Obituary: Nureddin Atassi

Nureddin Atassi, politician, born 1929, Minister of the Interior 1963- 64, Member Syrian Presidential Council 1964-65, Secretary-General Baath Party 1966-70, President of Syria 1966-70, Prime Minister 1968- 70, died Paris 3 December 1992.

NUREDDIN ATASSI was one of the many casualties in the labyrinth of Syrian politics. He was, perhaps, luckier than most: he stayed alive, though his life was wasted as a result of his brief prominence in the 1960s.

In Syria in that turbulent decade it was difficult not to be involved in politics, and as he entered his forties Atassi was swept into the centre of things by many of his old friends from Damascus University, by his fellow Sunni Muslims anxious to hold on to power, and by the new friends he found in the Baath party, the central force in Syrian political life from its formation in 1947 up to the present day.

After the reluctant French withdrawal in 1946, Syria soon earned a deserved reputation as an ungovernable, artificial entity - the first, Western-backed, coup was in 1949, and there were 10 more before Hafez Assad took over in 1970 to bring Syria stability at the price of repression.

In March 1963 the Baathists took over after the collapse of the union between Syria and Egypt, a desperate attempt by the Syrians to find a role for their country Egyptian heavy-handedness ensured the failure of this first attempt at Arab unity, though it forged a national consciousness, particularly among those who served in Cairo - among them, Hafez Assad.

Atassi, from the civilian wing of the party, became interior minister when the Baathists took over in 1963, and deputy prime minister in 1964. He earned a reputation for ruthlessness which was not matched by political acumen. The result was that he failed to see the way things were going, and did not understand the forces at work. It was more by accident than design that Atassi found favour with the 'neo-Baathists' who staged a putsch in 1966, ousting the founders of the party. He became secretary-general of the party and was president from 1966 to 1970.

That was the crunch year, when the simmering row between the military and the civilian wings of the Baath party came into the open, complicated by the attempts by the Sunni majority to hold on to power, and the efforts of the minority Alawites to take over. The showdown came when Atassi and Saleh Jadid sent the Syrian army into Jordan to support the Palestinians against King Hussein's troops, and Hafez Assad left the troops unprotected by refusing to commit the air force, which he commanded.

The resulting ignominious withdrawal of the Syrian force strengthened Assad's hand, and in 1971 he completed his bloodless take-over, imprisoning Jadid and Atassi, though Atassi was later allowed to go into exile in Libya.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence