoot of Shia Islam, spearheaded by Iran.
According to well-informed sources in Damascus, Assad’s Jan­uary 14th decision was made ver­bally to the Pan-Arab command. Assad is the Ba’ath Party’s secre­tary-general.
The regional command main­tains followers in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, Iraq, Yemen, Tu­nisia, Sudan and Mauritania, ac­cording to an official at the Jordan branch of the Ba’ath Party.
“Under President Assad’s instruc­tions, all Syrian Ba’ath branches across the Arab world were asked to dissolve themselves,” the official told The Arab Weekly in Jordan. He declined to be identified, citing the sensitivity of his information.
“We were told that authority will be in the hands of the Ba’ath com­mand in Syria, which will take over all our tasks,” he added.
In Syria, a source close to the Ba’ath command confirmed the move. The source said Assad’s request was relayed to Abdullah al-Ahmar, an Arab Ba’ath Party as­sistant secretary-general, who con­vened an emergency meeting of the Ba’ath command to discuss the president’s decision.
“The command members agreed on rejecting the decision, argu­ing that dissolving the Arab Ba’ath command needs an approval from the general assembly and cannot be done through a verbal request,” the source told The Arab Weekly, also insisting on anonymity.
The source said Presidency Min­ister Mansour Azzam visited Ba’ath headquarters and informed Ahmar in person of Assad’s decision.
Inventory committees followed on January 17th to take command of property, including buildings, vehicles, furniture and all other possessions.
Well-informed sources linked Assad’s decision to the failure of the Ba’ath Party command to sup­port him during the country’s war, with some Ba’ath officials opposing Assad’s handling of the crisis. They also cited “financial and adminis­trative corruption in regional com­mand offices as well as financial privileges some regional command members are enjoying”.
The Ba’ath Party command was one of the strongest supporters of the Assad regime. It garnered sup­port for the regime in Damascus through members across the Arab world. The Ba’ath has lured Arabs through, among other things, uni­versity scholarships to study in Syria for free.
The Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party was established in Syria in 1947 under the slogan of One Arab Na­tion with freedom as its objective through unity among Arabs and their liberation of colonialism to establish the Arab socialist system.
On October 16, 1970, Hafez As­sad, acting as defence minister, led a group of officers in what was known then as the “corrective movement”. Ahmed Khatib be­came president temporarily, as As­sad took over the party secretariat and also became head of the party leadership in Syria. On February 22, 1971, Assad was proclaimed presi­dent.
After Hafez Assad’s death in June 2000, Bashar Assad was elected president and Ba’ath secretary-general.