Ba’ath means rebirth in the Arabic language that has two founders which are socialist and Arabic nationalist who founded Ba’ath Party in Damascus about 1943.[1]  Zeki Arsuzi denominates the party’s name, and used the name of Ba’ath first-time. Ba’ath Party lies behind Arabic nationalism, and the nationalism had accelerated in Syria and Iraq together with downfall of Ottoman Empire. Already, Ba’ath Party was founded as the most important agents of Panarabism. According to Ba’ath Party, Arabic nationalism has secular and anti-imperialist thought. Ba’ath Party had taken a different tack from the other secular right and left parties in Arabic countries.

The party that made first congress in 1947, decided to maintain a stance freedom and unity-driven, and it was defended Arab identity rather than Syrian and Iraqi nationalism. After rise of Arabic nationalism, Ba’ath Party started to get into the act from two sides; the Army and Civil sides.[2] Civil side is unaware of the army’s acts, after a bit, the army started to seep into side of civil. Panarabism was started to interpret again in the later 1950s, and instead of, had given up Syrian nationalism. Ba’athists separated as new and old generation in 1960s, and old generation had started to lose its own effectiveness. The founders of Ba’ath Party, Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, had studied Sorbonne University in France, and get back to their countries as teachers who have nationalist thoughts, and then said to adopt socialism.[3] They founded Arab League in Paris, and we can say that they are Arabic nationalism, not Syrian nationalism.

While Ba’ath Party, sometimes the colonial period, influences nationalism and communist thoughts, indeed, the party lies behind socialism and expansionist nationalism. Bernand Lewis had approached Ba’ath Party as part of dictatorship in Middle East because he said that ‘dictatorship is best fit term for the regimes in Saddam Hussein and Hafez Al-Assad.’ In the period between two wars, Syria and Iraq influence from Europe regimes, and
take mandate government lying down.[4] Founded Ba’ath Party over model of Nazi, and then the party influenced communist thought with effect of Soviet Union. Ba’ath Party had allied with Arabic Socialist Party who is founded by Ekrem Al-Hurani in 1952, because that so it has named Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party at the present time which lies behind Arabic nationalism. We can say the essential thought of the party that ‘The party takes as a goal to provide unity and welfare as to create an Arabic world in Middle East.


Ba’ath Party in Syria

Syria’s political life after independence is determined with military coups. Syria passed pluralistic political life in 1954, and somewhere while Ba’ath Party supported military occupies, somewhere the party had opposed occupies because it would not want to military government. If the army took hold potency, Ba’ath Party had supported the army so old generation Ba’athist politicians took effect in the military government, and after a while, they had a big part in the taking hold potency the army.

Ex post political and military occupies during mandate government in Middle East are started to get across whole of the Arabic world. Military occupies in Middle East have two reasons that is to restrain comprising of parliamentary system which created by England and France, and is differentiation of thought between old and new generation. In a short time, Ba’ath Party had obtained one’s goal only Arabian state in Middle East, and the thought is been reinforced with merger of Syria and Egypt in 1958. USA and NATO had reacted because of Syria and Egypt’s merger, but they do not land up, and have created wealth of Soviet in Middle East.[5] Ba’ath party and Nasr government maintained a presence till 1967’s war, but idea of United Arab Republic had started to fall down. There is struggle for power between the years of 1961-1970 in Syria. While Ba’ath Party comes into power with military occupy in 1963, it had frequently came across with attempted coups.

There are government reshuffle between years of 1964-1966. After this period, Syria has two important powers in the potency; Salah Cedid and Hafez Al-Assad. This period is known as Neo-Ba’athists, and the party was starting to live ideological conversions. Conflicts between new and old generation Ba’athists was living, and new generation Ba’athists slipped to radical socialism.  Differences in the party had reached extremity, and also Sunni groups in Hama had revolted, and this insurrection was suppressed in a bloody way that is known ‘Hama Massacre’. Hafez Al-Assad and Cedid founded  attempted coup together with young army officers in the party and Bitar and Aflaq are removed the party. After that, Cedid is not taken new government by Hafez Al-Assad, and leader of party is given him, and then Cedid said that, ‘I do not recognize my party.’, and later Cedid is expelled by the party.

