SOVIET RELATIONS WITH THE BAATHISTS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

Created: 6/27/1969

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ICM.Vri

OF INTELLIGENCE

Soviet Relations with tbe Baatbists in Iraq and Syria

Special Report

P HiiVt LI FOR REIEASE DATLIMVllir

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.SOVIET RELATIONS.WTTH THE BAATHISTS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

"oscow haseavy mvesirneni in Syria ando far without gaininq theants. The USSR providus both countries with virtually all their rniiitary equipment, and ex lends considerable economic aid asas not acquired much leverage however, over the foreign and domestic polices ol the two countries, bOlh of which are suspicious of its close relationship with Egypi.

The Soviets find it advisable not io meddle in The volatile political situations in Syria and Iraq that have produced numerous coups d'etat in tho past decade. The Baathisls de not raed Soviet diplomatic backing to counter US support for Israel, nor do they require Soviet

and has decided todifficult period in relaiionshrpsVhathave

Because of the turbulent internal situation in both countries, the foriuncs of local Communist parties have fluctuated greatly, and the Baathist regimes have rebuffedproposals to form "national from" governments. Recent Soviet press commentary suggests lhat Moscow is in the dark once aoain rtmarriinn cnm-nt irrwic .n

regarding current trends in Damascus and

known many yicisiituf

COMMUNISTS AND THE BAA'Ml Baathism stands lor many things that the Soviet Union supports in the Middle East,Arab solidarity and socialism, and lhe elimination of Western influence. Unlikerab Socialist Union, which acknowledges the role of religion in political life, Baathism is strictly secular lr is Ihc only significaulArab political movement with anbase. In organisation, the Baalhonventional Communist parly, utilizing cells and an international council that coordinates lhe activities of various national branches. Tile Syrian and Iraqi regimes, however, are competitive with each otlici, rather than adhercnlsnified philosophy and leadership.

The Baalh is ideologically attractive to lhe Soviet Union in lhat il gives lip service lo the ideals of democratic government. Being realists, however, lhe Soviets appreciate even more the faci thai the Baalh does not dependingle dynamic loader. All loo of ten. Soviel political fortunes in the "third world" have been tied to the fatetrong charismatic leader, andinfluence usually ended with lhat leader's demise. The Soviel experience after the ouster ol' Sukarno in Indonesia and Nkrumah in Ghana has made Moscow more sensitive to Ihc hazards of being overcommittcd lo one-man regimes. The Soviets still have the problem of establishing and maintaining influence in countries without an institutionalized political life, however, andinterest in cultivating governmental lela-lions with the Baathisls illustrates an approach it has increasingly [urncd lo throughout the third world. Like Nasir's Arab Socialist Union and Bomnediene's National Liberation From, the Baathisls arc ideologically committedpath of noiica pi talis! development" and share other doctrinaire tenets akin lo Marxism. In lhe case of Syria, Moscow's relations with the Baathisls have

some freedom for Ihe Syrian Communist Parly.

In practice, the Soviets have hid morewiih ihe Baathisls lhan with oilier kflKl regime* in ihe Middle East. Although there are more Communists In Iraq lhan in any other Arab country, they have been in eclipse since repressed by the Baaihtslsollowing Iheist military coup in February of that year.leaders were jailed, and party activity largely ceased. An attempted Communist coup lalcr that year was easily and brutally crushed, leadingcries of executions. The Communist Parlyhas split into threero* Sovictro-Chinese group,ilitant faction that tried but failed toevolt among the minority tribes in southern Iraq.

Members of the Syrian Communist Party have not been deal! with as harshly as Ihcirin Iraq, but they nonetheless have been kepi in line. The Baathists supportW the unionpt in8 because (hey :hought it

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liclpommunisl take-over. The Baathist coup in3 did not lead to repression of the Comuuimsls because the Baalh-ists looked to them as allies against the pro-Nasir forces in Damascus, Currcully. lhe SyrianParty officially supports the Baathist regime, although il follows the Soviet line on certain key political issues. The parly, forreccnily urged Arab terrorists lo be "more responsible" in their political activities, and its delegation toihercccni international Communist conference went along in supporting the Security Council resolution7olitical solution to lhe Arab-Israeli crisis. Themake it lhe third largest Communist Party in the Arab world,ommunist nowabinet post as minister of communications and foreign trade.

