Syria Update, October 7, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Early death toll: More than 110 killed, including 41 unarmed civilians.
An interview with a defected Syrian official from the Media Office, Omar Abdullah now in Turkey indicates that Assad knows he cannot retain power and had planned to escape to Russia, and that the Syrian government has set off many of the large bombings, staging bodies of prisoners, and pretending that the bombings were the work of the “rebel terrorists.” http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/10/2012107134952895805.html
Turkey suggests that Syria’s vice-president could replace Assad in a transitional government. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Oct-07/190451-turkey-suggests-that-syrias-vice-president-replace-assad.ashx#axzz28d5gAWKb
Mohammad Nimr al-Madani (51) a writer and political researcher was tortured to death by Syrian security about 10 days ago, according to his family. His body has not been released for burial. He was a supporter of the opposition and had been working secretly as a “correspondent” for external news channels, and had already been arrested twice since the revolution began in March 2011. Nimr al-Madani is solely known in English-language sources (via the Israeli-supported MEMRI) for his statements challenging accounts of the Holocaust, on references to crematoria in the (Jewish) Temple, and to the oft-repeated (false) charge about the Jewish blood libel.
Aleppo province: Fierce clashes took place in al-Jadida, al-Sakhur, Masaken Hanano and in al-Midan. The Syrian military shelled Bab al-Hadid Jub al-Qeba, Sahet al-Melh, Karm al-Jabal, al-Sakhour and al-Sha`ar. Clashes took place between Syrian military forces and the opposition fighters in al-Sakhour. Protesters gathered in the neighbourhoods of al-Ashrafiya and al-Mghaier calling for the fall of the regime.
The Syrian military shelled the city of al-Bab and the towns of Kafr Halab and Tadef and also the Jusr al-Nirab area.
Damascus province: Two explosions were reported in the city; the first huge explosion was heard in Bab Sarija, and was a car bomb being detonated in Ibn al-Walid street near the police station, which killed one person. The second blast targeted a security services building. Clashes took place in the al-Yarmouk camp. Serious clashes took place in al-Qadam leading to casualties and a tank was destroyed. The Syrian military carried out raids and arrests in al-Muhajarin. The Syrian military resumed shelling on al-Qadam and al-Asali. There were clashes over last night near the Ummayad mosque.
The bodies of 10 men were found in the village of al-Hama where battles have taken place for several days with the Syrian military regaining the area. The Syrian military resumed heavy shelling of the towns of A’rtouz and Hazza
Dara`a province: The Syrian military shelled the towns of Busr al-Harir, Busra al-Sham and al-Na`ima. Intense gunfire was reported in the town of Kafr Shams and the Syrian military carried out raids there. A child died of wounds received from a sniper in al-Na’ima. The Syrian military shelled the town of Ghariya al-Sharqiya and carried out raids and arrests in al-Msayfra. The Syrian military targeted a civilian car on the road to the town of al-Na`ima.
Deir az-Zur province: The Syrian military killed an opposition commander during clashes in the al-Qusur neighborhood of Deir az-Zur. Regime forces shot to death two civilians in the al-Joura neighborhood; explosions and gunshots were reported in the al-Dalla roundabout. Clashes took place in the al-B’ajin neighborhood.
The Syrian military resumed shelling of the town of Muhasan.
Hama province: The Syrian military carried out raids and arrests in the al-Fayha’ neighborhood of Hama. Syrian military and shabiha raided the neighborhood of al-Hamidiyya killing 6 persons, including a child.
The Syrian military carried out raids and arrests and burnt homes in the towns of Abu Ramal, Kokab, Hamada Omar, al-Sweida and the village of al-Samra.
Homs province: Destruction by Syrian military forces of the Sayyidat al-Salam church in the city of Homs http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GW6wMc7taCU
The FSA has shot down a military jet near al-Jusiyeh. The Syrian military shelled the city of al-Talbisa and targets north of al-Talibsa. The Syrian military shelled the town of Teirm’ala and the city of al-Qseir. A bus was targeted near the village of al-Se’n killing two women and an 8 year-old girl.
Idlib province: Syrian military forces retreated from the village of al-Foz. Three wounded Syrian troops were found in the area of Kherbet al-Joz, following the retreat by the Syrian military after heavy losses yesterday. The Syrian military shelled the town of al-Jarjanaz.
