Assad dissolves Pan-Arab Ba’ath command over misgivings
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.