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Anger in Iraq after Jordan renews credentials of Saddam Hussein's Baath party

The Islamic Dawa Party, to which Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani belongs, branded the move as 'hostile and provocative'
Saddam Hussein remains a popular figure in Jordan despite being banned in Iraq (Middle East Eye)

Jordan's decision to allow the local branch of the Baath Party to renew political activities in the country has sparked outrage in neighbouring Iraq

The Independent Electoral Commission in Jordan on 14 May approved the participation of 27 new political parties, including the Arab Socialist Baath Party, the Jordanian branch of the Pan-Arab nationalist movement associated with the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

In Iraq, the Islamic Dawa Party, one of the Baath Party's most vocal opponents and to which Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani belongs, branded the move as a "hostile and provocative act". 

"Iraqis were surprised, shocked, and outraged by the news of the Jordanian government's permission for the [Saddam's Baath] party to engage in political activities," the party said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Others expressed their anger at Jordan on social media, while a small protest was held in Baghdad on Sunday to denounce the decision.

The Iraqi parliament overwhelmingly voted in 2016 to officially ban the Baath Party from any political activity in the country.

The party was previously banned by the US-propelled Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003, which was put into power following the American invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam from power. 

The Baath party came to power in 1968 following a coup led by Saddam, who was the party's assistant general secretary at the time.

While the party and its former leader remain largely reviled across Iraq, Saddam is remembered in Jordan for his support of the Palestinian cause, Arab nationalism and resistance to western intervention in the Middle East. 

Despite his record of human rights abuses, the late Baathist leader, who was executed in 2006 after the US invasion of Iraq, is fondly remembered by many Jordanians.

From bumper stickers to mobile-phone covers and even face masks worn to protect against the coronavirus, the image of Saddam is widespread across the Jordanian capital, Amman. 

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Other factors for Jordanian support include Iraq's generous economic subsidies to Jordan during the Saddam era, which included the supply of oil at subsidised rates or no cost at all. 

Like most Arab states, Jordan supported Iraq during its war against neighbouring Iran throughout the 1980s, but it also gave the country its backing after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, a rarity amongst Arab states, which largely opposed the occupation and joined American-led efforts to expel the Iraqis.

After initially adopting a position of neutrality, the late Jordanian monarch King Hussein said the 1990 American intervention was "against all Arabs and all Muslims and not against Iraq alone".

In the following decade, however, relations between the two Arab states cooled, with Jordan providing limited numbers of US special forces bases on its territory in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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