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Why Did the Baath Party and the Muslim Brotherhood Emerge?

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While the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) started as a movement centeredon resistance to what it saw as the Westernization, or de-Islamization,of Muslim culture, it soon realized that resistance was only as effectiveas its access to power. Thus began the group’s long attempt to infiltratethe halls of governance.In essence, the tree of the Muslim Brotherhood has been unableto flower into a viable governmental structure for the Arab worldbecause it is still fed by its oppositionist roots.

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Given a choice between ferocity and their own best interest, the Baathist leaders have more than once chosen ferocity. In the weeks or months in 2003 when Saddam was composing Demons, Be Gone!, with the Coalition of the Willing getting ready to invade, he could certainly have elected to negotiate a gilded exile for himself and his family. He preferred otherwise. Bashar Al Assad’s instincts appear to be similar. Surely Kofi Annan’s ultimate goal in Syria was, like a real estate broker, to relocate the unhappy Assad family to a London townhouse, where the ex-dictator would have discovered, ten years from now, that Vogue was once again fascinated by his wife, and his own opinions on Middle Eastern affairs were keenly solicited. But, like Saddam, Bashar prefers to hunker down

Or he is like Muammar Qaddafi, another revolutionary with a nutty revolutionary doctrine—and not like, say, the non-Baathist and merely corrupt dictator of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who, at the start of the Arab Spring, proved that he was genuinely a pragmatist by cutting his losses and those of Tunisia and getting on a plane.

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Sheikh Mustafa al-Sibai, a cleric from Homs, was chosen to lead the organization in Syria. Whereas the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hasan al-Banna, aspired to establish an Islamic regime in his country, the Syrian branch was moderate and preferred to find a place in the domestic establishment. (Hanna Batatu, "Syria's Muslim Brethren") As a movement based on the urban middle class, the Brotherhood derived its strength from Syria's four largest cities — Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama — and was effectively an organic part of the young state's sociopolitical order. Nevertheless, it lacked support among the educated middle class, minorities, the armed forces and residents of the rural periphery

In the parliamentary elections held in 1947, the Brotherhood won only four of the 130 seats; in 1961, in the first election after Syria's secession from the United Arab Republic (its short-lived federation with Egypt), it did better and won 10 seats. In the interim, several representatives of the movement held ministerial portfolios in the Syrian government, and Supreme Guide Issam al-Attar, al-Sibai's successor, was even offered the post of deputy prime minister (Eyal Zisser, Faces of Syria).

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In the long run, the formal establishment of the party in Iraq came into force during 1949. Upon their return to Baghdad in 1949, they established the Iraqi Baath Party. Their efforts never became unnoticed for they were recognized by the grand party in Syria. The party membership grew steadily from just 50 members in 1951 until they gained recognition by the Baath National Leadership in Damascus

Ideologies The Ba’ath party’s ideology revolves around the promotion of Arab nationalism.

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Eyal Zisser, Faces of Syria: Society, Regime and State (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2003), 252-253 [Hebrew];

Derek Hopwood, Syria 1945-1986 (Unwin Hyman, 1988), 46; and Raymond Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above (Routledge, 2001), 35.

Hanna Batatu, "Syria's Muslim Brethren," Middle East Research and Information Project 12 (1982).

Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above, 49-51; and Zisser, Faces of Syria, 247-249.

Moshe Ma'oz, Assad: The Sphinx of Damascus (Dvir, 1988), 84-92 [Hebrew]; and Eyal Zisser, Assad's Syria at a Crossroads (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1999), 35-49 [Hebrew].

Hopwood, Syria 1945-1986, 63, 98-100; and Batatu, "Syria's Muslim Brethren."

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