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The '''Ba'ath Party''' is an Arab political party. For decades it was the ruling party of Iraq, headed by Saddam Hussein, and the ruling party of Syria. Its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism, expressed by the party motto; "Wahdah, Hurriyah, Ishtirrakiyah" (Unity, Freedom, Socialism).

The Ba'ath Party was founded in Damascus, Syria, 1941 by Michel Aflaq, who became its chief ideologist, and Salahuddin Bitar, who later became prime minister of Syria in 1963-1964 and in 1966.

It was formed in opposition to both French rule and the older generation of Syrian Arab nationalists, mixing Pan-Arab unity and Arab nationalism as its foundation. Its constitution is a blend of neo-Marxist socialism and nationalism. They opposed the influence of Europe in their country's affairs, and used Nationalism and the notion of unifying the Arab world as a platform. Ba'ath always claimed to be speaking for the entire Arab nation and the progress of the masses, though it was extremely exclusive, factional and often relying on nationalist radicals in the militaries. Its influence spread to other Arab countries 1954-58, and branches were established in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The movement split into several factions after 1958 and again 1966. In Iraq, the Ba'ath Party took control briefly 1963 and again from 1968 although its support there has always been limited. The rise of Saddam Hussein to become president of Iraq (from 1979) was due less to the popularity of the Ba'ath Party itself than to the exploitation and manipulation of an existing ideology by Hussein for his own purposes.

In Iraq the Ba'athists first came to power in the coup of Feb., 1963, when Abdul-Salem Arif became president. Interference from the Syrian Ba'athists and disputes between the moderates and extremists, culminating in an attempted coup by the latter in Nov., 1963, served to discredit the extremists. However, the moderates continued to play a major role in the succeeding governments. In July, 1968, a bloodless coup brought to power the Ba'athist general Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. Wranglings within the party continued, and the government periodically purged its dissident members. Saddam Hussein eventually succeeded al-Bakr, ruling Iraq despot-style for several decades.

In 1963 a military coup restored the Ba'ath to power in Syria, which promptly began a course of large-scale nationalization. From 1963 the Ba'ath was the only legal Syrian political party, but factionalism and splintering within the party led to a succession of governments and new constitutions. In 1966 a military junta representing the more radical elements in the party displaced the more moderate wing in power, purging from the party its original founders, Michel Aflaq and Bitar.

After that, it split into 2 factions; the so-called progressive faction, led by Nureddin Atassi, which gave priority to the firm establishment of a one-party state and to neo-Marxist economic reform, and the so-called nationalist group, led by Gen. Hafez al-Assad. Assad's following was less doctrinaire about socialism, favoring a militant posture on the Arab union and hostility toward Israel. Despite constant maneuvering and government changes, the two factions remained in an uneasy coalition of power until 1970, when, in another coup, Assad succeeded in ousting Atassi as prime minister. Assad, one of the longest-ruling leaders of the contemporary Middle East, and the Ba'athist party remained at Syria's political helm until 2000, when he was succeeded by Bashar al Assad, his son.

Iraqi and Syrian Baathism today are widely different and partially opposing, though they didn't split till later. They actually were quite united throughout the period of Zionists ruling Palestine. The Ba'athists imitate the Italian and Spanish Fascists. Under Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, both nations are said to have moved away from Ba'athist principles.

In June 2003, the US-led Occupation forces of Iraq banned the Ba'ath party. Some criticize the additional step of the US banning all members of the Ba'ath party from the new government that will be formed, as well as public schools and colleges. That means that a lot of people will be cut out, scores of teachers have been dismissed, causing widespread but unreported protests and demonstrations at schools and universities. Under the previous rulership of the Ba'ath party, one could not reach a very high position or promotion unless one became a member. Similiar to George Orwell's 1984, membership in "the party" was an important means to advance. (There was also a similiarity in how Iraq fought Iran like it was "the Devil," and then following the end of the war, the US became "the Devil," not unlike the endless war between Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.)

Party organisation and structure

From its earliest days, the Iraqi Baath Party relied upon and recruited college and high school students, as well as intellectuals and professionals. Most recruits were of urban Iraqi Arab origins.

Military officers, who joined Baath membership in the early 1950s, included Ahmad Hassan al-Baqir, Saleh Mahdi Ammash and Abdullah Sultan, all of whom assumed prominent responsibilities in Iraqi political affairs in later years.

The party cell or circle was composed of three to seven members. It constituted the basic organisational unit of the party. Cells functioned at the neighbourhood or village level, where members would meet to discuss and execute party directives. A party division comprised of two to seven cells. They were spread throughout the bureaucracy and the military where they functioned as the party’s watchdog. A party section, which comprised of two to five divisions, functioned at the level of a large city quarter, a town, or a rural district. The branch came at the top of the section, and was composed of at least two sections which operated at the provincial level. The party congress, which combined all the branches, was responsible for electing the regional command as the core of the party leadership and top decision-making mechanism. The national command of the Baath Party, ranked on top of  the regional command. It was the highest policy-making and coordinating council for the Baath movement throughout the Arab world at large. 

Their official website (in Arabic) is: http://www.baath-party.org/

The Britannica Concise on the Baath Party: http://education.yahoo.com/search/be?lb=t&p=url%3Ab/baath_party

Al-Jazeera report on the Ba'ath party: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AFBF5651-45AF-45E7-910E-ECA0AFEA24C1.htm

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