The significance of Izzat al-Douri and the Ba’ath Party
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Izzat al-Douri was of no significance when he was the deputy of Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein and he’s had no significance or value since the Ba’ath Party collapsed and since his president and other commanders were executed. What brought Douri back to life is the recent audio recording in which we heard his voice for the first time in over a decade. The recording has further strengthened our belief that the Ba’ath Party is history, despite allegations that Douri played a role in the recent fall of Mosul and Tikrit.
The Ba’ath Party died before Saddam did. It ended with Saddam’s struggle with its head Hassan al-Bakr and when Saddam seized leadership of the Ba’ath Party in the 1970s. The Ba’ath Party crumbled during that famous incident when Saddam convened an assembly of the party’s leaders, accused a number of members of conspiring with the Syrian Ba’ath Party against him and demanded they be taken out of the hall and executed. Saddam shed crocodile tears over them and sent a video of the assembly to a number of envoys in Baghdad.
Izzat al-Douri was of no significance when he was the deputy of Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein and he’s had no significance or value since the Ba’ath Party collapsed
Iraq was thus governed by Saddam and his family members. All Ba’athist leaders who accompanied him for around a quarter of a century were mere political decoration in the famous republic of fear.
As to why Douri resurfaced this week, the reason doesn’t matter because we’ve noticed that no one voiced concern regarding him. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is more important than him. Also, why did Douri mention ISIS and praise it? This is strange because the organization considers Ba’athists to be infidels. This is at the core of its ideology and teachings. An expert said Douri was forced to praise ISIS due to the terrorist organization’s domination over Ba’athists and the abduction of its men from its ranks. He added that Douri wants to neutralize ISIS to avoid its evil.
Douri’s problem with ISIS
Douri’s problem with ISIS is bigger than his problem with Maliki’s regime because ISIS opposes Sunni Sufism, including the Naqshbandi sect to which he belongs, and accuses its followers of apostasy.
If Douri is a mere figure from the past, then what’s the role and significance of Ba’athists who surprised everyone in recent battles? There are Ba’athists but there’s no Ba’ath Party. Ba’athists are a mere old association of those who feel marginalized by the regime and who have been pushed out of their jobs and all aspects of public life. Academics, military and security figures, local partisans and others who belonged to the Ba’ath Party have one mutual aim: to work against the current regime in the name of any slogan. This is expected. However, they are not real Ba’athists like Douri tried to describe them in his recording.
During the era of the Ba’ath Party, which ruled from 1963 until 2003, most Iraqis – Sunnis, Shiites and others – were forced to belong to the party. Just like any other fascist party, the Ba’athists ruled with an iron fist and Saddam was brutal and harsh. This is why when he invaded Kuwait, he was defeated within weeks despite his massive army. When the Americans invaded Iraq, the army did not confront them but dissipated instead. The party is no longer of any value and late President Saddam Hussein no longer has followers who believe in him.
But Nouri al-Maliki’s regime, which came in on an American tank, has not yet comprehended that after the American troops’ withdrawal, it will not be able to control all of Iraq, particularly the Arab Sunni and Kurdish areas. This is what happened last month when leaders of Maliki’s forces escaped during the confrontation with ISIS fighters, tribes and former Ba’athist military leaders. Maliki himself is not any better than Saddam Hussein when it comes to his practices and tyranny. What’s certain is that if he succeeds at remaining in power in Baghdad, Iraqis will revolt against him. He will then succeed at one thing: ensuring the collapse of the Iraqi state. His rivals are not the Ba’athists but all Iraqis, including a large number of Shiites.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.