1967 Arab-Israel war is turning point in the domestic policy of Syria, and Syria’s territory was occupied by Israel, so Hafez Al-Assad thought to take control government. After this war, Ba’athists are split into two parts: nationalists and progressivists. Hafez Al-Assad and nationalists staged a coup, and came into power. Four month later, Hafez Al-Assad became president who would not want to change nationalistic-socialistic regime of the party. In this period, Ba’ath Party was head of the government in Iraq, and escaped old generation Ba’athists from Syria was going to Iraq, so the event was caused Syria-Iraq tension. In thirty years of Hafez Al-Assad regime, Syria became a regional actor. After 1980, Hafez Al-Assad had gotten close with USA to buy currency, because USSR was broken down, and withdraw of flow of money. Syria took part beside USA in the Gulf War, and sent the troops to the Iraq. Together with the events, the regime of from father to son started in Syria.[6]

Effectives Periods of Ba’ath Party in Syria

  • Ahmed Al-Hattib: 1970-1971 (civil member of Ba’ath Party)
  • Hafez Al-Assad: 1971-2000
  • Bessar Al-Assad: 2000 – [7]


Ba’ath Party in Iraq

Effectiveness of Ba’ath Party in Iraq did not feel free to like Ba’ath Party in Syria because while thoughts are expanded easily in Syria, the party could not still show effectiveness in Iraq. Ba’ath party had allied the Arab Socialist Party in 1952, and then Iraq side of the party is founded in 1954. Student groups became effective foundation of Ba’ath Party in Iraq. Abd al-Karim Qasim‘s troops raid palace, and they killed king, two ministers and crown prince in 14 July 1958. Qasim declared Iraq as a republic, and became the minister. Minorities in Iraq, Ba’athists and communist groups supported coup firstly. Qasim hauled Iraq from Baghdad Pact, and was first leader supporting to found common an army for salvation of Palestine. Qasim was Iraqi nationalist, so fallen out with Ba’athists and Nasr. Ba’athist Saddam Hussein attempts to assassinate unsuccessful Abd al–Karim Qasim in 1959, and then Saddam Hussein escapes abroad (Syria). Ba’athists and other inimical groups are organized against the potency until 1963, and they staged a successful coup against Qasım that is executed. A month later, Ba’ath Party in Syria came into power, and conflicts between Ba’ath Parties in Syria and Iraq showed up.

Arif Brothers’ period started together with 1963 coup. Abdusselam Arif and Ba’ath Party staged a coup against Qasim in 1963, and they came into power, but after nine months, Arif was contrary with Ba’athists. Abdusselam Arif staged other coup, too, and detracted Ba’athists from whole line managements. Arif who exiled some leaders of Ba’ath Party to Spain, suppressed the rebellion Kurdish rebels in North, and passed away because of airplane crash in 1966, Abdurrahman Arif came into power instead of him. While ın the General Qasim period, Iraq politics keep away from Nasr, ın the Arif Brothers period, Iraq politics started to change.[8] Negotiations which merger of two countries (about military and economic) was started in 1964, but these negotiations could not conclude. Ba’ath Party in Iraq was first experience with the potency.

Ba’ath ministers are taken into service in the coalition cabinet. Ahmed Hassan Al-Bekir is creator of coup and member of party, and took on first minister task. After in a short time, realms of authority of Ba’athists were limited by other groups of coalition. Saddam Hussein is gotten head of ‘regional command’ of the party in 1966, and he made a secret alliance with Bekir. Ba’athist military groups captured to Baghdad in 1968, and Bekir founded Revolutionist Command Council which has whole Ba’athist members.[9] While Bekir becomes the head of council, Saddam Hussein who is gotten prime minister of council, responsible from internal security. Saddam enhanced authority and power of police forces between years of 1968-1978, and he used the power for providing security of people. Bekir resigned the presidency for coming into power Saddam in 1979, and Saddam Hussein took hold whole control of Iraq together with these events. And so Bernand Lewis said that, single seater dictatorship became cleared the way for Saddam.

