Saddam’s Execution and the Revival of the Baath Party in Iraq
Saddam’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and the head of his revolutionary court were hanged early on Monday. An Iraqi government spokesman came out and said that Barzan’s head came off during the hanging. I don’t think most Sunni Arabs will accept that this was an accident, and likely they’ll suspect sectarian revenge again.
These executions and that of Saddam Hussein himself have, according to the Iraqi newspaper al-Zaman, breathed new life into the Iraqi Baath Party and its successors, such as the `Awdah Party.
The four successor parties to the Baath are responsible for a significant amount of the political violence in Iraq. That violence continued on Sunday, according to Reuters. Another report on violence is given by McClatchy. Among the major incidents:
* Guerrillas using a roadside bomb killed one US soldier north of Baghdad and wounded another.
* Police in Baghdad found 40 bodies in the streets during the previous 24 hours, they announced on Sunday. These are typically victims of sectarian violence and show signs of torture.
* Guerrillas set off a roadside bomb near al-Tayaran Square in downtown Baghdad, killing one person and wounding 6.
*Guerrillas stormed a carpenter’s market in Baghdad, opening fire and killing 7 persons.
*Guerrillas set of a roadside bomb in Amil district of Baghdad, wounding two civilians.
*Haifa and Palestine streets in the city center saw fighting or mortar attacks.
* Guerrillas in Mada’in just south of Baghdad killed 4 Iraqi policemen.
*In Iskandariyah south of Baghdad, guerrillas attacked a factory and killed 3 persons, wounding a fourth. (This is the sort of thing that might get in the way of Bush’s plan to reopen Iraqi factories.)
* Mosul: 9 bodies were found in the streets. Guerrillas opened fire on a gathering, killing 3 persons and wounding another 3. Guerrillas assassinated 2 other persons.
*Iraqi troops in Diyala province fighting near Baladruz claim to have detained 50 guerrillas and to have captured 2000 katyusha rocket rounds.
*Militiamen in Basra set a roadside bomb that killed a British soldier.
Reuters and McClatchy list lots more deaths and violence.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Interior Minister Jawad Bulani is warning Iraqi government employees against joining the Awdah Party. “`Awdah” means “the Return,” and it is a successor to the Baath Party that the US overthrew in 2003. Al-Zaman says that informed sources in the Iraqi government have told it that the execution of Saddam Hussein caused many Iraqis to join the Baath Party and helped its activists restore their contact with thousands of local party leaders and with cadres who had earlier been on the fence. Thousands of invitations to join the party have been distributed in the largely Sunni Arab provinces of Salahuddin, al-Anbar, Diyala and Mosul. The sources say that party activists continue their political and military work in Baghdad and even in the largely Shiite provinces of the south. (About half of the middle- and lower-ranking Baath Party officials were Shiite, though the top leadership tended to be Sunni. So there were plenty of Shiite Baathists, and they have been targeted for assassination by the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps. Maybe some of them have decided to fight back instead of just waiting for the sniper’s bullet . . .)
The sources emphasized that party activists focus, in their political work, on criticizing former policies (i.e. of Saddam), but they concentrate on resistance to the Occupation and the Iraqi government, which they characterize as a client of Iran and of the Iraqi militias. The renewed contacts have led to the proliferation of party cells. The informed sources say that after April, 2003, the Baath Party divided into four separate parties or tendencies. [I take it that the Awdah Party is one of these four.]
Bulani strictly warned in his memo against anyone joining a party, the goal of which is tearing back down Iraq. He recalled the Baath Party’s bloodthirsty past and its rule by terrorizing the population. He warned anyone who thought of joining this defeated fascist party that Iraqi security forces would be watching him.