Despite lhe size of the Communist parties in Syria and Iraq, and Moscow's considerableinvestment in lhe two countries, thehave been powerless to change lhe numerous Uaaihist policies lhat have not been in theirThe Baalhist regime in Damascus has resisted Soviet pressures on it looliticalto Hie Arab-Israeli crisis, to cease provoking Israel with its support ot the Palestinian terrorist organizations, or even to enter into closerwilh other radical Arab countries. Theoppose these aspects ot" Syrian polity also because they conflict with Nasu's more moderate policies in thesl, which have Moscow's backing.

Moscow's altitude toward Nasir is the key to understanding much ol the USSR's polity throughout the area. Since Moscow beganlay an active role among lhe littoral states of the Mediterranean, dating back to its sponsorshipzechoslovak arms deal with Egyptt hasigher pnority lo its relations with Cairo than to those with any other Aiab state.

Moscow has political influence in Egypt partly because Cairo relies on Soviet support to counter US efforts on behalf of Israel. Syria and Iraq do nol share this concern, and do not require Soviel backing at ihc UN either. Nasir has otherthat do nol concern the Baathist stales, and this also partially explains Ins more cautious behavior, whith is to Moscow's liking.n-nol afford lo alienate such conservative, slates as Kuwait, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, whicji subsidize him to the tune4eai. The Egyptians must also honor the facade of Arabacade which is buttressed bysuppoit from lhe Soviet Union.

CURRENT SOVIET RELATIONS WITH SYRIA The lasl-mtnute cancellation of SyrianAl-Atusi's trip to lhe USSR in9 rclletls the current unterlainty in Moscow's rela-lions with Damascus. Since the political turmoil in February dial left Defense Minister llafiz Asad in eoulrol ol the regime. Soviel commcuLiry has waveredeen optimistic and pessimisticOl' events inew days alter lhe cabinet reshuffle, the Syriim Communist Party attacked Asad. charging that his ascendancy

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would endanger llie unity of "progressive" forces hi the Middle liasl ami weaken Syria's ties with Moscow. Syrian Communists began lo move

underground.

and long-lime party chidebleft lot Moscow.

By Hie middle of March. Ihe USSR itself began lo admit that the Syrian power struggle did nol bode well lor Moscow's influence inSoviel news media iuilially tended to play down reports (hal liter* were serious disagrce-mcnls within llie Baalllisl leadership, andIhe Western press for suggesting Dial such disagreement, existed. Uvcstu conceded onarch, however, that there were indeed "tontplt-caliom" within the left-wing tactions, andamong them in solving llie Arab-Israeli crisis and dealing with other Arab stales. More recently,oted the need lor unity in Syria so that "progressive" policies could be continued, and repealed Bakdash's warning against the "feverish subversion" by rcaclionaty Ibices in Damascus.

Moscow's uncertainty may be related tothus lai uncoil fumed,ad will try lo lOOSCn Syria's dependence on the USSR. The Syrians have been lookingriend in llie West lor nuncear, however, without anyl-ven if Damascus, should decide Dial il wa> no longer ncccwiry to appear closely jlhed wllh llieust continue to rely on Soviet military aid ami will probably also oV|>cnd on continued economic aid.

In any event, the USSR did not intervene on Damascus' behalf8 when Czechoslovakia began to demand that arms purchases besh basis 'I here have also been numerous reports thai ihe Soviets and Syrians have exchangedover the misuse of equipment and over the so-called arrogant attitude of Soviet advisers. On last year's tour of Syrian military installations, Soviel Defense Minister Crcchko complained that Soviel-trained personnel were being deniedcommands,

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military anil economic aid is as much in Moscow's interest as il is in Damascus', their diflercnees notwithstanding. Meanwhile, there is no evidence to support reports thai Moscow, in ordei to influence intern.il Syrian polities.llirealoiiini! tu suspend ils aid grants, parliculaily lor lheuphr.ile> Dam project. The Soviel* have not cut back on aid to the Syrian railroad system and oil industry.