Raqqah province: Clashes took place in the area of Rasm al-Ghazal near Tal Abyad and the Syrian military shelled Ain al-A’rous and Tal Abyad, which is currently held by the opposition and is near the Turkish-Syrian cross-firings.
Libyan Mehdi al-Harati confirmed that there are very few foreign fighters in Syria, extremely limited foreign support and that arms are coming from inside of Syria. http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=3&id=31328
Yesterday, Syrian opposition fighters with Shaykh Adnan al-Arour captured President Assad’ cousin, Hussam al-Assad, who is part of the security apparatus in that country http://www.yalibnan.com/2012/10/07/syrian-rebels-claim-capturing-assads-cousin/
Borders: The Syrian military fired mortars into Turkish territory for the fifth day in a row. A shell landed about 200 meters inside of Turkey near the same town, Akcakale, where five Turkish citizens, all women and children were killed last week. Turkey again returned fire, with at least six mortars.
The Syrian opposition seized a border outpost along the Turkish province of Hatay near the village of Guvecci, Turkey and raised the FSA’s Syrian flag there, as clashes were fought at Harapjoz, a Syrian village just behind the outpost.
Qatar’s Shaykh Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani has appealed to the Syrian al-Baraa brigade not to kill its Iranian hostages, seized back in August. On Thursday, the group had threatened to kill the Iranians, some of whom it claims are Revolutionary Guards, within 48 hours if the Syrian military did not retreat from the al-Ghuta and stopped shelling civilians. Mediators convinced the group to extend its deadline by 24 hours. Al-Thani says that it is not acceptable to kill prisoners, apparently referring to the Islamic rules of warfare.
The Syrian National Council will be convening in Doha, Qatar to determine a new chairperson, executive board and committee members according to George Sabra. http://www.aa.com.tr/en/news/88234–reorganization-at-syrian-national-council
Documents obtained by al-Arabiyya which are marked classified (but have been questioned by some sources) indicates that Syrian intelligence and Hizbullah carried out the assassination of Gebran Ghassan Tueni. Syria was involved in stage-managing Lebanese political affairs for years, and other such assassination efforts. The revelation, if true, might simply reinforce existing sentiments against Hizbullah and the Assad regime. http://www.yalibnan.com/2012/10/07/hezbollah-syria-behind-gebran-tuenis-murder-report/
CNN journalists try to get at the tenor of war as the “new normal” in Syria, http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/06/world/syria-normal-life/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fedition_world+(RSS%3A+World
Yesterday, former Hizbullah General Secretary and once-leader of the Revolt of the Hungry, Subhi Tfayli cautioned Hizbullah that it should stop fighting with the Assad regime against the Syrian people; that the ongoing conflict is a “crime against the Syrian people” and that the movement should instead be part of a solution to the violence. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/10/05/242028.html
A campaign to bring blankets to Syrians as winter approaches: http://www.facebook.com/events/497723636904730/
“Ba`ath Party (Hizb al-Ba`ath al-`Arabi al-Ishtiraki)” by Stefan Brooks and Sherifa Zuhur. In The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars: The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts. (5 volumes) edited by Spencer Tucker (Sherifa Zuhur and David Zabecki, assistant editors). London and Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2010.
Political party that currently dominates Syria and which was the leading mass party in Iraq from 1968 to the end of Saddam Husayn’s regime in 2003. The Ba`ath Party also had branches in Lebanon, Jordan, the Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania, Bahrain and support from some Palestinians. The word “Ba`ath” in Arabic means renaissance or resurrection and the party’s fundamental principles were: unity and freedom from imperialism of the Arab nation (all Arab states); growth in personal freedom of the Arab nation’s citizenry, and that the Arab nation should fight colonialism and culturally enrich the world. The Party also held that Arab nationalism necessitated socialist economic principles. The Arab Socialist Ba`ath Party (of Syria) explains its ideology as “national (pan-Arab), socialist, popular and revolutionary” and its founding charter and constitution identifies its commitment to the “Arab Nation, the Arab homeland, the Arab citizen, the Arab people’s authority over their own land and the freedom of the Arab people.”
