The Baath party as we understand it does not even exist in Syria to begin with, so the recent change in leadership doesn’t really make a difference. The so-called leaders of the party are no more than puppets used by the regime to achieve its aims. The entire party is merely used to cover up the acts of a military regime. After staging a coup against the government in 1963, the party became majorly sectarian. After that, Hafez al-Assad dominated the leadership and established a balancing act that depended on several factors, such as placing Sunnis in the suburbs in a confrontation with Sunnis in the cities. The backbone of the regime, the security forces, remained under his personal control and under the control of his Alawite entourage.
Hafez al-Assad mastered a formula for governance two or three years before his death. It included creating an Arab-Iranian opposition within Syria itself. He blackmailed the Arabs with the Iranians and the Iranians with the Arabs. Saddam Hussein's position of authority in Iraq certainly helped him a lot in both cases.
The formula of governance
Since 2000, after Bashar al-Assad took the reins of the government in Syria, authority rested even more securely with the Assad family and their associates. The party became more and more marginalized. It was no longer even useful as a cover up for the regime's acts especially due to the increase of Iranian influence in Damascus and Bashar al-Assad’s submission to this influence. The most significant sign of Iranian clout in Syria was the new relation between Hezbollah, a Lebanese sectarian militia that directly follows Iran, and the Syrian regime.
What's at stake is Syria's future and not the Baath party’s. The party and its slogans belong to the past.Khairallah Khairallah
The crime of extending Lebanese president Emile Lahoud's term in 2004 (aided by Syria) despite issuing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 was nothing more than a natural extension of this new relation between the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.
Extending Lahoud's term was followed by crimes in Lebanon- including the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri. Iranian-Syrian collaboration and involvement in Lebanon escalated, creating the current situation of the direct intervention of Hezbollah - an Iranian militia with Lebanese members - in the bloody war the regime has waged against its people for two years and five months.
Whether the leadership of the Baath Party in Syria changes or not, there’s a set formula of governance in the country. . The importance of this formula, in which the Iranian party has the final word, increases with time. The longer the war continues, the more the Syrian regime depends on Iran and on Russian arms. The original incarnation of the Baath party is history. It was the dream of some idealistic men who wanted to reproduce the experiences of the West, repackaged with Arab slogans.
The regime’s lifeline
As Bashar al-Assad seized power, a new party which is a lifeline for the Syrian regime entered the picture. This was the Iranian regime which sends Hezbollah members and members of sectarian Iraqi militias to subdue Sunni areas in Syria and protect a path that links the Iran statelet - established in the Lebanese Beqaa valley - with the Syrian coast. Iran wants to protect this route at any cost, even if it means displacing million Syrian from Homs, destroying Qusayr over its people's heads and besieging the Lebanese town of Aarsal from all sides.
There's another aspect that must not be overlooked when talking about the Baath in Syria, the leadership of the party and even the nationalist leadership of it, which has never been other than a tool to blackmail Arab countries. This aspect is represented in Bashar himself. He still claims that the Syrians love him and admire him!
A person believing that is someone disconnected from reality in Syria. The common belief was that the Syrian president knew nothing about Lebanon. This turned out to be true. A president who thinks that the Syrians can be fooled by altering the Baath leadership does not know anything about Syria either. What the Syrians want surpasses the Baath and the regime’s “resistance” slogans. What the Syrians want is to get rid of a regime that is nothing other than a machine for murder, torture and oppression.
The issue is no longer one about Baath and its leaders. The country is witnessing a civil war that each day becomes more sectarian. Iran, with Russian support, has turned into a major player in this war. What's unfortunate is that the longer this regime, which is rejected by its people, clings to power, the more extremist the rebels will become.
What's at stake is Syria's future and not the Baath party’s. The party and its slogans belong to the past. The Baath Party was used to sabotage Syria and destroy its civilian institutions. It was also used to sabotage Iraq. The party has accomplished all the missions it has been assigned. Will it succeed in its last apparent mission of handing over Syria, or part of it, to Iran?
Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including Al-Mustaqbal and Rosa El-Youssef.