The USSR continues lo deliver military equipment to Syria, but at reduced levels Iron) lhe period following the six-day wart least twenty MIG-Hs were delivered to Lalakia earlier this year, the first aircraft delivery sincehen tworrived. The aircraft deliveries are In addition to military cargoes which have arrived at the rale olouth since the llrst ol lhe year. The cargoes are he Moved to contain lanks. armored |vrsonnel cai-licis, military vehicles, small arms, and uiumuui-lion. The two sides have also agieed to reschedule the visit of the Syrian president ami chief of slal'l, who now are expected lo arrive in Moscow later this month.

Theheir search for other sources ol aid. arc even suggesting thai China wouldikely benefactor ol Arab nationalism. When rhe Al-Atasi Irip was suddenly postponed. Syrian C'Inel ol Staff Tabs, who was to be part of the delegation to Moscow, announced that he would be leaving immediately for Peking in responseear-old invitation. This was lhe llrst Syriandelegation lo travel lo Peking to discuss military aid. Talas' Irip serves to forestall any Soviet expectations ol expanded influence in Syrian publics. The Baathisls in Iraqimilar pitch last summer when lhe Foreignannounced thai it would iry to strengthen relalions with the "socialist camp, particularly the Soviet Union and the Chinese People'syriaew twisl in this regard last mouth, becoming lhe first Arab slate to announce the establishment ol diplomatic relations with Albania. Syria, however, also recognized East Germany, therebyoviet objective.

The Syrians, sensing their isolation, have raised the specler ol rapprochement with the Chinese in order lo add to their ownas well as lo nettle the Soviels. Moscow probably does not believe lhat lhe Chinese are potential rivals as the chief purveyor of military and economic aid, but is concerned thai ihc Chinese will encourage lhe kind of Baalhisi ad-venlurism lhat it opposes.

SOVIFT RELATIONS WITH IRAQ Moscow is reserved in its altitude Inward the Uaalhist regime in Iraq jusl as it is uncertain regarding Syria. Baghdad's internal polities, like Syria's, have been shaky, bul the question of Moscow's presence in Iraq-which isquite linuled-does nol appear to be ail clement of instability. The Iraqi regime cxplicilly

tlie Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and. more than any other Arab government, linked tlie liberalizing movement in Prague wiili /ninisf inline nee. When an Irani milil.irv dcleiw-

v-nh the lop-lcvel Jllcntion given tlie group, just as they were with Moscow's warm reception of Foreign Minister Sluykhli in

Both visits indicated that the two sides wanted to give the impression of amicablewhile trying to cover up for the lack ol" movement ou substantive issues. Thewinding up the Sluykhli visit hardlythe subject of Soviet aid. and there was no sign that Moscow had moved Iraqolitical settlement in the Middle fast. Instead, the communique emphasized bilateral agreement on international issues unrelated to the Middle t'asl, such as Nigerian unity, European security, and West Germanast Germany was highly praised in the communique, thereby presaging Iraq's recognition oi I'aiikow. which occurred last month

Another Iraqi mililaiy delegation visited Moscow in June, allci the Soviets had twicethe visit, bul there has been no hintew arms agreement. Baghdad, which suffered lit Ik* loss in the Arab-Israeli mat, currentlyarget arms inventory than be lore Ihe war, and the Soviets may want lo hold Arab arms al the present level lor the near future.

In fact. Ihedelivciy ul Soviet mililaiy cquip-mcnt miller an earlier agreement has slackened in icceiii months. Since (Ik* last halfhen about twelvendIGOIshe only equipment identifiable as being of Soviel origin was two minesweepers lhal arrived in March. The Iraqis have agreed lo pay costs of training helicopterrogram that isa follow-up to the twelvehat aie supposed lo be delivered ilnv year acvoidiugontractite Iraqis aho eigned military agrvvmviils with CagebodJovpfcil for jel trainers, armored i'.Tin. carriers, and .uituir-ci.il! guns, ami wiihor chemicalami uniforms

has Isagun to le Iraqitatement by April criticizing vc" nationalThe statement

Meanwhile show Moscow's regime IVavda Ihe Iraqi Count the Baallusl an nients (primarily calledem and an end lo activity. Piavda includedegime that ear Iraqi leftists.