The Arab Ba`ath Party, as it was originally called, grew out of an ideological and political movement in Syria, founded in 1940 in Damascus to revolutionize the Arab nation and society. (Note: Aflaq and al-Bitar were Syrian –educated yet attended university in France) Syrian intellectuals, Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian; and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim, who studied at the Sorbonne in the early 1930’s, and Zaki al-Arsuzi were the principal founders of the Ba`ath movement and party. The Arab Ba`ath Party accepted Arabs of all religious backgrounds, and theoretically those who became a part of the Arab nation, not excluding other ethnic groups.
The first Arab Ba’ath Party Congress was held on April 4-6, 1947. Abd al-Rahman al-Damin and Abd al-Khaliq al-Khudayri attended that Congress, and on their return to Iraq founded a branch of the Party there. This evolved into a small group of about 50, mainly friends and associates of Fu’ad al-Rikabi who took control of the group in 1951. The Ba`ath in Iraq joined with other opposition movements to the monarchy. Ba`athism spread more slowly in Iraq than in Syria, and its members lost to the Communists in many elections in the 1960s, causing them to utilize
Meanwhile in Syria, in 1954, Aflaq and al-Bitar joined forces with Akram al-Hawrani, a populist leader who headed the Socialist Party and adopted the name of the Arab Socialist Ba`ath Party. The Ba`ath Party found its greatest strength in Syria and Iraq although the Party had branches all over the Arab world. It came to power in Iraq and then Syria in coup d’états in 1963. The coup in Iraq did not last out the year, however, and in that time, 10,000 leftists, Marxists and communists were killed, 5,000 of these from the Iraqi Communist Party. Three years later, the Syrian and Iraqi parties split and each was plagued by factionalism. Some disputes had come during Syria’s (1958-1961) union with Egypt; others concerned forces for and against union between Syria and Iraq, or ties with the Soviet Union, and local Communist parties as well as the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) in Syria.
Rivalries between different factions of the Syrian Ba`ath Party led to an inter-party coup in 1966 followed by another one four years later that brought General Hafiz al-Asad to power. He headed a pragamatic faction which got the upper-hand in the military and contrasted to the “progressive” faction which had pushed more pervasive socialism and nationalizations and a harder-line regionally. Al-Asad remained in office until his death in 2000. His son, Dr. Bashar al-Asad, assumed leadership of the Syrian Ba’ath Party and remains the president of Syria.
Over time, the rivalry and hostility between the respective leaders of Syria and Iraq, Asad and Husayn, would become pronounced, as each sought to suppress their opposition, utilize client groups, and exercise leadership in the Arab world. This rivalry became most evident when Syria hosted Iraqi opposition figures and supported Iraq’s arch-enemy, Iran, a non-Arab country, during Iraq’s eight-year war with its Persian neighbor. A degree of rapprochement between Syria and Iraq took place later on, and Syria was accused of sheltering Ba`athist leaders and funds in the country after the fall of Saddam in Iraq.
Saddam Husayn joined the Iraqi Ba’ath Party at the age of twenty-one in 1956 and steadily rose in the party’s ranks, first in the Iraqi revolution of 1958, and then, as an assassin in the U.S.-backed plot to do away with President Qasim. Later, after the Ba’ath Party had regained power in a 1968 coup, Husayn served as vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and later as President and Secretary-General of the Ba`th Party.
The Ba`ath Parties of Iraq and Syria operated in associations in schools, communities, the army and had workers’ and women’s associations like the General Association of Iraqi Women (al-Ittihad al-`amm li-nisa’ al-`Iraq). While pushing to expand membership to comprise a “mass party,” in fact, membership was tightly controlled. Syrians and Iraqis could hardly conclude any official business without intercession of a Party member. In the military and in academia, it was nearly impossible to be advanced or promoted without being a Party member. In Iraq, the Party claimed 1.5 million supporters or about 10% of its population in the late 1980s, however, only about 30,000 were bona fide party cadres. In Syria, al-Asad opened up membership so that by 1987, it was at about 50,000 and there were some 200,000 probationary Party members.
The Ba`ath Party in Iraq, as in Syria was headed by a Regional Command and above that, a National Command which was supposed to supervise the entire movement. However, since the split in 1966, both the Syrian and Iraqi Parties had National Commands controlled by their antagonistic Regional Commands. The Regional Command was supposed to operate via consensus, but in fact, the Party Secretary-General, Saddam Husayn was the decision-maker. In Syria, the National Command featured certain retired and honorary members, but the true executive of the Party was in its 21-member Regional Command. President Asad directed the Regional Command and Syria’s vice presidents, prime minister, armed forces chief of staff, minister of defense and speaker of the People’s Council, as well as the Ba`ath secretaries of Aleppo, Hamah and party bureau chairmen were also on the Command.
