Iraq: Baath Party Politics Still Matters


May 25, 2006: Baath Party politics still matters. For some time there have been rumors of a serious internal rift in the Iraqi Baath Party, which is operating underground and in exile. Saddam Hussein remains the acknowledged head of the movement, and despite being in custody seems to be able to get brief messages out to his followers from time to time. These are primarily inspirational, but have also included pleas for his followers to stay united and focused.
There seem to be two major factions in the Baath movement. One is apparently led by Izzat Ibrahim al Duri, a former vice-president of the "Revolutionary Council", who had actually been reported dead for some time but is now known to be alive. The other is headed by Muhammad Yunis al Ahmad, a former member of the "Regional Command." Currently, Izzat seems to operating underground in Iraq, while Yunis moves between hideouts in Iraq and safe houses in Syria. It's not clear what the issues dividing the two are, but it's likely that both men are aspiring to succeed Saddam should the Baath regain control of the country.

Other senior Baath figures include Sabawi Ibrahim al Hasan, Saddam's half-brother, and Saddam's daughter Raghad Saddam Hussein al Tikriti, who appear to be trying to keep the movement together. Both are in exile in Syria. Raghad reportedly controls access to a great deal of money that her father stashed away for a rainy day.

There is not much reporting of Baath Party politics outside of Iraq, but inside the country, it's always a major item of discussion, and speculation. Every Iraqi, especially those living in the "combat zone" (central Iraq) are aware of the fact that the Sunni Arab dominated Baath party has not given up on its efforts to regain control of the country. Baath has two things that make it possible to keep the violence going. First, it has thousands of skilled secret police, with decades of experience in terrorizing Iraqis, an ability which enabled Saddam to control the country for over three decades. Second, the Baath still has lots of money. The Baath Party plundered Iraqs oil wealth for decades. Saddam and his family kept billions of dollars, but much more was spread around to major supporters. A lot of that loot was kept outside the country, and very little of it has been tracked down. But it's known to be out there, because millions of dollars in cash has been seized from couriers trying to move it back into Iraq. In addition, billions of dollars in cash was seized inside Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion. Most of this was used for reconstruction efforts. Most of the Baath Party money is used to pay terrorists to build and plant IEDs or terrorize government officials.

The government has long been negotiating with the Baath Party, through intermediaries, to try and arrange an end to the fighting. But Baath wants more than the government is willing to give. Baath demands lots of amnesty, and no international searches for stolen oil money. Currently, the government plan is to keep hammering Baath (via counter-terror operations) until Baath is willing to accept whatever the government offers. Iraqi voters have the names of thousands of Baath Party members who killed members of their families. People want revenge. Lots of those dead bodies turning up are the result of anti-Baath death squads that are not waiting for the government to make a deal with Baath. The government cannot offer a lot of amnesty without angering lots of Iraqi voters.

American intelligence believes that Sunni Arab unity is increasingly falling apart. Most Sunni Arabs do not support Baath, and more and more of them are willing to take up arms against Baath. There is a growing split between Baath and al Qaeda. But Baath still has all those desperate, wealthy, men who have money, weapons, and nothing to lose.


Article Archive

Iraq: Current 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close