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The Baathists Made Mistakes…We Were Unable to Oppose Saddam- Senior Baathist | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- In what represents the first time that an Iraqi Baathist party leader has acknowledged that the party made mistakes during their 35 year rule in Iraq, senior member of the Baathist Regional Command Mazhar Muani Awad told Asharq Al-Awsat “Yes, there were mistakes, but there is no political organization or system of government that does not make mistakes, and we should not hold the principles of the [Baathist] party responsible for this. Everybody knows that the party surrenders its leadership to Saddam Hussein; there was no individual capable of opposing him.” He added that “the [Baathist] party does not consider any figure to be sacred, and we do not support the sanctification of figures or leaders.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Damascus yesterday, Awad said that “it is a duty to apologize to the Iraqi people, and we acknowledge our mistakes, however the mistakes made under nearly 35 years of Baathist party rule are not equivalent to the mistakes made in one week by the current government.” This represents the first time that a Baathist leader has openly and directly issued an apology to the people of Iraq.

However Awad also stressed that “it is up to the Iraqi people to remember the great achievements made by the [Baathist] party in Iraq, including the fight against illiteracy, free compulsory education, the proliferation of universities, and the presence of higher education and health care…as well as all the achievements made in all aspects of life, this is in addition to the fact that the Baathist party respected all faiths and races. We do not consider that someone is Sunni or Shiite, or Muslim or Christian, or that there is any difference between Arabs, Kurds, or Turkmen.”

Mazhar Muani Awad also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “we are determined to return to Iraq and participate in the political process if true democracy is implemented, and in light of a united and unified Iraq, rather than what is happening today in the country under the guise of transparency and democracy, with all political parties dragging issues in opposing directions.”

Awad, who is a member of the Baathist Regional Command and belongs to the Mohamed Younis al-Ahmed wing of the party, denied that a Baathist Summit had taken place in Damascus on Sunday. Awad told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this was just a conference or a celebration to mark the anniversary of the foundation of the [Baathist] party which took place on 7 April [1947] but we delayed this until we obtained the approval of the Syrian government.”

He added that “the conference was called by the National Progressive Front, which in addition to the Baathist party also contains the [Syrian] Communist Party, and Iraqi nationalist figures also attended, as did minor members of the Izzat al-Douri wing of the Baathist party, and representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

Awad also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this conference was held at a private rented banquet hall and we invited…the senior members of the al-Douri faction of the Baathist party, however no senior member attended, neither did the leader [of the other faction] Mohamed Younis al-Ahmed, however I did attend.”

He added that “we continually call on all our Iraqi Baathist comrades to unite in a single unified party, and this is an urgent public demand, for we consider the party to be unified and that there is no division.”

He said “Izzat al-Douri is the one who announced the division when we met three years ago during a conference for the Regional Command. We elected the leadership of the [Baathist] party following the absence of the leadership after the execution of President Saddam Hussein and the arrest of a number of leaders, however al-Douri objected to this and he said that he considers himself to be the legitimate heir to the party leadership. 150 Baathist party members defected from us saying that there is a split [within the party] and we elected al-Ahmed to the leadership of the Baathist party.” Awad added “our leadership has called for the party’s rules to be applied and for partisan elections to take place to choose a united leadership.”

Awad refused to confirm or deny whether al-Douri is alive, saying “we have not met with him, and I cannot confirm or deny his presence because we do not possess any information about this.” However he did add that “the rumors are that the party’s funds are with al-Douri’s three sons who are residing in Yemen.”

As for the efforts undertaken to unify the party, Awad said “we have made issued four calls to the al-Douri wing [for unification] and there has not been any answer; there are destructive elements trying to increase the gap between us.”

For his part, Ghazwan Qubaissi, the deputy leader of the Mohamed Younis al-Ahmed Baathist faction reportedly said “we have launched negotiations to reunite the party.” He said “there is no difference between Baath party members here [in Damascus] and those there [in Iraq]…all are contributed to the liberation of the country.”