of Communists, intent in Soviet-ee-oart series on

In addiiiore are othct Iraqi relations, the Iraqi Kurd' that Kurdish le

si aiiMeties. since ine regime once Soviets were secretly passing funds thai he could pursue his tightegime. Soviet-made arms, which been reaching the Kurds, come ivever. and nol the USSR.

ri) ii isravi

OUTLOOK Moscow presumably willcarrol and slick" approach toward both Baathistuntil IIlearer idea of how ihe

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future is shaping up in Iraq and Syria. And because these two countries are mutually hostile, it will behoove the Soviets not lo lake sides in their political struggles. Moscow will put the best possible face on Ihc high-level visit's that take place such as those of the Iraqi foreign minister and defensewill probably defer any decision on additional arms agreements.

In this way. the Soviels will hope toa free hand to put pressure on the Baathisls regarding their minority problems, theof their governments, and the role ofin their daily political life. As long as Baathist politics remain dominated by thethe Soviet Union willodicum of influence. Western sources of arms are hard to come by for radical, underdeveloped countries, and the Soviets-as the principal supplier of the Arab world-arc in an unrivaled position.this position will not permit Moscow to influence the type of socialism being developed by the Baathist regimes.

Moscow'has never had much politicalinenophobic country that has known little other than periodic power struggles over the pastears. Moscow's virtual inability to moderate Damascus' hard-line posture has been, in fact, the only constant factor in lhe shifting Soviet-Syrian relationship. During this period, the Syrian Army-dominated by radically oriented officers-has emerged as the sole arbiter of politics, and Moscow has always been careful in dealing with the erratic and unstable regimes that the generals have produced. Since last fall there hasefinite shift of influence within the Baathist power structure in favor of thegroup headed by Asad. This will probably lead to sonic slippage in Moscow's access in Damascus, where the Soviet monopoly on Syrian military and economic aid has never resultedommensurate degree of political leverage.

Moscow will not come down hard on the Baathists in Syria on these issues because il does nol want to add to the points of friction between Ihc two countries. Soviet private and publicsuggest that Moscow, while not approving of the Syrian-sponsored fedaycen threat lo Lebanon, is not inclined to apply any effective pressure on Damascus totop to it. Even if the Soviels were inclined to lean on the Syrians, they would still be unable to achieve the desired results. Moscow realizes thai its limited working relationship with Defense Minister Asad and the military class thai he represents is preferable to having no access at all. Also, the anti-Western orientation of the Syrian Government and its reliance on Soviet aid is appreciated in Moscow.

It was inevitable that the Soviets would be facedifficult round of arms talks once Arab military inventories had reached prewar levels and Arab-Israeli tensions worsened. Moscow will face an even more difficult decision when the Arabs feel the need to counter Israel's stridesuclear capability. The Soviets realize that additional military equipment could spark another round in the arms race in the Middle East, threatening further use of such arms. The Soviets know that equipment deficiencies are not the cause of recent Arab military debacles and, for that reason, their efforts on behalf of Syria and Iraq have stressed training and organization. There is very little that Moscow can do to remedy the most serious Arab deficiencies, morale and motivation.

The nettlcsomc day-to-day problems that the Arabs faceis Israel could lead to further crises involving Moscow. As the Arabs grow more frustrated and impatient over continued Israeli occupation of their territory, and it becomes more obvious that the combined efforts of the US and the Soviet Union can do nothing about lhat occupation, the chancesew round of

icwsm

fighting will increase. Indeed, Soviettraining, and military doctrine were rcspon-

and training could eventually convince tltefor tlie last defeat, they will also make the

that their military proficiency has beenaware that the excellence of Soviet arms

gained" and that it is indeed time for newnot in itself bring victory against Israel.

lies. Il is likely, therefore, lhat while the Soviets

will (ryispel any Arab notions that Soviet

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