Obituary: Salah Jadid
SALAH JADID was the man who lost a power struggle with Hafez Assad, the Syrian president, and paid for his failure with 23 years in a Damascus jail.
An austere, incorruptible army officer, he began his political career as Assad's friend and co-conspirator on the Military Committee which they set up - modelled on Gamal Abdel Nasser's Free Officers' Movement - while serving in Cairo during the short- lived union between Egypt and Syria. Assad, Jadid and three others represented the new young radical trend in the Baath party, which was then dominated by the more conservative civilian elements around Michel Aflaq and Saleh Bitar, the founders of this party dedicated to socialism, pan-Arab nationalism, and renewal.
In 1966 Jadid was the architect of the coup which managed to seize power, though he and his colleagues had no popular backing; as so often in the history of the Baath and Syria, the struggle was entirely between the party leaders and their supporters, while the great mass of the people tried to carry on with their lives and avoid becoming embroiled.
Then an army major, Jadid was a man who never courted popularity, and often antagonised people by expecting them to follow his example of long hours of work, austere living, and cheap cars instead of ministerial limousines. As the effective leader of the party from 1966 to 1970, Jadid made the mistake of allowing control of the army to slip away from him, for all his early reliance on disaffected army officers to back his take-over.
Hafez Assad, less doctrinaire and more pragmatic than Jadid, quietly began chipping away at his colleague's support, removing a chief of staff loyal to Jadid, and then ousting the commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade, known as one of Jadid's men. The crunch came in 1970 when King Hussein of Jordan was finally forced into confrontation with the Palestine guerrillas who had set up a state within the state, and seemed on the point of trying to take over in Amman itself. Both Assad and Jadid paid lip-service to the cause of Palestine, and supported the Palestinian fighters. But Assad realised, as Jadid did not, that the Palestinians were a greater threat to the Arab countries in which they were allowed to operate than they were to Israel. Their hit-and-run raids could never cause enough damage to make Israel waver in its policies, but their actions could bring Israeli reprisals at a time and a place not of the Arabs' choice.
Hard pressed by King Hussein's Bedouin troops, the Palestinians in Jordan appealed to Syria for help. Assad, then defence minister, sent arms, and eventually and with great reluctance was forced to agree to Jadid's demand that Syrian tanks should go in. But Assad, a pilot and former head of the air force, would not commit Syrian planes, with the result that the small Jordanian air force was able to pick off the tanks without opposition. The Syrian expeditionary force was humiliated and forced to retreat.
The fiasco brought the simmering struggle for power between Assad and Jadid to a head. Still in control of the civilian wing of the party, Jadid called a party congress which as its first move ordered Assad not to make any further military transfers or appointments without party approval. Assad took no notice and, while Jadid's apparatchiks in the Congress hall passed resolutions stripping Assad and his supporters of their functions, Assad quietly surrounded the building with his own troops.
On 12 November 1970, the party congress ended, and the next day Assad ordered the arrest of his leading opponents, headed by Jadid. Many were quietly exiled, and Jadid might have been given that option. But when Assad confronted him, Jadid neither sought mercy nor promised support. 'If ever I attain power, you will be dragged through the streets of Damascus until you are dead,' he told Assad. That sealed Jadid's fate. He was sent off to the Mezze prison in Damascus, where he remained until his death last Thursday.
Latest in News
From the blogs
I know Dan Lepard nabbed it first for his wonderful book on baking but I’m eternally jealous, as it ...
Let's talk book blurbs, those quotes you get, usually from other writers, that are meant to entice y...
Much has been written this past week about a Syrian rebel named Khalid al-Hamad, who goes by the nom...
Maize is a political crop that has essentially enslaved Malawi as a nation. Despite being the staple...
Revealed: Devastating impact of 'bedroom tax' sees huge leap in demand for emergency hardship handouts for tenants
Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
Revealed: Eerie new images show forgotten French apartment that was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched for 70 years
Five-year-old British girl who died in a pool at Coral Sea Waterworld Hotel in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort named as Chloe Johnson
- 1 Stoke City investigate 'religious abuse' after 'pig's head is found in Kenwyne Jones' locker'
- 2 Gove’s lesson: spare the comma, spoil the child
- 3 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 4 Grace Dent on TV: Extreme Couponing, My Strange Addiction, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, TLC
- 5 Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£350 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Project Manager - Public Sector ...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: HR Manager Independe...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Huxley Associates: INTERIM HR MANAGER - ...