While the aim of the Ba`ath movement and Party was to promote Arab nationalism and unity, over time, the Party in Iraq was understood to be promoting Arab cooperation rather than actual unification policies. The Ba`ath did not tolerate political challenges of any other group or party in either country, and opposed the Islamist movements which arose in each. Despite the dictatorial nature of the Iraqi regimes, one notable accomplishment, facilitated at least in part, through the Party, was the serious effort to modernize the economy and society by promoting literacy, education, and gender equality. As a result, by the 1970s, a fairly large segment of the Iraqi population was well-educated, although those out of political favor could not remain in Iraq. Iraqi standards of living varied greatly from the urban middle-classes to peasants, tribesmen, and slum-dwellers of the large cities. Husayn’s disastrous wars with Iran and then Kuwait, which in turn led to an on-going conflict with the United States, and punitive boycott measures, negatively impacted the country and its economy.
The Ba`ath Party had a profound impact on Syria. The changes in land and commercial holdings coming in the 1960s, displaced earlier elites, and the suppression of the Sunni merchants and Islamists led, even after the Hama massacres to a subdued Islamist revival which challenges Ba`ath Party values. President Bashar al-Asad promised democratic reforms to the Party in 2005, however not much change occurred. It has been suggested that the U.S. wanted to defeat Ba`athism in Syria, and severely threatened Bashar al-Asad’s regime when it harbored Iraqi Ba`athists. Al-Asad’s cooperation with the U.S. made it less likely that he might be removed in favor of an alternative Ba`athist leader.
The American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and overthrow of Saddam Husayn led to an immediate ban of the Ba`ath Party, the so-called “de-Baathification” of the country, under U.S. occupation forces. As well, Iraqis attacked Ba’ath Party offices all over the country. The post-war government of Iraq, dominated by Shi’ites who had been persecuted by Husayn’s Sunni-dominated Ba`ath Party and government partially eased the ban on the hiring any former members of the Ba`ath Party in January, 2008 in government jobs. Some critics of the U.S. occupation policy in Iraq claim that U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer’s decision, approved by Washington, to bar all Ba`athists from government posts hopelessly hamstrung the government and fueled the Iraqi insurgency, which was peopled by many bitter and disenfranchised Ba`athists. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is still enforcing a ban on the Ba`ath party, and extended rehiring only to those who can show they were forced to join the Party. A related controversy emerged over the transfer of the Ba`ath Party records to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University via agreement with the Iraq Memory Foundation and with permission of Nuri al-Maliki. The seizure of these sensitive documents (which could reveal the precise status of connections with the Party) has been protested by the Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive and the acting Iraqi minister of culture who is also minister of national dialogue.
In Lebanon, Bahrain and other countries, the Ba`ath Party retains a small presence. In Lebanon, the Party was represented by two members of Parliament in the 1990s, and the Iraqi branch also had a linkage in a group within the Palestinian Fatah organization. The Sudanese Ba`ath Party operates underground as part of the opposition to the Sudanese regime, and publishes al-Hadaf.
Stefan M. Brooks and Sherifa Zuhur.
See also: Aflaq, Michel; al-Asad, Bashar; al-Asad, Hafez; Arab Nationalism; Husayn, Saddam; Iraq, History to 1990; Iraq, History 1990-Present; Pan-Arabism; Syria.
References: Aflaq, Michel. Fi sabil al-ba`ath. Beirut: 1959.
van Dam, Nikolaos. The Struggle for Power in Syria: Sectarianism, Regionalism and Tribalism in Politics. London: I.B. Tauris, 1979.
Committee Against Represssion and For Democratic Rights in Iraq, ed. Saddam’s Iraq: Revolution or Reaction? London: Zed Books, 1986.
Heydemann, Steven. Authoritarianism in Syria: Institutions and Social Conflict, 1948-1970. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Hinnebusch, Raymond. Syria: Revolution From Above. Florence: New York: Routledge, 2001.
Ismael, Jacqueline S. and Ismael, Shireen T. “Gender and State in Iraq.” In Suad Joseph, ed. Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000.
Nadi al-Ba`ath al-`Arabi. Al-Mithaq al-qawmi al-`arabi. Baghdad, 1951.
Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.