The reported death, yet to be confirmed, of the King of Clubs, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, in the notorious U.S. most-wanted Iraqi playing cards, is bringing in to sharp relief the issue of the Baathist factor in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or ISIS.
Baathism, of course, has its roots all the way back to 1943. Baathism, or “renaissance” or “resurrection” is an anti-colonial and pan-Arabist doctrine. At the time, being a Baathist, meant to claim a pure blood lineage to the origins of Islam and, at the same time, invoke the mid–twentieth century ideals of socialism. Baathism called for the rejection of the “Western civilization’s invasion of the Arab mind.” Sound familiar?
What followed, of course, was the fusion with socialist ideology compounded by nationalism. Later, Baathists seemed to be returning to their roots by attempting to restore their power through a number of different tracks over the past decade: secularism, insurgency, and terrorism.
That Baathists helped ISIS, before the declaration of the ‘Caliphate,’ to rush into Iraq last year, and assist in the battles for key nodes in Iraq, is indisputable. Even in the Second Battle of Tikrit, just fought in the past few weeks, Baathists were a prominent component of ISIS forces. The very fact that Saddam Hussein’s al-Tikriti tribe was tossed out of their tribal domain certainly bore the hallmarks of the ultimate revenge against the Baathist core.
The Baathist Factor in ISIS is not static: It is erratic, wavering, self-serving, and, most important, amorphousDr. Theodore Karasik