The US Government Open Source Center has recently translated some Iraqi Ba`thist communiques that have appeared on the internet, which give a flavor of this corner of contemporary Iraqi politics:
‘ ‘Saddam’s Fedayeen’ Promises Revenge for Saddam’s Execution, Posts Video
Jihadist Websites — OSC Report
Wednesday, January 10, 2007 T17:35:20Z
Saddam’s Fedayeen responded to the execution of Saddam, Barzan al-Tikriti, and Awad al-Bandar and eulogized Saddam Husayn as a martyr who “fought with bravery against the Zionist enemy in defense of the Arab nation” and praised his “courage in the face of his execution.” It condemned his Shia executioners and promised “to kill and slaughter the enemies” including “Al-Maliki, Al-Hakim, and Muqtada al-Sadr.”
The group said that by executing Saddam, “Al-Maliki wanted to send the Sunnis a message that Shia are the masters now, and that the Sunnis must kneel before them.” The group also announced its “pledge of allegiance to Izzat al-Duri as the new and legitimate president of Iraq and the secretary general of the Ba’th Party” and declared war against “every follower of Muqtada al-Sadr and Al-Hakim except for women and children” and promised to target them “just like the occupation forces and the traitors.”
Saddam’s Fedayeen called on all insurgent groups to refrain from speaking unkindly of Saddam and the Ba’th Party and added that they are “willing to listen.” They claimed that the group has carried out many operations in cooperation with many groups and warned of the media’s attempt to “limit the resistance in a few groups.” ‘
And then there is this one, which shows how some Sunni Arab nationalists see the US as having collaborated with Iran in installing a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad.
‘ Iraqi Ba’th Party Comments on President George Bush’s Speech Regarding Iraq
Jihadist Websites — OSC Report
Wednesday, January 10, 2007 T03:23:20Z
Terrorism: Iraqi Ba’th Party Comments on President George Bush’s Speech Regarding Iraq On 20 December, a jihadist website posted a statement issued by the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party in which the group commented on President Bush’s speech regarding the status of the Iraqi war.
A summary of the statement follows:
The Arab Socialist Ba’th Party said that “in his speech today, the American President George Bush revealed the extent of the defeat that America is facing in Iraq. In addition to repeating the admission that the Iraqi resistance is winning and progressing and that America is being defeated and is failing, his military leaders and civilian officials have lately expressed their belief that the American forces in Iraq are standing at the edge of complete collapse.”
It reiterated that “strategic resolution has been achieved to the advantage of Iraq and its armed national movement . .. and resorting to killing based on sectarian identity is only expressing the deep feeling that strategic resolution has taken place.” The group argued that the US failure in Iraq cannot be remedied and that the “Iraqi resistance depleted (the war’s) sources of monetary, human, and psychological financing.”
Some of the signs of this, according to the group, were “the lack of financial liquidity to cover the war expenses that are multiplying due to the multiplying of the Iraqi resistance operations, the decline in the enlistment of American citizens, the inability to acquire the necessary numbers to join the army so as to compensate for the dead or disabled, and the complete collapse of the American army’s morale.” It emphasized that “the collapse is strategic, not just military, and therefore goes beyond the Iraqi borders to encompass the entire world.”
The group also argued that “in light of this dangerous global and regional strategic position, it is possible that America and Iran will resort to a major operation in Iraq, characterized by the reinforcement of their alliance against Iraq, under the guise of their fabricated struggle,” which will focus on regaining control over “liberated areas in Baghdad by force,” followed by “the liberated cities and provinces.”
It called all “fellow Iraqi national resistance groups, parties, and characters, to prepare for this possibility on the military, political, organizational, and media levels, to reinforce the cooperation between all Iraqi nationalists, and avoid any American ploy to infiltrate this or that regime, whether it be under the facade of negotiation, including (them) in the government, or the formation of a new government, for all these calls are methods of deceit and toppling of national forces and characters.”
The group also reemphasized that “the resistance and the party are able to foil the new plot and completely vanquish it, not only because the resistance is supported by the entire people, but also because the multi-headed enemy used everything it had from the start the invasion and until now, and the resistance still defeated it in the great battles that occurred. All Iraq needs now is to strengthen the unity between all of the armed resistance groups and to avoid anyone whose intention is to create discord and internal conflicts.” It reiterated its opposition to “the so-called national reconciliation called for by the agent Al-Maliki through Bush’s direction,” claiming that it was an attempt to change defeat into victory. ‘