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Baathist Leader: Baathist Party reforming in preparation for US withdrawal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Asharq Al-Awsat, Damascus – An official from the dissolved Baathist party has revealed that preparations are in place to fill the vacuum [of power] following the US withdrawal from Iraq. Media reports have also confirmed the return of jihadist groups to Iraq in an attempt to re-organize.

The official, who described himself as a commander, said that the Baathists “are preparing for US withdrawal in order to fill the vacuum [of power]…and restore our control on the ground, returning Iraq to its rightful place, as well as expelling all the [foreign] agents that came with the occupation forces.”

The Baathist official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Agence-France Presse [AFP] that “we have restored the branches of our party, and we have identified their operation and duties throughout Iraqi cities, but we cannot disclose them or their whereabouts as they represent a direct target to these agents [of occupation].”

The Baathist official, whose party was outlawed following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, said, “Our operational mandate has been to move closer to the tribal elders, army, police officers and businessmen in order to support and engage with us.” The unnamed Baathist official also revealed that he had returned to Iraq only two weeks ago from Syria. He said, “I decided to leave [Syria] after we became more and more constricted; those [hiding] in Damascus must not object to Iranian influence in Iraq, and so a number of us decided to leave [Syria] for other Arab countries.”

The Baathist official did not deny that pro-Baathist candidates had participated in the provincial elections that took place last January, nor did he deny that the Baathists had gained strong support from parties that are [ideologically] close to the party. The official revealed that he belonged to the [political] wing of former Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al Douri whose supposed death has been reported a number of times, but who remains in hiding. Al Douri is one of the most prominent former government officials being sought by US forces.

The Baathist party is [currently] split into two wings; the first wing is presently located in Syria and led by Mohammed Younis al Ahmed al Muwali. Muwali is originally from Mosul and has ties to Northern and Central Iraq; he was a Colonel in Saddam Hussein’s army. The second wing is led by al Douri, the former vice president and deputy chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council. He considers himself to be the “legitimate leader” of the outlawed Baathist party and controls the strongest Baathist force. Al Douri has declared war on what he termed the “Zionist-American-Safavid bloc.”

Al Douri’s organization includes a number of former senior army officers, tribal leaders, Islamic clerics, and businessmen both inside Iraq and beyond its borders, in countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Yemen and the Gulf.

The official confirmed that al Douri supports the “transfer of power via free elections and the studying of the [Baathist] party’s experience over the past 35 years, addressing the mistakes made [during this period] and a return to the true Baathist ideology.”

The Iraqi authorities have accused “Baathist elements” and Al Qaeda of being responsible for the recent bloody explosions that occurred in Baghdad.

Two months ago Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki suggested the possibility of national reconciliation with “those that worked with the Baathist [regime]” for the first time, but he has since backed down from this position saying that such reconciliation would violate the Iraqi constitution that has outlawed the Baathist party.

There is also information that indicates that a number of Arab jihadist groups have returned to Iraq. Sources confirm that these groups are now dependant upon a different approach than before, namely by reaching “agreements with local leadership” and distributing information [on their cause] in a “more moderate” tone.

A member of the Iraqi opposition, Hassan al Allawi has denied the accusations made by the unnamed Baathist official that Syria is putting pressure on Iraqi dissidents living in Damascus to return to Baghdad. Allawi said, “There is a sectarian chord being played by the regime, and it is echoed by some of those in countries where Iraqis have taken asylum, including Syria.”

Hassan al Allawi who is opposed to the current regime and also opposed the previous two Iraqi regimes [Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the Iraqi Interim government] is well known for his extensive and close ties with Syria. Allawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Syria excluding its Iraqi dissidents did not and will not happen. Even if this did happen it would have been during the period when Jalal Talabani was president, but before Nuri al Maliki became Prime Minister, and before Bayan Jabr [Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi] was [appointed] Minister of Finance, not to mention others who were active in Damascus for more than 25 years.”

Allawi added, “If Syria, the land of secular Baathism has not excluded the Islamist opposition and the Kurds, how could they now exclude the Baathist dissidents?”