Saddam Hussein who is an important leader in Iraq, his government is peak point of Iraq Ba’ath Party. Saddam Hussein, who attended Ba’ath Party to the contrary forbidden in 1957, is taken into custody because of domestic problems or member of the party. After that, the most important event of Saddam is unsuccessful assassination attempt against General Kasım, and then Saddam who is gotten hurt from his foot, leaved Baghdad, and escaped to Syria. He met with Michel Aflaq in Syria, and began to speak from Aflaq for promotion in the party. Ba’ath Party staged a coup in Iraq, 1963, and Saddam Hussein came to back Iraq. He came into prominence with against the communists, and liquidated the civil Ba’athists in 1978.  Algeria Agreement is signed between Iraq and Iran for the Kurdish problem.

Iraq occupied Kuwait in 2 August 1990. The United Nations imposed economic sanctions because of occupation, and then USA organized an air attack to Iraq with allowance of United Nations in 1991, and Gulf War started.[10] USA went into war Iraq towards morning in 20 March 2003. After 50 days, Bush declared to dissolve Ba’ath Party and to end the war in 1 May 2003. Also in the same time, death of Saddam Hussein is explained whole of the world by USA. [11]

Effective Periods of Ba’ath Party in Iraq

  • Abdusselam Arif Government: 1963-1966
  • Abdurrahman Arif Government: 1966-1968
  • Ahmed Hasan Al-Bekir Government: 1968-1979
  • Saddam Hussein Government: 1979-2003[12]


As a result, Middle East events could not escape the influence of the West and imperialism. We can nowadays see that, Kurdish autonomous region in north of Syria are talking, and Iraq is in a fragmented situation. USA and its allies do not want to be another force from Israel in the Middle East. The important thought for this state is not human values, was foreground obtained raw materials from the region and oil. The power struggle stemmed from the population struggle that occurs between Syria, Egypt and Iraq. If we assess the ethnic structures, there is only one nation in the region, and problems began to occur together with this mess, too. Since the founding of the party, ideological changes were seen constantly. The ideology of the Ba’ath Party as a result of the ideological crisis in the Middle East has created an excitement in Arab societies; especially ‘rebirth’ has begun in Syria and Iraq. The foundation purpose of Ba’ath Party was to be Arabian State in the Middle East, but Ba’ath Party has become an eviscerated ideology theoretically.



  • [1] Arslan, N.Duygu, Kuruluşundan 2003’e Kadar Suriye ve Irak Perspektifinde Baas Hareketinin Değerlendirilmesi, p.1,
  • [2] Gedikoglu, Bilal, Kuruluşundan Günümüze Baas Partisi, p.4
  • [3] Çağ,Eker and Eker,Sami, Ortadoğu’da Baas Rejimleri: Suriye ve Irak, p.61
  • [4] Lewis, Bernand, İnanç ve İktidar: Ortadoğu’da Din ve Siyaset
  • [5] Benli Altunışık, Meliha, Ortadoğu ve ABD: Yeni Bir Döneme Girilirken, p.71.
  • [6] Benli Altunısık, Meliha, Ortadoğu ve ABD: Yeni Bir Döneme Girilirken.
  • [7] Gedikoglu, Bilal, Kuruluşundan Günümüze Baas Partisi, p.14.
  • [8] Yılmaz Şahin, Türel, Uluslararası Politikada Ortadoğu, p.158-162.
  • [9] Sahin Yılmaz, Türel, Uluslararası Politikada Ortadoğu, p.158-162.
  • [10] Ozturk, Tugce, İşgalin 10. Yılında Irak, p.5.
  • [11] Benli Altunısık, Meliha, Ortadoğu ve ABD: Yeni Bir Döneme Girilirken.
  • [12] Gedikoglu, Bilal, Kuruluşundan Günümüze Baas Partisi, p.21.




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Yusuf Taner KILAVUZ

Istanbul Medeniyet University, Faculty of Political Science, Department of International Relations. [email protected]


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